Business Travel Briefing
For Jan. 23 - Feb. 6, 2020
The briefing in brief: Forget the Super Bowl. Next week in Miami is about LATAM switching to Delta from American Airlines. In nearby Delray Beach, an iconic Marriott resort defects after the chain floods the area with more hotels. Cleveland loses even more United flights. JetBlue adds and subtracts. Five years late, Azul finally launches its Brazil-JFK route. Norwegian juggles bag rules and fees. And much more.

Forget next week's Super Bowl in Miami. The real action for business travelers will be across town at Miami International, where the defection of LATAM to a Delta Air Lines partner will remake the airport and much of Latin American aviation. As you may recall, Delta scooped up an operational and financial partnership with Latin America's leading carrier last year and that caught American Airlines flat-footed. The activity affecting flyers starts on February 1. American and LATAM will kill all their remaining code-share operations on that day. Up at New York/Kennedy, February 1 is also the day that LATAM will vacate American's facilities (Terminal 8) and move to Terminal 4, where most of Delta's international service originates. LATAM is also adding Premium Economy sections on its Airbus A320-series fleet. The 240 planes mostly serve intra-Latin America routes and the cabin should be available on all of the carrier's narrow-body Airbuses by mid-March. The service will be essentially a European style short-haul business class that leaves the middle seat empty and offers in-flight perks. Another notable change begins in May when Delta attacks American's powerful Miami hub to connect with LATAM flights. There'll be Delta flights between Miami and both Orlando and Tampa (five daily beginning May 4), Raleigh-Durham (two daily starting May 22) and Salt Lake City (daily launching July 28). By the time the next football season is underway, LATAM will also exit the Oneworld Alliance. Departure is scheduled for October 1 although there are currently no plans for LATAM to join the SkyTeam Alliance fronted by Delta.

About 50 miles up I-95 from MIA in Delray Beach, another example of big hotel chains cannibalizing the business of an existing property is well underway. In recent weeks, Marriott opened two new Delray hotels, a 120-room Aloft and a 149-room Courtyard. The new properties are in addition to a top-to-bottom 2018 renovation of the Residence Inn in Delray Beach. The competition from its own chain has had a deleterious effect on the Marriott Delray Beach, once Marriott's flagship property in Palm Beach County. The sprawling, Mediterranean-style oceanfront resort has reacted by dumping the Marriott flag and rebranding as the Opal Grand. It has also secured zoning approvals for a major renovation that'll transform the 277-room property into a whitewashed, resort heavy on tile and greenery.
        Accor Hotels says it is following Marriott, Hyatt and InterContinental and eliminating single-use bathroom amenities. The switchover at the 5,000-property chain, which operates brands such as Fairmont, Sofitel, Novotel, Raffles and Ibis, will be complete by the end of the year. The chain says that by 2022 it also will eliminate items such as plastic cups and coffee stirrers and single-use plastic laundry bags.

Six years after killing its Cleveland hub, United Airlines is all but abandoning the city. On March 29, United will kill its routes to New York/LaGuardia and Washington/National. United has remained Cleveland's largest carrier with an 18 percent share of the market, but Southwest Airlines, currently with a 16.5 percent share, will almost surely supplant United now that it is exiting the key New York and Washington routes.
        Nashville will get more service from JetBlue Airways. Beginning April 28, JetBlue will launch twice-daily Airbus A320 flight to its New York/Kennedy hub. JetBlue already flies from Nashville to its Boston/Logan and Fort Lauderdale hubs.
        San Jose has a new airport hotel. A 165-room Hyatt House opened across US 101 from the airport grounds. Located on North 1st Street, the hotel offers a free airport shuttle.

Azul, the Brazil-based start-up launched by JetBlue founder David Neeleman, expected to launch flights to New York/Kennedy in July, 2015. Then the Brazilian economy collapsed and JFK service was first delayed and then effectively cancelled. But while Azul still loses money, its prospects have brightened lately so here comes JFK again. Azul now says its daily flights to Kennedy from Sao Paulo/Viracopos will begin on June 15 using Airbus A330s.
        JetBlue Airways is adding and subtracting internationally. New is a JFK-Guatemala City run. Daily flights begin June 1 using A320s. Effective April 29, however, the airline drops Fort Lauderdale routes to Bridgetown, Barbados, and Santiago, Dominican Republic.
        WestJet says it will add flights from Halifax to Manchester, England. Beginning June 5, there'll be four weekly flights using Boeing 737-700s.

Norwegian Air is juggling its baggage fees. Bottom line: You will pay more on cheaper fares, less on premium ones. Travelers who buy LowFare coach tickets will now be permitted only one carry-on and it must fit under your seat. Bring a bag for the overhead locker and you'll pay $8-$12 depending on flight length. You'll also pay for checked bags. LowFare+ flyers will be permitted two free carry-ons and one free checked bag. Full-fare (Flex) coach and Premium flyers receive two carry-ons and two checked bags free of charge.
        San Antonio has paid more than $300,000 in legal fees so far to defend its decision last year to bar a Chick-fil-A franchise from opening in the city's airport.
        Southwest Airlines says that the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX reduced operating income last year by more than $800 million. Which only adds piquancy to the news from Boeing this week that it now doesn't expect FAA approval to resume MAX flying until at least the summer.