Business Travel Briefing
For Sept. 26 to Oct. 10, 2019
The briefing in brief: The airlines hope you want more international flights. United unveils a new way to calculate upgrades. Delta buys into LATAM, meaning the Latin carrier will leave Oneworld. Two more French airlines want to fly from Newark to Paris/Orly. Buffalo--yeah, Buffalo--gets an airport club. And much more.

Even though the global economy is showing signs of stress and load factors are dipping, airlines continue to bet that you want more international flights. Delta Air Lines, for example, is adding daily flights to Rome next year from its new Boston/Logan hub. The seasonal daily service begins May 21 with Airbus A330s. Its SkyTeam partner KLM will begin flights from its Amsterdam hub to Austin, now a virtual focus city for Delta. Flights on that route begin May 4 with three weekly Airbus A330 flights. At New York/JFK, JetBlue Airways says its first Airbus A321neo route will launch April 2 and operate to Georgetown, Guyana. Meanwhile, LOT Polish is reviving flights from JFK to Krakow, a route dropped during the 2008 financial crisis. There'll be a weekly Boeing 787 run beginning May 3. Up in Canada, Air Canada says that it'll launch three weekly flights from Montreal to Bogota, Colombia. That route starts June 2 with a Boeing 767-300s outfitted in Rouge configuration featuring that awful coach cabin and the premium and plus sections. Separately, American and its Oneworld partner Japan Airlines has unveiled its Tokyo/Haneda service. There'll be five daily flights to four cities: Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Francisco and New York/Kennedy. Those flights will come at the expense of most existing Tokyo/Narita service. Gone will be Narita flights from Los Angeles and Chicago/O'Hare. One of two DFW frequencies also will be dumped.

United Airlines MileagePlus is changing the upgrade game, adding a points system atop the existing regimen. Net net: Cheaper cost for less popular upgrades, higher prices for the most desired upgrades. The so-called PlusPoints plan kicks in December 4. All existing RPUs (regional premium upgrades) will be worth 20 points. All existing GPUs (global premier upgrades) will be worth 40 points. The system, which applies to Platinum Elite members and above, will issue points for new upgrades in the same ratio. The good news: Elites will be able to upgrade from coach to international premium economy at a lower price than going from coach to business class. The bad news: Expect to pay more for the best upgrades on longer-haul flights. There are plenty of twists and turns, so examine all the details here.
      Oneworld Alliance will lose LATAM as a partner now that Delta Air Lines announced today (September 26) that it would take a 20 percent stake in the carrier. Created by the merger of TAM of Brazil and LAN, which had operations in Chile, Argentina and other South American countries, LATAM had been working on a joint-venture operation with American Airlines, one of Oneworld's anchor carriers. Although Delta has been talking down the SkyTeam Alliance, expect LATAM to move into SkyTeam eventually. Delta says it will pay $1.9 billion for its LATAM stake, invest another $350 million in the partnership and take some Airbus A350s ordered by the Latin carrier.
      IHG Rewards Club, the frequency program of InterContinental Hotels, says members will soon be able to earn and burn points at Mr & Mrs Smith, an alliance of about 500 mostly luxury properties.

This hasn't been a good month for French aviation. The country's second-largest airline, Aigle Azur, folded on September 6. XL Airlines collapsed on September 23. At least for now, XL's corporate sibling. La Compagnie, is flying normally. But all-business-class La Compagnie, which flies from Newark to Paris/Orly and Nice, is suddenly getting a lot more competition. Besides having to compete with United Airlines from Newark and a slew of airlines from New York/Kennedy across the Hudson, La Compagnie will face new French competition, too. Corsair says it'll fly Newark-Paris/Orly starting on June 10. It'll use Airbus A330-900neo aircraft configured with 20 business class seatbeds, 21 premium economy chairs and 311 coach seats. (Corsair launched its first U.S. route, Miami-Orly, in June.) Meanwhile, French low-fare carrier French Bee is also adding a Newark-Orly run next year. It'll use an Airbus A350-900 configured with premium economy and coach starting June 10. (French Bee already flies to the United States as part of its Orly-San Francisco-Tahiti run that launched earlier this year.) Both carriers promise daily flights, so watch for some interesting price wars on Paris service.
      Condor, the German subsidiary of Thomas Cook, which went belly up this week, has survived the carnage. It received a six-month bridge loan from German authorities to continue flying. Condor currently flies year-round to Frankfurt from Seattle/Tacoma and Las Vegas. It also operates a slew of summer-only routes to U.S. cities.

Buffalo, New York, gets no respect. In fact, as the Rodney Dangerfield of cities, it gets no respect at all. But now it has a common-use airport club at Buffalo Niagara International. A 2,800-square-foot branch of The Club opened this week. The Club is the lounge network controlled by the same outfit responsible for Priority Pass and, naturally, the Buffalo location accepts the card for complimentary entry. AAA members also receive a discount off the $40 access fee.
      Chicago/O'Hare will lose some public-transit access for the next week or so. Effective tomorrow (September 27) until Monday, October 7, Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line trains won't run between Rosemont and O'Hare.
      Newark is losing flights to four cities thanks to cutbacks that hub carrier United Airlines claims are seasonal suspensions. Beginning January 6, flights to Dayton, Oklahoma City and Palm Springs are off. Flights to Ottawa end on March 5.
      Las Vegas flyers take note: If you use Uber and Lyft at Terminal 1, you now must go across the pedestrian bridge to the parking garage for pickups.

Japan Airlines has been fined $300,000 by the U.S. Transportation Department for long tarmac holds. The fines relate to a four-hour delay after a January diversion to Chicago/O'Hare and a May diversion to Washington/Dulles that held passengers for five hours.
      Vancouver travelers take note: Four hotels--including the Hyatt Regency and Westin Bayshore--are dealing with a strike of chefs, front-desk agents and housekeepers. Employees, members of Unite Here Local 40, have been working without a contract for eight months.
      Adria Airlines, the flag carrier of Slovenia, is near collapse. Flights have been suspended this week and the country's regulatory agency has given Adria until next Wednesday (October 2) to get its financial house in order. For the moment, Adria is a member of the Star Alliance.