The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business Travel Briefing for September 20-31, 2018
The briefing in brief: A reminder that Hilton Honors is ridiculous. United changes boarding procedures again. Hawaiian Airlines adds a Boston to Honolulu nonstop. Lufthansa's Eurowings division will fly to Las Vegas from Dusseldorf. Politics and travel (again). And much more.

Lunacy, Thy Name is Hilton Honors
Hilton has devaluated Hilton Honors so frequently and so dramatically over the years that business travelers have hardly noticed the huge hotel chain has eliminated award charts and mostly moved to revenue-based redemptions. Still, there are moments when Hilton's lunacy shines through and reminds us what an insulting program Honors is. Consider the weekend after next in Philadelphia, to take a random example. A "standard room award" at the newish Home2 Suites across from the Philadelphia Convention Center costs 40,000 points per night. That gets you what Hilton calls a "king bed studio suite" at the extended-stay brand. On Saturday, September 30, the same room costs $279 in cash, yielding a value of almost seven-tenths of a cent per point. That's actually outsized value by Hilton Honors standards. Want the ever-so-slightly upgraded "king bed premium studio suite" instead? That'll run $30 more walk-up on September 30. But use Honors for that accommodation and you pay a "premium room rewards" rate of 123,000 points. In other words, 83,000 points--more than twice the standard room award price--just to claim an upgrade that Hilton only values at $30. And at 123,000 points for a $309 room, your value is only around a quarter of a cent per Hilton Honors point.

United Is Changing Boarding Procedures Again
United Airlines says that it is scrapping its current boarding procedures--five lanes in front of the aircraft door--and returning to a two-line system. Also changing is boarding groups. It'll work like this: 1K members of United MileagePlus will now be offered pre-boarding along with Global Service flyers and members of the military. MileagePlus Gold members will move up to group one from group two. United says it will begin texting members when boarding begins. Users of the United app also will receive a new alert as boarding starts, too. United claims that going to two lanes from five will restore sanity at the boarding gate. But, of course, United said that when it expanded to five lanes. So grains of salt, fellow flyers.
      Boston/Logan is the newest destination for Hawaiian Airlines. The Honolulu-based carrier will launch a nonstop between the two cities on April 15. The route is 5,095 nautical miles, which Hawaiian claims will be the longest domestic nonstop in aviation history. Hawaiian will use Airbus A330s on the run, aircraft freed up after October when the airline drops flights to Beijing. The planes will be configured with 18 lie-flat beds, 68 premium economy chairs and a traditional coach cabin.
      Chicago/O'Hare will get more seasonal flights to Florida from American Airlines. Between February and September, the airline will operate Saturday-only regional jets to Key West, Panama City, Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach.

Lufthansa's Eurowings Revives Air Berlin's Dusseldorf-Las Vegas Route
Here's proof positive that nothing is ever permanently dead in commercial aviation. Air Berlin's Las Vegas-Dusseldorf route expired last year with the carrier, which was eventually divvied up between Lufthansa and EasyJet. Now Lufthansa says that its discount division, Eurowings, will revive the route on July 3. Thrice-weekly flights will be operated with reconfigured Airbus A330 or A340 aircraft offering Eurowings' new business class. It has seats that convert to 78-inch beds. The planes will also offer premium economy and coach cabins.
      China Southern has revived the idea of flying nonstop between Los Angeles and Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province. There'll be three flights a week using Airbus A330-330s beginning on December 18.

Meanwhile, Back at the Intersection of Travel and Politics
Cabinet-level employees of the Trump Administration sure have problems with travel--specifically, billing taxpayers for personal trips and misusing government resources to ease their personal travel. It toppled Health and Human Resources Secretary Tom Price last year, has caused embarrassment and ridicule for Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and now may cost FEMA Administrator Brock Long his job. reported last week that Long is under investigation for improper use of FEMA vehicles to commute between Washington and his home in North Carolina. The mushrooming scandal--Long almost quit during Hurricane Florence--has already enveloped one of his underlings. John Veatch, who apparently approved Long's use of the cars, has been suspended without pay. Meanwhile, Price's axing last year apparently chastened Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. She abruptly stopped using FAA aircraft for transportation right around the time Price resigned.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
And this surprises you exactly why? Delta Air Lines and American Airlines this week both raised their first checked-bag fee to $30. That matches the hike launched last month by JetBlue Airways and promptly matched by United Airlines.
      Eurostar staff at London's St. Pancras railway station have set a 48-hour strike on September 30 and October 1. Their complaint? "Shocking and dangerous working conditions" due to overcrowding on the trains and frequent breakdowns.

Stop Giving Doug Parker Cost-Cutting Ideas ...
The Onion satirized cost-cutting at American Airlines four years ago by facetiously claiming that chief executive officer Doug Parker would phase out "free cabin pressurization to passengers." That hasn't happened--well, at least not yet--but passengers on a Jet Airways flight got an unintended taste of cost-cutting still to come. Pilots of a Jet Airways Boeing 737 flying between Mumbai and Jaipur today (September 20) neglected to flip the so-called "bleed switch." That's the control that pressurizes the passenger cabin and keeps it at optimal levels during a flight. According to Indian aviation officials, around 30 of the 166 passengers suffered nose bleeds or bleeding in their ears. Jet Airways acknowledged the snafu on Twitter and said it "regrets the inconvenience caused to its guests." Which is a lame apology--but probably more than we'd ever get from Parker.

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.