The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for September 6-20, 2018
The briefing in brief: United continues to juggle its route map so it looks more like American. Want to fly somewhere exotic? You'll be surprised how easy it's getting. Delta is bulking up at Boston-area airports. Want a new full-service hotel? Go overseas. And more.
United Continues to Juggle Its Route Map So It Looks More Like American
American Airlines fired Scott Kirby two years ago and he immediately resurfaced as president of rudderless United Airlines. What has Kirby done in the past two years? Turned United into a clone of American, deploying the same tools and tricks deployed by his former boss and running mate, American chief executive Doug Parker. If you haven't noticed the similarity before now, you will after United finishes remaking its route network. Just as American is doing at New York/Kennedy, United is transforming its Newark hub into a base for so-called O&D (that's point-to-point) flying. And just as American is moving connecting traffic to Philadelphia from Kennedy, United is moving connecting service to its under-utilized Washington/Dulles hub from Newark. And, of course, Kirby's plan calls for fleets of crappy regional jets flying to smaller markets. Among the new commuter routes launching from the Denver hub are flights to Flagstaff, Arizona, and Santa Rosa, California. It'll also add RJ flights from Chicago/O'Hare to Leon/Guanajuato, Mexico. There will also be more international flying. A San Francisco-Amsterdam run launches on March 30 using Boeing 787s. And once again, just like American, Kirby will launch more summer flights to Europe. Those routes--to Naples and Prague next year--will be flown with United's fleet of aging Boeing 767-300s. Both flights will operate from late spring until early October.
Want to Fly Somewhere Exotic? You'll Be Surprised How Easy It's Getting
Although there are signs that passenger demand is softening--or, at least it's softening at prices the airlines would prefer to charge--carriers are prepared to blaze all sorts of new routes. LOT Polish, for example, is launching flights between Miami and Warsaw. The route launches June 1 with four weekly Boeing 787 Dreamliners configured with business, premium economy and coach. On the other coast, Finnair is planning to resume service to Los Angeles for the first time in 17 years. There'll be three weekly flights to Helsinki beginning March 31. The Oneworld Alliance member will use Airbus A350s configured with business, premium economy and coach. Meanwhile, Hainan Airlines hopes to launch Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights between Los Angeles and Xi'an in northern China as early as December 6. Pending government approval, there'll be two weekly B787 flights configured with coach and business class. United Airlines briefly tried seasonal summer flying between San Francisco and Xi'an, but bailed last year.
Delta Air Lines says it'll fly between Tampa and Amsterdam, the hub of its SkyTeam Alliance partner KLM. Daily flights begin May 23 using Boeing 767-300s configured with business, Comfort+ and coach. Delta also flies to Amsterdam from Orlando.
Hawaiian Airlines is dropping flights between Honolulu and Beijing. The flights launched four years ago and will end on October 9.
Delta Air Lines Continues Bulking Up at Boston-Area Airports
JetBlue Airways dominates at Boston/Logan with 31 percent of the market, but Delta Air Lines won't walk away from the New England market. It will resume flights from Logan to Sarasota during the winter season with weekly flights in March and April. The flights will be operated with SkyWest regional jets. It's the first time in nearly a decade that Delta and SkyWest have flown the route. Meanwhile, Delta also says it will return to Worcester, about 55 miles from Logan. JetBlue is now the only airline at Worcester, but American Airlines launches a route next month to its Philadelphia hub. Delta says it will add flights to its Detroit/Metro hub in August, but has yet to release details about frequency or aircraft.
Admirals Club locations will be harder to find in the weeks ahead. Besides closing one of its lounges at New York/Kennedy to expand its Flagship Lounge for premium class flyers, American will shutter its clubs in Hartford, Connecticut; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Caracas, Venezuela.
Priority Pass is raising the price for lounge visits to $32--if you get your card via American Express. The higher fee won't affect your free visits, of course, but will bump up your price if you're bringing a guest. The price hike is effective October 1.
You Want a New Full-Service Hotel? Go Overseas or Give Up
Major chains are opening hotels at a breathtaking pace, but all of them are limited-service affairs. Finding a newly opened full-service property in the United States is a dicey affair. In fact, if you prefer full-service hotels, you must look overseas. Marriott, for example, opened a 150-room W Hotel in Kuala Lumpur and a 100-room Edition Hotel in the El Born district of Barcelona. It also added new properties to its "soft brand" of independents: Solaz on the Sea of Cortez in Los Cabos joined the Luxury Collection and the Eugenia de Montijo in Toledo, Spain, became part of the Autograph Collection. Meanwhile, a 372-room Grand Hyatt opened in the central business district of Bogota, Colombia.
Hampton Inn, a Hilton brand, continues its relentless expansion. It opened a 92-room branch in Sikeston, Missouri, and a 420-room branch near Dubai International Airport. And that's probably the first time Sikeston and Dubai have ever been mentioned in the same sentence.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Marriott Rewards has changed terms and conditions after just two weeks as as combined program with Starwood Preferred Guest. The good: Platinum Elite customers and above are supposed to receive upgrades that include suites. The bad: You won't receive your elite status benefits if you book on an unqualified rate. What's an "unqualified" rate? Booking through a travel agency. It's guaranteed that the bad news will be enforced. But whether the upgrade policy change will actually yield suite upgrades at check-in remains to be seen. You can examine the newly revised Marriott/SPG terms and conditions here.
British Airways said today (September 6) that 380,000 credit card transactions on the BA.com Web site were compromised. The hack captured financial data on purchases made between August 21 and September 5. BA's mush-mouthed statement on the hack can be viewed here.
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