The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for October 4-18, 2018
The briefing in brief: Amex changes everything (including the color) of the Gold Card. Things get worse at Washington/National. Palm Beach gets an airport club. United cuts perks and raises requirements for 1K status. Marriotts on strike. Air Canada adds Vienna, Bordeaux flights.
Good as Rose Gold? American Express Ups Gold Card Benefits and Prices.
The never-ending battle for credit card supremacy took another turn this week with American Express overhauling the price, benefits, name and even color of its Premier Rewards Gold Card. Never as pricey or perks-laden as the American Express Platinum, the gold version was a better card for most spending. Now it's getting even stronger. Effective immediately, the card offers quadruple Membership Rewards points for spend at U.S. restaurants. You can also enroll to receive a $10 monthly statement credit against restaurant spend. Also improved is the card's supermarket benefit. The first $25,000 of spending will now also earn quadruple points. The card will continue to earn triple points on flights booked directly with airlines and a $100 annual statement credit for airline spending. Nothing comes free, however. The annual fee rises to $250, up from the current $195. And the card will no longer earn double points at U.S. gas stations. There's also a housekeeping matter: The card has been renamed the American Express Gold Card. But gold is in the eye of the beholder. For a limited time, you can order a special rose gold version of the card. Complete details of the new benefits package and options are here. Bottom line: If you already have this card, use it for most T&E spend. That includes gas stations, since the double points benefits won't expire for a year for existing cardholders. If you don't have the card, get it. There's currently a 25,000-point acquisition bonus, too.
Things Are About to Get Worse at Reagan/National
The ongoing construction at Washington/National is about to get geometrically more inconvenient for travelers. Starting Monday (October 8), for example, the Terminal B/C Ticketing level shuttle bus stops will shift. To get to Economy Parking, garage parking or rental cars, you'll need to use Door 4. For hotels and SuperShuttle, you'll need Door 3. There also will be lane reductions in front of the terminal and the cellphone waiting lot will close. (Drivers picking up passengers get free parking in Garages A, B or C, however.) For complete details, surf here.
Toronto/Pearson travelers will lose their nonstop connections to three U.S. airports on November 1. Syracuse and Rochester, New York, as well as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, are all off the map as Air Canada's Air Georgian commuter carrier ends its 18-seat Beech 1900D flights.
Palm Beach International will get a common-use lounge. At the moment, the airport's only club belongs to Delta. But county officials approved a Priority Pass-affiliated club for the gate area on Concourse B. It's tentatively set for an April debut. Operators of the 3,000-square-foot club will pay the airport $65,000 a year rent--or 10 percent of lounge revenue and 16 percent of liquor sales.
To Thank You for Your Loyalty, United Will Be Less Loyal to You
Surprise! Your 1K status in United MileagePlus will cost you more and get you less next year. The qualifying spend required will rise to $15,000 next year compared to $12,000 this year. Moreover, P-Class fares will now earn 150 percent premier qualifying miles instead of the current 200 percent.
World of Hyatt continues to change in bizarre, mostly unwanted ways. Due to the sale of Oasis, the homesharing service, it is dropping out of Hyatt's Unbound Collection. That's effective immediately and means Hyatt's already weak footprint shrinks. Independently, however, Hyatt is adding Exhale Spa benefits to the program. You'll earn 10 base points per dollar spent at participating locations and be able to spend points for items such as fitness classes, massages and facials. (Hyatt purchased Exhale last year.) But you can't just earn and burn the points. You must create a separate Exhale account and then link it to your World of Hyatt membership. Complete details are here.
Marriott Rewards is expanding its homeshare partnership with Hostmaker. As part of its Tribute Portfolio Homes pilot program, you can now book homes (and get points) for stays in Paris, Rome and Lisbon. Not surprisingly, Marriott says more than 75 percent of guests booking in London, where the Hostmaker partnership began, are on a holiday and staying with friends and family.
Air Canada (and Austrian) Will Fly to Vienna--and Bordeaux
Air Canada and its Austrian Airlines partner in the Star Alliance will be doing lots more flying to Vienna. On April 29, Air Canada will begin daily Boeing 787 Dreamliner service between Toronto and the Austrian capital. Air Canada hasn't flown the route in more than 20 years. On the same day, Austrian adds a daily Boeing 767 flight to Vienna from Montreal. Austrian hasn't flown that route in a decade. Separately, Air Canada announced it will fly a seasonal route between Montreal and Bordeaux, France. The four weekly flights will be operated with Boeing 737MAX8 aircraft configured with Premium Economy and coach. The service will run between June 15 and September 15 and the flights are timed to allow connections from U.S. cities such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
American Airlines continues to juggle its Cuba schedule. The airline is dumping Charlotte-Havana flights and wants to move the route to its Miami hub. American says Charlotte flights are only half full and loads have fallen precipitously since the Trump Administration put new restrictions on travel to Cuba. The airline also says it will start a flight from Miami to Santiago de Cuba. It's Cuba's second-largest city but has no flights from the United States. Daily service is scheduled to begin on May 3 with Airbus A319s.
Delta Air Lines says it will fly from Boston/Logan to Lisbon starting May 23. There will be daily Boeing 757-200 flights.
Now It's Workers at Boston Marriott Hotels on Strike
A series of hotel-worker strikes at 26 properties in Chicago last month was mostly settled today (October 4). Hyatt employees agreed on terms similar to those agreed earlier by Marriott workers. But four properties--including two Hilton-branded hotels--remain without their workers. The bigger news, however, is in Boston, where 1,500 Marriott workers walked off the job at seven properties ranging from the Aloft to the Ritz-Carlton. The striking employees--housekeepers, bellmen, bartenders and others--want better schedules and sexual-harassment protection. The strike could spread to additional Marriott properties in at least seven other destinations. Stay tuned. If you want updates on affected properties, surf here. A Friday, October 5, update: About 1,500 workers at some Marriott hotels in Oakland and San Francisco have joined the strike.
Hilton continues to try to build up its presence in central Paris. The newly renovated, 131-room Maison Astor Paris has joined the chain's Curio Collection of independents. The property in the 8th Arrondissement dates from the early 20th Century and once traded as the Astor Hotel. The Astor name is earned legitimately since it was once a mansion belonging to businessman John Jacob Astor.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines flyers take note: The carrier has restructured its reaccommodation policy. If you are a Concierge Key, Executive Platinum or Platinum Pro flyer, American will put you on another airline if it is a faster option. Other elites and premium class flyers will be accommodated on non-partner airlines only when American can't get you to your destination within five hours of the original flight. Flyers without status in coach apparently must rely on the kindness of strangers.
Primera Air, a Nordic discounter that launched flights to the United States earlier this year, has folded. It's not like many U.S. flyers had even heard of the 14-year-old airline or flown on its new U.S. flights.
Etihad, the Abu Dhabi-based airline that has been trying to right its financial ship, continues to cut services. It will close its business and first class lounges in Terminal 4 at London/Heathrow and turn them over to a common-use club operator. The new name will be The House. The airline may do the same with its lounges in New York/JFK, Los Angeles and other global gateways.
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