The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
The Business Travel Briefing for January 11-25, 2018
The briefing in brief: American Airlines shrank in 2017 while Delta and United grew. Hilton overhauls Honors and eliminates the "double dip." Lufthansa switching to Airbus A350s on three routes to Munich. Future of hotels? Big chains. Virgin America finally disappears. And more.

In 2017, Delta and United Grew, But American Shrank in Key Cities
Sometimes it takes a deep dive into a full year of data to understand how the Big 3 legacy carriers move. And the headline from data released by OAG Schedules Analyzer is that American Airlines shrank rather precipitously last year at its major hubs. On the other hand, Delta Air Lines and, to a lesser extent, United Airlines, grew. New York was the big loser at American, with seat capacity in 2017 down 8.8 percent at Kennedy Airport and 3.1 percent at LaGuardia. For all of American's claims that it will grow its Philadelphia hub, the year-over-year seat capacity there fell 6 percent. American also trimmed its Washington/National and Phoenix hubs. Its growth was mostly limited to its largest hubs: Dallas/Fort Worth (up 1.7 percent); Charlotte (1.3 percent); Chicago/O'Hare (2.7 percent); and Miami (0.4 percent). In contrast, Delta grew seat capacity at ten of its 12 largest airports, most notably at Boston/Logan (up 16.3 percent), Sea-Tac (6.7 percent) and Las Vegas (7.8 percent). United grew at nine of its 12 largest airports, especially at its San Francisco hub (7.8 percent) and San Diego (6.7 percent). Also noteworthy: Hamstrung by construction and lack of gate space, all three carriers contracted marginally at Los Angeles International.

Hilton Overhauls Honors. Say Goodbye to the 'Double Dip.'
Once upon a time, the big selling point of Hilton HHonors was the "double dip." Members could earn hotel points and airline miles for each stay--or choose additional HHonors credit. But HHonors lost an H, morphed into Hilton Honors and also lost the marketing advantage of the double dip. So Hilton is dumping it. Beginning April 1, general members will receive 10 points per dollar spent at most properties and Silver elites will receive 12 via a 20 percent status bonus. (That's actually a reduction at those levels if you were a "points and points" double dipper.) Gold and Diamond elite earnings are mostly a wash. Gold players will receive 10 points per dollar spent with an 80 percent bonus (18 points). Diamonds receive a 100 percent bonus (or 20 points per dollar spent). There'll also be threshold bonuses: 10,000 points every 10th night after a member reaches 40 nights plus 30,000 additional points at 60 nights. Members who stay at least 60 nights a year can gift status and extra qualifying nights will roll over once you reach your elite level for the year. The changes are detailed here, but the takeaway is that Hilton didn't make substantive benefits upgrades. It still doesn't offer elite members guaranteed late check-out or suite upgrades, something Marriott and Hyatt do.

Lufthansa Hammers Another Nail in the First Class Coffin
Lufthansa is rolling out its new Airbus A350s on three North American routes to Munich and that will mean the end of first class on those runs, too. Effective March 25, the A350 will service the Newark-Munich route. The Vancouver-Munich and Denver-Munich runs get the plane later in the year. But Lufthansa's A350s don't have first class cabins. They are equipped with 48 business class beds, 21 premium economy seats and 224 coach chairs.
      Kenya Airways will launch its long-awaited nonstop between New York/Kennedy and Nairobi on October 28. The route, served with Boeing 787 Dreamliners, is possible now that the carrier has reconfigured Nairobi airport to meet U.S. security concerns.
      Icelandair continues to expand in the United States. It'll be the first European airline at Kansas City on May 25 when it launches three weekly flights to Reykjavik. There'll be Boeing 757 service until October 1. Icelandair also returns to San Francisco and Baltimore/Washington after a decade's absence. There will be four weekly Boeing 757 flights to BWI from May 28 to October 15 and four weekly Boeing 767 flights to SFO between June 3 and October 13.

United Really Wants You to Connect Through Its Hubs
Under its previous management, United Airlines trimmed a score of marginal routes, claiming they were unprofitable. But now led by former American president Scott Kirby, United is restoring and launching new routes from secondary markets to its hubs. Effective June 7, there will be flights to Chicago/O'Hare from Bismarck, North Dakota; service to Denver from Appleton, Wisconsin, and Norfolk, Virginia; flights to San Francisco from Madison, Wisconsin; and flights to Houston/Intercontinental from Akron/Canton and Dayton. In California, there will be flights between Los Angeles and Eureka. Except for the Denver-Norfolk route, which gets Airbus A319s, all flights will use regional jets. One other note: Beginning April 9, United's SkyWest commuter partner will operate a Denver-O'Hare route that will make intermediate stops in Salina and Hays, Kansas. Salina and Hays are 88 miles apart.

The Future of Hotels? Hilton, Marriott, Accor and InterContinental Brands
If you're wondering about the future of hotels, I have an answer: They are likely to have a brand associated with Hilton, Marriott, Accor or InterContinental. Domestically, two of three hotel projects in the development pipeline are scheduled to be branded by Hilton, Marriott or InterContinental. In Europe, Accor, Hilton and Marriott are the biggest players. About 1,200 new hotels are in development. Accor has about 200 of them and Hilton and Marriott each have about 165.
      Hilton has a pair of notable new-build hotels in its Curio Collection of independent properties. The West Hotel with 192 rooms opened in the Barangaroo district of Sydney, Australia. In Ambergris Caye, Belize, the 205-room Mahogany Bay Resort opened on a 60-acre beachfront site.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
Virgin America is now officially dead. Alaska Airlines, which bought the 10-year-old carrier in 2016, now has a single operating certificate for the two operations. All former Virgin flights are now marketed as Alaska Airlines. You'll still see Airbus aircraft in Virgin livery and with Virgin's distinctive white seating for some time, however.
      St. Louis/Lambert gets its first common-use airport club. The Wingtips Lounge is located in Terminal 2 across from Gate E31. It accepts Priority Pass for entry otherwise single visits cost $38.
      The TSA says the busiest travel day of 2017 was June 30, the Friday of Fourth of July weekend. The agency says it screened 2.67 million passengers nationwide. The second-busiest day was November 26, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The TSA screened 2.6 million flyers on that day.
      United Airlines has eliminated one of the zillions of anomalies in its rules. Travelers flying to China and Hong Kong are now permitted to check two free bags. Until now, China-bound flyers were limited to one bag, but travelers departing from China or Hong Kong were permitted to check two bags. Because United ...

This column is Copyright © 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright © 2018 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.