The Business Travel Briefing For March 28 to April 11, 2019
The briefing in brief: Cathay Pacific hopes fourth time will be the charm for Sea-Tac nonstops. You can buy Chick-fil-A at dozens of airports, but it's not welcome at San Antonio. Hyatt adds Thompson Hotels now, Joie de Vivre later. American will expand Admirals Clubs in Miami.

Cathay Pacific Airways launches nonstop flights this Sunday (March 31) between Seattle-Tacoma and its Hong Kong hub. It'll be the fourth airline to try the route after Northwest, United and Delta have bailed in the past. Why does Cathay think it can succeed where the others (and Delta as recently as last year) have not? Cathay obviously has a hometown advantage since its global hub is in Hong Kong. It also has what it thinks is the right-sized aircraft, says Philippe Lacamp, Cathay's senior vice president of the Americas. The airline will use 280-seat Airbus A350-900s on the run, which will operate four times weekly and increase to daily service this summer. "We've been looking at Seattle for 20 years on and off and [A350s] are so efficient and perfectly sized for the market." Other advantages? The Seattle area is booming and Cathay has a frequent flyer partnership with Alaska Airlines, the largest carrier at Sea-Tac and the entire Pacific Northwest. That last factor is important, Lacamp says, because Cathay is banking on much more than nonstop traffic between Seattle and Hong Kong. "We know there's interest in us throughout the Pacific Northwest because we've done well for years [from Vancouver]. We also know travelers will use our hub in Hong Kong to connect to places like Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and, of course, the Chinese mainland."

We told you last week that Marriott plans to add 1,700 hotels in the next three years and that was the equivalent of two chains the size of Hyatt Hotels. How did Hyatt respond? It added eight upmarket Thompson Hotels today (March 28). Okay, in fairness, Hyatt wasn't responding to Marriott. The integration of Thompson--which has properties in Toronto, Chicago, Nashville, Seattle, New York and two Mexican resort destinations--was part of Hyatt's purchase last November of a management firm called Two Roads Hospitality. Phase Two of Hyatt's mini-expansion is due May 15 when Hyatt adds the Joie de Vivre chain of mid-market boutique properties. A World of Hyatt promotion tied to the new brands offers 2,000 bonus points on your first stay with each of the new chains. Hyatt will add two other Two Roads brands--Destination Hotels and Alila--later this year. If you stay in all four before the end of 2019, Hyatt is dangling a free night as a special award.
      Marriott has added two new Florida hotels as part of its Tribute Portfolio soft chain of independent hotels. The 209-room Dalmar in downtown Fort Lauderdale was carved out of a former Holiday Inn that was closed for seven years. Across the state, the 89-room Sarasota Modern has opened in the city's Rosemary District.

It's taken more than two years, but American Airlines and Miami Airport have struck a 10-year agreement that will allow American to upgrade and expand its two Admirals Clubs. According to a lease due to be approved next month by city officials, American will add nearly 1,700 square feet to its existing 12,300-square-foot club at Gate D15. The larger Admirals Club at D30, currently 25,500 square feet, will nearly double in size by adding more than 18,200 square feet. The agreement will cost American about $8 million a year in lease payments and the airport will get a cut of American's club revenue: 18 percent of monthly liquor sales, 10 percent of food and other amenity sales and 35 percent of the take from day passes. American has been going month-to-month on club leases at its Miami hub and passengers have complained about serious overcrowding at the two lounges.
      Boston/Logan gets a Silvercar location on April 15. It will be located at 235 Marginal Street. Silvercar only rents silver Audi vehicles.
      Indianapolis Airport gets another nearby hotel. A 174-room Embassy Suites has opened about five miles away in Plainfield just off Interstate 78.

A Chick-fil-A opened earlier this month near Gate 6 at Little Rock Airport, which is named after Bill and Hillary Clinton. It's one of around three dozen Chick-fil-A locations at airports nationwide. But the coast-to-coast presence of the chicken chain in airports, shopping malls and free-standing locations wasn't good enough for city fathers in San Antonio, Texas. The city council voted 6-4 last week to bar Chick-fil-A from opening at San Antonio International. A branch was due to be part of a makeover of retail operations at Terminal A. But Chick-fil-A was blocked by the vote, spearheaded by Councilman Robert Trevino. His (er, um...) beef with Chick-fil-A? He's not a fan of the cultural views and donations made by the privately owned firm. "We do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ," stances, Trevino said in a statement. Chick-fil-A, which has tried to separate its cultural and political stances from the day-to-day operations at its restaurants, called the San Antonio decision "disappointing. We would have liked to have had a dialogue with the city council before this decision was made." High-profile Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced today (March 28) that he was investigating the decision by the San Antonio City Council. Ironically, there are dozens of Chick-fil-A locations in the San Antonio area.

Southwest Airlines has cancelled flights in bunches during the first quarter. The airline says about 9,400 have been dumped in the last six weeks, 3,800 due to weather and the others almost equally divided between the Boeing 737MAX grounding and a squabble with mechanics. Southwest has 34 MAX aircraft on the ground, but management and mechanics have finally reached a contract deal six years after the previous agreement expired.
      Air New Zealand now offers free in-flight internet on all flights equipped with WiFi.
      Fred Malek, former president of both Marriott Hotels and Northwest Airlines, died this week at the age of 82.
      Wow Air was grounded this morning (March 28) when a last-minute infusion of cash didn't materialize. The discount airline, which once operated from Iceland to more than a dozen U.S. and Canadian cities, was down to just 29 daily flights in recent days. Apparently ignorant of the financial chaos that destroyed the airline, the carrier's pilots want an investigation of reporters. The pilots claim reporters were spreading bad news and rumors about the airline. Apparently reporting Wow's dire financial straits and its demise was fake news or something ...