The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business Travel Briefing for March 29-April 12, 2018
The briefing in brief: Denver gets two new airport lounges--and we get a peek behind the financial curtain. Air New Zealand is flying to Chicago and Qantas won't be far behind. France's double trouble: Air France and railroad strikes. More crappy American Airlines planes. And more.

Denver Gets Two New Airport Clubs--and We Get a Peek Behind the Financial Curtain
Denver International has been growing fast thanks to the fact that both United and Southwest hub there and low-fare/high-fee Frontier Airlines claims DEN as its hometown airport. The airport has been short on lounges, however, something the city and the facility's management are finally addressing. After receiving six proposals, Denver will add an American Express Centurion Lounge and a Plaza Premium club from the Hong Kong-based common-use operator. What's most fun, however, is that the negotiations have been comparatively transparent and most financial documents have been posted for all to examine. The new Amex lounge, to be built on Concourse C, will cover 14,650 square feet. The rent? Essentially $2 million annually, although the airport will get a 25 percent cut of the revenue, estimated at $153,000 in the first year. Amex also expects a build-out cost of $14 million, a cool $950 a square foot. (Now you understand why your Platinum Card fee recently jumped to $550 a year.) The new Plaza Premium Lounge will be built on Concourse A. It'll be about 11,750 square feet and cost more than $10.8 million to build, roughly $920 a square foot. The lease will cost about $1.05 million a year although it could rise due to the airport's piece of the action. That's estimated to be 13 percent annually plus an additional one percent vigorish every two years of the 10-year term. Plaza Premium estimates its first-year gross revenue at $9.5 million.

They Come From the Lands Down Under and Are Headed to Chicago
Air New Zealand says it will launch nonstops this fall between Chicago/O'Hare and Auckland. The three-weekly roundtrips begin November 30 using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners configured with lie-flat business class beds, premium economy and coach. The carrier, partners with O'Hare-hubbed United Airlines in the Star Alliance, says flights will take around 15 hours from Auckland to Chicago and an extra hour on the Chicago-Auckland run. United will code-share on the route, too. But ANZ may not have the Down Under market to itself for too long. Qantas of Australia is eying Chicago, too, not a surprise since it is in the Oneworld Alliance with American Airlines, which also hubs at O'Hare. Qantas last week launched its longest nonstop, Perth-London, and now says a Chicago route could be announced in several months. The likely destination? Brisbane. But the new Qantas route might depend on whether it and American get government approval for a transpacific joint venture. The carriers recently reapplied after the Transportation Department nixed their first application in the waning days of the Obama Administration. Qantas and American are hoping for a more sympathetic hearing from the Trump Administration's DOT.
      Alitalia has ended its nonstop flight to Abu Dhabi, putting rather emphatic punctuation at the end of its alliance with Etihad. The Gulf Carrier bailed on its investment in the now-bankrupt Italian airline as it attempts to unwind its disastrous policy of taking equity stakes in money-losing European operators.
      Alaska Airlines added Aer Lingus as a partner in the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Aer Lingus launches nonstops to Dublin from Alaska's Seattle-Tacoma hub on May 18.

Shuffling (Hotel Brands) From Philadelphia to LA
It's hard enough keeping up with hotel chains as they add new properties at a runaway pace. Throw in brand conversions and it gets really complicated. But these two are notable: An ownership change in Philadelphia means the tired (okay, really tired) Sheraton Society Hill will get a renovation. It'll also ditch the Sheraton brand along with the makeover. And out in Los Angeles (well, Manhattan Beach), the one-time Manhattan Beach Marriott has gotten its renovation and emerged as the Westdrift. The property is aligned with Marriott's Autograph Collection.
      Hilton has opened a spate of suite properties in recent weeks. In Las Vegas, there's now a Homewood Suites on Dean Martin Drive, about a half-mile off the Strip. There's also a Homewood Suites on North Quinn Street in Arlington, Virginia, just off I-66 (the Lee Highway) near the Key Bridge. On Pioneer Square in Seattle, a 282-room Embassy Suites opened. In Fort Lauderdale, a Home2 Suites has opened at 2800 SW 149th Street.

Three More Strike Days at Air France, Plus Continuing Rail Strikes
April in Paris will really suck. Air France unions and the workforce of the French national railroad system are on the warpath against President Emanuel Macron's proposed labor reforms. After one strike last week, Air France is gearing up for another one tomorrow (March 30). The airline says about a quarter of flights, both long-haul and short, will be grounded. But that's not all, folks. The unions threaten two more days of strikes, including next Tuesday (April 3) and Saturday (April 7). And who knows when after that. Meanwhile, we do know that SNCF, the state railroad, is gearing up for two strike days out of five through June. The first strike days on the railroads are due on Monday evening (April 2) and Tuesday. In other words, book away from France if possible during the weeks (and probably months) ahead.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines flyers take note: American continues to foist those brutal Boeing 737 MAXs on travelers. The planes, already known for their awful seat pitch (just 30 inches on "slim-line" seats") and skimpy lavs, will be added to the Miami-Denver and Miami-Antigua routes. The deployments begin in August.
      Lufthansa is beginning to put its new Airbus A350-900 aircraft on U.S. routes. You now may find the plane on three routes to/from Lufthansa's Munich hub: Denver, Chicago/O'Hare and Newark. The plane premieres on Vancouver-Munich on May 1. Lufthansa's A350s are configured with 48 business class beds, 21 premium economy seats and 224 coach chairs.
      Great Lakes Airlines, a commuter carrier best known for service around the Upper Midwest and Plains states, has stopped flying. However, its subsidiary, ADI, continues to fly from Denver to Pierre and Watertown, South Dakota.

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.