The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
The End-of-the-Year Business-Travel Briefing
The briefing in brief: Ms. Chao thanks you and hopes she passes DOT audition. Alaska Air and Delta kill their code-share deal. Hyatt awakens from slumber, opens new hotels. Lufthansa and its striking pilots go to arbitration. Cathay Pacific rescinds unpopular baggage rule. And more.

Ms. Chao Would Like to Thank You and Hopes She Passes the Audition
Senate confirmation of Elaine Chao, President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Transportation Secretary, is little more than a formality. Credentials notwithstanding, she's married to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell, however, was a lackluster Trump supporter. And thanks to her pro forma "job application" filed with the Senate Commerce Committee, we learn Chao didn't contribute to Trump's election campaign. The 63-year-old Chao is former Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush and a Deputy Secretary of Transportation under George H.W. Bush. She also receives discounts and other perks from Delta Air Lines, a carry-over from her time as a pre-merger director of Northwest Airlines. What else did we learn from her application? Besides glossing over an iffy Labor Department tenure, Chao claims her "top priority for DOT is to maintain a culture of good stewardship on behalf of the American people." And although it wasn't mentioned, it's rumored that she likes whiskers on kittens and brown paper packages tied up with string ...

Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines Finally End Their Code-Share
This one has been coming ever since Delta began beefing up in Seattle-Tacoma, the hub and hometown of Alaska Airlines. After more than four years of making nice in public--and ripping each other in private--after Delta began its Sea-Tac hub project in 2011, the two carriers have ended the charade. The extensive code-share operation between the two carriers will end on May 1. Also ending on May 1: the earn-and-burn relationship between Alaska Airlines Mileage Plus and Delta SkyMiles. As part of its concessions to win government approval for the purchase of Virgin America, Alaska is also scaling back key elements of its code-share with American Airlines. Click here for Alaska's take on the end of the Delta deal. And click here for Delta's comments.

Hyatt Awakes From Slumber and Opens a Few Hotels
With around 700 hotels worldwide, Hyatt is multiple thousands of locations behind global lodging giants such as Hilton, InterContinental, Accor and the newly merged Marriott/Starwood. And it responded recently by slashing the value of its frequent guest plan for all but super-elite customers. So this will have to pass for good Hyatt news: It has opened several new hotels during the last month. Its first hotel in Colombia is a 261-room Hyatt Regency in Cartagena's Bocagrande district. It has also opened a 242-room Park Hyatt in the Qianjiang New City business district of Hangzhou, China. There's a new, 201-room Andaz in Scottsdale, Arizona. Hyatt also opened three additional Hyatt Place properties: a 175-room branch in Emeryville, just north of Oakland; a 202-room location in downtown Boca Raton, Florida; and a 358-room property at London/Heathrow airport. The latter is on the Bath Road, the commercial strip at Heathrow's outer boundary. The Hyatt Place is actually an extensive remake and renovation of an existing property that has most recently been known as the Arora and the Heathrow Hotel.
      New York State, from Manhattan downstate to Niagara Falls upstate, has some new hotels. Four come from Hilton: a 192-room, newly built DoubleTree in Niagara Falls, on the site of the former Fallside Hotel; a 95-room Home2 Suites in Middletown, which is metaphorically in the middle of the state at the edge of the Hudson Valley; and a 196-room Hilton in Brooklyn, the uber-trendy borough of New York City. It also added the 173-room Renwick near Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan to the Curio Collection. The Renwick is probably best known as being the onetime residence of writers like Steinbeck and Thomas Mann. Meanwhile, a 159-room Marriott has opened in downtown Ithaca in the Finger Lakes region.

Lufthansa and Pilots Unions Cut a Deal to End Strikes...Maybe
Lufthansa and its unhappy pilots say they are submitting their long dispute to arbitration. So maybe Lufthansa might be safe to fly again, although the years-long labor battles show that Lufthansa is tin-earred when it comes to remaking itself and getting employees to buy into the changes. Stay tuned for more ...
      Chinese cities continue to be peppered with new properties aligned to major global brands. Marriott has opened a 240-room Le Meridien in Shanghai's Minhang suburb. It's the third Le Meridien in the city and the 34th Marriott-branded hotel in Shanghai. Marriott has also opened a 350-room Sheraton in Qingdao, in the city's Economic and Technological Development Zone. It's the third Sheraton in Qingdao. Meanwhile, Hilton has opened a 267-room DoubleTree in Shiyan, the first internationally branded hotel in the so-called automotive city in Hubei Province. And there's now a 372-room Hilton in Mount Sanqing National Park in the city of Shangrao in northeastern Jiangxi province.
      Marriott has opened the oceanfront Sheraton Grand in Conakry, capital of Guinea in West Africa. The 269-room property is in the Kipe district.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
Delta Air Lines is launching a route to Tampa from Boston, where it is trying to battle JetBlue Airways, which now controls 30 percent of the traffic at Logan Airport and dominates Florida routes. Twice-daily service using Airbus A319s launches on February 17.
      Cathay Pacific has relented on its controversial policy that forbids through-checking bags if you are holding two tickets. The Oneworld Alliance permitted its member carriers to impose the no-through-check policy earlier this year and Cathay, British Airways and American Airlines promptly adopted it. Now Cathay has rolled it back effective January 1.

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.