Business Travel Briefing
For Nov. 21 to Dec. 5, 2019
The briefing in brief: Why the Thanksgiving travel "rush" is the worst holiday crush. TAP Air Portugal will fly Lisbon-Montreal and add an Azores route from Boston. Just what America needed: more Marriotts. LaGuardia testing a $15 flat-rate ride to Manhattan. United denies Elmira, New York, for the third time. And much more.

The Thanksgiving holiday rush--most all of it leisure travel--officially starts Friday (November 22). My best advice: Run away! The airports will be clogged with newbies, once-a-year flyers and every manner of amateur. All the organizations who like to generate publicity by prognosticating holiday-travel crowds are predicting record-shattering traffic: more than 31 million passengers during the 12 days until the "season" ends on Tuesday, December 3. That would be a notable uptick from last year's record-breaking 30 million. The two worst chokepoints in the coming days? Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, when travelers are rushing to get to where they need to be for the Thursday meal; and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when most travelers will try to get home. Why is Thanksgiving so much worse than any other holiday travel crush? Timing. Thanksgiving is secular, meaning everyone celebrates, most Americans are on the move somewhere and everyone needs to be some specific place on Thursday. Not Wednesday or Friday, of course, but Thursday and only Thursday. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is problematic because holidaymakers are rushing home and, starting in the afternoon, business travelers begin to position themselves for the week ahead.

TAP Air Portugal has expanded rapidly since the carrier was saved by an investor group led by JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman. The airline will continue to expand next year, too. The "newest" route to Lisbon, TAP's hub, will be from Montreal. There'll be six weekly flights using newly delivered, single-aisle Airbus A321LR aircraft. Service begins May 23, the first time in 25 years that TAP has flown to Montreal. Next year's other "new" route? A nonstop between Boston and Ponta Delgada, economic capital of the Azores. There'll be five weekly flights, also using A321LRs. The Azores flights will be in direct competition with the sole year-round U.S. route of Azores Airlines, formerly known as SATA International. TAP hasn't flown from Boston to the Azores since early in 2001.
      Delta Air Lines says it is bailing on Haiti. Delta dropped flights from its New York/JFK hub in April. Now the airline says it'll dump flights between its Atlanta hub and Port-au-Prince on January 9.
      Southwest Airlines says it'll launch flights from Houston/Hobby to Cozumel, Mexico. There will be two daily flights beginning March 8 with Boeing 737-700s.

Marriott has more than 7,000 hotels worldwide and certainly dominates the U.S. lodging landscape. So you know what America apparently needs? More Marriotts. According to the latest overview of the hotel pipeline by the Lodging Econometrics consulting firm, Marriott has nearly 1,500 hotels in the works representing nearly 200,000 new rooms. Hilton is second, with 1,373 projects covering around 154,000 rooms. InterContinental is a distant third with just under 1,000 new hotels and 100,000 rooms. According to the consulting firm, Marriott's fastest-growing chains are all in the limited service segment: Fairfield Inn, Towne Place Suites and Residence Inn. Hilton's fastest-growing chain is the venerable Hampton Inn followed closely by Hilton's newish Tru brand.

New York/LaGuardia remains a mess as it tries to elevate its status from third-world airport to merely miserable. The airport will be a work-in-progress for years to come, but here's a dollop of good news: There will be some $15 and $20 flat-rate rides from LGA. The Port Authority and ride-share app Via are testing a program called LGA Connect. For passengers arriving at Terminal C or Terminal D, there'll be a flat-rate ride of $15 to Manhattan or the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. If you're headed to the Bronx or Staten Island, it's a $20 flat-rate ride.
      Charlotte has opened a 51,000-square-foot expansion called The Plaza. There are nine shops and restaurants, including a Shake Shack and local brewer Wicked Weed. The new development is located between Concourses D and E.
      Minneapolis-St. Paul this week lost and regained a lightly used, but convenient, TSA security checkpoint. Over the objection of MSP officials, the TSA shuttered the checkpoint on the skyway connecting the airport and the adjacent InterContinental Hotel. Then it reopened when MSP airport authorities agreed to reimburse the TSA for the costs. MSP built the walkway last year for $24 million.

American Express has been busily slashing benefits on its premium cards, but here's a bit of good news. Effective January 1, Platinum cardholders will now have trip-cancellation, trip-interruption and trip-delay coverage. Gold cardholders get the trip-delay coverage. This is generally regarded as "junk insurance" by the industry, but it's better to have it than not. Of course, you must charge your travel to the card to be covered.
      South African Airways continues to be plagued by cabin crew strikes. There've been massive cancellations on both domestic and international service since the work stoppages began last weekend. What SAA has been saying about the strikes is archived here.
      Qantas had a Web site crash earlier this week when it offered a few $100 tickets from Los Angeles to celebrate and promote the airline's 100th birthday.

What came first? The failing traffic at Elmira, New York, or United's slapdash, Keystone Kops swapping of flights at the airport? United is cancelling the commuter run between its Washington/Dulles hub and the city of about 30,000 in Central New York. The last flights will be on January 6. United blames low traffic for the cancellation, of course, but the tale is much more nuanced. In the last four years, United has serially flown to Elmira from three different hubs. It dropped long-standing flights from Chicago/O'Hare in 2016, then launched flights into Elmira from its Newark hub. That route, begun in April, 2018, ended when United made its next switch, to Dulles, this past April.