Business Travel Briefing
For July 18 to August 1, 2019
The briefing in brief: Sheraton Atlanta closed after outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease. Can Munich Airport save Newark Airport? United Airlines says it'll resume flights to India in September. Hong Kong tourism plunges after demonstrations against Chinese interference. American Airlines trims routes in Vancouver and at JFK. And more.

Here is an ugly blast from the past: The Sheraton Atlanta Hotel in the heart of downtown closed due to an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease. The property was shuttered on Tuesday (July 16) after five confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like illness. Each victim complained about lung problems and the Georgia Department of Public Health concluded they had attended a convention several weeks ago and stayed at the 706-room Sheraton on Courtland Street. Previous outbreaks of the water-borne disease have been traced to "shower heads, hot tubs, perhaps even ... decorative fountains," a state official told a local Atlanta television station. At the time the Sheraton guests came down with the disease, the hotel was working on the filtration system of its swimming pool, but no cause-and-effect has been established. The hotel closed voluntarily although some local experts suggest the property should have stopped accepting guests sooner. It will remain closed until the source of the bacteria is definitively established and remediation is complete. As you may recall, Legionnaires' Disease was first identified in 1976 after an outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia. The hotel in question then was the once-iconic, 1,000-room Bellevue-Stratford. That property eventually closed later in 1976, reopened in 1979 as a Fairmont, became a Westin and closed again in 1986. Two years later, it converted into a mixed-use complex called The Bellevue. A hotel, these days aligned to Hyatt, is located on the Bellevue's top floors.

The Port Authority, which controls the New York area's three major airports, says it is bringing in the operator of Munich Airport to run Newark Terminal One, the planned $2.7 billion replacement for Terminal A. Munich Airport is generally regarded as one of the most efficient and passenger-friendly airports in Europe. Newark? No one calls EWR efficient or passenger friendly. Terminal One, scheduled to open by 2022, will have 33 common-use gates and about 20 percent more space than the existing Terminal A.
      Vancouver is losing two routes to American Airlines hubs. American says it'll drop flights to Chicago/O'Hare from September 4 to June 3 while fights to Phoenix will be cancelled between November 21 and June 3.
      Washington/Dulles gets more flights to Paris/CDG. Air France says it'll operate 11 weekly flights--up from the current seven--beginning on October 28.
      Calgary is getting five daily Air Canada Q-400 flights to Terrace, British Columbia. Flights start on October 28.

United Airlines said today (July 18) that it will resume flights between Newark and India on September 6. United stopped flying to Mumbai last month in the wake of the renewed tensions in the Persian Gulf. Months earlier, however, it had temporarily "suspended" Newark-Delhi nonstops for financial reasons. The resumption of India service has been something of a mystery, with United first saying flights would resume July 3, then August 1. Last week it pushed the relaunch back to October. United also says that its previously announced seasonal nonstops between San Francisco and Delhi will begin as scheduled on December 5. United is the only U.S. airline currently serving India, but Delta announced in April that it would return to India with a New York/Kennedy-Mumbai run. That is scheduled to begin on December 22.
      Asiana says it will add a second daily nonstop flight between Kennedy and Seoul beginning on November 24. That new flight replaces the previously announced cancellation of its Chicago/O'Hare-Seoul route.

Mass demonstrations against the Chinese government's interference in Hong Kong's legal system--and the global publicity those disruptions generated--is taking a toll on the city's tourism. Occupancy rates at the city's hotels fell 20 percent in June compared to June, 2018. Hoteliers are expecting July's occupancy rates to be off by 40 percent compared to 2018.
      American Airlines continues to cancel routes due to its fight with mechanics and the grounding of the Boeing 737MAX. Three routes from New York/Kennedy--to Washington/National, San Diego and Seattle--and the Philadelphia-San Antonio run are off the board until November 2.
      Via Airlines, which abruptly cancelled scheduled flights this spring, has been sold. The low-end operation has been purchased for an undisclosed sum by Ashley Air, an Atlanta-based charter operator. The new owner says Via plans to relaunch scheduled service later this year. Don't hold your breath ...

We're used to U.S. airline bosses saying idiotic things. It's less common for the normally reserved Germans to put their fat C-suite feet in their mouths. But Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr fancies himself as the very model of a modern airline chief, so he'll say dumb stuff, too. Case in point: His criticism of competitors who sell sub-10 euro (about $11.50) fares. "Fares for less than 10 euros shouldn't exist," Spohr sneers. They are "economically, ecologically and politically irresponsible," he told a German-language Swiss newspaper this week. That being said, however, Spohr will match any airline (mostly Ryanair) that does sell the cheap fares. Meanwhile, he also put the Swiss on notice that he won't countenance any decision by Zurich authorities to restrict flight times at Zurich Airport, a hub for Lufthansa's Swiss International subsidiary. "The entire network is endangered," he raged about a proposal to restrict night flights by 30 minutes. "That would be fatal for the Swiss economy."