The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business-Travel Briefing for July 7-July 21, 2016
The briefing in brief: Every airline gets a route to Havana. Hilton and Hyatt adjust award pricing. Alaska Airlines cuts earnings for American flights. A burst of hotels in New York State. U.S.-Tokyo routes shift to Haneda. Chase's Olympic perks for United cardholders. And more.

You Get a Havana Route! You Get a Havana Route! Everybody Gets a Havana Route!
The Transportation Department did today (July 7) what you could have easily predicted it would do: Carve up route rights to Havana among virtually all of the carriers capable of flying to the once-forbidden island. Alphabetically, Alaska Airlines was approved for daily Los Angeles flights. American Airlines gets four daily flights from its Miami hub and a daily flight from its Charlotte hub. Delta Air Lines also got a daily Miami route as well as flights from its Atlanta and New York/Kennedy hubs. JetBlue Airways also got a daily JFK run as well as flights from its Fort Lauderdale hub and from Orlando. Southwest Airlines also gets to fly from Fort Lauderdale as well as Tampa. United Airlines got a daily route from its Newark hub and a weekly flight from its Houston/Intercontinental hub. Even the low-fare/high-fee carriers, Frontier and Spirit airlines, got some routes. Although flights to other Cuban cities launch as early as September, don't expect the Havana runs to begin until late in the fall. When the flights get there, Starwood Hotels will already be entrenched. It has converted a Cuban military-run property into a 186-room Four Points hotel.

Hilton, Hyatt Adjust Award Levels for a Clutch of Hotels
It's award-juggling time in the hotel industry again. Over at Hyatt Gold Passport, 106 properties are changing categories, almost equally divided between increases and decreases. The increases are mostly at hotels in the San Francisco Bay area as well as several airport properties and the Grand Hyatts in Amman, Jordan; Chengdu, China; Santiago, Chile; and Incheon, South Korea. Properties dropping a category include many hotels in India and former Soviet Republics. Most notable: The Hyatt Centric in South Beach dropped two notches to Category 4 from Category 6. The changes take effect on August 1 and complete details are here. Over at the Hilton HHonors, the constantly devaluing program has increased the award price of another 20 properties while 13 drop in cost. Most notable changes: Hotels near Los Angeles Airport are rising by one category. The changes take effect July 13 and are listed here.
      Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is reducing earnings for American Airlines flights effective August 1. Discounted coach drops to 25 percent of actual miles flown, for example, down from mile-for-mile credit. The new chart is here.
      Starwood Preferred Guest has a new resort in the South Pacific. Aggie Grey's Hotel on Samoa converts to the Sheraton brand on August 1 and the 175-room property will be a Category 3 redemption.

The Shift to Tokyo's Haneda Airport Is On
The long-running saga of Tokyo's close-in Haneda airport continues as carriers try to abandon or switch their flights from distant Narita Airport. All Nippon Airways, for example, is switching its flights from Chicago/O'Hare and New York/Kennedy to Haneda. The Haneda flights begin on October 30 and replace the ORD and JFK routes to Narita. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines is dropping its flights from Los Angeles to Narita on October 29. That's the same day American Airlines launches daytime flights from LAX to Haneda.
      Korean Air is dropping its Los Angeles-Sao Paulo flight at the end of September. The continuation of Korean Air's Seoul-Los Angeles flight has been losing $21 million a year, the airline says.
      American Airlines has announced the first routes for its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, the carrier's first aircraft outfitted with a premium economy cabin and new business class seats. Effective November 4, the Dreamliners will be deployed on the Dallas-Madrid and Dallas-Sao Paulo/Guarulhos runs. The planes are outfitted with 30 business class seats (laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration), 21 premium economy seats (2-3-2), 27 Main Cabin Extra seats (3-3-3) and 207 coach seats.

If You Can Make It in New York, You'll Probably Need a Hotel Room
The most robust hotel market in America? New York City, with 187 properties in the pipeline, according to Lodging Econometrics, a consulting firm. Marriott alone has 30 hotels under construction in the five boroughs. More immediately, however, InterContinental has opened a Holiday Inn in downtown Brooklyn near the Barclays Center sports-and-entertainment complex. It is adjacent to InterContinental's Even Hotel there. Also notable in the Big Apple? Kimpton has lost its 70 Park Avenue hotel. The property near Grand Central Terminal is now managed by Iberostar, a Spanish chain. And the Chinese owner of the run-down Waldorf Astoria is planning major changes at the 1,400-room behemoth. The hotel will be closed for as long as three years for a major overhaul. When it reopens, it'll have only 300-500 rooms and the rest of the building will be converted to condos.
      New York State has its share of development, too. Upstate, an 80-room Hampton Inn has opened in Cazenovia, New York, a town best known for Cazenovia College and Cazenovia Lake, sometimes called the 12th Finger Lake. In the real Finger Lakes region, an 84-room Fairfield Inn has opened in Geneva. In the Hudson Valley, a 92-room Residence Inn has opened in Kingston. And on Long Island, a 145-room Courtyard has opened in Westbury, near Hofstra University.
      China continues to see major Western hotel development despite the country's economic woes. Hyatt has opened its sixth property in Shanghai, this one a 306-room Hyatt Regency in the Wujiaochang district. Meanwhile, Marriott has opened another property on the resort island of Hainan, this one a 144-room hotel on Xiangshui Bay. And Hilton has opened a 276-room Hilton Garden Inn in the high-tech zone of Xi'an in Shaanxi Province.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
The continued low price of oil on world markets is spelling doom for shale production in Plains States. That also means boom towns like Dickinson, North Dakota, are losing air service. United Airlines, for example, is dropping twice-daily flights from its Denver hub on September 27. United says it will keep flying the route if it can get a federal subsidy from the Essential Air Service, a relic of the deregulation era that pays carriers to fly to small cities.
      American Airlines says it will pay to install automated TSA security checkpoint lanes at its hubs at Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Miami. Delta Air Lines opened the first automated lanes at its Atlanta/Hartsfield hub earlier this year.
      Chase Bank is holding five pop-up events tied to the Summer Olympics for United MileagePlus cardholders. Besides a three-day lounge in Rio de Janeiro, which mimics a club Chase opened in London during the 2012 games, the bank will have Olympic-themed functions for United cardholders in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. You can see more details and schedules here.

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.