The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
The Business Travel Briefing for October 13-26, 2017
The briefing in brief: Airlines create the perfect bad product that no one wants to buy. The airport attack that can't be terrorism. Lufthansa buys half of dying Air Berlin. Hyatt continues slide into mediocrity. Pakistan International ends U.S. flights. Alaska Air tests pre-order meals.

Resistance Is Futile: Airlines Reach Perfection, Create a Product That No One Wants to Buy
The scary, hive-minded Borg of the Star Trek universe are driven by the search for perfection. But they've met their match in the U.S. airlines. Driven for decades to create a perfectly awful in-flight product, the U.S. airlines can now claim victory. Basic Economy, the stripped-down, no-perks, we-hate-serving-you, sub-coach class, is so perfectly bad that no one is buying it. How do we know? Delta, the carrier that created Basic Economy, proudly boasts about it. "Our sell-up continues to remain high," Delta president Glen Hauenstein explained this week during the carrier's third-quarter earnings call. "I think that's the key part. People don't really want the decontented product when they see what exactly it is." Worse, Hauenstein confirms what we've long suspected: Airlines are thrilled to have invented the perfectly awful product. "We were very happy to innovate in this space," he said with all of the cool contempt shown to Starfleet captains by the black-clad Borg Queen.

The Airport Attack That Can't Be Terrorism Because White Guy ...
Did you know Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina was attacked last week by a terrorist? Of course you didn't. Mostly you didn't hear about it because the improvised explosive device (IED) didn't detonate, but also because the suspect, Michael Estes, is white. And, you know, a white guy can't be a "terrorist" even if he, oh, say, attacks an airport with an IED or guns down dozens of concertgoers in Las Vegas. We reserve the "terrorist" label for brown people from religions that aren't particularly popular with white guys like Michael Estes. Anyway, as you can tell from the criminal complaint filed in a federal district court, Estes cobbled together the IED with material purchased from Walmart, Lowe's and other local stores. He later told FBI investigators that he wanted to "fight a war on U.S. soil." But his attack on Asheville Airport wasn't meant to start the battle, Estes suggested, because he never set the alarm clock used as the IED's timing device. The FBI decided not to charge Estes with terrorism, only "attempted malicious use of explosive materials" and "unlawful possession of explosive materials in an airport." You know, white-guy "crime" ...
      Los Angeles Airport gets two more hotels. A new-build dual-branded tower on West Century Boulevard includes a Homewood Suites by Hilton and the independent H Hotel, which has joined Hilton's Curio Collection.
      San Francisco International also has a new hotel--if you consider a property in South San Francisco, a 10-minute drive, an airport hotel. The 187-room AC Hotel, part of the Marriott family, has opened on the Oyster Point waterfront, five miles up US 101 from the airport.

Lufthansa Scoops Up Half of Air Berlin, Which Disappears October 27
Bankrupt Air Berlin has been limping along for months thanks to a bridge loan from the German government, but that ends October 27 when the airline operates its last flight, a run from Munich to its hub at Berlin/Tegel. Its remaining long-haul flights, including service from Berlin and Dusseldorf to the United States, end on Sunday (October 15). Big winner? Lufthansa, of course, which eliminates the second-largest carrier in its home market. In fact, Lufthansa confirmed on Thursday (October 12) that it would buy about half of what's left of Air Berlin. That includes 81 aircraft and about 40 percent of its workforce. The buying price? Around 210 million euros. The deal requires German and EU approval, however, and regulators may balk since it would leave Lufthansa and its Eurowings discount division as the only carriers on many key intra-German routes. The fate of the rest of Air Berlin? Discounter EasyJet is the leading contender.
      Pakistan International drops flights to New York/Kennedy on October 31. The carrier has been flying nonstop from JFK to Lahore and Karachi and, for security reasons, flying Pakistan-Manchester, England-JFK on westbound runs. PIA has flown to the United States since 1961--it once had routes to Chicago and Houston, too--but lately has been in chaos at home and under pressure from U.S. security authorities. PIA will continue to fly nonstop to Toronto, however.
      Turkish Airlines is a no-go for U.S. flyers unless you already have a Turkish visa. A much-publicized political spat between the United States and Turkey last week led both governments to suspend visa processing. A Star Alliance carrier, Turkish Air has been popular with U.S. flyers headed to the Mideast and Central Asian destinations as well as Istanbul. No U.S. airline currently serves Turkey.

The Chaos at Hyatt Continues to Degrade the Chain's Image
After slashing tangible benefits last year when it switched to the World of Hyatt program from Gold Passport, Hyatt Hotels insisted it would woo frequent travelers with extraordinary experiences. But that claim continues to be undercut as Hyatt loses full-service hotels. The Grand Hyatt in Santiago, Chile, has left the chain and gone independent and will switch next year to the Mandarin Oriental brand. This week Hyatt lost the Fort Lauderdale property that is part of the Pier 66 complex. That hotel, until now marketed as a Hyatt Regency, has also gone independent as new owners plan an upgrade and expansion of the marina-and-lodging development. And in what can only be seen as a mixed blessing, an aging hotel just off the grounds of John Wayne/Orange County Airport has become a "Hyatt-affiliated" property. The former Radisson Newport Beach, which opened decades ago as a Sheraton, is now known as The Carlton. Meanwhile, Hyatt this week admitted to its second credit card breach in two years. Around 40 hotels, mostly managed directly by Hyatt, have been affected, including three properties in Hawaii.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
Alaska Airlines now offers first class passengers on some routes the opportunity to pre-order meals. The beta test is initially available on transcontinental flights. Details are here.
      Southwest Airlines officially announced what everyone has known for about five years: The carrier will start flying to Hawaii from California--at an unspecified date and on unspecified routes. The non-announcement announcement did say tickets would go on sale late next year although service probably won't start until 2019. So, you know, make your vacation plans now. Or don't.
      United MileagePlus players take note: Award seats on some Singapore Airlines flights can once again be booked on United pulled Singapore Air availability four years ago and at first speciously claimed it was a decision made by Singapore Airlines.

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.