Business Travel Briefing
For June 18-July 2, 2020
The briefing in brief: JetBlue takes a run at United in Newark, including transcon premium flights. Canada mandates temperature checks for all flyers. Hotels "rebound" to 40 percent occupancy. China and the United States forge a temporary truce on flights. Amtrak slashes long-haul train runs. And more, including our daily Coronavirus update.

No carrier has been more aggressive cutting pandemic schedules than United Airlines. Even with a major injection of new flying in recent weeks, United in July will only operate at about 30 percent of 2019 levels. Its most shriveled hub is Newark, United's transcontinental anchor and the nexus of its international flying. JetBlue Airways, headquartered across the Hudson River at New York/JFK, has certainly taken notice of United's enfeebled Newark operation. Which explains JetBlue's announcement today (June 18) of a major build-up at Newark. Key to the announcement: premium-class Mint service on traditional Transcon Triangle routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Effective July 23, JetBlue says it'll fly three times daily to LAX and twice daily to SFO using Airbus A321s configured with Mint's lie-flat beds and the airline's slightly-better-than-awful coach class. Besides the transcon routes, JetBlue will also revive or launch Newark flights to Charleston, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Austin; San Diego; Las Vegas; Phoenix; and Sarasota. Disgruntled United frequent flyers using Newark will welcome JetBlue, of course, but breaking up will be harder to do than you'd think: JetBlue offers no airport lounges at all, not even for the Mint flyers, and its TrueBlue frequent flyer program makes United MileagePlus look like nirvana.

For better and worse, the Canadian government is doing what the United States government won't: It's mandating airport temperature screenings for all passengers. The temp checks will come in phases. Effective June 30, all carriers bringing passengers into Canada on U.S. transborder or international flights will have to conduct temperature checks at the point of departure. By the end of July, the government says there will be temperature screening stations in departure area at the nation's four busiest airports: Montreal, Toronto/Pearson, Calgary and Vancouver. By September, the next 11 busiest Canadian airports will have screening stations. The stations will be manned by Canadian Air Transport Security Authority officers, says Transport Canada, the country's aviation regulatory agency. Travelers who register "elevated" temperatures will be unable to travel for 14 days. More details are here.
        Portland, Oregon gets a nonstop to Honolulu back. Hawaiian Airlines resumes a daily flight on July 1. But remember: Hawaii's 14-day mandatory self-quarantine continues until at least July 30.
        Singapore/Changi Airport says it'll delay construction on its proposed fifth terminal for at least two years.

The U.S. hotel industry had been defying gravity before the pandemic, adding new rooms to inventory and simultaneously increasing both occupancy and nightly rates. Now reality has hit hard. By mid-April, nationwide occupancy rates had skidded to around 21 percent and average nightly rates were about $74. Both rate and occupancy has recovered extremely slowly. For the week ended June 13, for example, average occupancy surged above 40 percent--to 41.7 percent--for the first time. The average daily rate has grown by about $15 and now stands around $89 a night. Things remain much worse north of the border, however. Canadian occupancy rates, which had fallen into the teens in April, have only rebounded to 23.6 percent for the week ended June 13. The average nightly room rate in Canada now stands at C$108.23, or a shade below US$80.
        So long, Stonewall The operators of the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center in Staunton, Virginia, say they will change the property's name. No new moniker has been announced. The operators say they considered changing the name in 2005 when the property was reopened after a renovation, but didn't act.

The increasingly contentious aviation relationship between the United States and China this week reached an uneasy detente. After more than a month of squabbling over Chinese carriers resuming U.S. service and the Chinese government denying United Airlines and Delta Air Lines the right to restart China service, the two governments this week made a temporary peace. Both countries now will allow a total of four flights per week for its airlines. That'll permit Delta to resume a weekly flight to Shanghai from both its Seattle and Detroit hubs. Neither run will be nonstop and both will operate via Seoul. Service should resume next month. United has not said when it would resume flying to China. Speaking of Sino-American aviation relationships, consider this eye-opening report on sales of airport passenger bridges. As Politico reports, a Chinese company banned from the U.S. market for 20 years is making a comeback as it tries to sell the specialty devices to American airports.
        Turkish Airlines again delayed the launch of flights from Vancouver to Istanbul. Three weekly Boeing 787 runs were due on June 9. It was then delayed to July 16. Now it's scheduled for September 3.
        Delta Air Lines says it will resume flights to South Africa on March 28 using Airbus A350s. Because of range limitation of the A350s, however, the service will run nonstop between Atlanta and Johannesburg, but operate Jo'burg-Cape Town-Atlanta on the return. We discussed whys, wherefores, weather and weight issues of the service here.

Level, the low-fare operation owned by British Airways' parent company, is ending some intra-Europe flights. Its Austrian division went into administration--a European form of liquidation--this week. The carrier, which was flying to the United States from Barcelona and other cities before the pandemic, has been grounded since March. There's no word when transatlantic operations will resume.
        Amtrak is slashing service on its money-losing long-haul routes. Expecting a 50 percent decline in ridership during its next fiscal year, most long-haul runs will be cut to three weekly trains from daily service. Others will be cancelled, including The Carolinian between New York and Charlotte and The Pere Marquette between Chicago and Grand Rapids. At least three runs that once reached into Canada (The Cascades, The Maple Leaf and The Adirondack) will now terminate before the border. Around 450 stations outside the Northeast Corridor will lose daily service in the move, Amtrak estimates.