The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
HOME E-MAIL JOE PRINT 2018 COLUMNS THE ARCHIVES SEARCH LOG OUT
Business Travel Briefing for Oct. 25 to Nov. 8, 2018
The briefing in brief: Tales of Standard Time and its route-map changes. Hyatt may or may not be upgrading its suite-upgrade scheme. American raises the price, tightens admission rules of the Admirals Club. British Airways and Air Canada add flights in the Carolinas. And much more.
Tales of Standard Time, When the Route Maps Change
It's that time again. Standard time, I mean. It begins on Sunday morning, October 28, in European nations that ditch Daylight Saving Time and next Sunday (November 4) here in the United States. Plan and check your flights accordingly. The time change brings something else: airline "winter" schedules that juggle the route maps of carriers around the world. Most notable are the slew of route changes being prepared by the three major U.S. airlines. Delta Air Lines, for instance, is dropping about a dozen routes from its Cincinnati, Detroit/Metro, Minneapolis/St. Paul and New York/Kennedy hubs. Also going is its JFK-John Wayne/Orange County transcon flight, which launched only ten days ago. But that cancellation is because Delta has lost slots at capacity-controlled Orange County. The last run is on January 5. In its place (sorta) will be a route between its Atlanta hub and Ontario, California, the Inland Empire's criminally underserved airport. Flights begin April 22 using Boeing 737-900s. United Airlines, meanwhile, will move more short-haul commuter flights to its Washington/Dulles hub from its crowded, unpleasant Newark hub. So get ready for that shift if you fly from Elmira, New York; Lexington, Kentucky; or Manchester, New Hampshire. Also notable: a new Dulles commuter route to Asheville, North Carolina. But United is trimming elsewhere, dropping two routes from Los Angeles (Albuquerque and Dallas/Fort Worth) and two from Dulles (Charleston, West Virginia; and the goofy, 135-mile run to Philadelphia). Over at American Airlines, the carrier is primarily planning to bulk up at its DFW hub, adding 11 regional jet routes, including to Burbank and Bakersfield, California. And if you're a fan of good, old-fashioned route wars, consider tiny Harlingen, Texas, population 65,000. On March 3, American begins three daily flights from DFW while on March 10 Southwest Airlines will add a weekly run from its Dallas/Love Field hub.
Is Hyatt Improving World of Hyatt Upgrades? Yes. No. Maybe.
Most business travelers lost a compelling reason to go out of their way to stay at Hyatt ever since the woefully undersized hotel chain dumped Gold Passport last year for the universally panned World of Hyatt. And few of Hyatt's subsequent please-come-back enhancements have engendered good will, either. You probably should add this adjustment--a possible expansion of suite upgrades--to the let's-see-how-it-goes list. Effective November 1, Hyatt says members can claim "standard" suites for 3,000-18,000 points a night without a minimum-stay requirement. It is also adding a new redemption option for "premium suites." Guests will be able to claim allegedly special suites for 5,000-to-30,000 points a night more than standard rooms. The upgrade price depends on the suite and the hotel's award category, of course. But the issue is how many suites individual hotels will be required to make available for awards and whether you will be able to upgrade to any available suite. Hyatt has been silent on those points so far. But one thing we do know is that Hyatt will devalue its points-and-cash awards beginning November 1. Now the points co-pay--which varies by hotel award category--will only be valid for 50 percent of the going cash nightly rate. Until now, points co-pays got you a room at a set cash price.
American AAdvantage has improved online award redemptions by making inventory for additional carriers viewable on the Web. You can now see available flights and award prices and book awards online for Qatar Airways, Air Tahiti Nui, Fiji Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines.
Marriott Rewards has a new redemption option in the Maldives. The Westin Resort on Miriandhoo Island is now available as a Category 7 redemption. At the same time, however, the Westin Sydney is out of the system--it's now called the Fullerton--and unavailable for award stays.
