Business Travel Briefing
For October 3-17, 2019
More frequent flyer programs cuts are on the way. Airlines revive long-dead international routes. Phoenix will close a runway next month. Hyatt adds two rebranded hotels in Spain. Island routes, Atlantic and Pacific, are cut. Saudi Arabia loosens visa rules. Tales of the runaway beverage cart at O'Hare. And much more.

Yes, fellow travelers, they've cut your frequent flyer program benefits again. The notes you've been getting this week, upbeat and flowery as they are, can't hide the bad news. You sniffed it out. First up: American AAdvantage and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan are dropping the final shoes of a once-happy little partnership. Effective March 1, you won't be able to use AAdvantage miles to claim awards on Alaska Airlines flights or use Mileage Plan miles to claim awards on American Airlines. That will reduce the value of miles for players in both programs. And then there is the laundry list of changes that American Express and Delta Air Lines are making to the Amex Delta cards. Annual fees will rise, key benefits will be cut and the replacement benefits are small beer. The most consequential changes are to the Delta Reserve Card. The annual fee rises to $550, the per-visit fee for Sky Club guests jumps to $39 and the card will no longer get you priority access to security lines. The only real plus is the card will now get you complimentary access to Amex Centurion Lounges. The problem with that? To quote the philosopher Yogi Berra, Centurion Lounges are now so crowded that nobody goes there anymore. So gaining access to stuffed-to-the-gills clubs seems useless for Reserve Card holders and miserable for existing Amex cardholders with lounge access. To see the full range of changes to the co-branded Delta Amex cards, surf here.

The airlines' lust for more international flights is now so intense that they are reviving long-abandoned routes. American Airlines, for example, is revisiting seasonal weekly flights next year between Boston/Logan and Nassau. The last time American flew the route was in 2010, when it was still US Airways. Meanwhile, Alitalia, which continues to operate even though it is bankrupt and a ward of the state, will revive nonstop flights to San Francisco. Three weekly flights to Rome begin June 1 using Boeing 777-200 aircraft. Alitalia hasn't flown to San Francisco since 2001 when it ran service to Milan/Malpensa. And Air India has already relaunched three weekly nonstops from Toronto to the Indian capital of Delhi. Air India hasn't operated on that route for seven years.
      Delta Air Lines has moved into the Satellite Terminal (S1) at Shanghai/Pudong Airport. That allows Delta to co-locate with its SkyTeam partner China Eastern Airlines. Check-in for the Delta departures will still take place at Terminal 1, however.

Attention, Phoenix flyers: Your life is about to get miserable. The airport says Phoenix Sky Harbor will close one of its arrival runways next month for at least one weekend. From Friday evening, November 1, to Monday morning, November 4, repair work will be conducted on a south arrival runway. Bottom line? Avoid PHX for the first week or so of November. After all, these carefully timed repairs never run exactly to form.
      Philadelphia flyers have lost an American Admirals Club. The A-West lounge closed on Monday (September 30) in preparation for the airline's upcoming Flagship Lounge, expected to open next year.
      Bradley Hartford Airport in Connecticut was closed for several hours yesterday (October 2) after a vintage World War II bomber crashed. The B-17 was carrying 13 people. Seven were killed in the accident.

Hesperia operates about three dozen self-branded hotels around Spain and in Venezuela, but the chain is cozying up to Hyatt. Hesperia's Madrid property, a 169-room hotel on the Paseo de la Castellana, has been rebranded as a Hyatt Regency. Also converting is Barcelona's largest hotel, the 29-story Hesperia Barcelona Tower. It also will rebrand as a Hyatt Regency after a renovation, but it is already bookable on the Hyatt Web site.
      Marriott has opened an 88-room W Hotel in Aspen. The property also has 11 residential units, separately marketed and branded as The Sky Residences. They are both on South Spring Street.

They are oceans apart and their routes connect different kinds of islands, but cuts are cuts ... and this week the route cuts come in pairs. Alaska Airlines is dropping two routes to Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Flights from Sacramento end on March 18 and San Francisco flights end on March 19. Meanwhile, Icelandair is dropping flights to Reykjavik from both San Francisco and Kansas City. Icelandair dropped service from Tampa earlier this year.
      Adria Airways, the flag carrier of Slovenia, has failed. It cancelled all flights last week and said Monday (September 30) that it had filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations.

Alaska travelers take note: There'll be new summer flights to Anchorage and Fairbanks from American Airlines. From American's Chicago/O'Hare hub, the carrier will launch daily Boeing 737-800 flights to both destinations. From American's Dallas/Fort Worth hub, there will be daily Airbus A321 service to Fairbanks. All flights will operate between May 7 and October 6.
      Saudi Arabia has loosened visa requirements for 49 countries, including the United States and Canada. A new electronic tourist visa is valid for one year and will allow multiple entries and stays as long as 90 days. Surf here for more details.
      Copenhagen has opened the Cityring automated metro line. The ring route connects with all three of the city's existing metro lines as well as the S-Train commuter network. A complete circuit on the 9.5-mile ring takes 25 minutes, stops at 17 new stations and connects several key neighborhoods with Copenhagen's central district.

You can't have missed the equal parts scary and goofy video of a beverage cart gone wild on the tarmac at Chicago/O'Hare Airport. The hero of the viral video? Jorge Manalang, a six-year veteran at Envoy, the American Airlines commuter carrier. Manalang rammed the cart with a tug before the careening beverage vehicle could hit a nearby EMB-145 aircraft. The plane later operated as Flight 4104 on its scheduled run to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and arrived just five minutes late.