The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for November 3-17, 2016
The briefing in brief: Delta cuts back in Italy, but finds a partner in India. JetBlue brings back perks on the New York-Boston shuttle run. Hilton and Marriott bulk up around the world. Homeland Security balks at state driver licenses. Gogo usage picks up, prices fall. And more.
Delta Cutting Back in Italy, But Signing Partners in India
If you were looking to cash SkyMiles for flights to Italy, Delta Air Lines has an unpleasant surprise for you. It's dropping at least two routes from its major hubs. The airline's long-running seasonal flights between New York/Kennedy and Pisa won't return next summer. Also gone: Delta's summer flights to Rome from Minneapolis/St. Paul. On the other hand, Delta is bulking up to India, a market it abandoned several years ago, whining about low yields and competition from Gulf carriers. This time, however, the expedition will be via a code-share with Jet Airways, the well-regarded private carrier. Delta, its vassal Virgin Atlantic and Jet now link up at London/Heathrow to allow Delta to offer code-share service to 20 Indian destinations. Delta will soon add Jet flights as an earn and burn partner in SkyMiles, too. But since Delta never gives anything without taking something away, consider: SkyMiles has already raised prices of award seats to India by about 40 percent. The lowest price of Delta business class seats had been 70,000 miles. Without notice, the price of India seats has risen to at last 97,500 miles each way.
JetBlue Brings Back Some Perks on the New York-Boston Shuttle Run
When Eastern launched Air Shuttle service between New York/LaGuardia, Washington/National and Boston/Logan in the 1960s, it was beyond barebones. The New York terminal was a converted Quonset hut and even water wasn't available as an in-flight perk. Deregulation brought real competition and lavish perks, most notably from New York Air. It gave out bags called the Flying Nosh and they were packed with bagels, slices of cheesecake and other snacks. Donald Trump's short-lived foray in the shuttle market brought gold-plated faucets. In recent years, however, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines (nee US Airways) have seen traffic shrivel and the perks dried up. But JetBlue Airways entered the LaGuardia-Logan market this week with some advance-purchase fares as low as $49 one-way. The carrier also brought back a raft of perks. There's free gate-to-plane-to-gate WiFi, free coffee and bagel-like Turkish bread called simit and free beer and wine served on board.
London/Heathrow has a change of lounges. The former Swissport club in Terminal 3 has been replaced by the Club Aspire lounge. It's operated by the parent company of Priority Pass and your card will get you free access. Club Aspire is located near Gate 9.
Hartford now has a common-use lounge. The Escape Lounge opened last month and is operated by a division of the Manchester (England) Airport Group. There are already Escape-branded lounges in Minneapolis, Oakland and several British airports. Entry cost is $40, but your Priority Pass card is accepted.
Hilton and Marriott Continue Bulking Up Around the Globe
This week's Brancatelli File discusses the small footprint of Hyatt compared to its huge competitors. And the disparity is only getting worse. While Hyatt does have a new hotel this week--a 145-room Hyatt Place in Celaya, Mexico--consider this week's raft of newbies from Hilton and Marriott.
Marriott, for example, has opened new Courtyard properties in Everett, Washington; Schenectady, New York; on George Bush Highway in Plano, Texas; and near Grandview Yard in Columbus, Ohio. There are new Fairfield Inn branches in Syracuse, New York; Burlingame, Colorado; Martinsburg, West Virginia; and Regina, Saskatchewan. Marriott has also added Residence Inn properties in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and Casper, Wyoming.
Starwood, now a part of Marriott, has opened a 135-room Westin in Cairo. And its Tribute Portfolio soft brand has added the 41-room Hotel Vagabond in Singapore.
Hilton, meanwhile, has opened outposts of Hampton Inn in Olympia, Washington; McPherson, Kansas; Paragould, Arkansas; and at 1209 Albion Avenue in Chicago. There's also a Home2 Suites at 1106 Sherwood Forest Street in Houston; a Homewood Suites in Tyler, Texas; and an Embassy Suites in Greenville, South Carolina.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
You probably heard about the incident at Chicago/O'Hare last Friday (October 28) involving a Boeing 767 operating as American Airlines Flight 383. Initial information from the National Transportation Safety Board suggested that the fire was caused by a "tire blowout." But that isn't right. The NTSB later said the plane, scheduled to fly to Miami, suffered an uncontained engine failure. That's when engine parts escape the protective housing. There were seven injuries among the 161 passengers and nine crew members onboard.
The Homeland Security Department has once again said driver licenses issued by several states do not meet the standards of REAL ID rules and may be refused at airport checkpoints. The licenses of South Carolina, Oklahoma, Maine, Kentucky and Pennsylvania do not meet the standards enshrined in the 2005 law. Homeland Security has continuously extended the compliance deadline, however, because it is eager to avoid a confrontation with states and does not want to reject licenses at airport checkpoints.
British Courts say Parliament must approve a U.K. Brexit from the European Community. British Prime Minister Theresa May had planned to initiate the process next year without Parliamentary approval. Her government says it will appeal the ruling.
Gogo Still Sucks, But Apparently It's Grinding Us Down With Lower Prices
Gogo, which still dominates the in-flight Internet market, reported third-quarter earnings today (November 3). The bottom line remains dreadful: Quarterly net losses ballooned to $33.2 million compared to $28.8 million in last year's third quarter. But for the first time in years, the "take" rate from passengers is rising. In this year's third quarter, 6.5 percent of passengers on Gogo-equipped flights bought the service compared to 5.6 percent last year. For the first nine months of the year, the take rate was 6.4 percent compared to 6.2 percent in the first nine months of 2015. The increased use by passengers only came at a lower cost, however. The average revenue per in-flight session in the third quarter fell to $11.46 compared to $13 in last year's third quarter.
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