The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for Early July, 2017
The briefing in brief: Homeland Security backs off a global laptop ban and settles for stale rhetoric and more security kabuki. United devalues MileagePlus. Shake Shacks are coming to an airport near you. Delta and Korean Air will form a joint venture. And more.

Homeland Security Backs Off Laptop Ban, Settles for Stale Rhetoric and More Kabuki
After months of threatening to impose a worldwide laptop ban on international flights headed to U.S. airports, Homeland Security boss John Kelly this week settled for stale rhetoric and still more kabuki at global security checkpoints. Given the state of security and ex-general Kelly's obsession with imposing top-down, military-style obedience on business travelers, I guess we'll have to consider that a win. At least we'll still be able to travel with our laptops from most airports around the world. You can read the Kelly's remarks here. Other than the hyped-up bellicosity, it's nothing you haven't heard before. Meanwhile, Homeland Security's "fact sheet" reveals how few changes there will be. However, you should expect more and longer blank-eyed stares at your electronics devices as international security checkpoint agents make believe they know what U.S. officials want them to do. (A reminder: The TSA, part of Kelly's empire, misses 95 percent of contraband at U.S. checkpoints, so why does he think he has operational superiority?) And rest assured Kelly is committed to the continued ceremonial brandishing of the big stick. He insists airlines and airports that "choose not to cooperate or are slow to adopt these new measures could be subject to other restrictions--including a ban on electronic devices...or even a suspension of their flights to the United States." (June 30 update: A document sent to the airlines by Homeland Security gives them 21 to 120 days to implement a list of supposed improvements to airport security. Explosive trace technology must be in place within 21 days, so get ready for lots of hand- and laptop-swabbing at overseas airport checkpoints.)

Can United Get Worse? Sure, All It Has to Do Is Devalue MileagePlus Again
Having run out of ways to degrade its flight product and customer service, United Airlines is moving on--and further devaluing MileagePlus. The carrier announced today (June 29) a series of changes that will mean higher prices on some "saver" awards and the elimination of the set-price "standard" awards. In their place are so-called Everyday Awards, priced in a range that moves up and down based on demand. The net-net? Domestic coach flights, currently capped at 25,000 miles (saver) and 50,000 miles (standard) roundtrip, could cost as much as 65,000 miles. Transcontinental and Hawaii flights could cost as much as 95,000 miles each way in premium class at the "everyday" level. Some international premium class awards will rise as much as 25 percent, too. A few saver awards have been marginally reduced in price. United is also adding a new $125 fee if you are a no-show on your award flight and want to redeposit your miles. Most of the changes take effect for travel beginning on November 1. United's phony-baloney, things-are-great patter about the changes is here. The new award charts are here.
      World of Hyatt has added the company's newest brand, Miraval resort, to the award structure. To the surprise of no one, Hyatt is adding a higher award level to accommodate it. Single-occupancy rooms will cost 45,000 points; suites will cost 75,000 points per night. Additional guests cost 20,000 points per night.

Shake Shack Is Coming to An Airport Near You
I'm not sure I understand the worldwide mania for Shake Shack, the burgers-and-more chain created by Danny Meyer. But you can't argue with success. Wherever a Shake Shack opens, from Brooklyn to Bahrain, long lines of hungry eaters appear. Until now, however, Shake Shack has only opened at one airport, Kennedy Airport in Meyer's hometown of New York. Four years after that launch, however, Shake Shack has landed at Los Angeles International. The branch in LAX Terminal 3 opened this week in partnership with HMSHost, the giant of airport food service. And although neither Shake Shack nor HMSHost mentioned it publicly, the two are partnering to bring the chain to additional airports. "Multiple new sites [are] in the pipeline for development over the next few years," HMSHost tells me. So get ready to wait in line somewhere else at airports.
      Charlotte has a new food outlet, too. A branch of the nation's favorite chicken-sandwich chain, Chick-fil-A, opened its doors. It's located between security checkpoint B and the Brookwood Farms BBQ outlet.
      Houston/Intercontinental flyers take note: United Airlines is re-hubbing its operations. Effective October 29, there will be eight banks of flights instead of ten. That means schedules that look more appealing, but are much more susceptible to delays and missed connections.

Frenemies No More: Delta and Korean Air Will Create a Transpacific Joint Venture
Delta Air Lines and Korean Air have been partners for decades and bedrock members of the SkyTeam Alliance, too. But they've been more frenemies than friends in recent years. Why? Delta wanted to launch a joint-venture deal years ago, but Korean demurred. That led Delta to privately throw shade at Korean--and publicly reduce the amount of SkyMiles and elite status you could earn by flying Korean. That's in the past, though. Delta and Korean announced plans to create a joint venture this week that will be modeled on the deals that Delta has with transatlantic carriers such as Air France and KLM. In the meantime, Delta and Korean will do more codesharing and Delta will apparently restore increased SkyMiles earnings for Korean Air flights. Stay tuned ...
      Air Berlin is hemorrhaging cash and recently offloaded a slew of routes, aircraft and staff on Lufthansa. Now the airline concedes it'll have to slash its hub at Berlin/Tegel Airport, including dumping some transatlantic routes to the United States. In the future, the airline says, it'll focus on flying from Dusseldorf, the home of LTU, one of the carriers that was merged into the current version of Air Berlin.
      Delta Air Lines has quietly pulled its Philadelphia-London/Heathrow flight off the schedule. The service will end on March 24. Delta launched the route in 2015 with Heathrow slots that American Airlines and US Airways surrendered to gain approval for their merger.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
Southwest Airlines is the latest carrier to slash flights to Cuba. It will end two routes--to Varadero and Santa Clara--on September 4. All that will remain are flights to Havana from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.
      Former Delta chief executive Richard Anderson is back in the transportation mix. A little more than a year after he retired from the airline, he has signed on as chief executive of Amtrak. The irony? Amtrak is government-supported and Anderson spent years screaming about subsidies to Gulf airlines. Can't wait until he threatens to end service to cities if they don't stump up more subsidies for Amtrak routes.
      Trump Hotels has lost its Toronto property. The new owners of the troubled towers bought Trump out and will look for a new brand to slap on the buildings. (June 30 update: The hotel will be rebranded as the St. Regis in August, but will run as an independent property until then.)


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