The Business Travel Briefing For March 14 to March 28, 2019
The briefing in brief: How Marriott messed up the name Bonvoy by not managing its Internet sites. Denver Airport whacked by bomb cyclone and thousands were stranded. SWISS and Finnair add premium economy cabins. Eurostar delays are off the rails. And more.

The transformation of three independent hotel programs into Marriott Bonvoy last month has been a bit rocky. Although most travelers got their credentials, points and status without issue, more than a few have had continuing problems. Marriott boss Arne Sorenson dismissed legit complaints as "noise around the edges." Marriott's arrogance toward its own mistreated customers is one thing, of course. But there's more: Marriott stupidly forgot to protect the Bonvoy name. Marriott registered on April 10, 2018, but the name was registered a decade earlier by Mujteba Naqvi, now an executive at ReachNow, a car-share service. had a short life as a Facebook app, but Naqvi never relinquished the URL and he most recently renewed it on October 14, 2018. Two days later, Marriott itself registered three more names (, and But when the term "bonvoyed" gained currency on message boards--it means getting screwed by a Marriott customer-support fail--the lodging giant didn't act. The result? A group led by Jeff Brownson, who says he wants to build a loyalty-consulting business, registered on February 28. Brownson insists that unhappy Marriott customers are flocking to the site, but it has only posted around 300 complaints and grabbed a few hundred social-media followers. Regardless of whether Bonvoyed's claim that "millions" of travelers have been "bonvoyed" is true, the bigger issue is why Marriott is managing its branding so poorly. I did try to get answers from Marriott, but was "bonvoyed" and got no reply.

While most business flyers spent Wednesday (March 13) checking their flights for Boeing 737MAX segments and watching the British Parliament debate Brexit, a bomb cyclone struck Denver Airport. Nearly 1,400 flights--about three-quarters of the airport's normal schedule--were cancelled and all six runways were closed. Dozens of abandoned vehicles on Pena Boulevard and other roads made the airport essentially unreachable on the ground. The cause? Snow falling as fast as two inches per hour and hurricane-force gusts that reached 80 miles per hour. ("Only" about seven inches fell at the airport, but there was as much as 19 inches around the area and nearly four feet of snow buried one town in southwest Colorado. Winds reached 92 miles per hour in the Fort Collins area.) Thousands of flyers were stranded overnight and DIA officials distributed blankets and other supplies to marooned travelers. The weather has improved today, but the hangover on flight operations is severe. More than a third of today's schedule already was cancelled and the first substantial tranches of flights didn't depart until the afternoon local time.
      Amsterdam/Schiphol now has a Star Alliance lounge accessible by qualifying flyers of United, Lufthansa, TAP Air Portugal and others. The problem for U.S. and Canadian flyers? The lounge is located airside in the Departures 2 Schengen Area. That means it's not accessible for travelers to/from North America without a separate security clearance.

As we discussed a month ago, coach fares to Europe have plunged as business class prices soared. That leaves many travelers thrashing around for alternatives, including premium economy, which still hasn't reached all major carriers. But the dominos continue to fall. Two more, SWISS International and Finnair, are now committing to a premium economy cabin. SWISS announced this week that it would add premium economy by late next year. Although the exact details weren't released, the specs sound like the premium economy offered by Lufthansa, Swiss' parent company. On the Boeing 777-300ERs in the SWISS fleet, for example, it means 24 seats in rows of 2x4x2. A promise of 20 percent more seat pitch would mean 38 inches of legroom at seats. Meanwhile, Finnair has given even fewer details on its premium economy other than to say there'll be seats with "highly customized design" and an "enhanced service offering." Finnair says its premium economy will debut in 2021 and will be its own cabin, not a remake of its existing extra-legroom "economy comfort" section at the front of coach.
      British Airways continues to fly 20-year-old business class seats with no replacement in sight, but is tweaking its first class cabins. Beginning March 31, there'll be new in-flight pajamas in both male and female flavors; new duvets, blankets and mattress toppers; a new amenity kit featuring Elemis products; a retooled menu supposedly focused on British-sourced products; and a new afternoon tea service.

As tough as this week has been for Boeing 737MAX operators such as American Airlines, last week was just as bad. As you recall, American last Thursday (March 7) had to abruptly ground more than a dozen Boeing 737-800. The problem? A shoddy passenger cabin retrofit as American works to convert all its aircraft into the knee-crushing, bone-breaking configuration that ironically debuted with Boeing 737MAX8s. The result? Cancellations at airports around the country during the last week. According to figures compiled by, American dumped around 400 flights between last Thursday and Tuesday (March 12), the day before the FAA grounded the MAX variant, too. With the MAX grounding and the problems at Denver yesterday, American cancelled 225 flights. So far today (March 14) American has been forced to cancel 160 flights by 4 p.m. Eastern time.

Eurostar travelers take note: French customs officials are nearly two weeks into a work-to-rules slowdown at Gare du Nord, the French terminus of the high-speed train. Boarding delays have stretched to hours and several trains a day between Paris and London have been cancelled. The customs agents are in a contract dispute, of course, but they also point out that the delays are what travelers should expect if Great Britain crashes out of the European Union this month.
      Airbus A380 fans got more bad news this week: Lufthansa says it will sell six of its 14 A380s back to Airbus as part of a new aircraft order. The plane, already a financial disaster, is already due to stop production. This may mean even fewer aircraft will be produced.
      Convention goers take note: Hyatt opened a Hyatt Place near Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton, Virginia. It's an eight-minute walk to the main hall. Meanwhile, Marriott opened a triple-branded complex across from the Music City Convention Center in Nashville. The 21-story tower includes an AC Hotel, a Residence Inn and a SpringHill Suites. The three brands offer a total of about 470 rooms.