The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business-Travel Briefing for February 4-18, 2016
The briefing in brief: It's Hilton's world. We just check in to it. JetBlue launching a nonstop between Buffalo and Los Angeles. InterContinental jacks up award prices at its best-known hotels. Lufthansa seems intent on making itself repugnant to business travelers. And much more.

It's Hilton's World. We're Just Checking In to It...
Major hotel chains have been in a mad rush to expand by acquisition in recent years. Desperate to offer global coverage to travelers and get large enough to gain leverage against the online travel agencies, Marriott recently picked up Protea of Africa, Delta of Canada and, of course, is acquiring Starwood Hotels. InterContinental gobbled up Kimpton. Accor of France grabbed Fairmont of Canada. Notice the big lodging name missing from that list? Yup, Hilton. It has offset the others' buys with rapid organic growth. In fact, it has the largest development pipeline in the hotel industry and has opened at least two dozen properties in the last two weeks. Among others, there are new Hampton Inns in Cartersville, Georgia; near the airport in Greenville, South Carolina; in West Bloomfield, Michigan; and the Atakoy district of Istanbul. Its Homewood Suites division has new properties in Eatontown, New Jersey, and Franklin, Tennessee. The Home2 Suites brand has added hotels in Champaign/Urbana, Illinois; on International Drive in Orlando; and Bloomington, Minnesota. There are new Hilton Garden Inn hotels in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and Cusco, Peru. The DoubleTree conversion brand has slapped its name on hotels in Biloxi, Mississippi; across from the convention center in North Charleston, South Carolina; and in Kazan, Russia. Meanwhile, the eponymous Hilton brand has opened properties in Dali in China's Yunnan Province; in N'Djamena, Chad; and adjacent to the convention center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The Joy of Cheap Oil: JetBlue Adds a Nonstop From Los Buffalo
Even if airlines aren't lowering fares anywhere near as fast the falling price of jet fuel, the joy of cheap oil does manifest itself in other ways. After all, it's nearly impossible to imagine the newest nonstop route from JetBlue Airways--Buffalo, New York, to Los Angeles--in a world where oil is higher than $40 or so a barrel. The daily flights, using Airbus A320s, launch on June 16. Otherwise, JetBlue's other route additions are fairly predictable and connect the dots on its growing route map. It is adding a daily flight to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, from its Fort Lauderdale focus city beginning May 5 using EMB-190 aircraft. Also new from Fort Lauderdale: a daily nonstop to San Diego beginning June 16. From its Boston focus city, JetBlue will add a nonstop to Salt Lake City beginning May 12. Both of those flights will operate with Airbus A320s.
      Virgin America continues its drive into Hawaii with two new routes from Los Angeles this spring. There'll be daily flights to Honolulu beginning on May 5 and daily flights to Kahului, Maui, starting June 14. Virgin America recently launched its first Hawaii flights from its San Francisco hub.

InterContinental's Best (or at Least Most Famous) Hotels Will Cost Lots More
InterContinental Hotels is revamping the IHG Reward Club and the net-net is that you'll pay lots more for award nights at its most iconic hotels. On February 17, it will adjust the award cost of 400 properties worldwide; 200 will increase in price while 200 will decrease. The most notable changes are the creation of two high-end redemptions levels. At the new 55,000-point-per-night level are properties such as the De la Ville near the Spanish Steps in Rome; the Willard InterContinental near the White House in Washington; and InterContinental hotels in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. At the new 60,000-a-night level are the InterContinental Hong Kong; two properties in Bora Bora; the InterContinental Park Lane in London; both InterContinental hotels in San Francisco; two hotels in Paris; and the InterContinental in New York's Times Square.

Lufthansa Seems Intent on Making Itself Repugnant to Business Travelers
Lufthansa spent decades crafting its image as a reliable, high-quality airline for business travelers. Now it seems intent on being no better than--and possibly worse than--United, its Star Alliance and joint-venture partner. First came the repugnant $18 fee for buying tickets anywhere but Lufthansa's inadequate proprietary booking channels. Now it has begun to take delivery of Airbus A320neo jets configured with as many as 180 seats. The new planes, designed for intra-Europe flights, will have a skimpy 32 inches of legroom in business class, but at least that will be offset by a guaranteed empty middle seat. In coach, however, legroom will be just 29 knee-crunching inches and that means Lufthansa chairs will offer less legroom than Ryanair, the discount carrier. But wait, there's more. Lufthansa's new discount division, called Eurowings, has been an operational disaster. On-time performance is so bad that Lufthansa has been forced to delay the launch of new routes from Boston and Miami to Cologne. If they begin at all, the start date is now June. Several other Eurowings routes have also been shelved and Lufthansa has had to put its own aircraft and crews on other runs to stabilize Eurowings.
      Singapore Airlines recently announced it would launch flights linking Wellington, capital of New Zealand, with Canberra, capital of Australia, and Singapore. But it turns out that Singapore will receive a multimillion-dollar subsidy from New Zealand taxpayers. Instead of copping to the secret subsidy when it was revealed and explaining that many airlines receive funding to fly new routes, Wellington officials are furious that taxpayers found out about how their money was being used. Singapore Airlines also reacted petulantly. More details are at Stuff, a New Zealand news site.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
You may never have heard of Daallo Airlines, a carrier in Somalia, the textbook definition of a failed state. But it made global headlines this week after one of its aircraft was bombed during a flight. The crew somehow successfully guided the wounded Airbus A321 carrying 74 passengers back to the airport in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. At least one flyer was killed and may have been sucked out of the hole in the fuselage. Al Shabaab, an offshoot of Al Qaeda, is suspected of carrying out the attack.
      Delta Air Lines announced this week that chief executive Richard Anderson will retire on May 2. The 60-year-old Anderson oversaw the Delta-Northwest merger and is credited with turning Delta into the nation's most profitable and efficiently run airline. However, he also tried to bully the federal government into closing the ExIm Bank, led the attack on the fast-growing Gulf carriers and linked them to terrorists. Lately, he's threatened to end Delta's flights to Tokyo's Narita Airport if U.S and Japanese negotiators agree to expand access to Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Anderson will be succeeded by Delta President Ed Bastian. Delta's new president will be Glen Hauenstein, the primary architect of the airline's vicious devaluation of SkyMiles.

This column is Copyright © 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright © 2016 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.