The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business Travel Briefing for September 21-30, 2017
The briefing in brief: Nonstop flights to Brazil make a comeback as the economy revives. British Airways' new London-Seychelles flights mean opportunities to use AAdvantage miles. Hilton grows its Home2 Suites brand. Emirates flyers are clubless at JFK. And more.

As Brazil's Economy Improves, Airlines Add Routes
Brazil's political situation remains truly bizarre--president after president gets indicted, impeached or impugned for economic crimes--but the nation's economy is slowly improving. Inflation, which hit 11 percent last year, is back down to the 2-3 percent range. After plunging in recent years, the GDP is growing again, too. While skeptics legitimately call the recovery "fragile," Brazil's economy has been down so long that even the bottom looks like progress. And there's even enough progress for airlines to schedule more flights to Brazil again. Azul, the Brazil-based airline David Neeleman launched after leaving JetBlue Airways, is resuming its Orlando-Belo Horizonte run after a gap of more than 18 months. There will be three weekly Airbus A330 flights starting December 3 and a fourth run will be added in February. Azul will also test a Fort Lauderdale-Belem run this winter. Four weekly Airbus A320 flights will operate from December 10 to February 16. Meanwhile, the Brazilian division of Star Alliance member Avianca is pumping up its U.S. service to Sao Paulo. It launched a daily A330 flight from Miami in June and will add a daily nonstop from New York/JFK on December 15. The airline's A330s are configured with 32 business class seats and 206 coach chairs.

Want to Fly to the Seychelles? Got Some AAdvantage or Avios Miles?
British Airways is adding two weekly nonstop flights from London/Heathrow to the Seychelles Island and that means a chance to claim award seats using American AAdvantage miles or Avios points. The flights begin March 28 and BA will use Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners configured with eight first class seatbeds, 20 business class beds and coach and premium economy cabins. At the moment, American's Web site is only showing coach availability with AAdvantage miles at 80,000 points roundtrip. The wisdom of flying coach to the Indian Ocean getaway? Don't. Check your Avios balance or call American and see what can be arranged.
      American AAdvantage will no longer award miles for flights on Level, the new low-fare/high-fee airline based in Barcelona. Miles earnings, which are already low, end entirely on October 31.

Hilton Grows Its Extended-Stay and All-Suite Portfolio
Hilton's Home2 Suites chain is its fastest-growing brand in the fast-growing extended-stay lodging segment. But that doesn't mean it is ignoring its bedrock extended-stay brand, Homewood Suites. In recent weeks, it has opened branches in Schenectady, New York; the Lakewood Ranch community in Sarasota, Florida; and in the historic district of Charleston, South Carolina. Hilton also opened a 226-room Embassy Suites in Amarillo, Texas.
      Marriott has opened a dual-branded hotel operation just a block from the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. The 20-story development houses a 272-room Le Meridien and a 223-room AC Hotel. Meanwhile, in San Diego, the 258-room Renaissance is transitioning to Marriott's Autograph Collection and will use the name Hotel Republic. The property opened 15 years ago as a W Hotel, so they may be running out of Velcro.
      Hyatt has opened a 354-room Grand Hyatt in Changsha, capital of Hunan province. The property is in a 61-story tower on the banks of the Xiang River.

Emirates Customers in New York Lose Their Fancy Lounge
Emirates has temporarily shuttered its sumptuous lounge in Terminal 4 at New York/Kennedy Airport. The renovation is expected to last until mid-January. The problem: During the remake, Emirates' business and first class passengers to Dubai and Milan as well as the carrier's Invitation Only-level flyers will have to make due with a meal voucher that can be used at restaurants in the terminal. Why didn't Emirates arrange for alternate club access? It tried, but partially because of politics and partially as a matter of payback for Emirates' previous arrogance, no lounge is available. Emirates has driven hard bargains with carriers asking to share its lounges--it routinely charged other airlines $100 or more per passenger--and there are precious few options in T4 anyway. The Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic lounges are out for an obvious reason: Delta is at war with the Gulf carriers. Also politically untenable: El Al's lounge. The other clubs in Terminal 4 are either too small or too pricey for Emirates' taste.
      Houston/Intercontinental loses its nonstop to Seoul. Korean Air is dumping its flights there on October 10.
      Guam loses Delta Air Lines. The carrier dumps flights to its shrinking Tokyo/Narita hub on January 8. Delta will retain its Narita flights to Saipan, however.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
Frontier Airlines, the awful low-fare/high-fee carrier that is regrouping its operations at Denver, has been slapped with a $1.5 million fine from the Transportation Department. The infraction? Holding passengers on the tarmac too long during a snowstorm last December. The DOT forgave $900,000 of the fine because of compensation that the carrier paid to inconvenienced passengers.
      Sun Country Airlines, the Minneapolis-based carrier that says it is transitioning to the low-fare/high-fee model, no longer accepts American Express cards for ticket purchases.

This column is Copyright © 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. 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.