The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for April 9-23, 2015
The briefing in brief: Delta acts like a whiny bully. Wyndham says one award price fits all (and, of course, we lose). Orlando won't dump the TSA. JetBlue sets the date for Albany flights. Virgin America heads to Hawaii. New luxury hotels in Venice and Istanbul. And much more...
Delta Air Lines: the Whiny Bully of the Skies
Depending on how you look at it, Delta Air Lines is either acting like a bad-tempered bully or a whiny child that jumps up and down when it can't have things its own way. Even though it is generally considered the best U.S. carrier and is also the world's most profitable airline, it refuses to play nice with others. It's trying to bully Alaska Airlines as it builds a hub in Seattle, Alaska's hometown. It's driving the anti-Gulf Carrier initiative that U.S. airlines have mounted in recent months. But it's beginning to run up against reality. Last week, a federal district court in Washington ruled against Delta's claim that the Export-Import Bank unfairly helped Delta's international competitors. Delta will now try to convince Congress to allow the bank's authorization to expire next month. Yet the ultimate expression of Delta's petulance has come in reaction to a victory. After an attempt by American and Hawaiian airlines to take the Seattle-Tokyo/Haneda route because Delta had stopped flying it over the winter, the Transportation Department last month decided to allow Delta to retain the service. The DOT's only condition: Delta must operate the route every day. But that wasn't good enough for Delta, which denounced the DOT ruling this week as "draconian ... extreme ... arbitrary and capricious" and "plainly illegal." To read Delta stamping its corporate feet and whining about being required to fly someplace it asked permission to fly, click here. Unless, of course, you have a cranky five-year-old at home and already have too much of this behavior in your life.
One Price Fits All for Wyndham Rewards, So Pony Up More for Crappy Hotels
Wyndham Rewards wants you to know that there'll be just one price for rewards from now on. Starting May 11, any Wyndham hotel--including Days Inns, Super 8s, Howard Johnsons and other C-list chains--will cost 15,000 points a night. Exquisitely simple and superficially impressive when you consider that the chain has more than 7,500 properties. Except, of course, it's mostly a scam to charge you more for less. Until the change next month, rewards at many of the cheapo hotels and motels in the Wyndham chain cost as little as 5,500 points. So some properties will be nearly tripling in price. And while the 15,000-point price does look like a steep price decline for some of the best Wyndham-branded properties, that, too, is essentially a flimflam. Until January of 2013, virtually all Wyndham properties could be had for 16,000 points. Wyndham has jacked up prices--some to almost 50,000 points a night--in the last 27 months. So what seems to be an impressive price reduction is actually little more than a rollback to the status quo of two years ago. ... Delta SkyMiles made the award inventory of two more partners, Saudia and Lebanon's Middle East Airlines, available to book online. How much do award seats cost? Guess. Because, of course, Delta has eliminated the SkyMiles award charts and you pay whatever its chronically defective "award calendar" decides. ... Hilton HHonors has once again juggled the award price of some hotels. Several hotels in Glasgow and the San Francisco Bay area will rise a category. Notable reductions: The Hilton Syon Park in suburban west London drops to a Category 7 redemption from Category 9 and the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort (the former Ritz-Carlton) has been cut to Category 5 from Category 6.
Orlando Will Keep the TSA in a Rebuke to the Congressional Faker
Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican, styles himself as a security expert and claims to have written the 2001 law that created the Transportation Security Administration. (He didn't.) He also raided federal coffers for a pet project in Central Florida that is a railroad to nowhere. One of his most recent crusades is trying to get airports to dump the TSA in favor of privatized security firms, a dubious improvement since the private firms are the ones we replaced with the TSA after the 9/11 attacks. But even Mica's hometown airport of Orlando is tired of his antics. The airport's governing board decided late last month to rebuff Mica and keep the TSA in charge at Orlando's security lines. Pretty amazing when the TSA is the good guy in any story, eh? ... The folks who operate Priority Pass have opened two more airport lounges. Both are in Seattle. The lounges--called The Club--are located in Concourse A (across from Gate A11) and in the south satellite (next to Gate S9). ... Delta Air Lines will change terminals at Shanghai/Pudong next week. Delta will move to Terminal 1, home of its SkyTeam partners China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines, from its current space in Terminal 2.
Virgin America Is Headed to Honolulu and Maui
In one of the worst-kept secrets in the airline business, Virgin America has announced it will fly to Hawaii. Effective November 2, it will launch daily flights to Honolulu from its San Francisco hub. A month later, it'll add three weekly flights to Kahului on Maui. But Virgin doesn't yet have the specially outfitted Airbus A320 aircraft that can operate on the routes. It also needs ETOPS certification, which is what allows two-engine aircraft to operate longer distances over water. So those launch dates could slip as Virgin gets its act together. ... JetBlue has set December 10 as the launch date of its service to Albany, the capital of New York State. There'll be daily flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando using Airbus A320s. ... Speaking of JetBlue, it is now code-sharing with Silver Airways, a commuter carrier that mostly operates around the Sunshine State. So check the aircraft and the operating carrier when booking JetBlue-marketed intra-Florida flights to/from Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Fort Myers or Tampa.
Just in Time for Summer, More Luxury Lodging Choices in Europe
Got hotel points you're looking to burn on a summer European holiday? Here are two more options. A 191-room JW Marriott has opened on a private island in Venice. The 40-acre resort also has several dozen residential-style accommodations located in four separate buildings. ... St. Regis, the luxury division of Starwood, has opened a 118-room property in Istanbul. The hotel overlooks the Bosphorus from a perch in Macka Park. ... If you're holding on to your Hilton HHonors points for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, there's now a 298-room Hilton-branded hotel in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood. ... And if you just want a far-away beach, a 171-room Holiday Inn has opened about five minutes from Nusa Dua in Bali. ... Meanwhile, back in the real world, the badly underserved Silicon Valley gets another chain option as Starwood's Aloft brand has opened in Sunnyvale. The 85-room hotel, a renovation of the former Pacific Inn, is located across from the Sunnyvale Town Center.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Delta Air Lines has decided to keep its 20-minute bag-delivery guarantee. If it doesn't get your luggage to the carousel in that time, Delta claims you'll get 2,500 SkyMiles. More details and a claim form are here. ... Whatever remains of the bankrupt SkyMall business was sold last week for $1.9 million to a marketing company that claims it will revive the brand. ... American Airlines is officially one carrier now. It received its single operating certificate from the FAA this week. That means US Airways now exists solely as a marketing operation. But, aeronautically, US Airways is history. ... Speaking of American, it is making some minor improvements to first-class meal service on shorter-haul flights. Effective May 1, entree-sized salads will return on flights longer than 1,000 miles. There'll be new snacks and the old basket of shrink-wrapped sandwiches and cookies will be replaced with plated items such as hummus and pita bread and salami and cheese.
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