The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for January 18-31, 2018
The briefing in brief: Alaska Airlines will fly from Paine Field north of its Sea-Tac hub. Embassy Suites takes another run at Manhattan. Emirates saves the Airbus A380. Seoul/Incheon opens a new terminal for Korean Air and SkyTeam. Wyndham Hotels buys LaQuinta. And much more.
Why Alaska Airlines Will Add Flights at Paine Field Just 35 Miles From Its Sea-Tac Hub
Come the fall we will experience something few who have flown in America have ever experienced: A brand new commercial airport just 35 miles from an existing mega-hub. The airport is Paine Field in Everett, up the I-5 and I-405 from Seattle-Tacoma, where hometown Alaska Airlines is in a pitched battle with interloper Delta Air Lines. If all goes according to plan--and the terminal is completed on-time--the airport will host 13 daily nonstop Embraer-175 flights to eight destinations by Alaska Airlines. (United Airlines is also committed to operate some service to its Denver and San Francisco hubs.) But Alaska's moves are intriguing. It already serves the eight cities chosen--Las Vegas, Los Angeles, John Wayne/Orange County, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Portland, Oregon--from Sea-Tac. And Alaska Air vice president of network planning John Kirby admits the obvious: Paine Field isn't an underserved "catchment area" where Alaska can mine new customers. Anyone who'll fly from Paine already drives to Sea-Tac. Kirby insists that's the point: Sea-Tac Airport is crowded and ground traffic in the fast-growing Seattle-Tacoma region is brutally congested. "There's no public transit of note, so this will be a relief for customers who live north of Sea-Tac," he says. "And they will love the small, boutique feel of Paine." This is hardly a public-service move by Alaska Airlines, however. All the destinations it will serve from Paine are also served by Delta from Sea-Tac. Adding flights from Paine Field gives Alaska Air a chance to grab mostly point-to-point flyers before Delta can get them.
Wyndham Wants to Own All the Mediocre Hotels in America
Wyndham Hotels already owns some of the least consistent, least admired and most mediocre hotel brands in America, including Ramada, Days Inn, Hawthorn, Travelodge, Super 8 and Howard Johnson. Wyndham doesn't actually own a single property, of course, but franchises those names and about a dozen others to 8,000 hotels around the world. But that isn't enough for Wyndham. It seems intent on cornering the market on mid-level schlock. Last summer it added the AmericInn brand and 200 properties. And this week it cut a $1.9 billion deal to acquire LaQuinta, a chain of 900 North American hotels. LaQuinta has been on the market for several years and actually franchises some solid mid-market properties. More prestigious hotel families were reluctant to buy LaQuinta, however, because many of its properties have motel-style external hallways. That's a liability issue because hotels and motels with external hallways are deemed less safe for guests and more likely to attract bad actors who like the easy ingress and egress from rooms with external doors.
Embassy Suites is taking its third crack at the Manhattan market. The all-suite brand opened a 310-room property on West 37th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. Embassy's two other incursions into Manhattan in the last 25 years ended in conversions to other Hilton brands. Meanwhile, Embassy Suites also opened a 186-room property in Wilmington, North Carolina, and a 318-room branch in Denton, Texas.
Seoul/Incheon Gets a New Terminal Dedicated to Korean Air and SkyTeam
Just weeks before the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Seoul/Incheon opened a second passenger terminal. Prosaically named Terminal 2, the US$4.5 billion project is dedicated to hometown carrier Korean Air and its SkyTeam partners, including Delta Air Lines and Air France/KLM. Other carriers, including South Korea's Number 2 airline, Asiana, will continue to operate from Terminal 1, which opened in 2001. AREX, the airport-rail service to the city of Seoul, will eventually be extended to Terminal 2. A separate underground train is being built and will connect the two terminals.
American Airlines and China Southern have begun code-sharing. American has put its code on flights to nine Chinese destinations served by China Southern. The Chinese carrier has added its code on seven American routes. American recently invested in China Southern, a strange decision since China Southern is a member of SkyTeam and American is in Oneworld. Worse, the code-share operation is much smaller than the two carriers originally announced because China Southern's freedom is limited by the strictures of the SkyTeam Alliance.
LOT Polish is adding a once weekly flight between Newark and Rzeszow. The Saturday flights using Boeing 787s start on April 30. LOT hasn't flown to Rzeszow from the United States for eight years.
Norwegian is shifting its new Newark-Paris service to Paris/Orly instead of the previously announced Paris/CDG. The six weekly nonstops using Boeing 787s launch on February 28.
Two Weeks After the Storm, Kennedy Airport Is Still Something of a Mess
The silver lining of the "bomb cyclone" that whipped the Southeast, New England and MidAtlantic two weeks ago was that most business travelers hadn't yet set out on the road for the year. But pity the poor leisure travelers, especially New York/Kennedy flyers, who got bombed by the storm. Kennedy inexplicably melted down due to a series of idiotic errors by officials of the Port Authority, which operates the airport. If you can bear to read it, here is Slate.com's minute-by-minute recap of the events that paralyzed the airport. Worse, though, is the fact that hundreds of bags are still missing. The biggest offender? Delta Air Lines, the largest international operator at JFK. One of its two buildings, Terminal 4, also was hit with a water-main break soon after airport operations resumed. It has been in a social-media firefight with unhappy flyers ever since.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Emirates Airline has rescued the Airbus A380--at least for now. The Dubai-based carrier, which operates nearly half of the double-decked super-jumbos in operation, this week ordered 38 more for an announced price of $16 billion. Airbus, which hadn't booked an A380 order in two years, said the money-losing aircraft would be shelved if Emirates didn't place the order. Should Emirates take all the A380s it has ordered, it will have a fleet of 178 of the aircraft.
Washington/Reagan flyers take note: As more of the airport's traffic-disrupting construction projects kick in, DCA officials have started an advisory program. Sign up here to get the news they think you should know. But, you know, be skeptical.
U.S. State Department Travel Advisories have been overhauled. Out are Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts. In are country-by-country ratings from Level 1 (safest) to Level 4 (most dangerous). More details are here.
Of Course Airline CEOs Don't Fly Their Bad Aircraft
When American Airlines announced last year that it was deploying the Boeing 737 Max with bone-crunchingly bad seat pitch, the travel world was up in arms. But would it surprise you to know that American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker has never flown the controversial aircraft and experienced its teeny-tiny seats and minuscule lavatories? Of course it wouldn't. But if you want confirmation, surf to Gary Leff's View From the Wing blog. It has a transcript of Parker meeting with unhappy flight attendants airing grievances with the new plane.
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