The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for Early April, 2017
The briefing in brief: Trump Administration slow-walking appeals of the travel ban. Delta adds lie-flat beds on two new transcontinental routes. American now selling international premium economy seats. United's Polaris takes another hit. Alaska and Branson fight over Virgin name.
A Ban Here, a Ban There and You're Starting to Talk About Real Policy
The Trump Administration continues to slow-walk its appeals of Travel Ban 2.0, temporarily halted two weeks ago by two courts before it went into effect. It was only today (March 30) that the Justice Department said it would appeal the Hawaii federal judge's restraining order. And that move came only after the judge on Wednesday converted his order into a "preliminary" one from a "temporary" one. (Read the order here.) That series of events means the government's appeal will be heard by the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, the same court that voted 3-0 to sink the initial travel ban. Meanwhile, the appeal of a more limited restraining order issued by a federal judge in Maryland won't even be heard until early May. The Justice Department hasn't moved to speed up activity there, either. Meanwhile, Homeland Security's electronics ban, imposed on a clutch of Middle East countries last week, has hit a geographic wall. After British authorities issued its own, more limited ban, no other countries followed suit. You should read JoeSentMe member Bob Ingle's experience with the ban when he traveled back from South Africa through Doha, Qatar.
Delta Will Outfit Two New Transcon Routes With Lie-Flat Beds
Delta Air Lines will add two new transcontinental routes this spring and it announced this week that they will both be outfitted with lie-flat beds and Delta One, the airline's international business class. The Los Angeles-Washington/National and Boston/Logan-San Francisco runs will get the seatbeds. The LAX flights launch April 24 and the Boston route begins June 9. Both will operate with Boeing 757 aircraft.
Raleigh-Durham loses a flight to New York. United Airlines says it'll drop its regional jet route to LaGuardia on June 7.
Rio de Janeiro gets a new route from the United States. Delta Air Lines adds flights from its New York/Kennedy hub on December 21. The daily flight will operate with a Boeing 767-300 configured with 35 seatbeds, 32 Comfort+ seats and 143 coach chairs.
Phoenix gets a rare new flight from American Airlines, which has been trimming its hub there. Seasonal service to Aspen launches on December 15. American will use a SkyWest CRJ700 regional jet on the route.
American Airlines Now Sells International Premium Economy Seats
After months in the sky, American Airlines finally has the technological wherewithal to sell its new international premium economy service. Effective for flights on May 4, American will sell premium economy on four routes from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub: Sao Paulo, Madrid, Paris and Seoul. The 21-seat cabin is installed on Boeing 787-9 aircraft and offers seats with 38 inches of legroom and footrests and larger touchscreen monitors.
United Airlines just can't get out of its own way with its new Polaris business class. It gambled by putting the "soft" components of the product--meals, beverages, pillows and duvets--into service late last year before the seats were installed. Now the seats are late and at least two Boeing 777-300s have been mothballed because there are no chairs to install. The hang-up? Production delays in Wales, where a firm called Zodiac is supposed to be churning out the chairs. At the moment, only San Francisco-Hong Kong flights have the new seats. The second route--Newark-Tel Aviv--is scheduled for May. All this exacerbates the ridiculous five-year rollout that United originally planned for Polaris.
Nice Places With Nice New Hotels
Looking for some sharp new places to stay along the way? A $60 million renovation of an old, tired property in the Waikiki District of Honolulu has yielded the 251-room Laylow hotel. It's decorated in a kitschy, mid-century modern style and has become part of the Marriott Autograph Collection. Meanwhile, Marriott's Starwood division has opened a 273-room Four Points in the rejuvenated Docklands district of Melbourne, Australia. It's part of the Marina Tower waterfront development. And Hilton opened a Hampton Inn on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami and a Hilton Garden Inn near Suncoast Parkway in Lutz, just north of Tampa.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Silvercar, the app-based car rental firm that only uses Audi vehicles, has been sold. The buyer? Duh. The Audi division of Volkswagen. Austin-based Silvercar has 15 locations nationwide. The sale price was not disclosed.
Brexit kicked in this week when U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May activated Article 50 of the European Union treaty. That begins a two-year negotiation period. No changes to travel yet, but Britain will eventually need to negotiate a new aviation treaty with the United States. The EU has open skies with the United States. But a US-UK aviation treaty might be trickier because of the limited space and high cost of slots at London/Heathrow. Stay tuned.
Oh, Snap ...
Alaska Airlines and Richard Branson are squabbling again. Alaska purchased Virgin America last year and this month announced that it will retire the Virgin brand next year. One reason: Branson gets a multimillion payout each year to license the Virgin name. Branson now claims he's got Alaska on the hook until 2040 regardless of whether Alaska uses the name. Alaska Air won't reveal the terms of its agreement with Branson, but denies his claim. "In our opinion, we don't have to pay for a brand we don't intend to use," Alaska Air general counsel Kyle Levine said this week. Branson "didn't mention ... there are a lot of ways out of the contract." Joey predicts: This one ends ugly and in the courts.
This column is Copyright © 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2017 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.