The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business-Travel Briefing for Nov. 19-Dec. 3, 2015
The briefing in brief: All else might suck, but there are more and better airport clubs. Air Canada wants you to admit that you hate flying U.S. airlines. Denver gets its airport hotel and a slew of new flights. How Southwest saves $7 million a day on fuel costs. And much more ...

Everything Else Sucks, But Airport Lounges Are Getting Better and More Plentiful
It's been a tough couple of weeks, what with terrorist attacks in Egypt and Paris, phony bomb threats diverting passenger aircraft and new frequent flyer program devaluations by American and Delta. But at least there's the fast expansion of higher quality airport lounges operated both by airlines and third-party companies. In case your attention justifiably has been elsewhere in recent days, here's what's new:
      United Airlines once again has a lounge at Atlanta/Hartsfield. The new facility, about 5,000 square feet, is on Concourse T between Gates 11 and 12. And at its San Francisco hub, a 6,000-square-foot lounge has opened in the newly renovated Terminal 3 East Concourse. United also has SFO clubs on Concourse F and in Terminal G.
      Alaska Airlines opened a second lounge at its Sea-Tac hub, this one in the North Satellite Terminal. It also expanded hours at its Board Rooms in Los Angeles, Portland and Anchorage. And effective December 1, Board Room members will have access to the United Clubs in Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Phoenix.
      Minneapolis/St. Paul gets its first public club, a $2 million, 5,000-square-foot operation called the Escape Lounge. (There are similar lounges in several British airports.) The facility will be located in the Lindbergh terminal above the gates in Concourse E and is due to open the first week of December.
      American Express has at least two more Centurion Lounges on tap for 2016. A $7 million, 8,500-square-foot location is already under construction in Terminal D of Houston/Intercontinental. And Amex has confirmed that it will build a Centurion facility between Terminals 6 and 7 at LAX.

Air Canada Wants You to Admit You Hate Flying U.S. Carriers
Air Canada announced today (November 19) that it was reviving a dozen cross-border routes next spring and the airline's rationale is rather stunning. "International travelers are increasingly finding that connecting through Canada on Air Canada is the most convenient way to fly from and to the United States to both Europe and Asia," claims Air Canada executive Benjamin Smith. That may or may not be true, but wait until U.S. and European travelers get a taste of flying coach on Air Canada rouge, the airline's extraordinarily uncomfortable low-fare operation. In the meantime, Air Canada's cross-border revival will be phased in during May and June. From Toronto, the airline will once again fly to Salt Lake City; Portland, Oregon; Washington/Dulles and Jacksonville, Florida. From Montreal, the revived routes are Denver, Houston/Intercontinental and Philadelphia. Calgary gets back its routes to San Francisco and Phoenix, which had been busted down to seasonal service. And Vancouver once again will get service to Chicago/O'Hare, San Diego and San Jose. Some routes, like Vancouver-San Jose, haven't operated since the late 1990s. Most of the others were dropped during various Air Canada retrenchments in the last ten years. This time around, the mostly daily routes will operate with a mix of Air Canada jets, Air Canada Express regional jets and those awful Air Canada rouge planes with as little as 29 inches of legroom.

Suddenly, Everyone Wants to Fly to Denver
Almost 20 years after it opened, Denver International finally gets an on-airport hotel. If all goes according to plan, a 519-room Westin opened today (November 19) and begins accepting paying guests tomorrow. The sleek, angled structure with glass walls is located at the airport's new Hotel & Transit Center. For all its flash and (we hope) utility, a new airport hotel doesn't quite explain a rush of new players on Denver routes that are already well-served. Virgin America, for example, joins United and Southwest on the Denver-San Francisco run beginning March 15. There'll be three daily flights. On May 2, Sun Country Airlines becomes the sixth carrier on the Minneapolis to Denver route. Its daily service is in addition to flights already operated by Delta, United, Southwest, Spirit and Frontier. Then Delta becomes the sixth airline operating flights to Denver from Los Angeles. Delta's five daily CRJ-900 flights beginning June 1 will compete with existing service from United, American, Frontier, Spirit and Southwest. But what we can say is this: That new hotel will come in handy when freak snowstorms wipe out all these flights. Denver has already suffered through its first storm of the season. About 130 flights were dumped on Tuesday (November 17) as airlines and passengers battled blowing snow that drifted as high as five feet in some parts of the Denver area.
      San Francisco opened a newly renovated Terminal 3 East Concourse this week. The $253 million renovation has three new gates (all used by United Airlines) and public areas that connect boarding areas E and F. There are eight dining and shopping outlets as well as 230 power and 200 USB outlets. As mentioned above, United has also opened a new United Club there.

Upstate New York Finally Gets Some Lodging Love
The New York Metropolitan area may be booming, but the economic love doesn't extend upstate to the rust belt and places such as Schenectady and Utica. But there's still some hotel hope. Marriott opened a 79-room Fairfield Inn at the edge of downtown Utica. And Schenectady gets a 120-room DoubleTree by Hilton, a makeover of a former Holiday Inn. It's close to Union College and just off Interstate 890.
      Hilton Hotels, which got leapfrogged in size by this week's Marriott-Starwood merger, continues to open its own properties at a breathtaking clip. Besides the aforementioned DoubleTree in Schenectady, there's a new branch in Coventry, England, a 121-room property located inside the Ricoh Arena, the city rugby stadium. Also new: Doubletree properties in Krakow, Poland (232 rooms); Laurel, Maryland (208 rooms), and Winston-Salem, North Carolina (150 rooms). Meanwhile, Hilton has also opened new Hampton Inn outposts in Suffolk, Virginia (94 rooms), and Norcross, Georgia (132 rooms). Three are also new Hilton Garden Inn hotels near SeaWorld in San Diego (179 rooms) and in Deira, Dubai (183 rooms).
      Hyatt, which got left at the altar in the Starwood deal, has to make due with a new Hyatt House in downtown New Orleans. The 194-room hotel, located in a renovated 24-story office building, connects to NoLa's existing Hyatt Regency. There's also a new dual-brand Hyatt House and Hyatt Place operation in downtown Denver. The new, 21-story building houses 248 Hyatt Place rooms and 113 apartment-style Hyatt House accommodations.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
Verizon Wireless has created a modestly useful new program to lower costs when you travel outside the United States. You can access your existing talk/message/data plan for a $2-a-day fee when traveling in Canada and Mexico. For $10 a day, you can use your existing plan in several dozen other countries. The so-called Travel Pass is, in fact, a plan that makes you pay a daily fee to avoid even higher roaming charges. But it should, marginally, lower your rates if you're tied to Verizon.
      U.S. airlines paid $1.58 a gallon for jet fuel in September, down from $2.86 a gallon in September, 2014. How much is that in real-dollar contribution to airline bottom lines? A Boeing 737 will burn about 750 gallons of fuel an hour and that means a saving of $960 per hour. Southwest Airlines operates 679 Boeing 737s and they fly an average of 11 hours per day. That's nearly $7.2 million in fuel savings each day.

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.