The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Business Travel Briefing for March 1-14, 2018
The briefing in brief: Airlines make your day-to-day travel worse with new fees, crappy "cheap" fares and less comfortable seats. Hyatt adds home and apartment rentals to frequency plan. A burst of airport hotels and international flights. Delta loses to the NRA in Georgia. And more.
Yes, Virginia, Airlines Are Making Your Day-to-Day Flying Worse
The nation's leading airlines continue to make our day-to-day lives on the road nasty. Exhibit One: United Airlines will deploy its new "dense" domestic Boeing 757-300 aircraft starting in June. These planes will have 234 seats, up 21 chairs from the current 213. That'll crunch legroom even further for flyers in all classes. Among the routes that'll get the awful seating are Chicago/O'Hare to Las Vegas, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle; Denver to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington/National; and Los Angeles and San Francisco to Hawaii airports. Exhibit Two: American Airlines and OneWorld partners British Airways, Iberia and Finnair are introducing Basic Economy fares to Europe flights. According to information released today (March 1), starting next month the cheapest fares to and from Europe will be stripped of free checked bags, free advance boarding passes and upgrade opportunities of any kind. Basic Economy buyers will also board the plane last. (Delta Air Lines previously announced its transatlantic Basic Economy goes into effect next month.) And it's not just the major carriers making things less friendly. Southwest Airlines is jacking up fees and prices. Without advance notice or announcement, Southwest has upped the price for Group A boarding to as much as $50 on some flights. The so-called upgraded boarding option debuted in 2013. (Business Select and EarlyBird Check In prices and policies do not change.) Separately, the airline also bumped up the price of in-flight beverages. Beer, wine and liquor now cost $6 or $7 a pop. You can find a complete list of Southwest's charges here.
Desperate for Global Inventory, World of Hyatt Adds Apartment/Home Rentals
Desperation is often the mother of useful perks for business travelers and no hotel frequent stay plan is more desperate than Hyatt. A year after it replaced Gold Passport and slashed perks for most elite members, World of Hyatt has finally come up with a small game changer. Effective immediately, you can earn and burn points for home and apartment rentals made through Oasis Collections, a mostly upscale service operating in 22 cities. You earn five Hyatt points per dollar on Oasis spend and nights will count toward Hyatt elite status. Elite bonuses apply as does Oasis spend on the Hyatt Credit card. You'll also receive late checkout based on your elite status. And 15,000 Hyatt points will be worth $200 toward Oasis stays. To introduce the plan, Hyatt is also offering a bonus of 1,000 points per Oasis night until June 30. Complete details are here. The addition of Oasis will expand Hyatt's woefully small global footprint, but it continues to be distressing how long it takes Hyatt to do anything. It first bought a minority stake in Oasis last August and has promised the integration of the service into World of Hyatt for almost as long.
Chase has shed some light on the rollout of its top card, Sapphire Reserve. Introduced 18 months ago, Sapphire Reserve cardholders have an annual family income of about $180,000 and the average FICA score is 785. Cardholders so far have been charging about $39,000 to the card. One especially interesting stat: Renewals are running about 90 percent, notable since the first adopters were primarily attracted by the 100,000-point acquisition bonus.
United MileagePlus says it currently has an 18 percent "breakage rate." That's industry jargon for miles that expire without being used. United miles expire in 18 months without qualifying account activity.
A Small Burst of New Airport (and Airport-Adjacent Hotels)
It's well nigh impossible to keep track of all the hotel openings around the nation since major chains throw them up with alarming regularity. So let's focus this week on new openings and reflaggings near or at airports. At Milwaukee Airport, Marriott has reflagged a 178-room Clarion as a Four Points by Sheraton. It's located at 5311 South Howell Avenue and offers a free airport shuttle. Meanwhile, Hilton has opened a dual-branded hotel close to Long Beach Airport at 3771 North Lakewood Boulevard. There's a Hampton Inn side and a Homewood Suites component and a free shuttle operates to both the airport and nearby Douglas Park. And near Toronto/Pearson, Hilton has reflagged a Quality Inn as the first Embassy Suites in the Toronto area. It's located at 262 Carlingview Drive and offers round-the-clock free shuttles to the airport.
Eurostar Will 'Fly' London-Netherlands, Ethiopian Will Fly to Chicago
If you hate flying--who doesn't these days?--this will come as a relief. Eurostar says it will launch direct trains between London/St. Pancras, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Beginning April 4, there will be two trains a day on the route. But the service, in the planning stages since September, 2013, won't be quite wrinkle-free at the start. Trains will operate direct between London and Amsterdam only. Rides in the reverse direction will require a change in Brussels for passport control. The London-Rotterdam run will take three hours. Amsterdam will require three hours and 41 minutes.
Ethiopian Airlines will launch three weekly flights between Chicago/O'Hare and Addis Ababa on June 2. Boeing 787-9 aircraft will fly nonstop to Addis Ababa, but make an intermediate stop in Dublin on the run to Chicago.
Delta Air Lines is moving its New York-Halifax flights to LaGuardia Airport from Kennedy Airport. The daily service, which uses CRJ900 aircraft, shifts New York facilities on May 2.
Air Canada says its Vancouver-Delhi flights will operate year-round starting June 8. There will be three or four weekly flights using Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
GOL, the Brazilian carrier, resumes flights to the United States beginning November 4. There will be daily flights from Brasilia and Fortaleza to both Miami and Orlando using Boeing 787 Max 8 aircraft.
American Airlines is dropping flights to LaPaz, Bolivia's administrative capital, on July 4.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Priority Pass continues to spread to more airport lounges and airport restaurants. At Terminal 8 at New York/Kennedy, Priority Pass cardholders now receive a $28 credit for a meal at Bobby Van's Steakhouse. In Terminal 2 in Melbourne, Australia, cardholders receive an A$36 credit at Cafe Vue, the third restaurant honoring Priority Pass there. And cardholders now get access to the Eventyr Lounge at Copenhagen airport.
European travelers have been socked with awful weather. A system originating in Russia created heavy snow as far south as Rome and Naples earlier this week and caused airports in Ireland to shut today (March 1). About 1,600 flights were cancelled last week, for example, but nearly 4,000 have been dumped to/from/around the continent in the last three days. I was in Bologna today and here is what Piazza Maggiore, the city's main square, looked like.
Delta Air Lines at least temporarily lost a multimillion dollar fuel-tax break this week from Georgia after the state's Lt. Governor took exception to the airline's decision to cancel a discount program for the National Rifle Association. Other travel industry players--including United Airlines and major car rental firms--dumped the NRA discount after last month's Florida school shooting, but only Delta tried to frame the cancellation as it striving for neutrality. But "neutral" wasn't good enough for Georgia legislators, many of whom say they'll continue to oppose Delta's tax break unless the airline restores the NRA's group discount.
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