The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for January 4-18, 2018
The briefing in brief: "Private" air traffic control loses its Congressional sponsor. Hotel chains fiddle with frequency programs. Johnnie Walker opens a store in Miami Airport. Qantas adds an SFO-Melbourne route. Hyatt's small expansion. TSA backpedals on Real ID. Again. And more.
About That Air Traffic Control Privatization? Never Mind ...
In a political world roiled this week by the size of one's nuclear button and Trump-versus-Bannon firefights, you may have missed this tidbit: The airline industry's fully owned and sexually satisfied Congressman, Bill Shuster, won't run for reelection. Joining a growing cadre of House Republicans chastened by a possible Democratic wave in 2018, the nine-term incumbent is bailing on his otherwise safe Pennsylvania seat. Shuster, of course, spent the last five years as chairman of the House Transportation Committee and loudly banged the table for a "privatized" air traffic control system. Although his campaign won support from President Trump in 2017, it's been mostly dead in the water for two reasons: Shuster's version of ATC privatization is a shameless giveaway to special interests and Shuster is so personally corrupt that he literally sleeps with the airlines. Or, at least, a lobbyist for the airline industry's lobbying group. Shuster says he'll spend 2018 shepherding President Trump's as-yet unwritten infrastructure legislation. But there isn't much appetite for ATC privatization in an election year and even less chance that Shuster's other pet project--legislation to allow airlines to hide fees and taxes in advertising--will get any traction.
Hotel Chains Juggle Benefits. We Win Some and Lose Some.
The faster hotel chains consolidate, the faster inventive frequent guest perks disappear. That said, a raft of changes for 2018 are, on balance, a little better than worse. Here's what you need to know.
Hilton Honors says Waldorf Astoria properties will now offer free continental breakfast for Gold and Diamond elite members. Elites must choose breakfast as part of the MyWay option, however. Separately, Amex Membership Rewards members can now transfer points to Hilton at an improved rate. One Membership Rewards point is now worth two Hilton Honors points.
World of Hyatt is improving benefits for elites after spending 2017 driving them away. Effective immediately, award stays now qualify toward elite status. Moreover, the free night award you receive when you reach the 50,000- or 100,000-point level in a year are now valid for 180 days instead of 120 days.
IHG Rewards Club has changed the prices for awards claimed in 2018. The bad news? A new 70,000-point level has been introduced, 10,000 points higher than the previous highest price. Plus a total of about 500 properties--more than half of them in the United States--have gone up from 5,000 to 10,000 points per night. About 200 of the chain's properties lowered prices, mostly by 5,000 points per night. Complete details are here.
If Nothing Else, You'll Drink Better at MIA
Things are tough on the road--tough enough, in fact, that some of us do take to drink. If Scotch is your thing, point yourself to Concourse D in Miami, the location of the first Johnnie Walker store in the United States. The 1,100-square-foot shop near Gate D14 sells the ever-expanding rainbow of Johnnie Walker-branded labels, plus several single-malt brands owned by Diageo, the parent company of the globally famous blended Scotch. Flyers can also buy the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Miami Edition, which Diageo says is limited to 500 bottles. The shop also offers custom labeling and engraving services. But there is a fly in the ointment, er, whisky. You can only purchase bottles if you are leaving the country on an international flight. Domestic passengers will have to make do with a tasting.
New York/LaGuardia has a new Delta Sky Club now that the airline has consolidated operations there. The new lounge is located next to gate C28 in Terminal C.
Burbank Airport in California has a new name. It's Hollywood Burbank now. The airport has jettisoned Bob Hope's name, which it adopted in 2003. Previously, the airport was called Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena.
Phoenix/Sky Harbor has added a branch of a local dining favorite. Pita Jungle is now open near the B Gates in Terminal 4. Founded in 1994, Pita Jungle is probably best-known for its jalapeno cilantro hummus.
Qantas Adds a San Francisco-Melbourne Route to Complement LAX Flights
Qantas is adding a San Francisco-Melbourne route to complement the LAX-Melbourne nonstops it already operates. By the end of the year, the flights will operate on alternate days from the California cities. The Melbourne routes will use Boeing 787-9s configured with 236 seats in business, premium economy and coach. At the moment, the LAX-Melbourne service uses Airbus A380s.
Alitalia, for reasons known only to Alitalia, says it will resume flights between Rome/Fiumicino and Milan/Malpensa. Rome-Milan was once the premier domestic route for the perennially befuddled carrier, but Alitalia dropped the flights after travelers defected en masse to the two high-speed trains that serve the two cities. Flights resume April 1 using Embraer 175 aircraft.
WestJet will launch commuter service between Calgary and five smaller Canadian cities. Starting March 7, there will be Saab 340 flights to Cranbrook, Lethbridge, Lloydminster, Medicine Hat and Prince George.
JetBlue Airways will fly between Newark and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Effective May 3, there'll be a daily Airbus A320 roundtrip in addition to the airline's existing four daily flights from its New York/Kennedy hub.
A Small Burst of Expansion From Hyatt. Remember, I Said Small.
Hyatt continues to fall farther behind its major competitors in terms of global footprint. Last year's misbegotten introduction of World of Hyatt to replace Gold Passport was universally panned, too. Hyatt took a few small steps to upgrade the frequency program (see above) and has added a few new (small) blocks to its distribution chain. In the last few weeks, it has opened new Hyatt Place locations in Marlborough, Massachusetts; Jersey City; near Frankfurt Airport; and Knoxville. The latter is in a building that once housed the Farragut Hotel. There's a new Hyatt House three miles from Raleigh/Durham airport. Hyatt's first hotel in Spain--a 159-room Hyatt Centric--opened on the Gran Via in Madrid. And a 69-room Hyatt Centric ski resort has opened in the French Alps at La Rosiere near the Italian border. Hyatt also added the Spirit Ridge Resort in British Columbia to its Unbound Collection soft brand of independent hotels.
Marriott continues what seems to be the endless rollout of new Fairfield Inn. In recent weeks, it opened branches in Wichita Falls, Texas; Asheville and Rockingham, North Carolina; Eugene, Oregon; Salem, Virginia; Fort Smith, Arkansas; Indianapolis; and Maryland Heights in suburban St. Louis. Fairfield has even expanded into Shanghai with a branch in the Jing'an District. There are also two new Fairfields in Massachusetts, one in Walpole and one in Marlborough. The latter is a dual-branded operation with the aforementioned Hyatt Place. Both properties share a building in the Apex Center.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
The REAL ID Act of 2005 mandated changes to state-issued driver's licenses and further stipulated that the Transportation Security Administration only accept approved licenses as ID starting in 2008. Yeah, well, a decade later, the TSA continues to issue exemptions and backpedals on enforcement because about half the states refuse to comply with the law's arbitrary standards. Despite signs you may have seen around airports lately, the TSA now says all existing driver's licenses will be accepted until at least October and probably beyond. As you can see by Homeland Security's compliance map, about 20 states have extensions and three other states' applications are under review.
Hawaiian Airlines is scooping up the assets of bankrupt Island Air for $750,000. Island Air, the former commuter carrier, stopped flying in November.
Niki, part of the now-defunct Air Berlin, has been scooped up for 20 million euros by IAG, parent of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus. The Austrian carrier, founded by Formula 1 legend Niki Lauder, will be dumped into Vueling, IAG's low-fare/high-fee airline based in Spain.
Hyatt says its U.S. hotels now require reservation cancellations 48 or 72 hours in advance, matching the move made last summer by Marriott and Hilton.
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