The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for Oct. 27-Nov. 10, 2016
The briefing in brief: Hyatt will revamp and rename its loyalty program. Iberia adds premium economy cabin. British Airways opens two new U.S. gateways. Is Nashville the nation's priciest hotel city? Heathrow will get its third runway. Delta will add private-jet awards. And more.
Hyatt Revamps Loyalty Plan: Fewer Elites But More Perks for Super Elites
The hotel world is shrinking as the largest chains have grown rapidly, mostly by scooping up their smaller competitors. Operators such as Marriott, Hilton and Wyndham now have as many as 8,000 properties worldwide. The laggard? Hyatt, with 600 hotels and the fewest number of brands. How is it reacting? By turning inward, reducing benefits for lower- and mid-level elites and hoping to hold on to its most frequent customers with an array of additional benefits. Originally due to be introduced next week, but unveiled today (October 27) after an Internet leak, the new World of Hyatt program will replace Hyatt Gold Passport starting on March 1. The new program has three elite levels based on total annual spending and nights stayed. There'll no longer be a path to elite status with a total number of stays. The Discoverist level requires 10 nights per year or $5,000 in annual spending. It roughly tracks the existing Gold Passport Platinum level. The mid-tier Explorist level will require 30 nights of stays or $10,000 of spend per year. It generally tracks the Diamond Level of Hyatt Gold Passport although it won't offer confirmed suite upgrades or free breakfast. Guaranteed late check-out is reduced to 2 p.m. instead of 4 p.m. The new top level, Globalist, will require 60 nights per year or $20,000 in spending. It'll have all of the old Gold Passport Diamond Level benefits plus other amenities such as more suite upgrades and free nights. Globalists will also get a personal concierge to assist with details. The points-earning structure remains largely unchanged from Gold Passport and the existing rewards chart will remain in force. There are many more wrinkles, some good and some bad, and we'll have details in the weeks ahead.
Iberia Adds Premium Economy Cabin, BA Adds Two U.S. Gateways
Iberia, the Spanish carrier, has been reenergized since it merged with British Airways and became a go-to carrier for U.S. flyers hoping to cash American AAdvantage miles. Now comes the inevitable: a premium economy cabin. Iberia's version will offer 37 inches of seat pitch, 13-inch seatback video monitors and amenity kits and noise-cancelling headphones. The new cabin will be retrofitted on Airbus A330s-300s and A340-600s as well as newly delivered Airbus A350-900s. The first aircraft with the cabin should start appearing next summer on the Chicago-Madrid route.
British Airways is adding two new U.S. routes. Beginning July 6, it'll launch three weekly flights between Fort Lauderdale and London/Gatwick. The route will operate with Boeing 777-200s configured with 48 business class beds, 24 premium economy seats and 203 coach chairs. BA will also resume service from New Orleans on March 27. The four weekly flights to London/Heathrow will operate with Boeing 787-8s configured with 35 business class beds, 25 premium economy seats and 214 coach chairs. BA briefly operated a New Orleans flight 30 years ago.
Delta Air Lines is juggling international flights from its Minneapolis/St Paul hub. Seasonal Rome flights, launched last summer, won't return next year. Meanwhile, Delta says it'll expand Honolulu nonstops. Flights were originally designed to run from October 29 to April, but will now continue through Labor Day.
Surprising No One, British Government Will Add a Heathrow Runway
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the British government announced this week that it has approved plans to build a third runway at London/Heathrow airport. The decision means that London/Gatwick won't get another runway. But don't expect an immediate addition of new flights because Heathrow's third runway may not actually open in our lifetime. It'll be at least another year before the "final" binding vote is actually held in the British cabinet. So, you know, this entire item might have been useless.
Marriott has opened two new airport hotels. The former 114-room Ramada at Glasgow Airport has been converted to a Courtyard. And a newly built, 318-room Marriott has opened between the domestic and international terminals in Calgary.
Raleigh-Durham has a new nonstop from Delta Air Lines commuter carrier GoJet. On March 9, there'll be a daily flight to Austin.
Is Nashville the Nation's Most Expensive Hotel Market?
When you think of costly domestic hotel markets, you think of New York or San Francisco. But that's not where the nation's most expensive rooms are this fall, at least according to a hotel-booking Web site. With an average daily price tag of $261, Nashville is the most expensive place to book this autumn. Sounds weird to me, but this should help: Westin has opened a 27-story property with 483 rooms. The property is located adjacent to the Music City Center.
New York City has more hotels under construction than any other municipality in the United States, according to the Lodging Econometrics consulting firm. The most active player? Marriott, which has 23 projects in development in the Big Apple. This week one of them opened: a 226-room Fairfield Inn on West 58th Street and Tenth Avenue.
China continues to be a fertile ground for U.S. chains. New this week: a 345-room JW Marriott has opened in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. It's adjacent to Tianfu Square. Meanwhile, in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, the 52-story, 310-room Meixi Lake Hotel has opened as part of the Luxury Collection. It is located next to the Mall of Spendors.
Business Travel News News You Need to Know
Delta Air Lines tried and failed to convince us to spend SkyMiles and cash on upgrades to flights operated by its private-jet division. Now it'll apparently offer the opportunity to use SkyMiles to book private-jet flights. Bloomberg News has some of the initial details here. It won't surprise you to learn Delta will be offering a lousy deal on the bookings.
Wyndham Rewards now allows you to use points to book some homes and condos offered through its timeshare operation. The price is 15,000 points per bedroom.
Hilton is selling 25 percent of itself to HNA Group, a Chinese tourism and travel conglomerate. Not familiar with the name? HNA has been on a buying spree lately and purchased the parent company of Radisson hotels; Swissport and Gategroup, two major airport service companies; and pieces of Virgin Australia and Azul airlines of Brazil. It also owns Hainan Airlines, the fast-growing Chinese carrier that serves New York, Boston, Chicago, Seattle and other cities.
This column is Copyright © 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com 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.