Business Travel Briefing
For July 9-July 23, 2020
Travel's modest revival now seems in doubt. Hyatt offers up to 25 percent rebates on award redemptions. JetBlue bails on Long Beach and is moving flights to LAX. American Airlines relocates to Terminal 5 at London/Heathrow. Hong Kong's agony never ends. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

The Fourth of July weekend brought a "boom" in flying. On several days over the holiday, as many as 750,000 people passed through airports, according to TSA counts of checkpoint traffic. While that was only around 35 percent of 2019's holiday-weekend volume it was also the highest flyer number since March 18, the week that the White House launched its "stop the spread campaign." But that may be the high point of the summer's minuscule travel revival. Airlines are reporting heavy cancellation of advance bookings as the Coronavirus surges throughout the Sunbelt. And U.S. hotel occupancy for the week ended July 4 fell fractionally to 45.6 percent from the week before, according to STR, the hotel statisticians. United Airlines this week confirmed that it was cutting its August capacity, too. It had planned to fly 40 percent of its 2019 schedule next month, but has now scaled it back to just 35 percent. "The numbers are going in the wrong direction," one airline executive told me today. "I'd say the rest of the summer looked grim except 'grim' was the word I was using for the spring."

Hyatt destroyed much of its brand loyalty when it switched to the less-generous World of Hyatt program from its much-loved Gold Passport plan. Since the pandemic, however, it has been the most aggressive hotel chain trying to lure guests into their properties. The latest incentive: a rebate of as much as 25 percent on award stays for the next three months. In recent summers, Hyatt has offered award rebates, but this year's offer is by far the most generous. World of Hyatt members earn a 15 percent rebate of points for stays until October 8. If you are also a Hyatt Card or World of Hyatt Card holder, the rebate is bumped to 25 percent. Advance registration by September 1 is required.
        InterContinental Hotels is slapping its name on the best-known hotel in Fiji. The five-star Grand Pacific opened in 1914 and reopened in 2014 after a 12-year closure. The seafront property has been an independent property.

JetBlue Airways has been holding its corporate breath and stomping its feet ever since 2017 when Long Beach Airport refused to allow it to run international flights or open a customs facility. It has been pulling down flights at LGB over the last three years and today (July 9) said it will exit the airport entirely on October 6. Los Angeles International, an airport JetBlue once derided, will become its Southern California hub. On October 7, the carrier will add seven new LAX runs to complement its existing schedule of six routes. Which, of course, means all of the nation's leading carriers now claim to an LAX hub. As for Long Beach, the airport is slot-controlled and Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines had been pushing for more space there before the pandemic.
        Atlanta/Hartsfield now requires masks in all parts of the airport.
        Cincinnati will have to wait a little longer for Alaska Airlines flights. Alaska Air's route to Seattle-Tacoma has been delayed until May 1. The carrier was originally scheduled to launch the flights on August 18.

Alert: American Airlines is moving in with its joint-venture and OneWorld Alliance partner British Airways at London/Heathrow Airport. AA has decamped from Terminal 3 and taken up at BA's home in Terminal 5. Lounge access for premium passengers is a bit complicated because BA hasn't reopened all its clubs. At the moment, premium customers should probably start at the BA Concorde Room, which has opened again. But check with AA to be sure of the current scenario.
        El Al is now grounded again until at least August 1. The carrier had just resumed service, but last week got into a squabble with employees. When it resumes service, there should be nonstops from Tel Aviv to New York/JFK, Los Angeles and Miami.
        Austrian Airlines is dumping flights between its Vienna hub and Salzburg. Effective July 20, it will offer rail connections to Salzburg Central Station direct from Vienna Airport. The move is part of the Austrian government bailout. A similar situation is developing in France where Air France has agreed to stop competing with rail service on some short-haul domestic routes.

Dreaming of Tahiti? Your best option may be flying via Vancouver. The city is suddenly the hub for all flights between Europe and Papeete. Air France and French Bee now route their Paris-Tahiti service via Vancouver. But only Air Tahiti Nui, which also flies Papeete-Vancouver-Paris, has "local" traffic rights to haul you on the Vancouver-Tahiti leg. At the moment, Air Tahiti Nui is not flying its traditional LAX-Papeete route.
        Southwest Airlines says it no longer accepts cash for tickets, upgrades or extra baggage. It stopped accepting cash for in-flight charges in 2008.
        Air Canada has added two new partners to Aeroplan. You can now redeem miles for flights on Etihad, the Abu Dhabi carrier, and Azul, the Brazilian airline.

Even before the Coronavirus pandemic hit, Hong Kong's tourism and travel was drying up as the China-backed local government targeted democracy demonstrators. The Coronavirus wiped out tourism altogether and now that the pandemic is easing, China is making the city grovel. A controversial new "security" law was imposed last month and this week China seized the 266-room Metropark Hotel and converted it into the headquarters of the Beijing-based secret police. The force is beyond the reach of local courts and police and is empowered to kidnap Hongkongers and drag them across the border for show trials. And then came another hammer: An abrupt change in Coronavirus testing procedures for flight crews this week has led several airlines--including United and American--to abandon their resumed Hong Kong routes. As a result, American says all flights are cancelled until next month. United said its service may resume this weekend.