The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
The Business Travel Briefing for July 13-27, 2018
The briefing in brief: After snubbing U.S. market, Singapore Airlines really hopes you'll fly its nonstops. Southwest adds more routes from Love Field. The TSA is coming after your food, but not officially. Chase loses a bundle on credit cards. Cities want out of the hotel business.

After Snubbing U.S. Market, Singapore Airlines Really Hopes You'll Fly Its Nonstops
When Singapore Airlines bailed on its nonstops from Newark and Los Angeles in 2013, the carrier made it known that its London operations were more important than U.S. service. The U.S. nonstops were losing money, after all, and its London/Heathrow-Changi service is the fourth-highest-revenue-generating route in the world. With new ultra-long-haul Airbus A350-900 aircraft promising greater cost efficiencies, however, Singapore Air is planning a renewed assault on the U.S. market. Revival of the Newark nonstop was announced in May and SIA this week unveiled more of its U.S. strategy. Beginning November 2, nonstops to Los Angeles will return, initially with three weekly flights, then ten weekly by the end of the year. SIA will also increase flights on its Singapore-San Francisco nonstop route, where it competes with United Airlines. (United is also expanding to twice-daily SFO-SIN flights in October.) SIA's moves come with a cost, however. The airline is dumping its LAX-Seoul nonstops and may soon announce the end of its LAX-Tokyo/Narita nonstops, too. Whether the Singapore nonstops can prosper the second time around is questionable. Singapore itself isn't as important a destination as it was when SIA first launched nonstops in 2004. And SIA's nonstops to Changi from LAX, Newark and San Francisco don't actually offer a substantial time savings for most flyers connecting to Asia. Carriers such as Cathay Pacific have vastly increased their schedules and offer better Asia connections from more U.S. cities than SIA.

Southwest Adds More Routes From Dallas/Love Field
Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines have been sparring for several years over Delta's supposed "squatting" on a gate at Dallas/Love Field for its flights to Atlanta. Southwest has even claimed in legal filings that it has had to restrict its Love Field schedule due to Delta's presence at gates it leased from United Airlines. Well, there's what Southwest tells the court and the reality. And the reality is that Southwest has "optimized" its schedule at Love and has suddenly found room to launch 15 additional flights early next year. New cities on the Love schedule include Charleston (South Carolina); Louisville; Milwaukee; Minneapolis/St. Paul; and three Florida destinations: Fort Myers, Jacksonville and Panama City Beach. That brings Southwest to nearly 200 daily flights at Love, where it controls 18 of the 20 available gates.
      United Airlines is dropping three routes from its Chicago/O'Hare hub. Effective September 4, the airline will dump flights to Mobile, Alabama; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Champaign/Urbana, Illinois. All three routes were served with regional jets.
      Priority Pass has gained a presence at Washington/National Airport. Cardholders will receive a $28 food and beverage credit at the Bracket Room, a restaurant opposite Gate 12 in Terminal B. That's close to the gates of Alaska and United airlines and the Delta Shuttle.

Yes, The TSA Is Coming After Your Food, But Not Officially ...
I warned you back in April that the TSA was "nationaliz[ing] the concept of making us organize our carry-ons for their convenience." Now more and more travelers--including two JoeSentMe members in the last week--are being harassed and forced to remove virtually everything, including food items, from their carry-on bags. As the TSA pronouncement in April warned, "TSA officers may instruct travelers to separate other items from carry-ons, such as foods, powders, and any materials that can clutter bags." At the moment, PreCheck travelers who can access a PreCheck line aren't being hassled. But most other travelers--and all non-PreCheck lines--may be imposing the new regime. But, of course, you never know when or why the TSA will demand your food be removed. The TSA reiterated again this week that there's no official policy requiring you to remove food. Just the whim of a TSA agent who may demand you do it. Bottom line: Put all of your carry-on food in a zip-top bag, which will make it easier to remove when the TSA gets picky--or peckish.
      TSA screeners are immune from financial damages, according to a federal appeals court in Philadelphia. The court said the Federal Tort Claims Act shielded screeners from liability even if they were overly aggressive or overzealous. The case stems from a 2006 incident at Philadelphia Airport where a flyer named Nadine Pellegrino was arrested after being randomly selected for additional screening. She was acquitted after a trial in 2008. She later sued for false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, but the 2-1 ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ended her quest for financial compensation.

Cities Want Out of the Hotel Business
Whenever private equity dries up, cities decide they have to build hotels at taxpayer expense. The reasons are always a combination of "creating jobs" and the need for the city in question to remain "competitive" in the hunt for convention or meeting business. Of course, the results are almost always a disaster. Two recent examples: The 1,000-room Sheraton Grand in Phoenix and the 450-room Hilton Omaha. Phoenix and Omaha are now both cutting sweetheart deals to get out from under the properties. In Phoenix, the city spent $350 million to build the 33-story downtown property in 2008. Now it has arranged to sell it to Marriott for $255 million. That's more than just a paper loss. Phoenix still owes about $300 million on the hotel, but is taking this opportunity to get taxpayers out from under. Marriott, which hadn't made a hotel real estate purchase in five years, says it will use the Phoenix hotel as the "cutting-edge model" of its planned transformation of Sheraton, a brand it picked up in the 2016 merger with Starwood. Meanwhile, Omaha city officials have agreed to a 30-year lease on the Hilton attached to the city's downtown convention center. It tried to sell the 14-year-old building outright, but the property is only valued at $105 million, $35 million less than what the city owes. The lease agreement with an asset-management firm gets the city out from under around $95 million of the debt. The Seattle-based company has the right to buy the property any time during the 30-year lease.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
J.P. Morgan Chase has what could only be called a banner second quarter: Profits rose to a record $8.2 billion. But buried in that blizzard of cash was a $330 million credit card charge. The cause: Chase executives admitted travelers are redeeming Ultimate Rewards points and other currency tied to Chase cards at a faster clip than the bank expected.
      Delta Air Lines has set April 1 as the date it will begin its previously announced resumption of nonstops between Seattle and Osaka. Delta, which abandoned the route in November, 2013, will use Boeing 767s when flights resume.
      First Air and Canadian North, small carriers serving Canadian Arctic destinations, are merging. Pending Canadian government approval, the carriers expect the deal to be complete by the end of the year.
      Ryanair, the gigantic European discounter, is staring down a series of coordinated labor actions. Pilots at its Ireland home struck yesterday (July 12) and cabin crews at Ryanair bases in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy expect to strike on July 25 and July 26. The battle is over work rules, which vary from country to country.
      Nasty coach seating won't be stopped by the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency said last week that it has no evidence that aircraft densely packed with reduced-legoom seats pose a greater risk during emergency evacuations. The FAA was responding to a 2017 court-mandated review of its policies concerning coach seating and evacuation standards.

The High Price of Tom Price
Like Donald Trump or hate him, it's hard to ignore the profligate ways of his Cabinet secretaries. Just-departed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt committed a laundry list of petty offenses--including, apparently, sending his staff out for his laundry and Ritz-Carlton moisturizer. Other Cabinet appointees--notably frequent-flying Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke--are also under scrutiny. But the king of the creeps, Tom Price, was a travel thief of startling proportions. During his seven-month tenure as Health and Human Services Secretary, Price ran up a travel tab in excess of $1.2 million. According to a federal audit released today (July 13), most of the cost was unnecessary, since Price chartered flights and took private jets when an array of cheaper commercial options was readily available. In fact, 20 of the 21 flights examined by the agency's inspector general violated government travel policies. HHS is now trying to recover $341,000 directly from Price.

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.