Business Travel Briefing
For Oct. 31 to Nov. 14, 2019
The briefing in brief: New Orleans finally opens new terminal next week. Hotel rates are slowly slowing down. WestJet will launch nonstops between Calgary and Rome. American adds two new routes to New Zealand. Delta opens a new concourse at New York/LaGuardia Airport. Southwest launching Hawaii runs from San Diego. United and Marriott will deliver bags for business class flyers in London. And more.

Twice-delayed and 18 months late, New Orleans finally gets its new terminal at Louis Armstrong International. The $1 billion project to replace the aged, 60-year-old existing terminal is due to open Wednesday (November 6) and all 16 carriers serving MSY will make the switch at once. The three-concourse, 35-gate new operation has about 40 food vendors and retailers, many hydration stations and three curbside check-in areas. The new terminal is across the runways from the existing building and therein lies a tale of wonky ground access. Besides the fact that all the new parking garages aren't ready, the newish consolidated rental car facility remains where it is, near that old terminal. That means a shuttle bus now will be required to reach rentals. The location of the new terminal also means a change in how you drive to and enter the airport. And more road construction is due to begin soon, making the always-tricky road approaches to MSY more problematic than ever.

It's hard to complain much about nightly hotel rates because new properties with competitive rates continue to open regularly and dynamic pricing sometimes cuts our way, too. (Exception: The fast-rising "resort" and "destination" fees that hotels increasingly deploy in order to boost nightly prices.) All that said, however, there is now hard data pointing to a genuine slowdown in hotel pricing. With occupancy rates flat in 2019, the STR lodging research operation notes that average daily rates this year have slowed precipitously. Through September, STR says, no month has shown a nightly rate rise as high as 2 percent and most months are well under 1 percent. Moreover, revenue per available room, a key lodging metric, has fallen two months this year after almost ten consecutive years of solid growth. Another industry tracker, CBRE Hotel Research, has revised 2020 forecasts downward. And several chains, including Hilton, Hyatt and Wyndham, are reducing projections for future revenue and rate growth.
      Marriott already has 30 brands and about 7,500 hotels covering virtually every lodging sector. It recently entered the home-rental business, too. Its next foray: all-inclusive resorts. Marriott announced earlier this month a $130 million deal to acquire Elegant Hotels Group, a major player in all-inclusive resorts on the island of Barbados. The Elegant properties should be available to claim through Marriott Bonvoy when the deal closes.

If you ever wondered why the Airbus A380 super-jumbo never made it in the market, consider this new route announcement from WestJet: seasonal service between Calgary and Rome. That kind of "long, thin" nonstop route can only be served with the relatively cozy confines of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, not the 500 or more people who can be squeezed into an A380. The Calgary-Rome run starts as a weekly service on May 2 and jumps to thrice weekly on May 28. The Rome service joins WestJet's other seasonal Calgary runs: to London/Gatwick, Paris/CDG and Dublin. Those routes kick in as early as March for the 2020 season.
      American Airlines and its Oneworld and joint-venture partner Qantas will add service down under. American says it'll launch Boeing 787 Dreamliner nonstops between its Los Angeles hub and Christ Church on the southern island of New Zealand. There'll be three weekly flights from October, 2020, to March, 2021. It'll also offer new flights from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub to Auckland during the same time frame. American already operates seasonally between LAX and Auckland.
      United Airlines says it'll launch weekly flights from its Denver hub to Nassau, Bahamas. The weekly run will operate between March and August using Boeing 737-800s.

The long and tortured recreation of New York/LaGuardia continues. Delta Air Lines has opened a new concourse in what will become the all-new Terminal C. The 105,000-square foot operation includes seven gates and branches of several local dining standbys. When completed, Delta's new Terminal C will have 37 gates, four concourses and a new Delta Sky Club.
      San Diego is finally getting some Hawaii love from Southwest Airlines. The carrier launches to Maui on April 14 and Honolulu on April 20.
      Albany, New York, airport has two more hotels. Marriott has opened a dual-branded Residence Inn and Courtyard on Wolf Road, a mile from the terminal. They have a combined total of 215 rooms.

United Airlines and Marriott are combining to offer an amenity to United business class passengers staying in select Marriott hotels in London. If you're flying in business class to London/Heathrow from United's Newark hub and staying in one of five London Marriotts, United will deliver your bags directly to your guestroom. United is positioning the service as a first-of-its-kind amenity, but remote hotel bag drop and delivery has been tried repeatedly in the last 30 years. The service never lasts long due to high costs and logistical complexity. It'll be interesting to see how long the United-Marriott attempt lasts. Service starts tomorrow (November 1) and complete details are here.
      Qantas is now selling common-use access to its airport club lounges at six airports around the world. This includes the Qantas first and business class clubs at LAX and lounges in Hong Kong and London/Heathrow. Prices start at about US$30, but it's US$75 for the LAX business lounge and $150 for the first class lounge.