The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business Travel Briefing for Nov. 29-Dec. 13, 2018
The briefing in brief: Hyatt's deal with Small Luxury Hotels is small. Oil's falling price may save Wow Air and Norwegian. TAP Air Portugal will fly to O'Hare and Washington. The first gates in LaGuardia's new terminal open Saturday. Delta and JetBlue add facial recognition check-in.

Plunging Oil Prices Throw a Lifeline to Norwegian and Wow Air
Crude oil hit a 52-week high of $76 two months ago and pundits predicted prices could reach $100 by the end of the year. That might have spelled the end of discount transatlantic carriers Wow Air and Norwegian, which have been burning furniture to keep flying. But commodity markets abruptly went south and crude closed today (November 29) below $52, just $2 above its 52-week low. That's bought those two airlines a little breathing room and they surely need it. Norwegian, for example, is cutting most flights from Newburgh/Stewart, the Hudson Valley airport about 75 miles from New York City. At its height this year there were 27 weekly flights to cities such as Shannon and Dublin, Ireland; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Bergen, Norway. Now there'll be just 11. Norwegian is also slashing service at T.F. Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, and has bailed on Hartford, Connecticut. Norwegian will even shift a few routes from London/Gatwick. Gone will be nonstops to low-yield destinations such as Oakland and Fort Lauderdale and the flights will move to perceived higher-yield airports in San Francisco and Miami. But Norwegian's troubles pale in comparison to Wow's woes. The Iceland-based airline has ended six U.S. routes and this week returned four aircraft to its lenders. Worse, a sale to Icelandair collapsed, so the airline sold itself today to Indigo Partners. That's the Phoenix-based investment firm that once owned Spirit Airlines and now controls Denver-based Frontier Airlines, Volaris of Mexico and Wizz Air of Hungary. "Oil at $50 or $60 makes the market livable," one airline executive told me today via E-mail. "At $100, they're dead. At $60, maybe they survive."

Hyatt Launches Small Luxury Hotel Deal--In a Small Way
Hyatt Hotels can't get out of its own way. Two years after launching the awful World of Hyatt, the chain continues to disappoint members, overpromise on new benefits and raise prices. This week's evidence? The premier of the Small Luxury Hotel partnership, first ballyhooed during the summer. The operation officially launches next week with about 50 properties, just 10 percent of SLH's current roster. You will be able to earn and burn at those hotels--but only if you book through Hyatt channels. That's fine for claiming awards, of course, but nasty if you are booking paid stays since most SLH properties offer substantially lower rates at their own proprietary Web sites. Worse, the best of the SLH hotels in the initial tranche--most are in Europe--will also require 40,000 points for a free night. That's the herald of a new, more expensive Category 8, 10,000 points per night more expensive than the current highest priced Hyatt. One other quirk: Book a Small Luxury Hotel through Hyatt and you'll get a free breakfast, a perk not extended to even low-level World of Hyatt elites when they book an existing full-service Hyatt hotel.
      United MileagePlus members now earn miles for purchasing golf supplies through a new specialty portal. Four well-known golf firms supply the goods and tee times.

First New Concourse at LGA's Terminal B Opens on Saturday
Our long, national nightmare won't exactly be over, but the first substantial payoff on the bazillion-dollar investment in New York/LaGuardia is due Saturday (December 1). The first 11 gates of the new Terminal B will open and host American Airlines and Air Canada flights. Southwest Airlines flights begin on Sunday. (Two new concourses and 35 more gates are due in 2020 or later and the total investment is pegged at around $8 billion.) Besides new gates, the facility should open with brand-name shops as well as branches of Shake Shack; LaChula, a taqueria from chef Julian Medina; and Osteria Fusco, an Italian restaurant from celebrity chef Scott Conant. But be warned: Ongoing construction means traffic to/from the airport continues to be a mess.
      Austin/Bergstrom flyers take note: The ride-hailing and taxi pickup location has moved. It's now at the consolidated rental car facility.
      Quebec City has a new transborder link. American Airlines will add seasonal service from its Chicago/O'Hare hub. Daily E175 flights will operate between June 6 and September 3.
      Chicago/O'Hare has still another near-airport hotel. The 165-room Rose Hotel, part of Hilton's Tapestry Collection, is now open in Rosemont's Pearl District a mile from ORD.

TAP Air Portugal Will Add Two New U.S. Gateways in 2019
It was near collapse before JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman brought in a syndicate to remake it, but TAP Air Portugal is on a roll. The airline announced this week that it will start two new U.S. routes to its Lisbon hub next year. On June 1, TAP will add five weekly nonstops to Chicago/O'Hare. Effective June 16, it'll also add five weekly flights to Washington/Dulles. Both of those are United Airlines hubs and TAP is a Star Alliance member. TAP will deploy newly delivered Airbus A330neos on the runs. The aircraft will be configured with 34 of TAP's new business class seatbeds, a traditional coach cabin and an Economy Plus section offering chairs with 34 inches of legroom.
      China Southern says that it is leaving the SkyTeam Alliance at the end of the year. The carrier will then launch an expanded partnership with American Airlines. That'll include the ability to earn and burn on China Southern flights in the American AAdvantage program and lounge privileges at the airline's Sky Pearl airport clubs. American will also code-share on China Southern flights from its hubs in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. American, of course, holds a small stake in China Southern. The timing of the code-shares and frequent flyer and lounge details have not yet been disclosed.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
At least some of the aviation uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, has been allayed. British and U.S. negotiators announced this week that they have struck a deal to essentially preserve the status quo on transatlantic flights. Those flights carry roughly a third of all air travel between the United States and Europe. However, details of beyond-London flights into Europe remain unclear and won't be settled until the Brits and the EU settle. Brexit is scheduled for March 29.
      American Airlines says it will deploy its Airbus A321T aircraft on some flights between Boston and Los Angeles. Starting April 2, at least two daily BOS-LAX runs will have the planes, which are configured with lie-flat international first and business class seatbeds. Until now, the aircraft have only flown in the traditional Transcontinental Triangle linking new York/Kennedy, LAX and San Francisco.
      Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways separately announced this week that they expanded deployment of biometric recognition for "facial boarding passes." JetBlue has been testing the self-boarding system in Boston, but is now using it on select international flights from its New York/Kennedy hub. Delta says the technology is now available in Terminal F at its Atlanta/Hartsfield hub. Delta, which has tested facial recognition on some international flights from JFK, says it will extend the technology to international service from its Detroit/Metro hub beginning in mid-December.

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.