The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for January 12-26, 2017
The briefing in brief: Falling international coach fares revive the two-seat scenario. Cathay Pacific is moving to Terminal 8 at New York/JFK. This week's intersection of politics and business travel. Another new batch of Marriott hotels. JetBlue is all WiFi all the time. And more.
The Return of the Two-Seat Solution and Mr. E. Seat
International business class fares aren't dropping, which isn't the case at the back of the bus. Coach fares have fallen through any metaphoric floor you can find. One example: KLM is selling New York-Barcelona flights for $377 roundtrip. At least for the moment, that means walk-up business class fares can be as much as 20 times higher than the cheapest seat on the plane. And that means it's time to reactivate the two-seat scenario: Buy a pair of cheap coach seats and create your own cheap, private, comfortable world. Occupying two coach seats isn't as commodious as sitting in business class, of course, but the two-seat solution offers plenty of personal space and a modicum of privacy. But be warned: You can't just purchase two tickets under your name, walk up to the gate and claim your spaces. You must contact the airline in advance, alert it to your intentions and then buy the tickets via phone. Most carriers will code the second ticket purchase as an "extra seat"--some will even assign it to Mr. E. Seat--and tie it to your itinerary. One other caveat: Before you book, ask the airline if their coach armrests completely swing out of the way. Many carriers now put tray tables in the armrests or bury electronic wiring in them. Those armrests won't fully retract and that'll offset any extra room you can score with two seats.
Cathay Pacific Moves Flights to Terminal 8 at New York/Kennedy
After years at British Airways' shabby, overcrowded Terminal 7 at New York/Kennedy, Cathay Pacific is shifting to American Airlines' newer, less crowded Terminal 8. The move is effective on Sunday (January 15). Cathay operates four daily roundtrips at JFK, three to Hong Kong and one to Vancouver. "That's nearly 3,000 passengers a day," explains Sebastien Granier, Cathay's sales director for the Eastern United States. Terminal 8 "will give them a more sophisticated and seamless experience." As any Cathay flyer will tell you, BA's lounges are far below Cathay's global standards. At Terminal 8, Cathay will have a dedicated check-in area and its premium class flyers will use American's two AAdmirals Clubs. First class customers may also use the first class portion of American's new Flagship Lounge, due to fully reopen in April. Granier says six gates at Terminal 8 can accommodate Cathay flights: Gates 4, 6, 8, 14 and 16 in Concourse B and Gate 47 in Concourse C. One other advantage: Cathay's code-share partner, American Airlines, provides about 15 percent of Cathay's JFK connecting passengers. They'll now have a one-terminal, airside connection rather than changing terminals and going through security twice.
Baltimore/Washington now has a gym and fitness center. Roam Fitness is located inside security in the connector between Concourses D and E. A day pass costs $40 and a yearly membership is $600.
Newark Terminal C now has an all-vegetarian restaurant. Amanda Cohen, chef of the highly acclaimed Dirt Candy on Manhattan's Lower East Side, has opened an airport vegetarian concept called Thyme. The restaurant is part of a complete overhaul of food and beverage operations at United's Terminal C being engineered by OTG Management.
Nigeria has delayed the closing of the airport in the capital of Abuja. The airport will now close for six weeks of repairs on March 8.
And Now for Something Completely Different ... Politics
Hey, don't blame me. Sometimes politics seeps into everything, even travel. So take these items with the appropriately large grains of politics-are-foul salt.
JetBlue Airways removed former New York Senator Al D'Amato from a flight on Monday (January 9). Departing from Fort Lauderdale, the flight was delayed and the pilot wasn't acting fast enough for the always abrasive D'Amato. The irony: D'Amato lost his seat in 1998 to the equally abrasive Charles Schumer. Schumer, who became the Senate Minority Leader this month, was instrumental in helping JetBlue acquire the slots it needed at New York/Kennedy to launch in 2000.
Trump International, the Washington hotel that opened in the former Old Post Office building just before Election Day, is already controversial. (The lease says no officeholder can be a part of the commercial enterprise, but it's unclear whether that applies to the President-Elect, who wasn't an officeholder when the lease was signed.) Now several contractors have filed liens against the hotel, claiming Trump owes them a total of more than $5 million.
Elaine Chao, Trump's pick for Secretary of Transportation and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, didn't get much of a grilling at her confirmation hearing on Wednesday (January 11). The biggest bone of contention? Chao's vociferous opposition to the Buy American provision in President Obama's 2009 infrastructure project. She told the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday that she favors Trump's buy American rules. "The president has made very clear his position and of course all Cabinet members will follow his policy," she explained.
Marriott Is Growing Faster Than You Can Imagine
With 30 brands and 5,000 properties worldwide, you'd think that Marriott was big enough. But you'd be wrong. Apparently the company won't be satisfied until all 30 of its brands are sharing a building on every street corner around the world. It's the only way to explain this latest burst of hotels. There are new Aloft hotels (that's one of the former Starwood brands) in Taipei's Beitou District, the northernmost quarter of the Taiwanese capital, and at 14020 US Highway 183 in Austin, the second Aloft in the Texas capital. New Courtyard hotels are located at 5875 Hagman Road in Toledo; Cold Lake, Alberta; and Edinburgh, Scotland. The latter is at the east end of Princes Street and housed within three Georgian townhouses. There's also a new TownePlace Suites in Smyrna, Tennessee.
The Waldorf Astoria, the long-past-its-prime Hilton property in the heart of midtown Manhattan, closes on March 1. A renovation expected to take at least two years will probably reduce the 1,400-room, one-square-block property to around 300 guestrooms. The rest of the space will be converted to residence units. The hotel is owned by Anbang, the controversial Chinese firm that tried to outbid Marriott for the Starwood Hotels portfolio. The secretive firm hasn't disclosed its plans. Anbang purchased the Waldorf from Hilton nearly two years ago for $2 billion.
Hyatt has opened a 226-room Hyatt Regency in the Cangshan district of Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines is busting its San Francisco-Auckland service down to a seasonal operation. Flights won't run between April 16 and October 28.
JetBlue Airways says all of its aircraft are now configured with WiFi. The so-called Fly-Fi service is free to passengers and offers gate-to-gate connectivity and not just in-flight WiFi.
Lufthansa and its Austrian Airlines subsidiary are adding WiFi on intra-Europe routes. Prices start at 3 euros for messaging. By the end of March, Lufthansa says its Airbus A320s will be equipped. Austrian A320 flights will have WiFi starting in April.
United Airlines is accelerating the retirement of its Boeing 747 fleet. The last of the original widebodies will be retired by the end of the year, 12 months ahead of schedule.
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