The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for April 27-May 11, 2017
May will be very messy at LAX. Alitalia is collapsing (yeah, again). BA will remake JFK Terminal 7 and Alaska Air and Virgin America will move there. Delta bulks up against JetBlue at Logan. Statistics show Airbnb isn't hurting hotels. Another strike on the London Underground.
The Merry Month of May Is Likely to Be a Messy One at LAX
After decades of total neglect, Los Angeles International has been on an upgrade spree in the last few years. But the metaphoric rubber will really meet the runway during the next few weeks as 20 airlines switch terminals and gates. The big switch will take place May 12-17 when Delta Air Lines moves to Terminals 2 and 3 from its current location in Terminals 5 and 6. Delta will have 23 gates at the two terminals and have the benefit of being near some SkyTeam partners, including Aeromexico, Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic. Airside buses will connect Terminals 2, 3 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal. (Eventually, there'll be an airside connector to Bradley.) Delta's move puts all the other carriers on the carousel. Terminal 1 is dedicated to Southwest Airlines and Terminal 4 to American Airlines. Terminal 5 will house additional American flights, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and the low-fare/high-fee carriers Frontier and Spirit. Terminal 6 will be home to Air Canada and Alaska Airlines and its Virgin America subsidiary. Terminals 7 and 8 are dedicated to United and its commuter carriers. Most international carriers are housed in the Bradley Terminal, of course. For details on the relocations and other LAX projects that will make your life miserable, surf here.
Today Was 'Get Dao Behind Us Day' at United Airlines
United Airlines apparently designated today (April 27) as Get Dao Behind Us Day. It is any flyer's guess whether the fusillade of moves will make the public forget United's atrocious handling of the April 9 incident when Dr. David Dao was violently removed from his bought and paid for seat. Among United's actions today was a huge filing with the Senate Commerce committee to answer a demand from politicians. United's so-called full report was distinctly incomplete, says Lewis Lazare of the Chicago Business Journal. United chief executive Oscar Munoz went on the NBC Nightly News and did his humble apology act. (Munoz initially calling Dao "disruptive and belligerent.") United then released a 10-point action plan. It's a mushy rehash of typical airline verbiage and new policies already recently implemented by Delta (supposedly approving as much as $10,000 in voluntary payment to give up seats) and American (promising not to remove passengers once boarded and seated). Then United and Dao's attorney announced late in the day that the two sides reached an "amicable settlement." No details, financial or otherwise, were announced although Dr. Dao's attorney said "United has taken full responsibility ... without attempting to blame others."
Alitalia Will Be Sold to the Highest Bidder. But Who'd Bid?
Stop me if you've heard this one: Alitalia is on the verge of collapse. The hopeless, hapless Italian flag carrier, which has been profitable only once or twice since its founding in 1946, is again nearing extinction. The cause this time? Employees overwhelmingly rejected a billion-euro cost-cutting "survival" plan that would have meant about 2,000 layoffs and wage cuts of as much as 30 percent. The Italian government, which bailed out Alitalia perhaps a dozen times in recent years, says that won't happen again. Partially because it is barred by European Union rules, partially because the Italian government has no cash to offer and partially because even Italians seem done with the airline. Alitalia will be "sold to the highest bidder," transport minister Graziano Delrio said. Added economic development minister Carlo Calenda: "The most plausible outcome is that we are moving to a partial or total sale of Alitalia's assets" within six months. The problem? Who'd buy the airline, which has burned through untold billions in bailout funds in the last 20 years, driven off Air France, a former investor, and worn out Etihad, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier that bought a 49 percent stake nearly three years ago? The Italian government will probably stump up for a bridge "loan" until someone steps up to be the next pigeon.
United Airlines will juggle aircraft again this fall. This time, Boeing 787s will be shifted to the Washington/Dulles hub from its Houston/Intercontinental hub. Beginning with the "winter" timetable that begins in late October, Dreamliners will fly from Dulles to Beijing, London/Heathrow, Paris/CDG and Sao Paulo/Guarulhos. From Houston, Boeing 777-200s will operate on the Frankfurt route and Boeing 767-300ERs will fly to Buenos Aires.
Hotels and Airbnb Are Spitting at Each Other, But Hotels Are Doing Just Fine
The hotel industry is ratcheting up the rhetoric against Airbnb, claiming the home-sharing service is a commercial enterprise (Duh!) that isn't held to the same rules and regulations as hotels and motels (Again, duh!). Airbnb shoots back that the hotel industry is price-gouging and overcharging guests. Regardless of the merits of the opposing sides, this much is clear: As I wrote months ago, there's no evidence that Airbnb hurts the hotel industry. In fact, the latest figures from hotel-research firm STR released this week show that the lodging industry is in something of a golden age. U.S. hotel revenue reached a record $199 billion in 2016 and profits reached a record $76 billion. All that said, STR says, hotel growth is slowing after years of breakneck expansion.
Marriott continues the breathtaking expansion of its Fairfield Inn brand. In recent weeks, it has opened new outposts in Dupont, Washington; in Belle Vernon and Jonestown, Pennsylvania; and Altoona, Iowa.
InterContinental Hotels has opened a 596-room Holiday Inn Express on Kuhio Avenue in the Waikiki district of Honolulu. The 44-story hotel is a remake of an independent property called Maile Sky Court.
Delta Gears Up at Boston/Logan to Take on JetBlue
JetBlue Airways last week cut the ribbon on new check-in facilities in Terminal C at Boston/Logan and the carrier now controls 30 percent of the airport's traffic, according to the latest government statistics. But Delta Air Lines, which also competes with JetBlue at its hometown hub of New York/Kennedy, doesn't seem to be going quietly into the Boston night. Delta said this week that it would add five new routes from Logan starting on September 11. It'll launch six weekly flights to Austin using Airbus A319s. There'll also be six weekly flights to Kansas City with CRJ-900s, a daily Jacksonville flight using E170 jets and six weekly flights to Norfolk using CRJ-700s. Another addition: three daily flights to Buffalo with 44-seat CRJ-200s.
Kennedy Airport gets another upgrade. British Airways announced this week that it will spend $65 million to remake it tatty Terminal 7. The 18-month upgrade will include new lounges; new check-in areas, including separate facilities for first and business class passengers; and new gate facilities and retail shops. You can see BA's JFK promo video here. Also notable: Alaska Airlines and Virgin America will both move into Terminal 7 by October. At the moment, Alaska and its Virgin America subsidiary operate their combined 14 daily transcontinental flights from different JFK terminals. Alaska already announced it will build an Alaska Lounge at T7, but the club won't be ready until early next year.
Frankfurt has a new hotel. Marriott has opened a 305-room Moxy just off the airport grounds. But the hotel doesn't have a free shuttle. You'll pay 5 euros for the short ride from the hotel to FRA's terminals.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
London travelers take note. The city's Underground workers will stage a 24-hour strike beginning at 10 p.m. local time on Sunday, May 7. The strike will not affect the Heathrow Express/Connect trains, but will cripple all local London train service.
InterContinental Hotels customers take note: There's been another data breach, this time at IHG hotels between September 29 and December 29, 2016. The IHG alibi is here.
Customs and Border Protection has reversed gears and admitted that the Global Entry privileges of some Muslim travelers were pulled during the few days that the first Trump Travel Ban was in effect. Customs originally denied that the agency had revoked any credentials. Bloomberg got the goods on Customs in a story written by Justin Bachman.
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