Business Travel Briefing
For June 25-July 9, 2020
The briefing in brief: Boston/Logan and Raleigh/Durham halt expansion plans. The month of May was anything but merry for global hoteliers. Qantas says it won't fly internationally for another year. The Marriott Wardman Park in Washington will close. WestJet will lay off more than 3,000 employees. And more, including our daily Coronavirus update.

To paraphrase a Monty Python sketch--well, a lot of Monty Python sketches--all travel lay in ruin after the Coronavirus. And to paraphrase Edward Dekker, a Brit of an earlier era, it was a very unmerry month of May for global hoteliers. If the numbers from STR, the travel research firm, are to be believed, May was simply horrific for lodging around the world. In Europe, for example, continent-wide nightly occupancy fell to 13.3 percent. It was lower in Germany (11.7 percent) and the Netherlands (10.7 percent), which escaped the worst of the virus but is totally dependent on international traffic to fill rooms. In South America, hotel occupancy in May was 15.3 percent. It was better--well, relatively--in Peru (39.9 percent) but an unbelievable 6.7 percent in Colombia. Things were a bit better in May in the Middle East, where occupancy was a comparatively robust 36 percent. Africa, just now seeing the worst of the virus, was nevertheless at 14.2 percent in May. Across the Asia/Pacific region, hotel occupancy in May was up substantially from April, but still only 35.8 percent. Ironically, China is now outperforming the region and its vast hotel infrastructure was at 45.2 percent in May. The best place to be a hotelier in May? Singapore, where 71.5 percent of rooms were occupied. But the city-state's average daily rate of S$95.44 (about US$68.50) was 62.5 percent off from May, 2019.

You're going to hear a lot of this in coming months. With flying just 20 percent of 2019 levels and a "full" recovery literally years away, two fast-growing U.S. airports--Boston/Logan and Raleigh/Durham--are shelving their aggressive expansion plans. RDU executives expect traffic to be 20 percent below 2019 levels even as late as the end of 2024, so there doesn't seem to be need for new facilities. The airport has shelved plans to add gates to its two terminals and abandoned a plan to build a consolidated car-rental facility. Also off the board: expansion of the Terminal 2 customs area. Up in Boston, a five-year, $3 billion expansion program already has been trimmed by a third. That means no people mover connecting facilities and a halt to two new parking garages. Also abandoned: three of the seven new gates planned for Terminal E.
        The Club, the airport-lounge network owned by the same folks as Priority Pass, has begun to reopen some facilities. The Dallas/Fort Worth lounge reopened yesterday (June 24), clubs in Las Vegas and Orlando reopen Monday (June 29) and clubs in Seattle and Jacksonville return on July 1.
        San Diego and Sacramento get their Honolulu nonstops from Hawaiian Airlines back next month. Both routes return on July 15. Hawaiian previously announced the resumption of Portland service on July 1.

Astonishing news from Qantas Airways, the dominant carrier of Australia. The company said today (June 25) that it doesn't expect to resume international flights for about 12 months. The only exception: Trans-Tasman service to New Zealand. The further year-long hiatus means Qantas will be a substantially smaller carrier for quite a while. The result: massive layoffs. The airline is firing one in five workers, about 6,000 people. Also gone: The carrier's last six Boeing 747s. The airline will also mothball all 12 of its Airbus A380s for at least three years. (Don't bet on those planes ever seeing the light of day again.) Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says the airline will try to raise as much as A$1.9 billion (US$1.3 billion) in fresh capital to continue flying. At the moment, Qantas is running at only 15 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
        United Airlines has dropped plans to resume flights between its Newark hub and Manchester, England. It originally said flights would return October 24.
        Virgin Atlantic says it will return to the United States starting late next month. Flights to New York/JFK and Los Angeles are now due to resume on July 21. Other destinations return in August and September. But be wary: Virgin has already missed the restart date on several routes and these runs might be delayed again.

Last week it was the Omni Berkshire Place in midtown Manhattan that posted a permanent death notice. This week it's Washington's Marriott Wardman Park that apparently won't reopen. Closed since March, the mammoth property has about 1,100 rooms and 200,000 square feet of ballroom and event space. Marriott won't confirm that the Woodley Park fixture is closing, but admitted it issued WARN notices to employees about termination. Ironically, the hotel opened in 1918 during the the Spanish Flu pandemic.
        Ritz-Carlton will lose its suburban New York outpost. The 13-year-old Ritz Carlton White Plains in Westchester is closing permanently. The property will remain in the Marriott orbit, however. After a renovation it will reopen as a property in the chain's Autograph Collection of independents.
        Best Western is reviving its Rush Rewards promotion with an appropriate Coronavirus twist. You'll earn a $25 Best Western Gift Card after one stay in the United States, Canada or the Caribbean before September 7. Advance registration is required, of course. Best Western has used the gift card angle before, but it usually required two stays.

WestJet says it is laying off 3,333 employees, an oddly specific number. To help reach the goal, the Canadian carrier says it'll contract out all airport work except at Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.
        Pakistan International, generally regarded as one of the world's worst carriers, is grounding 150 pilots. The reason? They have fake licenses. Most cheated on their exams by having others take the tests for them. As you recall, Pakistan International Flight 8303 crashed last month in Karachi and killed 97 people. Pakistani regulators say the crash was caused when pilots botched a second landing attempt and ignored procedures because they were chatting about the Coronavirus.