Business Travel Briefing
For October 17-31, 2019
The briefing in brief: British retailer WH Smith makes another U.S. airport move. San Francisco renumbers its gates. More transatlantic routes are on the schedule. Alaska Airlines trims some West-to-East flights. A St. Regis opens on Venice's Grand Canal. United still growing its Dulles hub. And more.

WH Smith, the British retailer that is rapidly expanding at many of the world's airports, is making another move in the United States. After purchasing the In Motion chain of airport retail shops last year, Smith this week announced a $400 million deal to buy the Marshall Retail Group. That name may not be familiar, but Las Vegas-based Marshall has airport operations in 15 states and runs shops with names such as Kiehl's, Tumi, Baggallini, District Market and Root & Branch. Marshall has 170 shops nationwide and 70 are inside airports. Another three dozen airport shops are due in the next five years. The $400 million purchase will add to Smith's existing network of 433 shops at more than 100 airports outside of the United Kingdom. Founded in 1792, Smith also has about 600 stores in city centers around Britain.

This is more about branding than reality, but what's more basic and important than how hub airports number the gates? Until this week, San Francisco International numbered its gates sequentially from Gate 1 to Gate 102. But starting yesterday (October 16) it renumbered all gates based on their terminal locations. The International Terminal, which has two piers, now includes Gates A1-A15 and Gates G1-14. Harvey Milk Terminal 1, also a two-concourse operation, now offers Gates B1-B27 and Gates C1-C11. Terminal 2 covers Gates D1-18 and the two-concourse Terminal 3 offers Gates E1-E13 and Gates F1-F22. If this numbering throws off the existing SFO map in your head, consider that Terminal 1 houses Southwest, JetBlue and Delta. Terminal 2 houses American and Alaska Airlines. Terminal 3 is pretty much dedicated to United Airlines. The G gates of the International Terminal are essentially controlled by United and its Star Alliance partners. The A Gates are used by the non-Star international carriers. More details and new maps are here.
      Barcelona/El Prat Airport was the scene of an ugly brawl Monday (October 14) between Catalan separatists and Spanish police. Catalans were protesting a Spanish court decision that led to the jailing of a dozen leaders of the separatist movement. More than three dozen demonstrators were injured and a 65-year-old traveler died of a heart attack after walking from the airport parking lot.
      San Jose, distant third to SFO in the Bay Area, at least has another common-use lounge. A 4,000-square-foot branch of The Club has opened near Gate A8. The Club has also operated a larger lounge near Gate A15. Your Priority Pass is honored at both lounges. In fact, both Priority Pass and The Club are divisions of the same company.

It continues to be a big mystery where the new flyers will come from, but airlines continue to add transatlantic flights to next year's schedule. Latest announcements? LOT Polish says it'll add four weekly Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights to Warsaw from San Francisco. Warsaw is LOT's hub and the Polish carrier is a member of the Star Alliance with SFO-hubbed United Airlines. Flights begin August 5. Meanwhile, American Airlines, which has largely retreated from Boston/Logan as Delta and JetBlue fight for supremacy there, is nevertheless resuming flights to London/Heathrow. The daily Boeing 777-200 service returns March 28 after a seven-year gap.
      Swiss International this week launched a rail link between its Zurich hub and Lugano. The 2.5-hour Flugzug service will operate 14 times a day and complement Swiss' Zurich-Basel train route. The trains are operated by the Swiss Federal Railroad. Swiss launched the Lugano train to replace the 40-minute Zurich-Lugano flights operated by Adria Airways, which went out of business last month.

'Tis the season where airlines rejigger their schedules and route maps and the changes are coming fast and furious. So get out your scorecard--or, you know, put these in your phone. Alaska Airlines, for example, is still working out route kinks of its merger with Virgin America. So out go a passel of west-to-east routes--San Jose to New York/JFK and Tucson as well as scrapped plan to resume flights to Nashville and Raleigh-Durham from San Francisco--and in comes a revival of SFO-Phoenix flights. The two daily A320 flights, abandoned in March, resume February 13. Delta Air Lines, Alaska Air's one-time frenemy and now arch-enemy at its Seattle-Tacoma hub, is adding a daily transcon flight to Tampa beginning March 11. The route will be served with a Boeing 737-800, a long haul (2,520 miles) for that plane. Meanwhile, United Airlines continues to add fly-speck aircraft on commuter runs from its Washington/Dulles hub. A 50-seat CRJ will operate to Akron/Canton beginning May 8 and an EMB-145 will run on revived flights to Philadelphia starting the same day. There will also be flights to West Palm Beach beginning February 13 with CRJ-700 aircraft.

Priority Pass is slowly losing what are essentially its last U.S. airline-affiliated lounges. Alaska Airlines pulled Seattle clubs out of the program last month. Meanwhile, the carrier's Portland club has been rejecting Priority Pass travelers for weeks and next month it officially departs the network, too.
      Venice fans take note: Marriott has opened a St. Regis hotel with 129 rooms and 40 suites. The property is located on the Grand Canal. It's a remake of the old Westin Europa and Regina Hotel, which closed for the top-to-bottom renovation in August, 2018. The hotel is a Category 8 Bonvoy redemption.
      Peruvian Airlines, the second-largest carrier in the South American nation, has tanked. The 10-year-old airline had been serving a dozen domestic destinations.
      Aruba Beatrix International has a new airport-adjacent hotel. A 116-room Hyatt Place is the fourth Hyatt in the Caribbean island located off the coast of Venezuela.