The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
The Business-Travel Briefing for Feb. 19-28, 2015
The briefing in brief: Terrorism smears and fare lies as the U.S. carriers attack Gulf airlines. Virgin America will add Dallas/Love-Austin flights. Starwood bounces chief executive. China Eastern wants to start Los Angeles-Nanjing flights. Delta "pays" for late bags. And more...

Terrorism Smears and Fare Lies as U.S. Carriers Attack the Gulf Airlines
Delta, United and American/US Airways have spent two years telling media types that they were about to unleash a mighty wind on their mortal enemies--Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad--the fast-growing Gulf Carriers. The campaign went public earlier this month when the chief executives of the U.S. carriers met with White House officials and demanded a change to the Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.




Low Coach

Low Biz

CPM Coach






19.8 cents

73.0 cents





18.8 cents

66.8 cents





18.1 cents

68.0 cents





16.2 cents

69.2 cents

KEY: Mileage represents one-way, nonstop distance. Low Coach is the lowest listed roundtrip economy fare. Low Biz is the lowest listed roundtrip business-class fare. CPM is the cost per mile. Prices based on travel between October 7-21, 2015. Source:

But it quickly ran aground this week when Delta CEO Richard Anderson went on CNN and implied the Gulf states and its carriers were complicit in terrorism. The smear backfired, but revealed the depths to which the carriers will stoop to find allies to fight against open competition. It also highlights a bizarre reality: Delta is SkyTeam partners with Saudi Arabian Airlines and American Airlines shares the Oneworld Alliance with Qatar Airways. Meanwhile, the U.S. carriers are lying about the one route where they've publicly claimed Gulf carriers make their lives impossible. American chief executive Doug Parker says he can't launch service to India because the Gulf carriers charge too little. Anderson insists he's dropping Delta's Amsterdam-Delhi route for the same reason. But as you can see by the chart, United Airlines, the one U.S. carrier that does fly between the United States and India, is doing just fine. It charges more on its Newark-Delhi nonstops than it does on nonstops to China. United's Newark-Mumbai route is priced about the same as its China flights, too.

Virgin America Bails on Chicago, Switches to Austin From Dallas
Virgin America is Southwest Airlines' only substantial competitor at Dallas/Love Field, which opened last fall to flights nationwide. But after announcing it would launch flights from Love to Chicago/O'Hare, Virgin this week switched gears. It won't fly to Chicago after all, but to Austin. Assuming it doesn't change its mind again, flights between Love and Austin will begin on April 28. Virgin will fly five times daily on the route. Southwest Airlines already flies 10 times a day between Love and Austin and American Airlines operates 14 times a day to Austin from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub. ... Speaking of Love Field, Southwest Airlines has run into some trouble with the gates it has purchased from United Airlines. Transportation Department officials are demanding that Delta Air Lines, which has been using the gates to fly to its Atlanta hub, continue to be allowed to fly from Love. Southwest and United object and Southwest plans to sue. ... JetBlue Airways says it will launch seasonal flights to Nantucket from Washington/National. The weekend (Friday to Sunday) service will operate between June 19 and September 6.

Starwood Bounces the Boss. His Crimes? Slow Growth, Lack of Flash.
Starwood chief executive Frits van Paasschen was unceremoniously booted from office this week, replaced on an interim basis by a board member, Adam Aron, a former United Airlines and Hyatt executive. Van Paasschen had run Starwood since 2007 and was lionized for his lifestyle (a vegan and fitness fanatic) and his willingness to move Starwood staff to foreign countries to understand their cultures. But van Paasschen also allowed Starwood to fall behind in two key areas. In a period of rampant, worldwide growth, Starwood has grown much more slowly than competitors such as Marriott, Hilton and InterContinental. The company was also weak in especially fast-growing segments such as extended-stay hotels and chains like Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard by Marriott. The other mark against van Paasschen? Starwood isn't trendy anymore. Before his arrival, Starwood was considered hip thanks to its remake of Westin Hotels and its launch of W Hotels. Both chains have lagged under his watch and the Element and Aloft brands haven't grown quickly or generated much buzz. Of course, business travelers have a different bone to pick with Starwood: its consistently inconsistent (and often awful) Sheraton brand. The same could be said about Four Points, its flailing and poorly defined limited-service chain.

Will Nanjing Get a Nonstop Link to the United States?
We discussed the booming China travel market recently and here's another example of the fast growth: China Eastern Airlines wants to launch the first nonstops from Nanjing to the United States. According to China Eastern's application, the carrier would launch flights to Los Angeles beginning on June 30. Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu Province in eastern China and has been the national capital at various times in Chinese history. ... Hilton Hotels has completed the takeover of the former Kempinski hotel at Munich Airport. The 389-room property, located between the airport's two terminals, will soon add another 160 rooms. ... Delta Air Lines continues to hack away at what is still officially a hub at Cincinnati. Out are flights to New Orleans, San Diego and Jacksonville. Delta will also slash the number of flights to Orlando and Fort Myers. ... Heads up for Sacramento flyers: American Airlines co-locates with US Airways in Terminal A on February 24. ... Charlotte flyers take note: JetBlue Airways is moving to Concourse D from Concourse A.

Loews Snags the Mandarin Oriental in Super-Hot San Francisco
The Mandarin Oriental is considered the most luxurious perch in San Francisco, but that doesn't mean much in the super-hot market. Loews Hotels is taking over the 158-room property. The reflagging is due late next month. How does the best place in town get reflagged? A quirk of life in the City by the Bay. There's no new hotel construction in the city, so chains are scrambling and outbidding each other for the existing properties. Hilton recently took over the Parc 55 and Starwood continues to offer SPG points at the Park Central even though the property, once a Westin, left the system. ... Hyatt opened a 145-room Hyatt Place in Tijuana, Mexico. ... Speaking of Mexico, a 120-room Holiday Inn Express has opened in Celaya, Guanajuato. ... Hilton has opened a 165-room Embassy Suites in Hillsboro, a suburb of Portland, Oregon. ... A 34-story, 1,012-room JW Marriott has opened in Austin.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Delta Air Lines says it will give you 2,500 SkyMiles miles if it delivers your bags more than 20 minutes late. The promotion applies to domestic flights until March 31. The link to claim miles is here. Of course, what those miles are worth is hard to say since Delta no longer publishes an award chart. ... A dual-branded hotel has opened in Nashville. A building at 1800 West End Avenue houses a 100-suite SpringHill Suites and a 145-room Residence Inn. ... JetBlue Airways travelers will get free access to The Wall Street Journal during flights while using the carrier's in-flight Internet system. Access to the paper is also free while connected to WiFi in JetBlue's Terminal 5 at its New York/Kennedy hub.

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.