The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for October 19-31, 2017
The briefing in brief: United shares fall 12 percent after awful earnings call. JetBlue adds Minneapolis flights for connections via Boston. Delta tinkers with Amsterdam and London schedules. Limited-service hotels are future of lodging. Berlin to Munich in four hours by rail. And more.

United Shares Plunge 12 Percent After Disastrous Earnings Call
I suggested in August that the only way to "save" United Airlines was to break it up. After a wobbly third-quarter earnings report yesterday (October 18) and a disastrous earnings call today fronted by flummoxed and overmatched chief executive Oscar Munoz, Wall Street vented its fury. Shares plunged 12.08 percent in NASDAQ trading. "Patience with executing the turnaround at United is wearing thin with investors," one analyst wrote to clients after the awful day. Of course, none of this comes as a surprise to United Airlines flyers, who continue to grapple with inconsistent service, too many regional jets and the more mythological than real Polaris business class. And, oh, yeah, United next month imposes another devaluation on the MileagePlus program and travelers using the carrier's Houston hub face a "re-banked" schedule beginning October 29. That'll cause more late flights and missed connections for travelers who weren't informed of time changes. (October 20 update: The earnings call transcript is now available . Meanwhile, United has regained about 0.2 percent in pre-market trading.)

JetBlue Adds Minneapolis, More for Connections Than Point-to-Point Service
Travelers who don't pay attention to JetBlue Airways probably still think it's a quirky alternate airline with blue potato chips based at New York/Kennedy Airport. But the fact is that JetBlue is growing much faster at Boston's Logan Airport and Fort Lauderdale than at its JFK hub and hometown. It's also become a potent force in connecting domestic travelers to a varied slate of international code-share and interlining carriers. Which explains why JetBlue's initial foray into Minneapolis/St. Paul, the largest market it doesn't currently serve, is coming at Logan. There'll be three daily Logan-MSP flights starting May 3 and the flights are timed to accommodate connections to JetBlue's Logan partners. If you think that's a rhetorical stretch, consider the revelation this week from TAP Air Portugal. The reinvigorated Portuguese carrier, now operated by David Neeleman, JetBlue's founder, says 30 percent of its Logan customers arrive on a JetBlue flight. And the connecting passengers aren't just headed to Lisbon. More than half of the JetBlue customers who switch to TAP at Logan continue to other TAP destinations in Europe and Africa.

Delta Shuffles Its Flights at Amsterdam and London/Heathrow
For a carrier that claims it runs like clockwork, Delta Air Lines certainly does tinker a lot with its schedules. That guarantees customers must change seats and often lose preferred seat assignments. So mark these changes: Delta is dropping flights from Newark to Amsterdam, but that will be partly offset by its SkyTeam partner KLM. It adds a third daily flight to its Amsterdam hub from New York/Kennedy. Delta is also planning to add four weekly flights from Los Angeles to Amsterdam. Flights launch June 17 with Boeing 777-200LR aircraft. Meanwhile, Delta is trimming its London/Heathrow schedule from its JFK hub. Effective March 25, it will drop to two daily flights on the NyLon run using Airbus A330-200 aircraft. But Virgin America, which is 49 percent owned by Delta, is adding service to Heathrow. Starting the same day, Virgin will run six daily flights, up from the current five.
      Chicago/O'Hare authorities have fired two security officers involved in the forced April removal of David Dao from a United Airlines flight. Two other security guards involved in the incident had been suspended and one subsequently quit. More details are here.

Hotel World Belongs to Limited Service--But Slightly Better Equipped--Properties
You can get lost in the insane jargon that the hotel industry uses to describe itself. Witness a recent report on the growth of limited-service hotels from the Lodging Econometrics (LE) consulting firm. It explains the development pipeline as "upper midscale" and "upscale" limited-service hotels. It makes the head hurt. But the takeaway is clear: Traditional full-service hotels are basically dead in the United States. The future--and the present--belongs to the proliferating number of limited-service chains. They offer fewer services--no room service or bellmen, less elaborate public facilities such as meeting rooms--but more in-room facilities: kitchen appliances, for example, and some of the elements of a home or apartment. You can see truth of the LE report by the openings from the major hotel groups. From Marriott, for example, there are new SpringHill Suites in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Munster, Indiana. Marriott's TownePlace Suites chain has new outlets in Goodlettsville and Cleveland, Tennessee; Altamonte Springs, Florida; and Chandler, Arizona. And there are new Residence Inn properties in Chula Vista, California, and just off 1-71 in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, Home2 Suites, the fast-growing Hilton chain, has added outposts in downtown Dallas; Maumee, Ohio; Lafayette, Indiana; and Oxford, Mississippi.
      Accor, the global hotel group based in France, has agreed to buy Mantra Hotels. It operates about 125 Australian properties under the Peppers, Mantra and BreakFree brands.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
File this in your dead-airlines-flying file: The Italian government has given Alitalia another US$355 million in loans. That brings the total payout--don't call it a "bailout" because EC countries don't do that anymore--to US$1 billion since Alitalia in May entered "special administration." Faced with a paucity of serious offers, the government also pushed the deadline for bids to buy the airline back to April 30. The deadline originally was Monday (October 16).
      Germany has another high-speed rail line. Travel time between downtown Berlin and Munich has been cut to about four hours, down from the previous six. There are 35 trains operating at about 300 kilometers an hour on the run. Flights between Berlin/Tegel and Munich require one hour and ten minutes of scheduled flying.
      Island Air, the second-largest inter-island carrier in Hawaii, this week filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The carrier, once a regional affiliate of defunct Aloha Airlines, continues to fly its complete schedule.


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