Business Travel Briefing
For Feb. 27-March 12, 2020
The briefing in brief: American Airlines and Qatar Airways make peace and revive a code-share deal. British courts rule against a third runway at London/Heathrow. Flyers claim airlines are gaming Canada's new passenger rights regulations. North American flyers get some new connections to India. Founder of failed People Express revival is going to jail for fraud. Amtrak makes cheapest fares nonrefundable. And much more.

Airlines are like vindictive lovers who just can't move on. They'll say nasty things about each other, do terrible things to each other in public, then rush back into each other's arms when it's convenient. How else to explain this week's moves that have thrown American Airlines and Qatar Airways back together and had Delta Air Lines rushing in to support the management of Korean Air that it once vilified? In the case of American and Qatar Air, the OneWorld Alliance partners will be making sweet, sweet love again after American once scorned Qatar as a share-stealing, subsidy-taking plague. The new deal will reestablish the code-shares between the two airlines, inevitably bring Qatar Airways awards back to American AAdvantage and, possibly, mean American Airlines will fly to Doha, Qatar Airways' global hub. Meanwhile, Delta has waded into the nasty fight over control of Korean Air by upping its stake in the carrier to 11 percent. The new investment comes less than a year after Delta first bought into the carrier with a 4.3 percent stake. Delta is now the third-largest investor in Korean's holding company, which is perceived as a vote of support for the carrier's embattled chairman. That's ironic since Delta waged a years-long campaign against Korean Air because the Seoul-based carrier resisted a joint-venture deal. Korean and Delta eventually came to terms, Delta dismantled its hub at Tokyo/Narita and moved most connecting service to Seoul/Incheon, Korean Air's hub.

The years-long battle over a third runway for overcrowded London/Heathrow took another strange turn today (February 27) as London's Court of Appeals ruled against the expansion plan. The judges did not decide against the third runway directly, but blocked it on the grounds that the British government and Heathrow did not account for the expansion in the Paris Climate Accords. The airport's owner immediately said it would appeal the ruling, but the British government said it would not. And that's not surprising since current Prime Minister Boris Johnson once promised to "lie down in front of those bulldozers" to stop runway construction. British Airways, Heathrow's dominant carrier, has balked at the high cost of runway construction and has hedged its bets by purchasing hub capacity elsewhere with the deal to buy Aer Lingus.
        Charlotte now has an American Express Centurion Lounge. The 13,000-square-foot facility opens Monday (March 2) and is located above the D and E Concourses. Expect the typical crowds, especially since Charlotte is light on common-use lounges for an airport that hosts American's 700-flight hub and many other daily flights.
        Austin now has two scaled-down branches of Vino Volo, the much-admired airport wine-bar concept. One is located in the Center Court near Gate 22 and the other is at Gate 8. Both locations feature bottles from Texas wineries as well as the chain's normal mix of small plates, charcuterie and domestic and international wine.

The collapse of Jet Airways last year left North American travelers to India with many fewer connection opportunities. But Jet's former SkyTeam partners are now stepping up to fill the gap. Air France will add three weekly Boeing 787 flights to Chennai starting June 14. That'll give North American travelers a chance to get to South India via Paris/CDG. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic, Delta and Air France's British vassal, is launching flights to Delhi from Manchester in the north of England. Three weekly Airbus A330-200s will ply the route beginning October 26.
        Lufthansa is adding flights to Calgary from its Frankfurt hub. Four weekly flights begin June 1. The Airbus A330-200s will be configured with business class, premium economy and coach.
        Delta Air Lines and LATAM, which launched a code-share partnership after Delta bought into the Latin carrier, are now frequent flyer award partners, too. Effective April 1, SkyMiles players will be able to earn and burn on LATAM flights. Don't expect any bargains because Delta ...

When the Canadian Transportation Agency launched new regulations last December 15, travelers were thrilled that they'd be eligible for as much as $1,000 in compensation if delays or cancellations were within the airline's controls. Naturally, it's all gone wrong because airlines are playing hide-the-ball with the rules. The agency has received more than 3,000 complaints in the first eight weeks of the new regulations claiming that airlines are unlawfully denying compensation. Now the CTA says it'll investigate a total of 570 of those complaints involving 78 flights. More than half the complaints involve Air Canada and the rest are about United Airlines, WestJet and three smaller Canadian airlines. Earlier this month, the CBC, Canada's national broadcaster, highlighted how airlines were gaming the complaint system.

Amtrak adopts a new fare regimen Sunday (March 1) and the net-net is it looks a lot like airline pricing. The cheapest fares still will be called Saver, but now will be nonrefundable and won't permit route or train changes. None of this should shock you. Amtrak's boss is Richard Anderson, former chief executive of Delta Air Lines, and he's imported several former Delta minions to rework the railroad's operations.
        People Express, the revived carrier that went folded after several months in 2014, has come to its logical end. Founder Michael Morisi was sentenced to two years in jail last week after pleading guilty to federal fraud charges. The convoluted tale basically involves Morisi upstreaming money to himself as the airline struggled. He was also ordered to pay about $500,000 in restitution to the IRS and an early investor in the airline.