The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for September 13-27, 2018
The briefing in brief: Dozens of Chicago hotels are on strike and seven more U.S. cities are targeted. Aer Lingus adds Minneapolis and Montreal flights. Air France returns to Dallas/Fort Worth. After a decade of delay, California Pacific Airlines flies. More airport dining for Priority Pass.
Two Dozen Chicago Hotels Hit By Strikes, Seven More Cities and Hawaii Targeted
Just when you thought you would be okay on the road if you avoided the Carolinas, here come hotel strikes. Union contracts expired August 31 at 30 hotels in Chicago and strikes already have begun at 26 properties. Striking workers include housekeeping staff, doormen, cooks and other service employees aligned with Unite Here Local 1. The result? Unmade beds, uncleaned rooms, closed restaurants and general disorder at properties such as the Ritz-Carlton and Sheraton Grand, the Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place, the JW Marriott and Chicago classics such as the Palmer House, the Ambassador and The Drake. (See the complete list here.) Strikers have literally been making noise, too, banging pots 24/7 on the streets surrounding the affected hotels. Some properties have flown in non-union workers from other cities to try to fill the gap. The Chicago fight is over healthcare. The union wants year-round coverage for employees laid off during seasonal lulls. Strikes could spread in the weeks ahead, too. Unite Here Local 5 employees in Hawaii voted this week to strike at six Marriott-branded hotels in Honolulu and on Maui. Their demand: a livable wage for 40 hours of work in that high-cost state. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 workers at seven Marriott properties in Boston voted last night (Wednesday, September 12) to walk off the job. No strike date has been set in Hawaii or Boston, however. Unite Here is also targeting Marriott-branded properties in six other cities. You can see that list of those properties here. (An update on Friday, September 14: United Here Local 2 members in San Francisco voted almost unanimously to authorize a strike at Marriott hotels. No strike date was set.)
Aer Lingus Adds Two More Destinations: Minneapolis and Montreal
I explained three years ago that British Airways' parent company was buying Aer Lingus to turn Dublin into an alternate hub to overcrowded London/Heathrow. Last year alone Aer Lingus added routes to Seattle, Philadelphia and Miami. Now the relentless expansion continues. The carrier announced this week that it would add two more North American destinations: Minneapolis/St. Paul and Montreal/Dorval. Neither, you will note, are hubs for American Airlines, BA's joint venture partner and Oneworld partner, so this is clearly a play to pick off European connection traffic from MSP-hubbed Delta (SkyTeam) and Air Canada (Star Alliance). The daily MSP-Dublin run launches July 8 using Boeing 757s configured with 12 business class and 165 coach seats. Montreal flights begin August 8 using new Airbus A321neo aircraft in a similar configuration.
Air France is returning to Dallas/Fort Worth for the first time since shortly after the 9/11 attacks. It resumes service March 31 with five weekly flights that will operate until October 25. Flights will operate with 224-seat Airbus A330s.
A Decade Later, California Pacific Finally Launches Flights
You probably shouldn't take it seriously when an 88-year-old guy tells you in the middle of a global financial meltdown that he's going to launch a passenger airline from an airport with no commercial service. But don't ignore him if he's Ted Vallas, the California-based multi-millionaire who once ran a small airline called Air Resorts. Despite a decade of regulatory setbacks and restarts, Vallas' dream, California Pacific, is now flying. Kinda. Sorta. Once also known as C.P. Air, the airline was created to return passenger service to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, about 30 miles north of San Diego. But to finally jump-start operations, the now-98-year-old Vallas recently purchased Aerodynamics, a small commuter airline flying to Denver from Pierre and Watertown, South Dakota. He has rebranded Aerodynamics as California Pacific and hopes to launch the Carlsbad flights in November. CP has announced routes to Las Vegas, Reno, San Jose and Phoenix/Mesa. The two Denver runs use 50-seat EMB-145 regional jets and the same aircraft will be used on the Carlsbad routes. For more information, check out the California Pacific Web site.
Cape Air, a commuter operation that flies for several airlines, thinks it sees a winter opportunity linking New York City with Cape Cod. The carrier intends to launch a New York/JFK-Nantucket-Hyannis run on October 23. The daily flight will operate with 9-seat Cessna aircraft until mid-May, 2019.
Alaska Airlines is dropping flights between Los Angeles and Mexico City. Service ends on November 6.
American Airlines Will Defend Its Hubs Even Against Gnats
As we've explained before, American Airlines under chief executive Doug Parker does not believe in competing. He likes hiding behind and dominating at his fortress hubs. But woe to you if you are a small carrier intent on competing with American at one of its fortresses. One example: Almost immediately after Frontier Airlines announced routes connecting Madison, Wisconsin, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, with American's Phoenix hub, Parker struck back. American hastily announced it would start Phoenix-GRR and Phoenix-Madison routes, too. Parker did the same thing last month when Mexican discount carrier Volaris announced twice-weekly flights between Guadalajara and American's Charlotte hub. Parker promptly hit back with competitive route. All three AA flights will operate between January 1 and April 6 using Airbus A319s.
Tel Aviv gets another route from Europe that could aid connecting U.S. flyers. The revived TAP Air Portugal in April will launch a daily Airbus A321LR route from its Lisbon hub. TAP flies from Toronto, Boston, Newark, New York/JFK and Miami to Lisbon and the airport is compact, optimized for connecting service.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Priority Pass continues to build out its non-airport-club access options. The latest: two restaurants at San Francisco Airport. On Concourse F in Terminal 3, your Priority Pass will get you a $28 per person credit at the San Francisco Giants Clubhouse or Yankee Pier. The former is near Gate 82. The latter is near Gate 72. United Airlines is the primary carrier in Terminal 3.
Aeromexico pilots say they will strike on October 1. The battle with management is over the carrier's decision to end some jumpseat-travel benefits after Aeromexico's July crash in Northern Mexico.
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