The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for June 14-28, 2018
The briefing in brief: The terrible, horrible, very bad Boeing 737 MAX now flies long hauls, too. Southwest and Alaska airlines add to their route networks. Priority Pass brings (a little) relief to club-poor Dulles and Newark airports. Norwegian cuts another U.S. route. And more.
The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Boeing 737 MAX Now Flies Long Hauls, Too
The Boeing 737 MAX series jet, complete with hideous slimline seats, no seatback videos, 30-inch coach seat pitch and just 37 inches of legroom in first class, has been slowly seeping into the fleets of the U.S. and Canadian carriers. Now they are even being deployed on transcon--or even longer--routes. At American Airlines, where the 737 MAX 8 is so reviled that its miniscule lavatories have become a national joke, new routes include Miami-Los Angeles and Los Angeles-Washington/National. The 737 Max was first tested on the Miami run last month and now it has been scheduled for once-daily operations starting in September. Meanwhile, avoid 737 MAX jets on Flights 163, 2532 and 1275 between LAX and Washington. That service also begins in September. Separately, United Airlines got its first Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft last week and promptly deployed it on nonstop flights between its Houston/Intercontinental hub and Anchorage, Alaska. Those flights are listed at 7 hours and 20 minutes each way. United says it'll have 10 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the fleet by the end of the year. The next routes to get them? Between Los Angeles and Hawaii, flights that are scheduled for nearly 6 hours each way.
Priority Pass Brings More Food and (a Little) Relief to Club-Poor Airports
A slew of new airport opportunities from Priority Pass is unalloyed good news for travelers, but it offers only marginal relief at club-poor airports like Washington/Dulles and Newark Terminal B. At Dulles, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Concourse A is now available to Priority Pass cardholders--but only between 6 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. New Priority Pass access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Newark Terminal B is even more limited. You can only visit between 2 and 6 p.m. That won't take much stress off the poor and overcrowded Art & Lounge club, the pre-security facility that is Priority Pass' only other option in Terminal B. Elsewhere, Priority Pass continues to expand its relationship with airport restaurants. At Los Angeles cardholders receive a $28 credit at Barney's Beanery near Gate 22 in Terminal 2. It also added an outpost in Syracuse, New York. You receive a $28 credit at Johnny Rockets, located after the security checkpoint in North Concourse B.
Austin/Bergstrom has three new restaurants, all run by Delaware North, the nationwide organization that operates the airport branch of Austin's famed Salt Lick BBQ. All three are in the Barbara Jordan Terminal. One is The Peached Tortilla, an Asian-Southwest fusion place that started as an Austin food truck. Hippies & Hops is a bar featuring beers from Live Oak and other Austin microbreweries. The third is JuiceLand, an Austin-area chain selling juices (duh!), smoothies, salads and wraps.
Norwegian Bails on Denver-Paris, Level Bails on Oakland
The low-fare international airlines continue to shuffle the deck on their route networks. Norwegian, for example, is bailing on its Denver-Paris route, leaving London/Gatwick as its only run from the Mile High City. Meanwhile, Level, one of the low-fare carriers in the IAG airline stable that includes British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia is juggling, too. Although Oakland-Barcelona was one of its initial routes when the carrier launched last year, Level will be moving across the bay to San Francisco. The switch takes place October 28.
Hyatt continues to play games with the brand names on the doors of its properties. This month it opened a 332-room Grand Hyatt in Abu Dhabi. It then promptly moved its existing Abu Dhabi hotel, a 189-room Hyatt, to its Andaz brand. The switch is expected to be complete in the fall.
Hilton continues to add independent international properties to its Curio Collection soft brand. In Milan, the Grand Hotel Villa Torretta will join later this year. The 77-room hotel, carved out of a 16th-century villa, is located in the suburban district of Sesto San Giovanni. And in Japan, the Kyakaruizawa Kikyo has opened as a Curio. The 50-room property, a 15-minute walk from the JR Karuizawa railway station, is located in a mountain village in Nagano Prefecture.
Southwest Continues to Expand in New York and Chicago
Once upon a time, Southwest Airlines avoided big cities and prospered in secondary markets. Not anymore, of course. Which explains why it continues to build its route network from New York/La Guardia and Chicago/Midway. From LaGuardia, it is adding a daily flight to New Orleans effective November 4. The same day, it adds six weekly flights from Midway to Burbank, California, and six weekly Burbank-Houston/Hobby flights. Also new: six weekly flights from Tucson to San Jose and six weekly roundtrips between Denver and Lubbock, Texas. Both of those routes also launch November 4.
Alaska Airlines continues to stress its West Coast roots, this time with new nonstops from San Diego to Spokane, Washington. Daily flights launch October 1 using EMB-E175 regional jets configured with first, premium economy and coach cabins.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines has now converted 11 of 69 planned aircraft to the new Polaris seats. That's 11 in two years. The airline insists that it'll convert one plane every 10 days "on average." Since it made that claim two months ago, however, it has only finished five. So, you know, timing is everything.
Etihad, the troubled airline based in Abu Dhabi, lost $1.5 billion in 2017 after a $2 billion loss in 2016. So, progress--if you consider losing a little less after a year of serious contraction and cutbacks progress.
Fairfield Inn, one of the economy brands by Marriott, continues to expand like kudzu. In recent days, it has opened hotels in Alexandria, Minnesota; Tucumcari, New Mexico; Athens, Tennessee; Melbourne, Florida; and Fresh Meadows in the New York City borough of Queens.
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