Business Travel Briefing
For November 7 to 21, 2019
The briefing in brief: Much-needed new club lounges for Miami and New York/Kennedy. BA's parent company makes a play to dominate Madrid Airport. Air France will install business class on domestic flights. United juggles hub routes again. Norwegian Air creates co-branded credit card. Hyatt opens a hotel near Denver International. And more.

Let's be honest, frequent flyers, we're not used to getting what we need at airports. But a rather startling string of new lounges and lounge alternatives are actually opening in places where we need them most. Take, for example, Miami's lounge-starved Concourse E. A long-abandoned American Admirals club has been cleaned up, restyled and quietly reopened as a Turkish Airlines lounge. Which is weird considering that, at least for the moment, Turkish Air's daily Miami-Istanbul flight operates from the South Terminal and Turkish is a Star Alliance member while most carriers using Concourse E are aligned with Oneworld. That should mean plenty of space for Priority Pass cardholders, who get complimentary access. Meanwhile, at hopelessly under-clubbed New York/Kennedy, a Primeclass Lounge has opened in Terminal 1 and an Air India Lounge has opened in Terminal 4. Those two aren't yet accepting Priority Pass, but soon will. As with the Turkish lounge in Miami, the JFK clubs are managed by TAV, a well-respected operator. (Unfortunately, TAV, like Turkish Airlines, is under the thumb of the Erdogan regime in Turkey and that will give some travelers pause.) Meanwhile, Minute Suites, the in-airport short-stay hotel operation, has confirmed it is working on two new locations: Terminal 4 at JFK and Concourse C at Baltimore/Washington. Both are due next year.

Anyone who's used intra-Europe "business" class knows it's not much to write home about--or claim miles for. As operated by carriers such as British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and others, it's usually a 3x3 configuration on narrowbody jets. The middle seats are left open, but the legroom is U.S.-coach awful. Still, it's better than the miserable conditions in intra-European coach. Which is a long-winded way of saying Air France is adding its version of business class on domestic routes to and from its Paris/CDG hub. That's good news for U.S. and Canadian flyers claiming Delta SkyMiles or Air France/KLM Flying Blue points to French cities beyond Paris. Air France believes a short-haul domestic business class will keep French travelers on the airline for long-haul connecting itineraries and blunt inroads made by Emirates and Qatar Airways from cities such as Lyon and Nice.
      Hong Kong Airlines is dropping its last U.S. route. Nonstops from Los Angeles end on February 6. A division of the financially stressed HNA conglomerate, Hong Kong Airlines wasn't doing well even before the democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong devastated tourism to the city.
      Lufthansa has cancelled at least 1,300 flights today (November 7) and tomorrow in its squabble with the UFO cabin-crew union. The union warned more strikes could be on tap in the long-running contract dispute.
      Air Europa caused chaos this week at Amsterdam when one of its pilots inadvertently triggered a hijacking alarm on a flight. A slew of other flights were temporarily delayed and thousands of flyers were inconvenienced.

The never-ending schedule juggling at United Airlines continues apace. Gone are San Francisco-Cincinnati nonstops, which end January 4. New are flights from Chicago/O'Hare to Santa Barbara, California; Houston/Intercontinental to Spokane; and Washington/Dulles to Hilton Head. The Hilton Head flight starts on March 29 and the seasonal Spokane run launches June 4, both with Embraer 175s. The Santa Barbara route, with an Airbus A319, starts on June 8.
      Delta Air Lines has bailed on two of its seasonal European routes. Summer nonstops from its New York/Kennedy hub to Malaga, Spain, and Ponta Delgada in the Azores won't be back in 2020.

International Airlines Group is adding another carrier to its stable. The parent of British Airways, Aer Lingus and others is proposing to buy Air Europa, Spain's third-largest carrier. A potential problem? IAG already owns Spain's two largest airlines, Iberia and Vueling. The one-billion-euro deal is still another attempt by IAG boss Willie Walsh to create an alternative to space-squeezed London/Heathrow. If he gets Air Europa, IAG will have a lock on traffic at Madrid, which would allow IAG to dominate traffic between North America and Southern Europe. It also would position the airline combine as a power in the Europe-South America market. IAG is pitching a closing date in the second half of next year. But there's also a break-up clause. IAG would owe Air Europa 40 million euros if the deal runs afoul of regulators. Stay tuned.
      Zurich Airport has a new lounge for Star Alliance elite travelers. The Alpine Lounge in Terminal A is operated by Swiss International but is also available to Star Alliance Gold members.

Hyatt has opened a 226-room Hyatt Place hotel at the Pena Station stop on the A Line commuter train that runs between downtown Denver and Denver International. Pena Station is just one stop from the airport's own station and is slated to be developed into mixed-use project of homes, offices and retail. One of Denver International's long-term parking lots is also there.
      Norwegian Air has launched its first co-branded credit card. Issued by Synchrony, the card is modest even by the standards of discount carriers. The acquisition bonus is $50 in CashPoints after $500 in purchases in the first 90 days. Ongoing bonuses for day-to-day spend are weak. Carrying the card does double the validity of CashPoints to two years and gets you priority boarding, however. Full details about the card, which has no annual fee, are here.
      Sonesta has taken over management of the former Wyndham hotel near John Wayne/Orange County airport. The 335-room property is just off the I-405 (San Diego Freeway) in Irvine at 17941 Von Karman Avenue.