The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for Early September, 2017
The briefing in brief: Southwest floods the zone in California. Marriott locks up the Mauna Kea Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii. Air Canada adds more flights from Montreal and Vancouver. JetBlue isn't afraid of Delta in Atlanta. BA and Delta add more international routes. And more.
Southwest Airlines Wants You to Know It's Still King of California Flying
There is no airline that doesn't want a piece of California, the nation's most populous state with the sixth-largest economy in the world. Seven of the nation's 50 busiest airports are in the state. Alaska Airlines purchased Virgin America last year to fill out its California network. United Airlines has a hub in San Francisco. United, American and Delta all claim hubs at Los Angeles. JetBlue Airways is growing at LAX and also dominates at Long Beach. All of this threatens Southwest Airlines, king of the so-called California Corridor and the carrier with the highest passenger count in the state. What does Southwest do when it's threatened? Flood the zone with more flights. The discount carrier this week introduced more than a dozen new routes to and from California destinations and more frequencies on 27 other routes. Here are some of the new runs:
• From San Jose, there will be a weekly flight to Cabo San Lucas starting on March 10. Effective April 8, there'll be new daily flights to Boise, Houston/Hobby, St. Louis and Spokane. On May 6, there'll be a new daily flight to Orlando.
• From Sacramento, there'll be a weekly flight to Cabo (March 10), new daily routes to Austin and St. Louis (April 8) and a daily flight to Orlando (May 6).
• From San Francisco, Southwest adds a daily flight to Austin starting April 8.
• From San Diego, there'll be twice-weekly flights to Puerto Vallarta starting March 10.
Marriott Locks Up the Mauna Kea Resort on Hawaii's Big Island
What goes around inevitably comes around in the very small world of Hawaii hotels. The sprawling Mauna Kea Resort on the Big Island has been a go-to destination since the Rockefeller Family built it in 1965. For a time in the 1980s, the property was owned by United Airlines and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was part of Westin, then also owned by United. The resort was eventually sold to Prince Hotels of Japan and it branded Mauna Kea and a newly built property, Hapuna Beach, as Prince hotels. But now Prince is seeking more globally recognizable flags. The original Mauna Kea Beach hotel joined Marriott's Autograph Collection in 2015 and now Hapuna Beach is reflagging as a Westin. The switch is effective in February after a $43 million renovation. Mauna Kea Beach is a Category 9 redemption in Marriott Rewards. The soon-to-be Westin has yet to be assigned a redemption category.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has another new international partner. Singapore Airlines joins on September 27. That is not a surprise, however. SIA was a member of the Virgin America Elevate plan, which Alaska Air is ending next year.
WestJet Rewards and Flying Blue, the frequency program of Air France and KLM, have linked. WestJet flyers can earn and burn in Flying Blue and vice versa.
Air Canada Continues International Expansion From Montreal and Vancouver
Air Canada is on a legendary roll even during these high times for airlines. Hardly a week goes by without its announcing new international routes. This week's newbies? Nonstops between Montreal and Tokyo/Narita. Three-class Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights launch on June 1 and will operate daily in the summer and three times weekly in winter. From Vancouver, the airline has promoted its Melbourne, Australia route to year-round service beginning in June and there will be summer flights to Paris/CDG and Zurich. Those routes will operate with Dreamliners from early June to mid-October with three or four weekly flights.
Delta Air Lines is resuming flights between its New York/Kennedy hub and Lagos, Nigeria. The three weekly flights begin again on March 24 using Airbus A330-200s and will complement Delta's existing Atlanta-Lagos nonstops.
British Airways is adding more transatlantic service from its London/Gatwick mini-hub. It is adding summer flights to Toronto/Pearson and resuming the Las Vegas-Gatwick run it cancelled in April, 2016. (BA also flies to Las Vegas from London/Heathrow.) Both new runs will operate three times weekly beginning May 1.
Qatar Airways first and business class passengers can now pre-order meals up to 14 days before departure.
Aer Lingus is adding the equivalent of basic economy fares on transatlantic flights. The so-called Saver prices do not include checked bags, advance seat selection, headphones and blankets. Those are all optional purchases.
Pittsburgh Hopes You're Desperate to Shop Even When You're Not Flying
The Airmall at Pittsburgh airport was a hot ticket when US Airways maintained a hub there. But it has been a rough decade or so as passenger traffic plunged, airport security was tightened and shops and restaurants in Airmall lost huge chunks of customers. So mark this down as a last-ditch effort to rescue foot traffic in Pittsburgh. Airport authorities and the TSA have agreed to allow non-passengers to use Airmall. However, potential diners and customers will have to get a pass, prove their identity and then go through the same security regimen as passengers, which certainly sounds like a dreary routine just to shop or eat. The program is being positioned as a test of concept by the TSA, which says non-travelers will be allowed airside into Airmall between 9am and 5pm on weekdays.
Los Angeles flyers on American Airlines take note: American's lounges in Terminal 4 will close for renovations on Tuesday, September 5. A new Admirals club in Terminal 5, a former Delta Air Lines lounge, should be open by then. American is also moving flights to New York/Kennedy to Terminal 5 during the T4 renovations, which are targeted for completion around Thanksgiving.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Most airlines stay out of Delta Air Lines' way at Atlanta/Hartsfield, but the challenge doesn't seem to frighten JetBlue Airways. It is adding more flights to Atlanta from its focus cities. Beginning on March 8, it will offer two daily flights to New York/Kennedy, two daily flights to Fort Lauderdale and a daily flight to Orlando. JetBlue added five daily flights in March between Boston/Logan and Atlanta. All routes are operated with Airbus A320 jets.
Singapore Airlines was the launch customer for the Airbus A380 double-decked widebody jet. It is now prepared to retire the first jet, delivered 11 years ago. The plane is being returned to the owner, a German leasing firm. An 11-year-old aircraft would normally find a new home quickly, but the A380 has been a financial failure. The four-engine jet carries too many passengers in an era where so-called "long, thin" routes are standard.
Qantas is reversing course and again rerouting its so-called "Kangaroo Route" between Sydney and London. For decades, the service was operated via Singapore, often in partnership with Oneworld Alliance partner British Airways. Five years ago, however, Qantas cut a code-share partnership with Emirates and routed the Sydney-London run via Dubai. But now Qantas is dropping flights to Dubai and returning the Kangaroo Route to a Sydney-Singapore-London run. Qantas says the change is to maximize its presence in the faster-growing South Asia market. It is clear that Qantas passengers also prefer a Singapore stop rather than one in Dubai.
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