The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business Travel Briefing for May 17-May 31, 2018
The briefing in brief: Marriott is building faster than anyone in lodging. United shifts some feeder routes to Dulles from Newark. Delta begins pre-select meal service for international flyers. Alaska Air adds new fees and ticket rules. Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas moving to Hilton.

It's Marriott's World. We Just Check in to It.
If you have any doubts at all that Marriott is increasingly dominant in lodging, consider the newest statistics on U.S. hotel-building trends. The 29-brand chain already has more than 6,500 locations worldwide and is on track to open around 350 new properties this year with more than 43,000 rooms. That's not only the rough equivalent of one new hotel every day, it also represents more than 30 percent of all the new properties expected to open this year in the United States. Its longer-term pipeline--which covers commitments and planning for future properties as well as hotels under construction--covers nearly 1,400 hotels and more than 175,000 rooms. As it has for several years, Marriott's fastest-growing U.S. brand is Fairfield Inn with nearly 250 projects in the works. (In recent weeks, new Fairfield Inns opened in Greenville, North Carolina; Louisville, Kentucky; Springfield, Missouri; Longmont, Colorado; Gainesville, Florida; and Batesville, Mississippi.) Also growing fast are TownePlace Suites and Residence Inn, each with more than 200 properties in the pipeline. (TownePlace branches have recently opened in Louisville and Hays, Kansas, while Residence Inn outposts have opened in Lafayette, Indiana, and on Elmwood Park Boulevard in New Orleans.) Also new are Courtyards in Corvallis, Oregon; in downtown South Bend, Indiana; and near Cedar Park in Austin, Texas.

United Shifts Some Feeder Service to Dulles From Newark
Get ready for a lot more small regional-jet flying (and, probably, more delays) from United Airlines at Newark. The airline is adding frequencies on 15 routes and more than half of the flying will be with tiny EMB-145 or EMB-E175 commuter jets. Why the expansion, especially with aircraft other carriers are dumping? United has the planes and current management is convinced it's cheaper to fly them than to scrap them. It'll also use the RJs to increase Newark-Key West to year-round service. But the bigger news (albeit still with those smaller planes) may be the shift of three regional routes to its Washington/Dulles hub. Effective October 4, United dumps Newark flights to Ithaca, New York; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Those routes will now operate from Dulles with twice-daily CRJ-200 aircraft.
      Chicago/O'Hare has five new gates and they all belong to American Airlines. The $78 million so-called L-Stinger complex opened last Friday (May 11) and are the first new gates at O'Hare in about 25 years. The gates on Concourse L are designated L20 to L24. The facility is a long, long walk from the main section of Terminal 3 and it is expressly intended to accommodate regional-jet operations.

Alaska Airlines Hikes Some Fees and Tightens Ticket Rules
Alaska Airlines got much bigger with the purchase of and amalgamation with Virgin America, so it should not surprise you that it's beginning to act like a bigger airline. In other words, more fees and more annoying rules. Effective June 5, you'll pay $125 for all changes and cancellations. (Until now, Alaska allowed free cancellations and changes made more than 60 days before departure.) The same-day flight-change fee rises to $50 (from $25) on most routes. Also gone: the free-cancellation policy for tickets purchased within 24 hours of departure. Alaska's new policies and fees are detailed here.
      Southwest Airlines is testing a no-questions-asked policy of awarding 2,500 Rapid Rewards points if you wait more than ten minutes in a PreCheck line. The test runs until June 29 at Oakland Airport. Details and procedures are here.

Delta Air Lines Expands Pre-Selection of Meals on Europe and Asia Routes
Delta Air Lines is finally ramping up its policy of allowing business class passengers to pre-select meals on international flights. Assuming you're a SkyMiles member, you'll receive an E-mail three days before departure allowing you to select your meal options. The program begins June 1 and is heavily skewed to Europe flights. As currently planned, pre-select will be available on 21 routes from New York/Kennedy, 17 from Atlanta, ten from Detroit/Metro and five from Los Angeles. The option will be available on some other routes, too. Complete details are here. The service was first tested last summer and Delta has been promising to implement it since last fall.
      Lufthansa business class passengers will get upgraded in-flight amenities. The so-called Dream Collection--blanket, pillowcase, padded seat cover and sleep shirt--will first be available on Lufthansa flights to the West Coast and should reach other U.S. routes before the end of the year.
      Brussels Airlines flyers have endured two days of strikes this week as the Lufthansa subsidiary squabbles with its pilots. Talks broke down this week, too, so strikes may continue into June.

Hilton's Waldorf Astoria Will Take Over the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas
The swankest non-casino hotel in Las Vegas, the Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter on the Strip, has sold. The new owners will dump Mandarin as managers of the nine-year-old property and reflag it as a Waldorf Astoria, a Hilton brand. The 47-story, 392-room hotel is expected to convert August 31 after the $214 million sale closes. Lord only knows how many Hilton Honors points this one will cost for an award night.
      Radisson is the new brand name on the door of the 378-room hotel in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. The property had been operating as an AC Marriott.

British Airways Flyers Get TSA PreCheck. Kinda. Sorta.
The TSA says British Airways travelers can now use their PreCheck privileges when flying the airline. Well, some BA flyers. Since there's no PreCheck line in Terminal 7 at New York/Kennedy, by far BA's largest U.S. gateway, you won't be able to use PreCheck there. BA says there won't be a PreCheck lane at T7 until after construction is finished, presumably this summer. The silver lining: You will have access to PreCheck lines in most other U.S. airports served by British Airways.
      Electronic snooping by U.S. Customs officials may not be legal. After years of asserting that it can seize or search our electronic devices without cause--something Customs agents can do with luggage--the government ran into a potential roadblock in a federal court in Boston. The U.S. District Court last week refused to dismiss a lawsuit over the government's authority to conduct warrantless electronic searches. In her 52-page ruling, Judge Denise Casper said the case brought on behalf of 11 flyers by the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation raises issues that must be litigated because "digital searches are different" from physical ones.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines Hawaii flyers take note: Effective June 7, a three-class Boeing 777-200ER will be deployed on the Dallas/Fort Worth-Kona route. The run has been served with a Boeing 767.
      South Florida travelers take note: The Brightline train expands to MiamiCentral station on Saturday (May 19). There will be rides to Fort Lauderdale (30 minutes) and West Palm Beach (60 minutes). More details on the privately owned rail service are here. Brightline got off to a shaky, unfortunate start in January.

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.