The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for September 14-28, 2017
The briefing in brief: New routes to burn off those United MileagePlus miles. Extended-stay hotels dominate the lodging pipeline. Ritz-Carlton loses an original and gains a Swiss Miss. Hong Kong Airlines launching nonstops to Los Angeles. Marriott's ship of fools. And more.

Some New Ways to Burn United Miles You're Probably Trying to Dump
If you're shackled to a corpse--in other words, you have a lot of United MileagePlus credit--there's some actual good news: more international destinations you can reach with award miles. United will beef up hub service to Europe next summer. From Newark, United adds flights to Porto, Portugal, and Reykjavik, Iceland. From San Francisco, it's nonstops to Zurich. From Washington/Dulles, it is service to Edinburgh. The Newark and Dulles routes will operate with Boeing 757s, but United will devote Boeing 787 Dreamliners to the SFO-Zurich run. The Porto, Reykjavik and Edinburgh routes will operate from May through the first week of October. The SFO-ZRH run will operate from June through October. One other bit of mileage-burning news: Austrian Airlines is extending its Vienna-Naples flights to year-round service. It will fly to the Italian city four times weekly even during the off-season. Award travel on Austrian tends to be an easy get using United miles and the Vienna hub is a decent way to reach Naples, which lacks year-round nonstops from the United States.

Extended-Stay Hotels Now Represent One in Four New U.S. Lodging Projects
About 26 percent of the hotels in the development pipeline in the United States are of the extended-stay variety, according to the Lodging Econometrics (LE) consulting firm. At least 400 more are already under construction, nearly 700 more are scheduled to break ground in the next year and about 250 more are in the early planning stage. The fastest-growing extended-stay operations? Home2 Suites by Hilton, followed by the Marriott brands Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites. To underline the LE report, Home2 Suites has opened outlets in Northlake, Texas; downtown Birmingham, Alabama; and near Busch Gardens in Tampa. Meanwhile, Residence Inn properties opened in Dunwoody, Georgia; Blacksburg, Virginia; and Braintree, Massachusetts.
      Ritz-Carlton loses an original, but picks up a Swiss Miss. The luxury chain has slapped its name on the Hotel de la Paix in Geneva, Switzerland. The 152-year-old property has recently undergone a renovation. Meanwhile, the Ritz-Carlton in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, one of the properties that launched the chain, is leaving the group. It will rebrand as The Whitley on December 1 and become part of Starwood Luxury Collection, another Marriott brand.

Hong Kong Airlines Is Headed to the United States
Cathay Pacific has long been Hong Kong's global flag carrier, but don't tell that to Hong Kong Airlines (HKA), an 11-year-old operation partly owned by HNA, the huge Chinese conglomerate that also owns Hainan Airlines. Despite a surfeit of seats between the United States and Hong Kong, HKA says it will launch nonstops to Los Angeles beginning on December 18. The carrier, which already flies to Vancouver, also says it will add San Francisco and New York flights in 2018. HKA will use newly delivered Airbus A350s on the LAX run but has not disclosed the seat configuration.
      Austrian Airlines is adding a premium economy section on transatlantic flights beginning March 6. It will use the same premium economy chair used by its parent, Lufthansa, and offer a nearly identical experience: 38 inches of legroom, 12-inch monitors and at-seat power and USB ports.
      American Airlines says 53 of its aircraft will be configured with its international premium economy cabin by the end of the year. The airline says premium economy prices have been about $400 roundtrip higher than coach fares. American first launched premium economy on select routes earlier this year.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
The American Airlines First Class Lounge at the end of Concourse K at Chicago/O'Hare has closed. The facility has been replaced with a new Flagship Lounge located below the existing Admirals Club between Gates H6 and K6. The new lounge is opened to AAdvantage platinum or higher elites flying internationally, business class passengers and Concierge Key members.
      United Airlines admitted last week that its Basic Economy fares are costing it revenue and market share. United executives say they will rejigger the category to offer the stripped-down fares in fewer circumstances and fiddle with pricing. In other words, it'll keep selling the fares you've already rejected because they know better than you.

Marriott's Ship of Fools
St. Thomas and St. John's in the U.S. Virgin Islands were hit hard by Hurricane Irma, a story that only reached mainstream media outlets about a week later. After the hurricane passed en route to Florida, Marriott chartered a ferry to evacuate guests from its Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star resort on St. Thomas. The Marriott ferry apparently left dozens of travelers stranded at the dock. The claim? Even though there was plenty of space, Marriott's chartered ship wouldn't carry anyone who wasn't a Marriott customer. People were turned away even though the U.S. Coast Guard had directed them to the ferry for evacuation. Marriott's initial response basically confirmed that its half-empty ship marooned people wanting to evacuate. That naturally caused a social-media firestorm. Did Marriott apologize? Of course not. Although it rebuffed inquiries from reporters, Marriott planted a story with a little-known blogger for Forbes.com. In the piece, ludicrously labeled the "inside story" of a "high-seas" rescue, a Marriott executive claimed "security personnel" at the dock barred non-Marriott customers from reaching the boat.


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