The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business Travel Briefing for Sept. 27-Oct. 11, 2018
The briefing in brief: Everything we know about late flights is (mostly) true. Alaska Airlines will fly to ... El Paso. American and JAL will fly to Tokyo from Seattle. Norwegian slashes its narrowbody, all-coach flying. Detroit gets it Honolulu route back. And much more.

Everything We Know About Late Flights Is (Mostly) True
In the Big Book of Incontrovertible Business Travel Knowledge, there's this: Always take mainline flights because commuter code-shares aren't as reliable. There was no real way to prove that except anecdotally, of course, but we knew what we knew: Regional jet flights are more likely to be late than pure jets. Now we have more than anecdotes, however. A change in Transportation Department rules means that U.S. carriers were required to report both mainline and commuter code-share on-time statistics. The first results were published this week in the monthly Air Travel Consumer Reports and covered the first seven months of the year. The upshot: Mainline jets are more timely than commuter service. Mostly. At United, for example, mainline operations outperformed United Express regional flights in all seven months. Except for June, when mainline and commuter flights operated at the same 81.5 percent on-time clip, the same was true at Delta Air Lines. At American, where on-time performance is falling across the board, there was one month (July) when American Eagle commuter service outperformed American's jet operations. The only notable exception: Alaska Airlines, which is still smoothing out operations after its merger with Virgin America. Since April, the first month of combined Alaska Air-Virgin operations, Alaska's commuter network has been more timely by two to six percentage points. So what have we learned? Not much, but let's watch several more months of statistics to see where this is headed.

Alaska Airlines Adds El Paso While JetBlue Expands at Palm Springs
Here's something you might not have expected: Alaska Airlines will fly to El Paso, Texas. And flying there from two cities. Effective February 19, there will be daily flights from Alaska's hub in Seattle/Tacoma and from its San Diego focus city. Alaska will use three-class EMB-175 jets on both routes. Alaska Air also flies to Austin and Dallas/Love Field in Texas.
      JetBlue Airways is adding more transcon flights at Palm Springs. Between February 14 and April 30, there'll be two weekly flights from Boston/Logan. JetBlue will use an Airbus A320 on the run. Meanwhile, from its New York/Kennedy hub, JetBlue will operate daily to Palm Springs between October 10 and May 27. Airbus A321s will operate on that route and there will be some days when JetBlue offers its much-admired Mint service as well as coach.
      Southwest Airlines is now offering free, in-flight texting. Until recently, Southwest has charged $2 for the service. Free texting will not be available on all flights, however, so check the Southwest in-flight portal on the airline's app.

Japan Airlines and American Airlines Will Fly Seattle-Tokyo
Japan Airlines and its American Airlines partner in Oneworld will fly from Seattle/Tacoma to Tokyo/Narita. Flights start on March 31 using JAL's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners configured with business class, premium economy and coach. Alaska Airlines, which has a Sea-Tac hub, is also partnering with JAL as part of its Switzerland Strategy of cooperating with a wide range of international carriers. JAL hasn't flown to Seattle for more than 25 years.
      Lufthansa is reassigning its Newark-Dusseldorf route to the Eurowings low-cost division. Effective December 1, Eurowings A330s configured with business and coach class will replace Lufthansa's aircraft. Lufthansa will continue to operate on the New York/Kennedy-Dusseldorf run.
      Norwegian is pulling the plug on more of its narrowbody transatlantic flights. The discount carrier this week said it will drop flights to Edinburgh and Belfast from Providence, Rhode Island, and Newburgh, New York. The all-coach Boeing 737s flights launched last year. Norwegian has already dropped flights from Hartford, Connecticut, representing about half of its initial 737 runs to Europe from the Northeast.

Fevered Hotel Construction Will Continue for the Foreseeable Future
Are you ready for another million hotel rooms? According to Lodging Econometrics, a consulting firm, about 6,000 projects are under construction worldwide and that represents 1.1 million rooms. The United States accounts for around 40 percent of those projects, followed by China with 20 percent. This represents the fifth consecutive year that the pipeline is growing. By the way, there are now 611 brands worldwide because we need 611 brands. Six hundred and ten just wouldn't do.
      J.W. Marriott is the new name on the door of the former Trump Hotel in Panama City, Panama. After a nasty, three-year legal battle, the owners tossed the Trump name and management in March. The property had been trading as the Bahia Grand until the switch to J.W. Marriott.

Amex Will Soon Require Centurion Lounge Reservations
American Express reopened a Centurion Lounge at Dallas/Fort Worth this week. The new club is at Gate D12 and is 3,000 square feet larger than the previous Centurion Lounge. The need to add space to the lounges is part of Amex's continuing problem: The clubs are too crowded. After some other recent attempts to curtail crowds, Amex this week said it will soon have the technological capacity to take reservations for the clubs. Expect Amex to go to a reservation format sometime next year. At the moment, only Centurion and Platinum cardholders can use the club. (And the paranoid in me says watch for Amex to try to monetize club admittance in the years ahead.)
      Detroit/Metro is getting its flights to Honolulu back. After dropping the service in January, 2011, Delta Air Lines will resume flights beginning June 29. Delta will use Boeing 767-300ERs configured with 25 DeltaOne business class seatbeds, 29 Comfort+ seats and 171 coach chairs.
      Atlanta/Hartsfield now has a Shake Shack. It is located on Concourse A near Gate 28.
      Priority Pass continues to add restaurants to its cardholder privileges. At Houston/Intercontinental, Priority Pass members receive a $28 credit at Landry's in Terminal C near Gate C42 and the Cadillac Mexican Kitchen in Terminal A near Gate A17. You'll also receive a $28 credit at the American Tap Room in Terminal C at Washington/National.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines raises in-flight liquor prices on October 1. Beer will cost $8 and wine and spirits will cost $9.
      Israel travelers take note: The first leg of the A1 high-speed rail link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv/Ben Gurion airport has opened. Service operates every 30 minutes to TLV from Jerusalem's Navon Station. The trip takes 21 minutes.
      Delta Air Lines suffered another computer meltdown on Tuesday night (September 25). There was a brief nationwide ground hold on all Delta flights. Some travelers sat on planes for as long as three hours as Delta worked through its latest technology collapse.

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.