The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for Jan. 24-Feb.7, 2019
The briefing in brief: Airlines add flights, but you better like flying from their hubs. What happened to Hyatt's Canadian expansion? American AAdvantage unveils not-ready-for-prime-time changes. The shutdown shuts down some plans of Alaska and Southwest airlines. And more.
The Airlines Add Flights, But You'd Better Like Their Hubs
U.S. airlines want you to know they are happy to add flights to anywhere you'd like to fly--so long as you go where they choose to fly. In the case of Delta Air Lines, it is Raleigh-Durham, the carrier's newest focus city. Effective June 8, there'll be new regional-jet flights to New Orleans and Pittsburgh. Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, is bulking up at Nashville, where it already controls 55 percent of the flights. It is resuming seasonal service to Norfolk and Seattle, debuting seasonal flights to Omaha and increasing service on six existing routes. The increased flights begin June 10 to Boston; Detroit; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; and San Diego and Ontario, California. Effective June 9, it'll also add two new Nashville routes: daily flights to Burbank and San Jose, California. Over at United Airlines, the growth is at its Chicago/O'Hare hub. It'll be regional-jet service, of course, but it will mean new daily flights to Eugene, Oregon; seasonal summer service to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Redmond, Oregon; and weekend runs to Destin and Panama City, Florida; and Durango and Grand Junction, Colorado. Those flights all begin in June.
American AAdvantage Launches Busted Award Tool and Busted Premium Economy Pricing
American AAdvantage offers the lowest international award pricing in premium class--so long as you're willing to fly the old, busted British Airways business class and cough up thousands in co-pays. But never let it be said American isn't working for you. This week they introduced two new busted features. A second award booking tool has appeared online. It has so many missing features and glitches that it's not ready for alpha testing, let alone the public beta rollout that AA executives decided to give it. This week also brought the official launch of American's premium economy class awards. There's no award chart yet and prices for routes I tested yielded ridiculously high numbers. Needless to say, the new premium economy pricing is as busted as the new award booking tool. A 9 p.m. update on January 24: American has now posted an official award chart for its own premium economy flights and it does not always seem to match up with prices being quoted by the booking engine. Approach with caution. And, no, the chart does not allow you to use AAdvantage miles to fly premium economy class on other carriers.
IHG Rewards Club says it will add Regent Hotels to its earn-and-burn portfolio on February 1. InterContinental Hotels last year purchased a 51 percent stake in the luxury hotel chain, a distant progeny of the original Regent Hotels, which were folded into Four Seasons. Besides the six existing properties--in Beijing, Berlin, Chongqing, Singapore, Taipei and Montenegro--IHG eventually plans to rebrand the Intercontinental Hong Kong as a Regent. If you are really ancient, you'll recall that the property opened as a Regent in the 1980s. More practically, however, no pricing for award nights for the Regent hotels has been released.
What Happened to Hyatt's Big Canada Expansion? Uh, Almost Nothing.
It was only last June that Hyatt Hotels was breathlessly touting a dozen new hotels across Canada and a "double[d] brand presence" in the Great White North. But things haven't gone exactly as Hyatt expected. For starters, before it could get a new Canadian property open, it lost an existing hotel. Plagued by water leaks, pigeon droppings and venting issues, the Hyatt Place in downtown Edmonton was tossed from the chain and is now trading as an independent hotel. (It also failed a health inspection.) Two of the dozen new Hyatts were supposed to open last year. Didn't happen. The Hyatt Place Mississauga Center just off Ontario Highway 401 is nowhere to be found. And it's not even listed on the Hyatt.com Web site. The other property, a Hyatt Place near Calgary Airport, has "soft-opened" in the last few days and is bookable, but it hasn't been officially announced. The six properties promised for this year, if anything, seem to be faring even more poorly. None are listed on Hyatt.com as "coming soon." The Hyatt Place in Moncton, New Brunswick, now says that it won't open until "late 2020." A waterfront Hyatt Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, received final permits late last August, but there has been no subsequent news. Two properties planned for Winnipeg--a Hyatt Place and a Hyatt House--have broken ground, but there are no updates. And there's been radio silence about a $20 million Hyatt House near McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, that has been in the planning stages since 2017.
Shutdown Shuts Down Paine Field and Southwest's Hawaii Plans
As we warned several weeks ago in Tactical Traveler, the government shutdown is about more than checkpoint security lines and unpaid federal employees. The FAA is hobbled and that has scuppered the plans of Alaska Airlines to launch flights next month from Paine Field north of Seattle. The newly renovated airport was scheduled to begin operation on February 11 and Alaska Air was due to be the prime operator, with flights to Portland, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, John Wayne/Orange County and San Francisco. But with the FAA sidelined, required inspections and certifications have not been completed. Alaska Airlines now says flight launches are delayed and will begin between March 4 and March 12. Of course even those dates require the FAA to get up and running sooner rather than later.
Southwest Airlines says it, too, has been impacted by FAA inaction during the shutdown. Its plans to launch flights to Hawaii from the West Coast during the first quarter are now almost surely off. During its fourth-quarter earnings call today (January 24), Southwest executives now say they hope to get flights running sometime in the second quarter. The Hawaii launch is delayed because the FAA did not complete Southwest's ETOPS certification before the shutdown. Without the approval to fly its twin-engine Boeing 737s on longer overwater routes, Southwest can't begin Hawaii operations.
Delta Air Lines is dumping flights between its Seattle-Tacoma hub and Edmonton, Alberta. Flights end on March 1. Separately, Delta is also dropping flights between Honolulu and Fukuoka, Japan. The last flight on that route is May 7.
Icelandair has dropped service between Baltimore/Washington and its Reykjavik hub.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Take note, United Airlines flyers using the carrier's hub in Denver. United plans to "rebank" flight operations there on February 14. That'll mean retiming flights to display more felicitous connecting times. Of course, what that means in reality is more missed connections and delays due to flights stressing employees by arriving and departing all at once.
Emirates Airline is reducing the checked baggage allowance on its cheapest fares. The Special category will go to 15 kilograms, down from 20. The Saver category allowance is reduced to 25 kilograms from 30. The changes are effective with tickets purchased beginning February 4, but flights to/from the Americas are exempt.
Southwest Airlines ends flights to Mexico City on March 30. Its flights to coastal Mexican resort destinations are not affected, however.
Brazil says it will stop requiring visitors to obtain a visa if they are citizens of the United States and Canada. But check carefully before you depart. Brazil's visa regulations are constantly in flux.
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