The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for July 22-31, 2017
The briefing in brief: Everything's coming up roses (and laptops) at airports worldwide. Delta cuts Narita again to grow in Shanghai. The airport lounge life is constantly shifting. Hotel hotspots: Texas, New Jersey--and China. The houses that miles (and frequent flyers) built.
As If by Magic, Everything's Coming Up Laptops at Airports Worldwide
Homeland Security this week said all 180 airlines that fly to the United States from international destinations are in compliance with "enhanced" security procedures for in-cabin carriage of larger electronic devices and laptops. This stunning reversal comes just four months after Homeland Security banned laptops from a clutch of Middle Eastern airports and just a month since it threatened to ban electronics on any airline that didn't meet new standards. And, of course, Homeland Security has now reversed the ban on all countries and airlines affected in March. Do you believe this miraculous conversion? You shouldn't. It's all kabuki so Homeland Security can save face after being told by the Federal Aviation Administration and experts worldwide that forcing travelers to check devices with lithium batteries into cargo holds would be even more dangerous than any possible terrorism activity. But, of course, expect to be hassled at security checkpoints in the weeks ahead and required to turn devices on or have them swabbed for explosives. Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) once again blasted the TSA for phony-baloney "behavior detection officers" who prowl airports looking for mysterious signs that you might be a terrorist. A GAO study released Thursday (July 20) said 98 percent of what the TSA submitted as scientific support for the behavioral units "do not provide valid evidence."
Delta Continues Switching Asia Focus to Shanghai From Tokyo
Delta Air Lines, which demands the United States sanction Gulf Carriers due to their government subsidies, continues to snuggle up to China Eastern, the most subsidized of all Chinese carriers. Delta said this week that it will resume nonstop flying between its Atlanta hub and Shanghai, China Eastern's hub. Delta launched Atlanta-Shanghai flights in 2008, but dumped them in 2012, three years before it aligned with and purchased a small stake in China Eastern. To make room for the renewed service, Delta will drop flights to Shanghai from its shrinking hub at Tokyo's Narita Airport. You remember the Narita hub, right? Delta grabbed it in the merger with Northwest Airlines, which was permitted to build a Tokyo hub as the spoils of our victory in World War II. But no subsidy there, eh? Delta says it'll resume Atlanta-Shanghai run next July using Boeing 777-200LRs configured with 37 business class beds, 36 Comfort+ seats and 218 coach chairs. Delta also flies nonstop to Shanghai from its Los Angeles, Seattle-Tacoma and Detroit hubs.
United Airlines has announced the next three routes to get Boeing 777-300ER aircraft equipped with Polaris business class seats. On September 6, the planes will be deployed on San Francisco-Beijing flights. On October 5, SFO-Frankfurt will get the new plane and seats. Newark-Narita flights get them on October 28. Even though it introduced Polaris a century or two ago, only two routes (SFO-Hong Kong and Newark-Tel Aviv) actually have planes with the seats. A third route, San Francisco to Taipei, gets them on August 1.
The Lounge Life Is a Constantly Shifting Mosaic
Okay, you'll need to follow this one carefully. There are three Escape Lounges in the United States: Minneapolis, Hartford and Oakland. They have been accessible with Priority Pass, the card most of us now have thanks to an American Express, Chase or Citi credit card. But now the Escape clubs, which are owned by the company that operates England's Manchester Airport, have jilted Priority Pass for an exclusive relationship with the Amex Platinum Card. Meanwhile, Priority Pass has hurriedly lined up a replacement in Minneapolis and cardholders can now use the PGA Lounge in Terminal 1. Cardholders also receive $15 to use for meals, beverages and "experiences" at the golf-themed club. Separately, Priority Pass said cardholders can also use the Yotelair lounge in Terminal 2E at Paris/CDG. That's useful to Delta or Air France passengers who don't have access to Air France clubs in Terminal 2E.
Atlanta/Hartsfield has banned the use of Styrofoam containers by food and beverage concessions. They'll all have to switch to compostable packaging by October 1.
Portland, Oregon, travelers take note: An airport version of the popular local Tamale Boy restaurants has opened on the D Concourse.
Want a New Hotel? Try China. Or Texas. Or New Jersey.
With the hotel industry at the top of its building cycle, it's hard to find a place where new properties aren't opening. But if you're looking for the hot spots, let me suggest China, Texas--and New Jersey. Those two states and the still underdeveloped China market seem to be soaking up a disproportionate number of new rooms.
New in Texas are a Hyatt Place and a TownePlace Suites in the Austin suburb of Round Rock; a Home2 Suites in Fort Worth and a Renaissance in Plano; an Embassy Suites in San Antonio; Fairfield Inn outlets in Waxahachie and Van; and a Courtyard by Marriott in Cypress.
New in New Jersey is a Residence Inn in Jersey City; a SpringHill Suites in Mount Laurel; and TownePlace Suites branches in South Brunswick and Dover.
New in China is a W Hotel on the Bund in Shanghai; a Hilton Garden Inn in Shangri-La City in Yunnan Province; a Conrad hotel in the Zhujiang New Town district of Guangzhou; and a Hilton in the High-Tech Zone of Xi'an.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
North Korea is now off the list of nations where U.S. travelers are permitted to visit. The Trump Administration on Friday (July 21) imposed a blanket ban. Relations between the United States and North Korea have been bad for years, of course, and tourism has mostly disappeared, but a few Americans have continued to reach the reclusive nation. Now U.S. passports won't be valid for North Korea travel without special permission from the State Department.
American Express says its second-quarter spending on card benefits and new member acquisition was the highest in at least nine years. Amex and Chase are in what one Amex executive called "hand-to-hand" combat for customers and a greater share of their spending.
Delta Air Lines said it took a $125 million hit against earnings as a result of its April operational meltdown.
The Houses That Miles (and Frequent Flyers) Built
Delta SkyMiles are constantly being devalued. But JoeSentMe member Ron Berg wants us to know that he found a life-affirming use for them. "I donated back to Delta a significant number of miles for the opportunity to join 46 Delta and 16 Aeromexico employees [and build] six Habitat for Humanity Houses in Chula Vista, Mexico." Berg said that "not every experience in [business travel] in the last 30 years has been fantastic and wonderful, but it's not always about me." One of the team members produced a video of the work Berg and the airline employees did in Chula Vista. You can see it here.
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.