The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for October 5-19, 2017
The briefing in brief: GOES goes as the Feds change online access to our Trusted Traveler programs. Air France returns to Seattle and Aer Lingus adds more Dublin routes. American says it's serious about Philadelphia. Now United is late with Polaris lounges, too. And more.
GOES Is Gone and Trusted Traveler Programs Now Are Easier--and Harder--to Use
With almost no advance notice and virtually no publicity, the federal government this week closed the GOES system for managing Trusted Traveler programs such as Global Entry and NEXUS. In its place is a new Web site that is simultaneously infuriating and much better. The infuriating parts? Your old GOES user name and password are useless and you must get new credentials at still another site, Login.gov. Once you select new credentials, you return to the new Web site and prove your identity by providing passport information and a Trusted Traveler number. The site is bureaucratically quirky: It constantly prompts you to confirm data and your name must "match" your passport name down to the all-caps format. Once you make the bureaucrats happy, however, you'll find the new site's dashboard clean and easy to understand. Best of all, your Trusted Traveler data has migrated completely to the new site. What hasn't changed, unfortunately, is the government's predilection for duplication: It continues to run four separate programs--Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST--as well as TSA PreCheck. There seems to be no logical reason for the surfeit of plans and acronyms, but no bureaucratic desire to streamline the security infrastructure, which the government says covers a total of 7 million travelers.
Air France Returns to Sea-Tac, Aer Lingus Adds Philadelphia, United Dumps Shannon
Air France is returning to Seattle-Tacoma, six years after turning its Paris/CDG nonstop over to Delta Air Lines, its joint-venture and SkyTeam partner. Air France launched Seattle-Paris runs in June, 2007, but in March, 2012, gave the run to Delta, which operates a hub at Sea-Tac. But as Sea-Tac continues to grow as an international gateway, Air France is returning even as Delta continues its Paris flights. Effective March 25, it'll offer five weekly flights using Boeing 777-200s configured with business, premium economy and coach cabins.
Aer Lingus is adding another U.S. gateway. Effective March 25, it'll fly four weekly nonstops between Philadelphia and Dublin using Boeing 757s. Aer Lingus is also going to daily service on both its Los Angeles and San Francisco routes.
United Airlines continues to trim its international route map around the edges. It will drop the seasonal route between Chicago/O'Hare and Shannon, Ireland, and downgrade its Newark-Shannon route to seasonal status. Also cut: daily flights between Guam and Sapporo, Japan. Other routes from its Guam hub are being reduced in frequencies or flown with smaller aircraft. United is also permanently cancelling previously suspended Brazil service and flights to Hangzhou, China.
Hilton Grabs Luxury Hotel in New York, Opens a Unicorn in Colorado
Hilton grabbed another luxury property in New York this week. The all-suite property currently known as The London NYC in Midtown Manhattan is being transformed into a Conrad hotel, but the rebranding won't come until next year after a renovation. The London is already available for booking on Hilton.com, however. For travelers with long memories, the property opened in 1990 as the U.S. flagship of the Japanese Rihga Royal chain. Accommodations at the 562-unit property average more than 500 square feet. Meanwhile, Hilton opened a newly built DoubleTree in Greeley, Colorado. The 147-room property is something of a unicorn because DoubleTree properties are overwhelmingly conversions of properties leaving other chains. But the chain driving Hilton's growth these days is the Home2 Suites extended-stay operation. This week it added branches in Dickson City, Pennsylvania, not far from Scranton, and Florence, Kentucky, close to Cincinnati Airport.
American Airlines Says It's Really Serious About Philadelphia Again
Ever since the American Airlines-US Airways merger, American has been downsizing the former US Airways hub in Philadelphia. In fact, AA's Philadelphia hub is down to about 390 daily flights, a 10 percent reduction from its highs during the US Air days. Still, American insists it's not only serious about Philadelphia, but also that PHL is the airline's transatlantic gateway. "We will never be the biggest airline in New York," says American president Robert Isom, who claims American now considers Philadelphia its primary portal to Europe. American has added three new transatlantic routes from Philadelphia next year--to Prague, Budapest and Zurich--and this week quietly added more feeder service, too. Effective February 15, there'll be daily Airbus A319 flights to San Antonio. On May 4, there will be daily flights to Omaha, Des Moines and Madison, Wisconsin. Those routes will be operated with EMB-175 regional jets.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines already squandered the goodwill of its new Polaris business class by launching the "soft" product long before new seats were installed. And, of course, a production glitch at the factory producing the chairs has further delayed the rollout. Now the new Polaris lounges are being delayed, too. After opening its first Polaris business class lounge earlier this year at its Chicago/O'Hare hub--which, ironically, has no international routes with the new Polaris seats--progress has stalled. The four airports that were supposed to get Polaris Lounges this year--San Francisco, Los Angeles, Newark and London/Heathrow--have been pushed into next year. In fact, at SFO, United didn't even get around to closing the lounge earmarked for transition to Polaris--the United Club near Gate G92--until this week. The adjacent Singapore Airlines Silver Kris lounge also closed this week and the two spaces will supposedly be combined into a new footprint for the Polaris Lounge.
American Express opened a Centurion Lounge in Hong Kong this week. The 8,000-square-foot club is located in Terminal 1. Meanwhile, the next U.S. outlet, a 6,300-square-foot facility in Terminal A West in Philadelphia, should open by the end of the month. By the way, Amex says the Centurion Lounges are now exclusively for Platinum and Centurion cardholders. Holders of other Amex cards had been able to pay their way in for a $50 fee.
Monarch Airlines, a British carrier serving mostly leisure travelers, folded on Monday. That stranded about 100,000 Brits at overseas destinations. British aviation regulators have been dispatching chartered aircraft to rescue the flyers who were stuck without rides home.
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