Business Travel Briefing
For December 12 - 26, 2019
The briefing in brief: Austin is the nation's new flight hotspot. Hyatt adds more Small Luxury Hotels to its roster. JetBlue expands at Boston/Logan again. U.S. carriers dropping flights to Argentina. Air Canada adds more transborder runs. Delta dumps its private jets. And more.

Texas is already home to four hubs: American at Dallas/Fort Worth, United at Houston/Intercontinental and Southwest at Dallas/Love and Houston/Hobby. If it were any other time--and if we had enough competition--some airline also would go all in with a hub in Austin, the state capital, a high-tech center and one of the nation's fastest-growing urban centers. Failing that, however, airlines continue to pour point-to-point service into the city. Delta Air Lines declared Austin a "focus city" in the spring and has added new flights and opened a much-admired Sky Club. But Delta only commands about 13 percent of the traffic at Austin/Bergstrom. Southwest dominates with 35 percent of the market and American Airlines is second with about 18 percent of the traffic. And even though it hates to compete, especially in cities where it cannot dominate, American is responding to the Delta incursion with two new Austin routes. On April 7, it will revive the "nerd bird" run to San Jose, a route it abandoned in 2009. On the same day, it will add a nonstop to Boston/Logan, another service that can legitimately be called a "nerd bird" run. Both routes will operate with Boeing 737-800s. These point-to-point routes bypassing hubs have generally been anathema to American since Doug Parker took over the carrier, but the Austin market is growing too fast to ignore. It's expanding so quickly that JetBlue Airways, which already flies nonstop from Austin to its Boston/Logan focus city (see below), is also adding service. Just a day after American's announcement, JetBlue said it will increase its Austin-Boston run next year to three daily flights.

Desperate for a larger international footprint to compete with gigantic players such as Marriott or Hilton, Hyatt has slowly and tortuously been adding properties from the Small Luxury Hotels to its reservation system and World of Hyatt loyalty program. Thanks to a new tranche of about five dozen additional properties, Hyatt has now reached the 60 percent mark of SLH outposts. That means about 300 now play with Hyatt. Among the new additions this week: Stoke Park, a few miles from London/Heathrow and the place where James Bond golfed against Goldfinger; the Olive Boutique Hotel in San Juan; the Tongsai Pool Villas in Koh Samui, Thailand; and the Lennox Miami Beach. The complete list of Small Luxury Resort properties currently participating with Hyatt is here.
      Zemi Beach House on Anguilla has joined LXR Hotels, one of the luxury brands of Hilton. The 76-room property sits on the beach at Shoal Bay.
      The Monarch Bay Resort, opened in 2001 as a St. Regis hotel, has been sold for the umpteenth time. The latest buyer for the 400-room property across the Pacific Coast Highway from the ocean, paid $497 million. The 162-acre resort now operates as an independent, but is likely to rejoin a major chain soon. Keep your frequency points warm.
      Hyatt has added a new London property. The 152-room Great Scotland Yard Hotel opened this week and joined the chain's Unbound Collection of independent properties. The hotel is housed within the former home of London's Metropolitan Police and dates to 1829.

Despite increased competition from Delta Air Lines and some signs of life by American Airlines, JetBlue Airways continues to dominate Boston/Logan, the major airport in New England. Its 32 percent share of Logan traffic is nearly as great as Delta and American combined. But it isn't sitting on its metaphoric laurels, either, now that Delta has officially designated Logan as a hub. JetBlue announced this week that it'll bulk up its Boston-New York/LaGuardia route to ten daily nonstops. The new flights will put it in nearly head-to-head competition with the one-time Air Shuttle operations run by Delta and American. It'll also add frequencies to a dozen other runs from Newark to San Diego. The additional service will start in the spring.
      Atlanta/Hartsfield says it will permanently close its smoking rooms on January 2. It's not like Hartsfield came to the decision unilaterally. The airport is responding to a new Atlanta city ordinance that bans smoking at the airport, in restaurants and other public places.

Hong Kong's democracy demonstrations have forced airlines to slash service to the city. Overcapacity in the market has led U.S. carriers to cut routes between the U.S. and mainland China as well. Economic chaos in Venezuela and Brazil has cut service to those countries, too. Now it's Argentina's turn in the barrel. A new president took over in the South American nation this week, but he faces a daunting series of challenges: rising budget deficits, capital flight and an annualized inflation rate north of 50 percent. One of the results: sharply declining demand for flights. United Airlines has dropped its daily service between its Newark hub and the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. And American Airlines will drop the route between its Miami hub and Cordoba, the country's automobile center and a former tourism magnet. Flights end on May 6.
      Air Canada is adding more transborder flights for the summer season. Its commuter operation will use 76-seat EMB-E175 to fly between Montreal and Nashville from June 1 to October 25. Between June 22 and September 7, Air Canada will also fly between Calgary and Boston/Logan using Airbus A319.
      Japan Airlines says it'll add two daily flights between Honolulu and Tokyo/Haneda beginning March 28. It'll be the first time JAL has offered flights to Haneda from Hawaii since 1978, when it shifted virtually all international service to Narita. Speaking of Narita, JAL will cut its HNL-NRT service to two daily flights, down from its current four daily runs.

Delta Air Lines long has dangled Sky Miles upgrades and awards to private jets. First it was upgrades in 2015. Then it was awards in 2016. But the reality is that Delta always was lying and suckering mainstream media outlets that gave the airline lavish publicity for nonexistent perks. Now Delta won't even have private jets to offer. It is dumping the 35-year-old private jet division, first inherited when it purchased Cincinnati-based Comair in 1999, on a start-up aviation firm called Wheels Up. Although complete details haven't been disclosed--quite in keeping with Delta's shadowy approach to private jet operations--Delta will receive an equity stake in Wheels Up.

WestJet was officially acquired Wednesday (December 11) by a Canadian investment company called Onex. The transaction includes WestJet's debt and was valued at US$5 billion. WestJet holders receive $31 a share and the airline will be delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange.
      American Airlines continues to dump Washington-area flights that do not operate from its Washington/National hub. On April 6, it will drop its two daily flights to Baltimore/Washington from its Phoenix hub.
      Cornwall, which was connected to London/Heathrow this spring for the first time in two decades, is losing the flight. FlyBe says Heathrow flights to Newquay Airport will end on March 28.