The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business Travel Briefing for Aug. 23-Sept. 6, 2018
The briefing in brief: American drops more Asia service and shuffles its European routes. Air Canada buys Aeroplan after all. American Express adds "luxury" Starwood card. Tel Aviv gets more U.S. flights. Marriott keeps growing. Schiphol guards plan day-long strike. And much more.

American Drops More Asia Service and Continues Ducking Most Competition
As explained last week, American Airlines hates to fly in competitive markets. So it's no surprise that it is dropping another China route--Chicago-Shanghai--to go with its previously announced abandonment of Chicago-Beijing. American is also slashing Chicago/O'Hare-Tokyo/Narita service to three weekly flights beginning in December. It's all part of a massive shift of international operations that retrenches American at fortress hubs and ducks competition elsewhere. Also going are flights from LAX to Toronto/Pearson and service between Chicago and Manchester, England. And the endlessly shrinking New York/Kennedy operation, where American is being slaughtered by Delta and JetBlue, loses three more routes: the seasonal Dublin flights; the Edinburgh service and flights to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The airline's Fort Lauderdale-Port-au-Prince route is also being cut. In their place are a slew of new seasonal flights from Philadelphia (to Edinburgh, Berlin, and Dubrovnik); Dallas/Fort Worth (Dublin and Munich); and Phoenix, where American will add service to London/Heathrow, where its joint venture partner British Airways already operates. There are some genuine surprises in the new service. There'll be summer flights from Philadelphia to Bologna-the first U.S. nonstop to Italy's food capital--and summer service from Chicago to Athens. And there will be one competitive new route--a year-round flight between Charlotte and Munich--where American will slug it out with Lufthansa. That flight begins March 31.

Surprise! (Not!) Air Canada Buys Aeroplan on Second Attempt
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Air Canada bought back its frequency program, Aeroplan, on its second attempt. After striking out last month with an initial offer of C$250 million, Air Canada won back its program this week with an offer of $450 million. (Air Canada will also assume liability for Aeroplan member points, which is estimated at $1.9 billion.) Air Canada is buying the program with the assistance of its banking partners, TD Bank, CIBC and Visa Canada. Air Canada spun off Aeroplan in 2005 and said last year it would replace the program as its loyalty plan in 2020 after it couldn't agree to a contract with the current owners. With Aeroplan now back in the Air Canada fold--the deal is expected to close in the fall--the airline says it will continue planning a new program and existing Aeroplan credits eventually will be folded into the yet-to-be-disclosed scheme.
      American Express has officially rolled out its new "luxury" Starwood Preferred card. The card, literally called the Starwood Preferred Luxury Card is pricy at $450 a year. However, the fee is offset by a $300 annual statement credit for Starwood/Marriott purchases and Gold Elite status. You'll earn six points per dollar at Starwood and Marriott hotels; three points at U.S. restaurants and on tickets booked directly with airlines; and two points on other charges. The card also comes with Priority Pass membership and a free hotel night each year you hold the card. There's also a 100,000-point acquisition bonus, but many existing Marriott/Starwood cardholders will be locked out of the bonanza if you don't apply by Monday, August 26.

Tel Aviv Is Suddenly the Airport With the Mostest
Earlier this summer, United Airlines announced that it would launch flights to Tel Aviv from its Washington/Dulles hub. United already flies to Israel from its Newark and San Francisco hubs. Now Delta Air Lines wants more of the U.S.-Israel market, too. It said this week that it would add a second daily flight to Tel Aviv from its New York/Kennedy hub. The new flight, launching next summer, will depart at 3:35 p.m. for a 9:30 a.m. next day arrival at TLV.
      Boston/Logan travelers get another Priority Pass dining option. Stephanie's in Terminal B now gives cardholders a $28 food and beverage credit. Priority Pass last week added Jerry Remy's in Terminal C.
      New York/Kennedy is getting a larger Flagship Lounge in Terminal 8. On September 1, American Airlines expands the facility on Concourse B by 35 percent. Of course, no good news from an airline goes unpunished. American is growing the Flagship Lounge, which serves mostly international premium class flyers, by absorbing an adjacent Admirals Club. That will leave American flyers with just one Admirals location in the terminal. It's on Concourse C, where most of American's domestic flights operate.

For All We Know, Marriott May Be Building a Hotel in Your Basement, Too
The Marriott-Starwood loyalty program merger over the weekend surely dominated your lodging thinking. (And if you haven't yet linked and merged your accounts, do it now. The option is now highlighted on all Marriott-related Web sites.) Meanwhile, though, the 7,000-hotel chain continues to open new properties at breakneck speed around the world. There are new SpringHill Suites in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Middle River, Maryland. New Residence Inn outlets have opened in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Louisville, Kentucky. There's the usual clutch of new Fairfield Inn branches, too. They are located in Charlottesville and Alexandria, Virginia; Charleston, West Virginia, and Columbus, Indiana. Marriott also added a Renaissance hotel in Philadelphia. The 152-room hotel on Chestnut Street is the former Omni and most recently has been trading as The Franklin. Marriott has even opened a Moxy hotel in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Saarbruecken Square.
      InterContinental Hotels has opened its first Avid Hotel. It's located in Oklahoma City. You'll recall the new chain is positioned as a competitor to Hampton Inn and offers tiny rooms, no drawers or closets and ledges masquerading as desks.
      Hyatt has opened two new hotels in Asia. A 304-room Hyatt Regency is located in the suburban Jiading district of Shanghai and a 344-room Hyatt Regency resort has opened on Seragaki, a private island off the coast of Okinawa, Japan.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
Alaska Airlines is juggling beverage service for first class passengers. Effective August 1, pre-departure alcoholic beverages were eliminated. (That was a Virgin America standard.) Effective November 1, however, Alaska will offer all first class flyers a pre-departure glass of sparkling wine. That perk has been standard on Alaska's flights to and from Hawaii.
      Amsterdam flyers take note: Security officers at Schiphol Airport have announced a 24-hour strike for Tuesday, September 4. The officers have been mounting 15-minute work stoppages for the last six weeks. The airport and the union have been squabbling over wages and work schedules.
      Uber will begin asking some airport-bound passengers for their carrier and then base the price on time and distance required to reach the specific terminal. The new pricing regimen rolls out starting Monday (August 27) at New York/JFK and New York/LaGuardia and will eventually spread to airports such as Mexico City, Paris and San Francisco.

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.