The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
The Business-Travel Briefing for Feb. 5-19, 2015
The briefing in brief: Singapore Airlines will debut premium economy in December on U.S. routes. American juggles fees on AAdvantage awards claimed by phone. Hilton loses Europe locations. United bails on more airports. Delta switches to Starbucks--from Starbucks. And more...

Singapore Airlines Unveils Premium Economy and a December U.S. Debut
Singapore Airlines unveiled it long-awaited entry into premium economy this week and the product seems to fit squarely within the service standards set by Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa. Singapore is promising 18.5 inch or wider seats with 38 inches of legroom. Seats will also have calf rests and footrests and they'll recline eight inches. There'll be 13.3-inch video monitors and passengers receive noise-cancelling headsets. There will be more extensive in-flight meals than in coach and premium-economy passengers will be able to take advantage of Singapore Air's unique book the cook service. Complete details are here. Premium economy will debut in August on the Singapore-Sydney route, but it'll be December before the cabin begins appearing on SIA's U.S. flights. It starts December 1 for LAX-Tokyo, December 14 on New York/JFK-Frankfurt and January 6 for San Francisco-Seoul. The price? On a December LAX-Tokyo run, the cheapest coach roundtrip is $880, a fully flexible coach roundtrip is $1,545 and premium economy is $2,100. To make space for premium economy, the airline is reducing the coach cabin on its Airbus A380s and pulling half of its first-class cabin on the Boeing 777-300ERs.

American Juggles Award Fees and There Is Some Good News
American AAdvantage has juggled the fees for issuing award tickets and, surprise, there is some good news. Effective February 16, the airline will jack up the fee for booking an award by phone to $30 (domestic) and $40 (international). That's a $5 bump in each category. But American will now waive fees for claiming any award that can't be booked online. That means seats on partner carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Etihad as well as some more complex itineraries. Complete information is here. ... United MileagePlus is running a "sale" on awards claimed on Star Alliance carriers. The select discounts in coach and business class range from 2,500 to 12,500 miles and are valid for travel until December 31 if you book by February 28. Full details are here. ... Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards members take note: Ritz-Carlton is back in Bali after a five-year absence. The 333-room property is in Sawangan, Nusa Dua, and costs 50,000 points a night. ... Hyatt Gold Passport members take note: A 207-room Park Hyatt has opened at Sanya on Hainan Island, China. The beachfront resort costs 20,000 points. ... Hilton HHonors has lost three prime European locations. The Excelsior Palace in Palermo, Sicily, and the Buenavista in Toledo, Spain, are both out of the system. And the property known as the Hilton Lyon since it opened in 1999 is also out. It has switched to Marriott, is now called the Lyon Marriott and is a 30,000-point redemption.

United Bails on Three More Airports
United Airlines continues to shrink because, you know, the merger with Continental made it a stronger competitor. Gone will be flights to Regina and Saskatoon in Saskatchewan. The twice-daily United Express flights from Denver end on February 28. United also is bailing on Dallas/Love Field, where United Express flies seven times a day to its Houston/Intercontinental hub. Those flights end March 16 and United's two gates at Love Field are going to Southwest Airlines, which already dominates flights at the close-in Dallas airport. ... Speaking of Love Field, the DoubleTree by Hilton flag is now flying above the 244-room hotel on Mockingbird Lane. The hotel is about a quarter of a mile away and had been operating as a Wyndham. ... On the other hand, DoubleTree has pulled its sign off the hotel at 5501 Eubank Road near Richmond Airport. The hotel now trades as an independent. ... Speaking of Hilton, it has opened a 217-room Hilton Garden Inn about two miles from Istanbul/Ataturk Airport. ... AC Hotels, one of the Marriott brands, has opened a 122-room property on the grounds of Le Bourget Airport in Paris. ... Hyatt has opened a 365-room hotel in the City of Dreams development about two miles from Manila Airport. ... American Airlines will dump flights between Louisville and New York/LaGuardia late in March. Delta Air Lines, which also flies the route, will add a fourth daily Louisville-LGA flight on April 7.

Another Secret Flight for Intrepid Frequent Flyers
We talked about "secret flights"--international carriers of one country operating routes to a third nation from a U.S. city--last year. And just last week, TAM, the Brazilian carrier, announced it would fly a New York-Toronto route. Now there's still another. Philippine Airlines says it will launch a route between New York/Kennedy and Vancouver. It'll use an Airbus A340-300 on the run, which begins on March 15 and continues to Manila. ... Western hotel chains keep expanding in India, a ripe market for focused-service chains. Hyatt has opened a 117-room Hyatt Place in Pune and InterContinental has opened a 232-room Holiday Inn Express in Hyderabad. ... La Compagnie, the French all-business-class carrier, says it will begin flying between Newark and London/Luton on April 24. There will be four weekly flights using the carrier's 74-seat Boeing 757s. ... JetBlue Airways says it will launch twice-weekly flights between its New York/Kennedy hub and Grenada on June 11.

You Got Any More Room on Your Hotel Scorecard?
You know how this works, right? There are so many new hotels open that there just isn't space for anything but a laundry list. So get out that scorecard, pay attention to your favorite chain and here we go. ... From Hilton, there are new Hampton Inn branches in Hernando, Mississippi (82 rooms), Airdrie, Alberta (96 rooms) and a 117-room outlet near the main campus of Arizona State University in Tempe. It also opened a Homewood Suites in Richland, Washington (115 rooms); a 91-room Home2Suites in Midland, Texas; and a 139-room Hilton Garden Inn in Burlington, Vermont. ... Marriott has opened two TownePlace Suites in Ontario: a newly built 100-room branch in Belleville and a 126-room outpost in a converted Travelodge in London. It also opened a 119-room Courtyard in Charleston, West Virginia, and a 95-room Fairfield Inn in Delray Beach, Florida. ... InterContinental converted a former Wingate into a 117-room Holiday Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona, and a former Sheraton into a 355-room Crowne Plaza in Stamford, Connecticut.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Meet the new coffee, same as the old coffee: Delta Air Lines has switched to Starbucks on all flights. You'll have a choice of Pike Place Roast or instant decaf Italian Roast. You know, if you consider Starbucks a choice. Delta's previous in-flight brew, Seattle's Best, is owned by Starbucks. ... American Airlines says it now gives amenity kits to business-class travelers on transcon flights between Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York/Kennedy. The airline is also releasing a series of retro amenity kits in the colors of the approximately four million carriers that were merged into US Airways and the old American. ... The three major U.S. carriers are attacking the Gulf Carriers in the political arena now. The chief executives of United, American and Delta airlines met with Obama Administration officials last week and asked the government to curtail the U.S. flying rights of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

This column is Copyright © 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright © 2015 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.