The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for June 15-June 29, 2017
The briefing in brief: United Adds Hawaii flights and an LAX-Singapore nonstop. Limited-service hotels scale the Himalayas. American will offer premium economy on 12 international routes this winter. Etihad dumps San Francisco. Amtrak trims New York/Penn service. And much more.
Top of the World, Ma! Limited Service Hotels Literally Scale the Himalayas
We've been tracking the growth of the major hotel chains' limited-service brands for years. Limited-service openings these days outpace traditional full-service hotels by eight or nine to one. Just this week, in fact, at least 35 new limited-service properties opened around the world. That's because the properties are cheaper to build and more profitable than full-service hotels. And we seem fine picking the amenities we want and the perks we're willing to skip. But if you need a sort of visual representation of the new prominence of limited-service properties, consider this: Marriott has opened a 115-room Fairfield Inn in Katmandu, Nepal. There are no full-service Marriott properties there, nor are there any Hiltons of any kind in Katmandu. There's a Hyatt Regency, a Radisson, a Shangri-La and a Crowne Plaza, but no other major brands. Yet now there's a Fairfield Inn, a chain growing by about one property a week. But Fairfield Inns usually open in less exotic places, like Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, where a 90-room outpost is now operating.
United Adding More Flights to Hawaii, Some With Lie-Flat Beds
Looking for something to do with your MileagePlus miles? Maybe go back to Hawaii. After years of cutting service to the Islands, United Airlines this week said it would add frequencies from many of its hubs starting on December 20. From Denver, for example, the current seasonal flights to Kona, Lihue and Maui will increase to year-round daily service. From Chicago/O'Hare, the current Saturday-only flights to Maui will increase to five times weekly. From Los Angeles, Hilo flights will increase to daily service, while the Kona and Lihue routes will increase to twice-daily and Maui will go to three daily flights. There will be more daily flights from San Francisco to Kona, Lihue and Maui, too. Meanwhile, overnight flights to Hawaii from five United hubs--O'Hare, Denver, Houston/Intercontinental, Newark and Washington/Dulles--will get lie-flat beds in premium class. Those upgrades begin this summer.
Hilton Honors will drop Citibank as a credit card partner and move to an exclusive deal with American Express. Citi-issued cards will continue to earn Honors points until the end of the year. It's unclear whether Citi will convert Hilton cards to other Citi products next year or sell its Hilton "back book" of accounts to Amex.
Marriott Rewards players have several new Florida hotels: a TownePlace Suites in Estero, near Fort Myers, and a SpringHill Suites in Navarre, on the Gulf Coast near Fort Walton Beach.
American Airlines Adds Premium Economy to 12 Routes This Winter
American Airlines has been slow walking the rollout of its international premium economy cabins, but this winter will operate it on 12 routes. Effective December 15, you'll find premium economy on Boeing 777-200ERs flights from Dallas/Fort Worth (to Buenos Aires, Frankfurt and Tokyo/Narita); Los Angeles (to both Haneda and Narita in Tokyo); and Miami (to Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago and Sao Paulo). There are 24 premium economy seats on the Boeing 777s in addition to 37 business class seats and 212 coach chairs.
United Airlines says it will launch a nonstop from Los Angeles to Singapore to join its existing San Francisco-Singapore route. Effective October 27, there will be daily flights using Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. Westbound flights to Singapore will require about 18 hours and eastbound flights to LAX will take about 15 hours and 15 minutes. With the launch of the LAX route, United will drop flights between Hong Kong and Singapore.
Lufthansa will add five weekly nonstops between San Diego and Frankfurt next year. More details will be available next month.
Etihad Bails on San Francisco as Gulf Carriers Retrench
The laptop ban that the United States imposed on major Middle East airports has played havoc with flights operated by the three big Gulf Carriers. Emirates has cut U.S. capacity by 20 percent and now Etihad is dumping its San Francisco route. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier launched daily flights to SFO in 2014 and lately has been flying three weekly frequencies. Now service will end completely on October 28. Besides its own Gulf problems, Etihad is retrenching after failed investments in Alitalia and Air Berlin.
Boston-San Francisco flights get upgraded to transcontinental status on United Airlines. That means there will be lie-flat beds in business class as well as Economy Plus and coach seating. United is dropping the p.s. branding on its transcon flights, but upgrading in-flight service in Economy Plus by adding improved meals and complimentary alcoholic beverages.
John Wayne/Orange County flyers take note: Alaska Airlines has moved to Terminal B from Terminal A. The shift occurred last weekend.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Norwegian Air, the fast-growing low-fare/high-fee carrier that has an acceptable premium cabin, is targeting Rome. With Alitalia in deep trouble, Norwegian sees opportunity. Effective November 11, it'll start Boeing 787-8 flights from Los Angeles, Oakland and Newark. There'll be two weekly flights from the California cities and four weekly flights from Newark.
Amtrak is moving some trains away from New York/Penn Station this summer as the troubled rail terminal gets some long-overdue fixes. Three daily roundtrip trains to Albany will switch to Grand Central Terminal. Three roundtrip trains to Washington/Union Station will be cancelled. And Keystone and Crescent trains will skip New York and operate from other cities. The changes are effective from July 10-September 1 and some details are here.
The TSA will test new checkpoint technology at several airports this summer. PreCheck passengers in Denver and Atlanta will test biometric fingerprint systems. And 3D imaging capability will be tested at American Airlines checkpoints in Boston and Phoenix.
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