The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for March 22-April 5, 2018
The briefing in brief: The spending bill is mostly good news for business travelers. April in Paris (and May and June) will be nasty. Hotel chains bulk up in California. Airlines bounce back from this week's storm. Delta restores more hub flights. Southwest adds six routes. And more.
The Omnibus Spending Bill Is Mostly Good News for Business Travelers
The House and Senate late today (Thursday, March 22) passed a $1.3 trillion "omnibus" spending bill that would stop another government shutdown this weekend. The contours of the 2,200-page measure deliver surprisingly good news for business travelers. Among the nuggets: $1.9 billion for Amtrak, including $650 million for upgrades in the heavily trafficked Northeast Corridor; $250 million for deployment of "positive train control" systems that experts say would have avoided several recent fatal Amtrak crashes; $1.5 billion in TIGER grants that allow the Transportation Department to fund local road and transit plans; and funds to hire 600 more Customs agents at ports of entry. What's not in there--authorization to raise airport PFCs or privatization of air traffic control--is also good news. But it's not all gravy. The TSA receives $43 million for its 31 VIPR teams, controversial agents who specialize in warrantless and unwarranted searches on buses and trains and at transportation hubs. (Update on Friday, March 23: Congress left town for a two-week recess after receiving White House assurances that President Trump would sign the bill. After tweeting this morning that he was "considering a veto" and sending Washington into a frenzy, he signed the bill.)
April in Paris (and May and June) Will Not be Fun
If you need to be in France in the next few months--or are thinking of changing planes in Paris--be aware that the labor situation has deteriorated on several transportation fronts. As part of a general job action today (March 22) to oppose President Emmanuel Macron's nw package of staffing reductions and labor-rules changes, an air traffic controller strike caused widespread flight cancellations around the country. Railway worker actions led to cancellation of about half the country's regional trains and about 60 percent of France's high-speed service. Tomorrow (Friday, March 23) brings a strike at Air France. The airline says delays and cancellations are inevitable. But the job actions aren't over. Railway unions plan to stop work two days out of every five until June 28. That would paralyze huge swathes of the country that depend on rail rather than airline service.
American Airlines is adding a flight from its Philadelphia hub to Mexico City. Effective July 5, there will be daily nonstops using Airbus A319s.
Qantas of Australia is shifting its New York/Kennedy flights to Terminal 8/9, the American Airlines facility. Qantas' move from Terminal 7 takes place on April 3. Cathay Pacific recently made the same move from the overcrowded, aged T7 fronted by British Airways. All four carriers are Oneworld Alliance partners, of course.
After Wednesday's Storm, a Return to Close-to-Normal Airport Operations
The fourth Nor'easter this month yesterday (Wednesday, March 21) paralyzed air traffic from the Ohio Valley to the Atlantic Coast. Around 4,400 flights were cancelled, according to FlightAware, including more than 70 percent of operations at New York/LaGuardia and Newark and about half the flights at New York/Kennedy and Boston/Logan. Today was dramatically better, however. As of 9 p.m. Eastern time, there were only about 800 cancellations nationwide.
Priority Pass cardholders have another non-club option at Cleveland Hopkins airport. You receive $28 in food-and-beverage credits at Bar Symon, the restaurant fronted by celebrity chef Michael Symon. It is located airside in Concourse C between Gates C4 and C6.
Traveling in California? You've Got Lots More Hotel Options
It's not that California is under-developed, of course, but hoteliers still see gold in the Golden State. Hence the spate of new properties that have opened in recent weeks. Marriott has been especially busy. It has opened a TownePlace Suites in Loma Linda, about 20 miles from Ontario Airport; a Sheraton in Redding, on the grounds of Turtle Bay Exploration Park; and a Courtyard in Murrieta. Hilton, meanwhile, has opened a Home2 Suites in the retail and restaurant district of Hanford. Hilton also reflagged a renovated independent property in Pomona as a DoubleTree. It's a few steps from the Pomona Conference Center. Also notable: The iconic white, three-winged hotel at 4500 MacArthur Boulevard in Newport Beach is now trading as the Renaissance. Until last year, the 444-room property was called the Fairmont but has recently been known as The Duke (as in Wayne) while undergoing a renovation.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Delta Air Lines continues to restore flights from its hubs that it had dropped years ago. From Salt Lake City, Delta will resume flights to El Paso and Cleveland. The El Paso run, last served in 2010, returns on October 1 using CRJ-900 aircraft. The Cleveland route, last flown in 2009, resumes July 8 with Airbus A319 aircraft. Delta is also adding a Boston-Las Vegas flight using Boeing 737-800s. The service resumes October 1 after a being discontinued in November, 2014.
Southwest Airlines is adding five new routes on August 7. There'll be six daily Atlanta-Nashville flights and daily flights between Cincinnati and Denver; Hartford and St. Louis; and Kansas City and Raleigh-Durham. Southwest is also starting a daily transcontinental flight between Los Angeles and Tampa.
IHG Reward Club members take note: The Waikiki Beachcomber, which recently has been flagged as a Holiday Inn, is out of the system. The venerable property in the heart of Waikiki is now being run by Outrigger, the large Hawaii-based chain.
Business Travelers Still Matter Internationally. Honest.
The airlines' rush to run more low-fare international flights and the growth of alternate carriers such as Norwegian Air Shuttle might lead you to think that business travelers no longer matter much in the scheme of things. But we remain the small, incredibly lucrative force that makes international flying profitable. IATA, the airlines' global trade group, says premium class traffic in 2017 accounted for 27.2 percent of the carriers' revenue even though we're just 5.3 percent of the traffic. Not that they treat us five times better, of course ...
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