Business Travel Briefing
For June 27-July 11, 2019
The briefing in brief: The last 30 days have been difficult for flying, but American Airlines was particularly bad. Hyatt adds Asian resorts to loyalty program. Airlines bulk up their sun-run flying. Buckhead's lodging scene will never be the same. American will retire the last MD-80s in September. And more.

As I warned last week, we're in for a cruel, cruel summer--and the late spring hasn't been a breeze, either. According to statistics compiled by, the last 30 days have been brutal. The biggest losers of all? American Airlines and its woebegone passengers. Although the numbers are unofficial and incomplete, there's no doubt American operations are dreadful and they're deteriorating rapidly. American and its wholly owned American Eagle subsidiaries (Envoy, PSA and Piedmont) cancelled approximately 7,200 flights. That's six times the number of cancellations recorded at Delta Air Lines and its wholly owned Endeavor Air commuter carrier and more than three times the cancellations racked up by United Airlines and its commuter network (ExpressJet, CommutAir, Trans States and Air Wisconsin). American and its commuters suffered more than 41,000 delays, too, many more than the 29,000 at United and 27,000 at Delta. Southwest Airlines was no picnic in the last 30 days, either, since the carrier dumped about 3,500 flights and cancelled 31,000 more. Although final numbers will vary for American, United and Delta when multi-carrier commuters' numbers are applied to their proper parent, it is clear that American is the must-avoid carrier of the summer.

The massive devaluation of Hyatt loyalty that accompanied the 2016 creation of the World of Hyatt program left the chain with an equally massive problem: It wasn't large enough globally to justify the gigantic number of nights and spend it was requiring of elite members. And the gap is widening. Marriott, for example, has added ten times as many properties as Hyatt since World of Hyatt was introduced. That said, Hyatt is plugging away in its own pokey way. The latest addition: the Alila chain of mostly Asian, mostly exotic, resorts. Alila also includes the legendary Ventana in Big Sur and it joined the program Tuesday (June 25). Also now available to earn and burn Hyatt points are a slew of properties on Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia and in Kuala Lumpur. Another tranche of Alila resorts, mostly in India and China, will join World of Hyatt by the middle of next month. Complete details are here.
      IHG Rewards has added two properties in Macao--the Venetian and the Parisian--but hold your applause. With award prices at 75,000 miles and up, the splashy resorts are set above IHG's existing highest limit, which has been Category 13 at 70,000 points. Although InterContinental executives are mum, it's wise to assume IHG is either adding a new, higher-priced level--or following Hilton Honors into dynamic pricing. Keep your eyes peeled in the weeks ahead.
      Citibank is stripping its primary ThankYou rewards cards--Prestige, Premier and Executive--of what the industry calls "junk insurance." Effective September 22, items such as car-rental; trip-delay; trip-cancellation; and lost-baggage coverage will be dropped. Check your card and coverage--if you've ever used any of these products.

Buckhead, the go-to upscale neighborhood in Atlanta, is suddenly a different place, at least as far as lodgings are concerned. The Mandarin Oriental Buckhead, which opened in 2012, was booted as managers by the hotel's owners at the end of last year. The luxury property at 3376 Peachtree Road now trades as the Waldorf Astoria, a Hilton brand. A half-mile away, at No. 3434, the former Ritz-Carlton has debuted as a 507-room hotel called The Whitley. It's staying in the Marriott family, however, joining the chain's Luxury Collection of independent properties. And just a few steps away, nestled in the glass office towers, a 230-room hotel that has operated as a DoubleTree by Hilton has switched affiliation, too. The hotel, across from the Buckhead Campus of Georgia State University, is now known as the Hilton Garden Inn. Adjust your GPS accordingly.

Summer has just begun, but airlines are thinking ahead, announcing an array of sun-run flights beginning in the fall and winter. JetBlue Airways says it'll launch three weekly flights on November 1 between New York/Kennedy and San Jose, capital of Costa Rica. Separately, the airline says it expects to launch a flight between JFK and Guadeloupe. If approved by government regulators, the three weekly flights are expected to launch in February and be the first service in decades between the New York area and Pointe-a-Pitre. Meanwhile, American Airlines, which has been cutting back at JFK, apparently intends to go head-to-head against JetBlue on that San Jose run. It says it'll launch daily JFK-San Jose flights three weeks after JetBlue begins on the route. It will also revive a weekly winter service between JFK and Liberia, on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast. Then there is WestJet, Canada's fast-growing former discounter. It'll add two weekly sun runs later this year. On November 5, it'll begin service between Victoria and Los Cabos, Mexico. On December 13, it'll add a flight between Calgary and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

The one-time workhorse of the American Airlines domestic fleet, the MD-80, is finally being put out to aircraft pasture. Final flights are in early September. Complete details are here.
      Priority Pass cardholders now have access to five additional lounges at airports in India. All are aligned to the Golden Chariot group of clubs and located in secondary Indian airports such as Udaipur (UDR) and Srinagar (SXR).
      Airline catering workers in 13 cities have voted to strike. A work stoppage would affect flyers on American, Delta and United airlines--if a strike were actually on the menu. The workers' union, Unite Here, and its employer, LSG Sky Chefs, are in talks controlled by the National Mediation Board. The NMB would have to release the parties from negotiations and then there'd be a federally mandated 30-day cooling-off period. In other words, it could be months, or years, before there's a strike. So proceed with your life while the two sides growl across the table at each other.