Business Travel Briefing
For October 10-24, 2019
The briefing in brief: American Airlines is running three times worse than you believed. LAX will banish Uber and Lyft pickups to a parking lot. The oil boom is over, but Williston, North Dakota, opens a new airport. Notable new airport hotels have just opened at SFO, Heathrow and Beijing. World of Hyatt adds dozens more Small Luxury Hotels. And much more.

Want to understand exactly how badly American Airlines is running these days? Direct your attention to N647AE, a 19-year-old Embraer-145 operated by Piedmont, one of American's wholly owned commuter carriers. In the past week, American flew the aircraft with a defect so serious that it suffered three consecutive diversions on three consecutive flights on three consecutive days. The horrid tale begins last Friday (October 4) at 11:09pm when the 50-seat aircraft arrived in Roanoke, Virginia, as American Flight 5006 from Charlotte. On Saturday morning (October 5), it departed ROA at 5:28am as American Flight 4783 en route back to Charlotte. It never made it. The aircraft and its 34 passengers returned safely to Roanoke after about 20 minutes. American tried again Sunday (October 6), scheduling the aircraft as Flight 9943 to Philadelphia. It departed 30 minutes late at 11:30am but was back on the ground in Roanoke at 11:46am. For reasons known only to American, it thought the third time would be the charm for N647AE. On Monday (October 7), the plane was scheduled as Flight 4808 to Charlotte. It failed again and was back in Roanoke after 14 minutes. American insists the plane was inspected after each emergency landing. Yet all three diversions were for the same reason: the smell of smoke in the cabin. American finally gave up on Tuesday (October 8) and flew N647AE to Salisbury, Maryland, Piedmont's corporate headquarters and home of an American maintenance base. It's still sitting there as of 10pm today (October 10).

Choked by vehicular traffic outside arrivals areas, Los Angeles International becomes the latest airport to move Uber and Lyft pickups away from terminals. Effective October 29, arriving passengers wanting an Uber or Lyft pickup must take a shuttle to a parking lot near Terminal 1. Uber and Lyft drop-offs won't change, however. Is the consolidated, remote pickup area inconvenient? No question. But the congestion caused by the ride-hail firms has overwhelmed LAX and it's hardly the first to move to a remote pickup area. San Francisco made a similar move in June. Boston/Logan, Nashville and New York/LaGuardia have also imposed restrictions on Uber/Lyft pickups. Details on the upcoming LAX move are here.
      Williston Basin Airport, coded XWA, opened today (October 10) as a replacement for aging Sloulin Field (ISN). The one-time North Dakota energy boomtown broke ground on the $275 million facility exactly three years ago. Willison currently has a population of about 27,000 and the new airport has everything you could want in a small town: two runways, including one that can accommodate full-size jets; a snappy new terminal building with passenger bridges; and even a restaurant. What doesn't it have? Many potential passengers or flights. According to government statistics, just 161,000 flyers used Sloulin Field during the 12 months ending in June, down from 204,000 in 2015, the peak year of the so-called Bakken Boom. United Airlines flies regional jets to its Denver hub and Delta Air Lines flies to its Minneapolis hub, but no other carrier has expressed interest in XWA. United and Delta shifted flights to Williston Basin today after yesterday's final operations at Sloulin.

Who knows what the rest of the month will bring, but October already has been spectacular for new places to put our heads on a bed at the airport. The long-awaited Grand Hyatt at SFO officially debuted Monday (October 7) after opening to guests last week. The $237 million hotel is connected to all terminals via the SFO Airtrain and the only property on airport grounds. It features 351 rooms and suites, a grab-and-go market, a sit-down restaurant, a 24-hour fitness center, 24-hour room service and about 15,000 square feet of meeting space. It sells day rates in six-hour increments between 8am and 8pm. Meanwhile, after 18 months of delays, the 82-room Aerotel London Heathrow opened Tuesday (October 8) at Terminal 3. Located landside in the T3 Arrivals area, the Aerotel is essentially a short-stay property and sells rooms in blocks of six-hour stays. Single rooms are about 105 square feet, doubles are about 150 square feet and double-bedded family rooms run about 225 square feet. It also offers a casual restaurant. The hotel is part of a chain of airport properties from the developers of Plaza Premium airport lounges. Just a few days earlier, in fact, the Aerotel Daxing opened at Beijing's new airport. It has 215 rooms, a casual restaurant and meeting rooms. It offers hourly pricing, but the firm says rooms won't be bookable online until tomorrow (October 11).
      Radisson is back in the Manhattan market--again. After rebranding and then losing an array of New York City hotels in the last few years, Radisson now has converted two Club Quarters properties--one near Rockefeller Center, one on William Street in the Financial District--to the brand.

More than a year after it first announced an alliance with Small Luxury Hotels, World of Hyatt is finally getting critical mass. A new tranche of about four dozen SLH properties joined the program this week and travelers can now earn and burn at those hotels. That means around half of the 500 or so Small Luxury Hotels are now playing in World of Hyatt. The latest group includes four U.S. properties, ten in Italy and three on the Greek island of Santorini. Also notable: Inverlochy Castle in Scotland, the Point Grace Resort in Turks & Caicos and Le Grand Bellevue in Gstaad are among the new players. The latter two offer redemptions at Category 8, the 40,000-point level created specifically for some high-end SLH properties.
      Priority Pass is apparently losing one of its most popular airport restaurant participants. The P.F. Chang branch in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX will exit the program by the end of the month.

Led by Southwest Airlines, the carriers have raised base domestic fares $5 each way. One of the few exceptions: routes to Hawaii, where Southwest has been growing since it entered the market earlier this year.
      Las Vegas has the latest branch of Shake Shack, which has become an irresistible force in fast-food dining. The restaurant is located in the Terminal 1 rotunda before the corridors for the A and B Gates.
      New Zealand now requires all visitors to obtain an e-visa at least 72 hours before boarding their flight. The new rule even applies to visa-waiver countries such as the United States and Canada. The e-visa, called a NZeTA, costs about US$7.50 in addition to a US$22 environmental fee. Complete details are here.