The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for August 16-30, 2018
The briefing in brief: American's Doug Parker continues to shy away from competition. Heads up! Marriott and Starwood merge programs this weekend. Wyoming's capital gets back on the route map. Hilton adding hotels from coast-to-coast. New Priority Pass options.
The Parker Principle: Never, Ever Compete With Other Airlines
When American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker ran US Airways, he had a theory: Never, ever compete with other airlines. He pulled out of competitive markets, swapped a strong position at New York/LaGuardia to Delta Air Lines for a stronger position at Washington/National and ended with 98 percent of his flights touching a US Air fortress hub. So why are you surprised that Parker is following the exact same path at American Airlines? He has bulked up hubs, trimmed flights at secondary cities and downsized its New York/Kennedy operation. The latest cuts: ending JFK-Denver and Boston/Logan-Pittsburgh flights. The Parker Principle is most evident in the New York market, where American has slipped behind Delta, JetBlue Airways and Newark-based United Airlines. While it still offers flights in the Transcon Triangle of JFK, LAX and San Francisco--and American alone offers an actual first class cabin--most of its traffic originates in Los Angeles. American this year already has dumped flights from JFK to Manchester, England; Zurich; Tucson; and several Caribbean destinations. Meanwhile, Parker is foisting substandard service on markets where American dominates. Case in point: Miami, where American will add more of its dreadful Boeing 737 MAX jets. In November, one daily Miami-Washington/National roundtrip will get the plane with 30-inch seat pitch and tiny lavatories. In December, American will put 737MAX aircraft on routes to Tampa and Grand Cayman.
Marriott's Big-Bang Program Merger Is This Weekend. Flee!
Marriott still has not told us the name of the new program that will merge the existing Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards plans with Starwood Preferred Guest. But the integration, which started on a low-level basis last weekend, goes for the big-bang combine on Saturday (August 18). And Marriott isn't hiding the fact that it expects screwups. "You may experience disruptions online, which will also impact our call centers. If this happens, please try again later," Marriott.com warns. Over at SPG.com, the rejoinder is: "We encourage you to manage your account and reservations before a planned disruption" on Saturday. So what's a Marriott/Starwood player to do? For starters, print out all your details: balances, activity, status, advance reward reservations and the like. Have it handy if the worst happens. Have reservations at a Marriott or Starwood hotel on Saturday or next week? Print out the details and travel with the hard-copy record. It might not be a bad idea to carry your membership cards, too. I mean, assuming you actually still have your membership cards.
Chase Ultimate Rewards players take note: The last day to transfer points to the Korean Air SKYPASS plan is August 24. Korean Air is leaving the program.
Wyoming's Capital Gets Back on the National Route Map
As U.S. carriers shed small communities from their route maps, many important destinations find themselves without airline service. For example: Cheyenne, the capital of Wyoming, has been off the map since March when Great Lakes Airlines shut down. Now SkyWest, operating as American Eagle, will reconnect Cheyenne beginning November 4. It'll fly a 50-seat regional jet to Dallas/Fort Worth, American's hub and hometown. American hasn't flown to Cheyenne since at least 2012.
Priority Pass users take note: You now have additional dining alternatives at Boston/Logan and Tel Aviv. In Boston, Jerry Remy's Sports Bar, located outside security in Terminal C, honors Priority Pass for $28 in food and beverage charges. Ditto The Schmoozy Bar in Terminal 3 at TLV. The 24-hour restaurant is on Concourse E.
Indianapolis is losing its Alaska Airlines nonstop to San Francisco. The daily flight ends next month.
Turkish Airlines Pulls U.S. Advertising in Political Flap
The political battle between the Trump Administration and the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is bleeding into travel. The Turkish lira has plummeted against the dollar and a greenback now buys 5.8 lira, up from 3.8 at the end of 2017. And Turkish Airlines says it'll suspend advertising in the United States as a matter of solidarity with "our state and people." Bottom line: Look for bargains on Turkish Airlines as it tries to fill seats in the weeks and months ahead.
Swiss International now can offer PreCheck service. The TSA announced the inclusion of the Swiss subsidiary of Lufthansa today (August 16). It's the 54th domestic and international carrier that offers the security bypass service.
Hilton Adds Properties (Literally) From Coast-to-Coast
Hilton is in a neck-and-neck race with Marriott to see how many hotels it can add around the world. This week Hilton has been especially busy from sea to shining sea. In New Jersey, for example, it opened a dual-branded Hampton Inn and a Homewood Suites. The 350-room complex is just off Interstate 95 in Teaneck. It also opened a Home2 Suites in Bordentown. On the West Coast, it opened a 254-room Hilton Garden Inn in Bellevue, Washington, and two properties in Portland, Oregon: a 153-room Canopy in the Pearl District and a Home2 Suites near Portland Airport. In between the coasts, it has added Hilton Garden Inn outlets in Boise, Idaho; Topeka, Kansas; and in the Aksarben Village area of Omaha, Nebraska. Also new: a 69-room Hampton Inn at Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington, Iowa.
Hyatt has opened a 128-room Hyatt Place hotel in downtown Niagara Falls, New York.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Radisson Hotels has been sold again, this time to Jin Jiang International, a lodging group owned by the Chinese government. Radisson, formerly controlled by Carlson and European interests including SAS Scandinavian, was sold to HNA in 2016. HNA, however, is drowning in debt and been under pressure to divest many holdings.
Washington/National suffered a two-hour power outage last night (August 15). It was after most flight activity was done for the day.
Government travelers take note: 2019 per diem rates have been released. You can search for hotel, car rental, dining and other reimbursement numbers for next year here.
Air France/KLM, parent company of the French and Dutch carriers, has hired Air Canada executive Ben Smith as its new chief executive officer. He's the first foreigner to run the combined operation, which has been wracked by labor unrest, high costs and friction between the Dutch and French divisions.
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