The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business Travel Briefing for October 11-25, 2018
The briefing in brief: American Airlines screws up in Charlotte again. Strike spreads to dozens of Marriott hotels in eight cities. Hyatt buys management contracts for as many as 100 hotels. WestJet expands at Calgary. JetBlue juggles its route map. One last TWA delay. And more.

American Airlines Is Shocked--Shocked!--to Learn Hurricanes Affect Operations
For a system as powerful and destructive as Hurricane Michael, business travel flying was largely unaffected Wednesday (October 10) as the storm smashed into the Florida Panhandle. Four airports (Pensacola, Fort Walton/Destin, Tallahassee and Panama City) were closed or had no scheduled flights. But three opened for business today. The fourth, Panama City, suffered damage, but hopes to open by midday on Friday. Surprisingly, only around 100 of Wednesday's 500 nationwide flight cancellations were storm-related. But then came today and American Airlines' atrocious meltdown at its Charlotte hub. American unexpectedly cancelled 450 flights, more than 20 percent of its daily Charlotte schedule. In a press handout, American called this mass disruption "scattered cancellations" of flights to "a few communities we serve in Georgia and the Carolinas." Worse, though, American gave no indication it had planned for Michael's impact at Charlotte and never issued a travel waiver to help flyers make alternative plans. American also didn't distinguish itself on Wednesday in Atlanta. JoeSentMe member Bob Ingle reports passengers on his flight, arriving from American's Dallas/Fort Worth hub, waited two hours for checked luggage. "I called AA and talked to [an agent in Tucson]. She put me on hold and called Atlanta," he told me. "When she came back, she said she could not get a straight answer" from American employees in Atlanta.

Hotel Strike Spreads to Dozens of Marriott Properties in Eight Cities
A hotel workers strike that started in Chicago with job actions against Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton locations has expanded to eight cities and narrowed to properties affiliated with Marriott. About 8,000 housekeepers, bartenders and other hotel workers have walked off the job at about two dozen Marriott properties in Detroit, Boston, San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, Maui and Honolulu. None of the hotels involved have closed, of course, nor are they offering rate reductions. To avoid substandard service at full price--and not have to cross a picket line--consult the list of striking hotels here.
      Hyatt has purchased Two Roads Hospitality, a hotel-management company that includes the Joie De Vivre, Alila, Thompson and Destination Hotels brands. The purchase price of $480 to $600 million will depend on how many of the 100 or so properties buy into Hyatt management. Hyatt itself says it expects only about 85 properties to move to the chain. Two Roads, by the way, is owned by John A. Pritzker, son of Hyatt founder John Pritzker. Hyatt is still largely owned by the Pritzker family and John's brother, Tom, is currently Hyatt's executive chairman. The deal is expected to close this year, but don't expect to see the new properties as part of World of Hyatt until well into 2019.
      Hilton continues to open hotels in droves. This week's newbies: a Home2 Suites in Charlottesville, Virginia; a dual-branded complex at the Crossgates Mall in Albany, New York, that includes a Homewood Suites and a Tru; and 100-room Hampton Inn in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, that is apparently the first newly built property in that Minneapolis suburb in 20 years. But the Hampton isn't the only new Hilton in suburban Minneapolis. A 146-room Homewood Suites opened in the Southdale Center mixed-use complex in Edina.

JetBlue Rewrites Route Map, Drops Dulles and Daytona Beach, Adds Guayaquil, Ecuador
Before it lowered its third-quarter earnings estimate this week, JetBlue Airways tried to anticipate complaints from yapping analysts. It is rewriting its route map, dropping "underperforming" routes and connecting the dots between other cities it already serves. What's going? Flights from New York/Kennedy to Daytona Beach. The airline will also exit Washington/Dulles, dropping flights to JFK and its Boston/Logan focus city. Those routes will disappear on January 8. New to the route map: Flights between Boston and Rochester; Fort Lauderdale and Phoenix; Fort Lauderdale and St. Maarten; and Providence and Palm Beach. They will launch in the first quarter using Airbus A320 aircraft. But the big addition is Guayaquil, Ecuador. Flights from Fort Lauderdale begin in the first quarter with A320s.

WestJet Brings Dreamliners to Calgary; Lufthansa Will Fly to Austin
It's hard to recognize WestJet, the one-time Canadian discounter expanding across the Atlantic and making a bigger play for business travelers. This week the former low-ball competitor to Air Canada announced that its first tranche of Boeing 787 Dreamliners will be based in Calgary. The B787-9s will start on the existing Calgary-London/Gatwick route beginning April 28 and then used to launch two new routes. Effective May 19, there'll be at least three weekly flights to Paris/CDG. On June 1, service begins between Calgary and Dublin. WestJet says it'll configure the Dreamliners with 16 business class seats, 28 premium economy chairs and 260 coach seats.
      Lufthansa says it will begin flying between Austin and Frankfurt on May 3. It is Austin's second Europe destination. British Airways launched London flights in 2014. (Norwegian added Austin-London/Gatwick flight this year.) Lufthansa says the daily Airbus A330-300 flights will be configured with 42 business class beds, 28 premium economy chairs and 185 coach seats.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
The two fastest-growing airports in America since 2013 are both in Texas, according to the Diio aviation-intelligence firm. Thanks to the repeal of the Wright Amendment in 2014, the Southwest Airlines hub Dallas Love Field had the highest growth in annual scheduled seats. It grew by 70 percent over the five-year period. Austin was second with 57 percent growth. Not far behind was San Jose with 56 percent growth. Rounding out the top five was Fort Lauderdale (51 percent), a focus city for both JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines; and Seattle-Tacoma (45 percent), where Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines joust for supremacy.
      TWA has not flown since 2001, but it still had a delay this week. A restored TWA Lockheed Constellation is being towed from Auburn-Lewiston Airport in Maine to New York/JFK. But the rig towing the aircraft, which departed Maine on Tuesday (October 9), got a flat on Wednesday on Interstate 495 outside Boston. The so-called Super Connie is coming to JFK to be remade into a cocktail lounge for the TWA Hotel, which is being carved out of the iconic Eero Saarinen terminal that TWA once used.

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.