Business Travel Briefing
For December 19 - 31, 2019
The briefing in brief: Portland, Oregon, is having a travel moment. SuperShuttle shuts down at the end of the year. United adds a San Francisco-to-Dublin route. Norwegian dumps Oakland. Hong Kong travel is collapsing. Alitalia and Qantas now have PreCheck. And more.

Portland has gotten so trendy in recent years there was even an episode of The Simpsons ragging on the Oregon city's hipster culture. Now it's having its travel moment. The Oregon Convention Center at the foot of the N Street Bridge just off Interstates 5 and 84 just completed a $40 million renovation, its first since the facility was built 30 years ago. The remake twins with this week's opening of the 600-room Hyatt Regency, located across NE Holladay Street from the convention hall. The new-build property opened two months earlier than planned and features a barbecue restaurant, a lobby bar with a 55-foot "plank" and a 24/7 grab-and-go market. And come June, British Airways arrives. The airline announced this week that it will launch five weekly nonstops to London/Heathrow using Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

SuperShuttle, which runs familiar shared blue vans at dozens of U.S. airports, will soon be a thing of the past. First launched at LAX in 1983, the franchise firm will run its last rides on December 31. The company has already shut down at many airports--including Minneapolis/St. Paul, Baltimore/Washington and Phoenix--and more will lose service before the national shutdown date. SuperShuttle was sold in September to a private equity firm, but it was severely hurt recently by ride-share apps such as Uber and Lyft. (At BWI, for example, SuperShuttle's monthly volume fell 40 percent between August, 2018, and October, 2019.) At its height, SuperShuttle had a presence at about 80 airport worldwide. The franchisees at each airport--often small local entrepreneurs--can continue to operate, of course, but they won't have a centralized reservation service or the national branding that once set SuperShuttle apart.
      Priority Pass has added another lounge at San Francisco. The Virgin Clubhouse on Concourse A in SFO's International Terminal will accept Priority Pass cardholders between 6 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. daily.

United Airlines apparently has noticed that its sometimes-partner Aer Lingus has been filling the premium cabin on its flights from San Francisco to Dublin. As a result, United will launch its own daily flight from its SFO hub to the Irish capital. Daily flights begin June 5 with Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners.
      Norwegian Air is bailing on Oakland airport and moving the rest of its Bay Area flights to San Francisco. Norwegian shifted its nonstops to London, Barcelona and Paris to San Francisco earlier this year. Starting next summer, its flights to Rome and Oslo also shift to SFO from Oakland.
      Delta Air Lines has confirmed that it is moving Beijing operations to the newly opened Daxing (PKX) Airport. Effective March 29, flights to and from its Seattle/Tacoma and Detroit/Metro hubs will shift to Daxing from Beijing Capital (PEK).

Ongoing democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong continue to play havoc with the city's vital tourism industry. The numbers are chilling. The airport authority says passenger traffic fell more in November than any time in the last decade. The airport handled about five million flyers in November, down 16.2 percent compared to traffic in November, 2018. But that's just a very sour cherry atop a sundae of sadness for the airport. Traffic has fallen more than 12 percent in each of the previous three months, too. One of the biggest losers in the turmoil is Cathay Pacific, the city's flag carrier. The airline and Cathay Dragon, its Asia subsidiary, registered a 9 percent passenger decrease in November. Even with a 1.5 percent cut in overall capacity, the traffic drop slashed Cathay's load factor by 3.2 points. Although longer-haul international passenger volume and connecting traffic seems to be holding up--at least partially thanks to Hong Kong cutbacks by global competitors--Cathay has been pounded in the vital China market. Inbound traffic headed to Hong Kong fell by 46 percent in November compared to last year after a disastrous October, when traffic fell 35 percent. "Regional routes, in particular mainland China and Northeast Asia, continue to experience week demand," says Cathay chief commercial officer Ronald Lam. Of course, things could always be worse. Over at Hong Kong Airlines, the subsidiary of the unraveling HNA conglomerate, seven passenger jets being stored at the airport have been impounded. The airport authority snatched the jets to protect its financial interest since the planes have parked at HKG for as long as a year.

Two more international carriers are now capable of honoring your PreCheck privileges. Starting this week, both Alitalia and Qantas participate in PreCheck. That brings the total count of domestic and international carriers offering PreCheck to 73.
      November traffic on U.S. airlines reached 78.3 million passengers, says the Transportation Department. That's a startling 4.6 percent increase over November, 2018, and even more notable since several days of the Thanksgiving holiday period this year stretched into December.
      Far Eastern Air Transport, Taiwan's first privately owned carrier, stopped flying last week. Founded in 1957, the airline has sustained heavy losses after declaring bankruptcy in 2008.