American Airlines Raises Prices, Cuts Benefits of Admirals Club
You didn't think the freshly made guacamole being served at American Airlines' Admirals Club would be free, did you? American said last week that it would raise annual membership fees by $100, meaning customers without elite AAdvantage status will pay $650 to join. American is also dropping family perks, meaning no discounts for spouse memberships after January 30. American also will reduce the value of club membership. Effective November 1, 2019, you'll only have access to lounges if you also have a same-day boarding pass on American, Oneworld Alliance partner carriers or Alaska Airlines. That matches new restrictions on Delta Sky Club memberships.
PreCheck, the TSA security-bypass program, has three new partners. Travelers on discount carriers Norwegian and Icelandair can use PreCheck lanes immediately. Flyers on Via Airlines, a scheduled charter operator serving more than a dozen destinations in the South and Southwest, will get PreCheck effective on November 1.
San Francisco has two new local restaurant names. Mustards Grill, the well-known Napa Valley dining room, has opened a branch in the International Terminal near Gate G91. And Super Duper Burgers, a local fast-food operation, now has an outpost in Terminal 3 within the food court at Boarding Area F. Speaking of burgers, Bobby's Burger Palace from celebrity chef Bobby Flay has opened in Concourse B of Atlanta/Hartsfield airport.
International Carriers Cozy Up to The Carolinas
It's not like North and South Carolina are a cohesive marketplace--hell, Carolinians can't even agree on barbecue--but you can't ignore the fact that the states are suddenly getting more attention from international airlines. British Airways will add nonstop flights to London/Heathrow from Charleston beginning on April 4. It'll be the first nonstop flight to Europe from the heart of the Low Country. Twice-weekly seasonal flights will be operated with Boeing 787-800s configured with BA's egregiously old business class, premium economy and coach. Meanwhile, Air Canada is bringing more flights to North Carolina. Besides additional service on existing routes to Toronto from Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham, the Canadian carrier will launch daily flights between RDU and Montreal. The Montreal run launches June 3 on 50-seat regional jets.
Delta Air Lines is adding a new route to Europe, but dropping one to South America. The newbie: Boston-Edinburgh, which launch May 23 using Boeing 757s configured with 16 business class beds, 44 Comfort+ chairs and 108 coach seats. But bad news if you've been using Delta's nonstops between Orlando and Sao Paulo/Guarulhos. That Boeing 767 run ends on March 30.
United Airlines has finalized its breakup with Hamburg, Germany. The airline once ran daily Boeing 757 flights from Newark, but this year busted the service down to seasonal operations. Now even that has been dumped.
Aeromexico is dropping five routes to the United States. Nonstops from Mexico City to Boston; Portland, Oregon; and Washington/National will disappear. Also going: Monterrey-Los Angeles and Guadalajara-San Jose. The runs end on January 7 except for DCA route, which goes December 2. The culprit: Aeromexico lost more than $65 million during the first nine months of the year and the carrier is scrambling to cut costs.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Delta Air Lines has earmarked nine routes for service from its new Airbus A220 aircraft. The 109-seat planes, once called the Bombardier C Series, are notable mostly for their 2x3 configuration in coach with a seat width of 18.6 inches. The aircraft debuts in January on New York/LaGuardia-Boston/Logan and LGA to Dallas/Fort Worth.
Alaska Airlines has fallen in line with other carriers and will charge $30 for the first checked bag in coach and $40 for the second. The change is effective for tickets purchased on or after December 5.
United Airlines said it will not allow flyers who purchase Basic Economy fares to bring a carry-on bag along. Delta has always permitted it and American Airlines last month began to allow it. Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways are also adding their versions of Basic Economy.
London travelers take note: Employees of three Underground lines--Central, Waterloo and City--will strike all day on November 7. The 24-hour work stoppage will cause crazy crowding on the remaining Tube lines. Plan accordingly.
This column is Copyright © 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.