The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business-Travel Briefing for Early November, 2015
The briefing in brief: Unable to keep friends or influence policy, Delta resorts to outright lies in its battle with Gulf carriers. Does a Starwood-Hyatt merger make sense? Alaska and Delta junk their reciprocal lounge deal. Southwest juggles its route map. And much more ...

Unable to Keep Friends or Influence Policy, Delta Resorts to Outright Lies
Delta Air Lines can't accept that anything or anyone should compete with it or disagree with its pronouncements. It has lately been hammering the Gulf carriers--Emirates, Etihad and Qatar--claiming that they receive all sorts of unfair government subsidies. Yet everything is going south for Delta. The airline's fight against the Export-Import Bank has gone for naught as the House of Representatives this week voted to reinstate the federal agency. Also this week, Delta quit the A4A, the repulsive airline-industry trade group. Delta's beef? The A4A, which vociferously opposes any and all passenger-friendly policies, doesn't want to be seen publicly stumping against airline competition. Finally, Delta said yesterday (October 28) that it would drop its Atlanta-Dubai route, insisting that it can't compete against government-subsidized Gulf carriers. That's a flat-out lie, however. Delta doesn't have competition--not a single flight--on Atlanta-Dubai. In fact, no Gulf carrier flies to Atlanta. Yet even with no competition and a mega-hub to feed the flight, Delta can't keep Atlanta-Dubai going. So what's Delta's real complaint besides the fact that no one wants to fly its Atlanta-Dubai flights? Apparently that the Gulf carriers are building global hubs at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. It seems Delta wants the unfettered right to operate gigantic, anti-competitive hubs in places such as Atlanta or Detroit/Metro, but doesn't want the Gulf carriers to build their own gigantic, anti-competitive hubs.

Does a Hyatt-Starwood Merger Make Sense? Of Course...
Starwood Hotels has been on the block ever since it fired its chief executive earlier this year and began exploring the proverbial "strategic alternatives." Last week it looked like a clutch of Chinese hotels (all of them arms of the Chinese government, of course) would buy up the company, whose brands include Westin and W at the full-service tier; St. Regis and the Luxury Collection; the deeply flawed Sheraton and Four Points chains, and the nascent Aloft, Element and Tribute Portfolio operations. But this week Hyatt Hotels emerged as a serious bidder and that has gotten the attention of frequent business travelers. Does a Hyatt-Starwood merger make sense? Absolutely. They are comparatively small--Hyatt has 600 properties, Starwood has 1,100)--and would still be much smaller than global competitors such as Hilton (4,400 hotels), Marriott (4,300), Accor (3,700) and InterContinental (4,900). A Hyatt-Starwood combination would be better able to compete with those mega-chains, both with locations around the world and a frequency program that could force the existing giants to be more generous. And while there is some imbalance in the combined portfolio--both Hyatt and Starwood are concentrated at the higher end and their limited-service hotel chains are small--a combination could be operationally felicitous. Hyatt "knows how to run hotels and Starwood doesn't," one insider told me. Starwood, on the other hand, "is great at branding and Hyatt isn't." So stay tuned, folks, this could be interesting.

Delta-Alaska Deal on Lounge Access Is Another Victim of Hub Fight
The increasingly nasty battle between Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines for control of Seattle-Tacoma continues to have national repercussions. The one-time frenemies and former allies are just enemies now and all semblances of their previous cooperation are gone. The latest casualty? Lounge access. After the end of the year, Delta Sky Club and Alaska Board Room members will no longer have reciprocal lounge access.
    Hong Kong has another new lounge. The SkyTeam-branded facility is about 10,000 square feet, handles about 230 flyers and is located in Terminal 1. It has a yoga room, noodle bar and a living plant wall. It's open to elite SkyTeam flyers and the alliance's first and business class passengers.
    Uber and other app-based, on-demand car services continue to win the battle of airport access. City officials in both Chicago and Las Vegas have loosened restrictions and Uber, Lyft and the others will be able to drop off and pick up passengers at those cities' airports.

Southwest Juggles Its Route Map, Slashes Akron and Greenville-Spartanburg
Southwest Airlines continues to shift assets after its digestion of AirTran Airways. Winners? Larger cities. Losers? Akron/Canton, formerly a focus city for AirTran, and Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP) in South Carolina. Southwest already trimmed its Akron-Canton schedule in the spring, but next spring brings more cuts, including flights to Tampa, Orlando and Las Vegas. At GSP airport, Southwest is dumping flights to Houston/Hobby, Baltimore/Washington and Chicago/Midway. Both airports will get more service to Atlanta, however. It'll also drop flights between Orlando and Richmond, Virginia. Elsewhere, starting on April 12, there'll be new flights to Chicago/Midway from Dayton and Grand Rapids and Flint, Michigan. St. Louis gets new flights to Des Moines, Wichita and Pittsburgh. And Newark gets new flights to Orlando and Las Vegas.

Air Canada Returns to Seoul Next Year
Air Canada dropped Toronto-Seoul flights three years ago, but now says that it will return with nonstops to the Korean capital next year. Effective June 17, there will be daily flights to Incheon Airport using Boeing 787-9s Dreamliners configured with 20 lie-flat beds in business class, 21 premium economy seats and 210 coach chairs.
    Transaero, the Russian carrier, operated its final flights this week. A rescue by Aeroflot never happened and a sale to another Russian carrier, S7 Airlines, also collapsed.
    Lima, Peru, gets its first Courtyard by Marriott hotel. The 154-room property is in the city's Miraflores district.
    American Airlines flyers take note: The carrier is dropping flights from Dallas/Fort Worth to Edmonton, Alberta, on February 11. It has been flying five times weekly using Airbus A319s.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
China interests may be in the hunt for Starwood hotels (see above), but that's not stopping U.S. chains from extending their brands into the heart of the country. Hilton, for example, has opened a 395-room property in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and a 320-room hotel in Shenzhen in Guangdong province just north of Hong Kong. Hilton already has two hotels in Shenzhen. The new one, called the Hilton Futian, is in the central business district. Meanwhile, Starwood has opened a 348-room Sheraton in Chuzhou in Anhui province.
    Delta Air Lines paid $276 million for six pairs of take-off and landing slots at London/Heathrow. The information comes from Air France/KLM, which sold the slots to its SkyTeam partner. Remember, Delta is the airline that whined Southwest Airlines overpaid when it shelled out $120 million for the lease of two gates at Dallas/Love Field.
    Air France/KLM said its profit quadrupled in the third quarter. So that Air France C-suite executive who got his shirt ripped by angry employees worried about layoffs has enough dough to buy a replacement. Despite the huge profit, however, Air France says it will proceed with its layoffs because the bosses say the airline group is in crisis.

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.