The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for December 6-20, 2018
The briefing in brief: New airport lounges have arrived, others are on the way. Air Italy will fly nonstop to Milan from Los Angeles and San Francisco. La Compagnie will run seasonal Newark-Nice flights. New sun and ski hotels. United now selling premium economy. And more.
The Ghosts of Airport Lounges Present and Yet-to-Come
If your life on the road is one Dickensian airport experience after another, you might be interested in what we might as well call the ghosts of airport clubs present and yet to come. A burst of openings, reflaggings and future location announcements should offer glad tidings to weary road warriors. Air Canada has opened its 7,000-square-foot Maple Leaf Lounge in the newly opened section of Terminal B at New York/LaGuardia airport. It's on Level 2 near Air Canada's gates (49-51). In the reflagging game, financially stressed Etihad of Abu Dhabi continues to shed its airport lounges. Its facility at London/Heathrow Terminal 4 already has been rebranded The House and is run by No. 1 Lounges. Two clubs in Australia also have been stripped of the Etihad name. Its former lounges at Sydney and Melbourne now operate as The House in cooperation with Virgin Australia. All three sell day memberships. Meanwhile, the ghosts of airport clubs future are popping up everywhere. American Express has confirmed three new Centurion Lounge locations. A London facility will be located in Terminal 3 at Heathrow and is due next year. A Centurion Lounge will open early in 2020 at the intersection of Concourses D and E at Charlotte/Douglas. And a Centurion at Phoenix/Sky Harbor will split about 10,000 feet with an Escape Lounge, which operates at nearly a dozen other U.S. and British airports.
Sun or Ski, Notable New Places to Burn Hotel Points
Sitting on a stash of Marriott and/or Hilton points and looking for places to burn them later this year into 2019? Allow me to help. Here are some notable new arrivals to those chains.
Marriott Rewards has a new outpost in Cape Town, South Africa. A 188-room AC Hotel opened near the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. Also new: a W Hotel in Reserva Conchal, a 2,300-acre nature park near Tamarindo, Costa Rica. And Al Manara, a 207-room beach resort in Saraya Aqaba, Jordan, also has opened as a Luxury Collection property. The other new Luxury Collection addition, Hotel Talisa, is a ski-in/ski-out resort in Vail, Colorado. The 285-room property also has a spa, of course.
Hilton Honors has added three all-inclusive resorts via its alliance with the Playa chain. Now bookable on points are the Hilton Playa Del Carmen, an adults-only resort in Mexico; Hilton La Romana, a 412-room family resort; and Hilton La Romana, a 344-room family resort. La Romana properties are in the Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, the chain's Tapestry Collection has added three new (literally, just opened) properties. The Founders Inn is a 240-room resort in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The 36-room Cotton Sail Hotel in Savannah, Georgia, has been carved out of a 200-year-old cotton warehouse. And in Taos, New Mexico, the Hotel Don Fernando has reopened after a major overhaul. First opened in 1989, the Don Fernando is close to the Taos Ski Village and several hot springs.
The Airlines Really Think We Want to Fly to Europe
A month ago, the airlines were all talking about tightening their corporate belts and making plans to trim poor-performing international routes. But that was when everyone on the planet felt the price of crude oil would hit the $100-a-barrel mark by the end of the year. But now that oil is selling nearer to $50 than $100, many airlines have reversed course and decided to ramp up international service. Except for the Delta Air Lines decision to drop Detroit-Sao Paulo runs--flights end on March 30--it's full steam ahead with new routes. Some of what has been announced this week:
La Compagnie, the all-business class French airline, says it will fly nonstop between Newark and Nice. Boeing 757 flights will operate five times weekly between May 14 and July 1, then run three times a week between July 4 and October 26. It's only the third route La Compagnie has tried. It ran a Newark-London/Luton service in 2015 and 2016.
Air Italy, a private carrier 49 percent owned by Qatar Airways, is adding two new U.S. routes to its Milan/Malpensa hub. Effective April 3, there'll be four weekly flights from Los Angeles. Beginning April 10, there'll be four weekly flights from San Francisco. Air Italy already flies to New York/JFK and Miami using converted Qatar Airways Airbus A330-200s configured with business and coach cabins.
United Airlines will resume nonstops between its Denver hub and Frankfurt, hub of Star Alliance partner Lufthansa. Daily Boeing 787 service starts on May 2, the first time United has flown DEN-FRA since shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Lufthansa already operates on the route.
Norwegian is adding daily nonstops between Boston/Logan and Madrid. Boeing 787 service begins May 2. The low-fare/high-fee carrier is also increasing frequency on its existing routes to Madrid from Los Angeles and New York/JFK.
WestJet will add seasonal service (April 29-October 25) between Halifax and Dublin. Boeing 737MAX aircraft will ply the route. Also new: three weekly flights between Toronto and Barcelona operating May 24 to October 21. WestJet will use Boeing 767s there. Both aircraft are configured with premium and economy cabins.
This Week's Icky Hotel Stuff ...
Despite strenuous attempts by lawyers for President Trump to block all inquiries, a federal judge has allowed an "emoluments clause" case to proceed. At issue: whether Trump is illegally profiting from the Trump Hotel in Washington because foreign governments and political organizations book business there. Bloomberg News and Politico.com have details on the messy Constitutional issues involved. Meanwhile, TheHill.com has news of a galling Saudi spending spree at the hotel. And if you want to shower after the unseemly affairs in Washington, maybe don't do it at a Hampton Inn. A Chicago woman is suing Hilton for $100 million after she was filmed showering at a Hampton in Albany, New York. According to the Albany Times Union, filming took place in 2015 and someone was blackmailing the guest by putting the video on porn Web sites.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines is now selling tickets for its new international premium economy cabin. The flights begin on March 30 and Premium Plus--not to be confused with Economy Plus--will be available on 21 routes by late May. Details on the cabin, routes served and upgrade procedures are here.
Alitalia continues to fly at the pleasure and largesse of the Italian government--its loans this week were extended into the summer--and is now making a bid to regain some domestic momentum. Although Italy's high-speed train has essentially run it off a once-key route between Rome and Milan, Alitalia in July will add four daily flights from Fiumicino to Bergamo, about 36 miles from downtown Milan. Bergamo is a gateway to Lake Garda and Lake Como, trendy holiday destinations in northern Italy.
Oneworld Alliance this week announced its first member based in Africa. Royal Air Maroc should join by mid-2020. The Moroccan flag carrier currently flies from its Casablanca hub to three North American cities--New York/JFK, Montreal and Washington/Dulles--and launches Miami flights in April. Watch for some code-sharing and frequent flyer program earn-and-burn privileges with American Airlines before Royal Air Maroc joins Oneworld.
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