Business Travel Briefing
For August 15 to 29, 2019
The briefing in brief: Marriott changes Bonvoy's award-pricing system. Southwest launches more flights to Hawaii. Norwegian drops narrowbody U.S.-Ireland routes. American adds a seasonal Casablanca route and Tel Aviv flights--and scores a huge subsidy from Israel. More airport clubs to wait out delays. Austrian Airlines gets PreCheck. And more.

Marriott is making more adjustments to its Bonvoy frequency program and it's a devaluation regardless of what the hotel chain would have you believe. Effective September 14, Marriott finally will implement its previously announced plan to create a three-tier award chart. Instead of a flat rate for each of Bonvoy's eight award categories, there'll now be off-peak, standard and peak prices. So rather than an award chart that ranges from 7,500 (Category 1) to 85,000 points (Category 8) per night, prices will now swing from 5,000 to 100,000 points per night. In the middle of the chart, for example, Category 5 redemptions, once 35,000 points, will cost 30,000 (off-peak), 35,000 (standard) or 40,000 (peak) points. Marriott's slick YouTube video promises the new system will benefit travelers, of course, and Bonvoy executives insist there will be a fair balance of peak and off-peak redemptions. But we've heard that from hotel chains before and Marriott admits that it will adjust award prices monthly. That surely means the chain will jack up the award price when occupancy levels look strong. Another change effective September 14 also gives away the game. Marriott will no longer give you a "fifth night free" when you book a four-night award. Now the program will be called Stay for 5, Pay for 4. You'll pay the points for the four highest award nights and receive the cheapest night as the free benefit.

It took Southwest Airlines approximately forever to begin service to, from and within Hawaii. But things have apparently been going gangbusters since Southwest launched in March and the airline today (August 15) announced an Hawaiian expansion. Effective January 19, there will be more interisland flights and new routes connecting Hawaii and California. Included are: Sacramento-Honolulu; Oakland to Kona and Kauai; and San Jose to Kona and Kauai. New interisland routes include Honolulu to Lihue and Hilo as well as Maui to Kona. Not all flights will operate daily. The Southwest move overwhelmed news that Hawaiian Airlines would resume flights between Las Vegas and Maui. The four weekly flights using Airbus A321neo aircraft return on December 15. Hawaiian last flew the route in 2012.
      Alaska Airlines is adding another destination from Paine Field, the reliever airport north of its Seattle-Tacoma hub. Effective November 4, it'll launch a daily EMB-175 roundtrip between Paine and Spokane, Washington. To accommodate the new route at slot-controlled Paine Field, Alaska says it'll drop one of three daily flights to Los Angeles.

With much fanfare and a dollop of bait-and-switch, Norwegian Air in 2017 announced a slew of narrowbody flights from secondary East Coast airports to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway and Scotland. Now the final shreds of that service will disappear. The carrier already dropped five routes--to Edinburgh, Belfast, Shannon, Cork and Bergen--as well as all flights to Hartford, Connecticut. This week came the news that the remaining runs--to Dublin from Providence, Rhode Island; Newburgh, New York; and Hamilton, Ontario--are going as well. The last flights will end by September 15.
      Delta Air Lines is resuming flights from New York/Kennedy to Bogota, Colombia. Daily Boeing 757-200 flights return on December 21 after a ten-year gap.
      American Airlines will add seasonal Boeing 757 flights from its Philadelphia hub to Casablanca, Morocco. The three weekly flights will operate between June 4 and September 8. American says it is flying to Casablanca for the waters. It is, of course, misinformed.

As on-time operations plummet, the only possible silver lining is this: There are more airport lounges to wait out the delays. United Airlines, for example, has opened a United Club at Raleigh-Durham. The lounge is in Terminal 2 across from Gates D1 and D3. It's the first new airport that United has added to its proprietary club lounge network in 15 years. Meanwhile, Charleston, South Carolina, is the latest location of The Club, a common-use lounge network operated by the same folks who run Priority Pass. It is on the second level of the main concourse. Speaking of Priority Pass, it has added three new options at Beijing/Capital Airport: The HNA Club in Terminal 1 and two China Southern clubs in Terminal 2. Also new to the Priority Pass network is the Sleepbox in Concourse A of Washington/Dulles. Located below Gate A15, Sleepbox is a micro-hotel offering "pod" accommodations outfitted with a bed, workspace and device plug-ins. Priority Pass cardholders receive a free hour in a pod; additional hours cost $24.

The Wyndham chain is a slapdash collection of higher-end properties, condos, budget brands like Wingate and long-past-their-prime operations like Super 8, Howard Johnson and Travelodge. But all is not rosy in Wyndhamland. Two large franchisees say they'll probably leave the chain and take their properties to other brands. Hospitality Properties Trust says it'll dump Wyndham at its 22 properties and probably move them to Sonesta. And RLJ Lodging says it'll likely remove the eight Wyndham properties it owns from the chain. Stay tuned.
      Hyatt is losing a prime property just months after getting it into the chain. The Thompson in Toronto, acquired as part of last year's purchase of Two Roads Hospitality, joined World of Hyatt in March. The hotel on King Street will get a renovation and emerge next year as part of the 1 Hotel chain created by Barry Sternlicht, former boss of Starwood.
      Hilton is getting its hands on the five-star Resort at Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The swanky beachfront resort will rebrand as a Waldorf Astoria before the end of the year.

American Airlines bailed on Tel Aviv service four years ago for the second time in its corporate history. But it's returning to the Israeli capital next year--because Israel is paying for the service. American will launch three weekly flights from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub starting September 9, 2020. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner service isn't coming cheap, however. Israel's tourism ministry will pay American 750,000 euros after it completes one year on the route. As you know, American says it is against subsidies paid to airlines in the Middle East.
      One person has died as a result of an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Atlanta. The hotel reopened today (August 15) even as the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed the outbreak started in a cooling tower and a decorative fountain on the property.
      TSA PreCheck has added five carriers, including Austrian Airlines and Interjet, Mexico's third-largest airline. That brings to 72 the number of airlines allowing you to use the security-bypass system at domestic airports.