The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
The Business Travel Briefing for April 5-19, 2018
The briefing in brief: Airlines still want Havana routes for some reason. Alaska Airlines juggles its California route network. Memphis closes an airport concourse. France transportation is in chaos. The once-grand Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia changes names again. And more.

If at First You Don't Succeed, Keep Flying to Havana
It's hard to understand why U.S. carriers would want to add new routes to Havana just now. The much-anticipated resumption of Cuba service in 2016 ran smack into an economic reality: Many fewer Americans than expected wanted to fly to Havana. That led to four carriers--Delta, Alaska, Spirit and Frontier--dumping all or some of their Havana routes. And now that President Trump has once again tightened restrictions on Cuba travel it seems odd that airlines are interested in replacing the cancelled service. But the Transportation Department has announced that it has tentatively reallocated the service. Barring any last-minute changes, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines each will be permitted to fly once a day from Miami; JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines will be awarded a Fort Lauderdale route; JetBlue will also be permitted to fly once a week from Boston/Logan; and United Airlines will receive six weekly flights from its Houston/Intercontinental hub.

Alaska Airlines Shuffles Its California Route Network
Even before Alaska Airlines bought San Francisco-based Virgin America, the Seattle-based carrier was working hard to stake its claim to the rich California market. Now that the merger is complete, Alaska Airlines is adjusting its California operations. San Francisco-Cancun flights have already ended and four other SFO routes will go in June: Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Mexico City. Two other routes--Los Angeles to Orlando and San Diego to Mexico City--will also end. In their place will be a new transcontinental route between San Jose and New York/Kennedy. It'll launch July 6 using Airbus A320 aircraft. Alaska will also open an Alaska Lounge later this month in Terminal 7 at JFK.
      Southwest Airlines has driven United Airlines off a route in the Midwest. On June 7, United will dump its Cleveland-Milwaukee commuter service. This comes after Southwest last November launched two daily flights on the route using its Boeing 737s.

Memphis Closes Concourse B As It Plans Life After Hub Status
Memphis Airport was once a major hub for Southern Airways, Republic Airlines and, eventually, Northwest Airlines. In fact, it was the "notown" in the snarky rejoinder that explained Northwest hubbed in "Motown [Detroit], Snowtown [Minneapolis/St. Paul] and Notown." But life has been hard at MEM in the Delta era. Northwest's 300-flights-a-day schedule has shriveled to fewer than a hundred operated by Delta. So airport authorities are doing the inevitable: shrinking and repositioning MEM for modern realities. To that end, Concourse B closed yesterday (April 4). Delta flights have moved to six gates on Concourse A and Allegiant flights have migrated to a pair of gates on Concourse C. The international arrivals gates and Customs office on Concourse B will remain open. Arriving passengers will now have to board buses to reach their baggage carousels on other concourses. Complete details are here.
      Orlando has abandoned its attempt to privatize airport security. Orlando has talked for several years about dumping the TSA in favor of private security, a move allowed by the 2001 law that created the TSA. Laws notwithstanding, however, the TSA has used its bureaucratic powers to stifle virtually all privatization attempts. Orlando authorities backed off last week after a meeting with several Florida politicians and a TSA official promised to address the airport's complaints about security checkpoints and long lines.
      Boston/Logan has lost one of its two American Admirals Club. The lounge at Gate B4 is now closed. The B30 club remains open.

Philadelphia's Once-Grand Bellevue-Stratford Has Still Another New Name
The hotel at the corner of South Broad and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia has another new name, the latest chapter in the story of a 115-year-old property that started life as the Bellevue-Stratford. Originally a 1,090-room grande dame with glittering ballrooms and a global clientele, the 170-room survivor at the top of the building is once again being called the Bellevue. It quietly shifted to the Hyatt Unbound Collection last month after eight years trading as the Hyatt at the Bellevue. Before that, it was branded a Park Hyatt. But that's only the tail end of this strange tale. After fading in the post-war years, the Bellevue-Stratford achieved international notoriety in 1976 when the attendees of an American Legion convention were struck with a pneumonia-like illness. It killed 29 people, infected nearly 200 others and was eventually dubbed Legionnaire's Disease. The Bellevue-Stratford closed soon afterwards, but reopened in 1979 as a 565-room Fairmont Hotel. It became a Westin in 1980, but closed again in 1986. The massive structure in the heart of downtown Philadelphia was eventually repurposed as a mixed-use complex with office space, a fitness center, an atrium, underground shopping and a food court. The hotel in its modern form--the lobby and restaurant are at the top of the building--reopened in 1989 as the prosaically named the Hotel Atop the Bellevue. New managers took over several years later and shortened the name to The Bellevue. Hyatt arrived in 1996 and has struggled to make the rump hotel relevant ever since.

Yes, France Is Working About As Well As You Expect During the Strikes
As we warned you would happen, French transportation is grinding to a halt, collapsing under the weight of strikes at Air France and SNCF, the nationwide railroad system. At Air France, additional strikes are now planned for seven more days in April starting on Saturday (April 7). Air France has posted a strike page that should alert you to cancellations. Meanwhile, national rail employees continue to insist they will walk off the job two days out of every five well into June. The rail system has posted its strike page here. The SNCF strikes will also impact Eurostar schedules and it is listing delays and cancellations here.
      American Airlines continues to juggle its Latin America routes. After a spate of cancellations announced earlier this year, it is adding a few routes, including Los Angeles-Buenos Aires; Dallas/Fort Worth-Oaxaca; and Miami-Georgetown, Guyana. Flights begin in mid-December.
      Norwegian Air Shuttle is dumping two U.S. routes to Edinburgh, Scotland. The runs from Providence, Rhode Island, and Hartford, Connecticut, are being cut. Also discontinued: flights from Hartford to Cork and Shannon in Ireland.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
Amtrak riders take note: The railroad has discontinued business class seats and service on The Crescent, which operates from New York/Penn to New Orleans. Also losing business class: The Auto Train, which runs from Lorton, Virginia, to Sanford/Orlando.
      Presque Isle, the airport in Northeast Maine, is getting a second connection. It already has Pen Air commuter flights to Boston and now will have United Airlines commuter service to its Newark hub. There'll be two daily flights weekdays and one on weekends starting July 1.
      The U.S. air marshal service lost about $24 million in funding in the omnibus spending bill passed last month by Congress and signed by President Trump. Wonder why it took so long to find out? Do you think anyone has actually read that 2,200-page monstrosity?

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.