The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for Oct. 26-Nov. 9, 2017
The briefing in brief: Six Airlines shift terminals at New York/LaGuardia. Kimpton Karma Rewards will disappear. JetBlue slashing Puerto Rico capacity by 33 percent. Marriott and Hilton are outbuilding the hotel industry. PreCheck adds four more international airlines. And more.
Airline Merry-Go-Round at LGA in December. What Could Go Wrong?
Because miserable, under-construction LaGuardia Airport isn't bad enough for travelers, the powers that be are throwing an airline merry-go-round at us. Beginning December 9, six carriers are moving terminal buildings at New York's close-in, short-haul airport. The gate and terminal re-assignment actually makes sense in the long run, but LGA is always about the now and the tactical nature of trying to get to and from flights. So pull out your scorecard, mark December 8-10 as must-avoid days at LaGuardia and hope for the best. Here is what's happening:
American Airlines will consolidate its flights in Terminal B. That means the American Airlines Shuttle operation and some of American's other flights will move from Terminal C.
Delta Air Lines will consolidate its flights in Terminals C and D. That means the parts of the Delta Shuttle currently operating from the Marine Air Terminal (officially designated Terminal A) will shift to C.
Two airlines, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines, will shift operations to the Marine Air Terminal from their current gates at Terminal B.
Here's where it gets tricky. Two other carriers--the low-fare/high-fee Spirit and Frontier--will have split operations. Their flights will depart from Terminal C, but arrive at Terminal D.
InterContinental Folds Kimpton Karma Rewards Into IHC Rewards
Kimpton loyalists should have seen this coming from the moment InterContinental Hotels purchased Kimpton in 2014. InterContinental is ending Karma Rewards at the end of the year and folding the program into the larger IHG Rewards. The status you earn in Karma Rewards this year will map to IHG Status for 2018. On balance, existing IHG Rewards members will get a bit more from the combination than Karma Rewards players. Details on the realignment are here.
Marriott Rewards members have a new option for award nights in Florence. After an extensive renovation, the 99-room Hotel Sina Villa Medici is joining Marriott's Autograph Collection and becomes a Category 8 redemption. The hotel is on the Via Il Prato between the River Arno and the train station.
United MileagePlus thinks you'll miss its soon-to-be-retired Boeing 747s so much that you'll play big for the ratty old seats they are pulling from the aircraft. As you can see here, United is chargingup to 275,000 points for a row of chairs.
How Bad Are Things in Puerto Rico? JetBlue Slashing Capacity 33 Percent
It's nearly impossible to overstate the symbiotic relationship of JetBlue Airways and Puerto Rico. About 6 percent of the airline's systemwide capacity is dedicated to San Juan and JetBlue controls a third of the traffic at Luis Munoz Marin International. JetBlue also controls all the capacity at Ponce and 65 percent of the traffic at Aguadilla. But with the island a shambles and a recovery months, even years away, JetBlue has decided to slash flights by 33 percent through 2018. "We believe Puerto Rico will be open for business by the end of 2018," says executive vice president Marty St. George. In the meantime, JetBlue will distribute its former Puerto Rico-bound flights to other Caribbean islands.
Alaska Airlines said this week that it is about 50 percent complete with the integration of Virgin America, which it purchased in April, 2016. But the real news is that Alaska has set April 25 as the "big bang" day when the Virgin name will disappear and all former Virgin flights will become Alaska Air flights. More importantly, April 25 is when all Alaska and former Virgin flights will operate on a single computer system. Given the, er, spotty record of airlines when they combine schedules and computers, it might be wise to book away from Alaska Air between April 24 (a Tuesday) and the rest of that week.
PreCheck Expands to Four More International Carriers
In a week when international flight security took another step back, there is a silver lining: The TSA has expanded PreCheck to four more airlines. Your PreCheck privileges are now valid when you board flights operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA), Cathay Pacific, Finnair and Korean Air. Make sure your Known Traveler Number and other details are properly on file with those airlines to ensure you get PreCheck when you fly.
United Airlines says travelers who use its app can now receive mobile boarding passes for 19 of its Star Alliance partner carriers. That includes Air Canada, EVA Air, Air New Zealand, ANA, SAS Scandinavian and the Lufthansa airlines.
Get Used to It: Would You Like a Hilton or a Marriott?
Here's how the lodging world is breaking: There's Hilton and Marriott and everyone else. It's not even a contest anymore as the two lodging giants add new properties at a rapid pace. At Marriott, for example, there are new Fairfield Inn properties in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Fort Worth, Texas. (The Fort Worth property, at 1010 Houston Street, is a remake of the former Park Central Hotel.) There's also a new AC Hotel in Dublin, Ohio; and new Courtyard properties in Flower Mound, Texas, and another branch in Houston, at 1538 JFK Boulevard, about four miles from Houston/Intercontinental Airport. Meanwhile, Hilton has opened an Embassy Suites in College Station, Texas, and a Hilton Garden Inn in Shiyan, Hubei Province, China.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
This was another rotten week to own airline stock. After the 12 percent plunge of United Continental shares last Thursday (October 19), the price remained relatively flat this week and regained none of last week's losses. But the big news was Alaska Airlines. After announcing third-quarter earnings yesterday (October 25) that missed estimates by just 2 cents a share, the market reacted with fury and cut more than 13 percent off the price. Shares dropped another 5 percent today.
United Airlines says it expects less snow than usual this winter at Chicago/O'Hare. So, you know, prepare for 24/7 blizzards given United's track record on anything.
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