Business Travel Briefing
For September 10 to 24, 2020
The briefing in brief: Desperate to find revenue, airlines add a raft of odd routes. JetBlue will fly transcon from LAX to Raleigh-Durham and Charleston and United promises new flights to Africa and India. Porter Airlines delays its restart again this time to November 12. Abandoning Coronavirus screening, the U.S. lifts rules on where international flights can land. And much more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

Now that the modest Labor Day bump in air travel is over--traffic fell by more than 350,000 passengers yesterday compared to last Thursday--airlines are desperately casting about for somewhere to fly. Bumping along at about 30 percent of last year's volume doesn't create a lot of confidence, so you'll be forgiven for thinking the carriers are simply throwing darts at a route map in hopes of gaining financial traction. By the airlines' own admission, it's a matter of finding places that work now to raise some revenue. Alternately, you can think them crazy for launching new routes with so few flyers available. But launch they must apparently and here's some of what has been announced this week:
        JetBlue Airways today unleashed an astounding two dozen new routes beginning in November and December. From Newark, there will be a raft of Caribbean flights, including runs to Aruba, Cancun, Montego Bay, Nassau and Sint Maarten. From Los Angeles, new flights include routes to Charleston (CHS), Raleigh-Durham and West Palm Beach. Richmond, Virginia, will get nonstop routes to Tampa and Las Vegas.
        United Airlines claims it will begin flying new routes to India, Africa and Hawaii. Even before the pandemic, United erratically stopped and started runs to Delhi and Mumbai from its Newark hub, but now says it'll add nonstops to Bangalore (from San Francisco) and Delhi (from Chicago/O'Hare), too. It also insists there'll be runs to both Accra (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria) from Washington/Dulles. A Newark-Johannesburg nonstop was also announced. New Hawaii nonstops include O'Hare-Kona, Big Island, and the first-ever nonstop to Maui from Newark.
        American Airlines is adding flights to Daytona Beach from its Dallas/Fort Worth and Philadelphia hubs in December and a commuter route between its Charlotte hub and Appleton, Wisconsin, due to launch in November.
        Delta Air Lines is dusting off a chestnut: flights to Indianapolis from Northwest's former hub in Memphis. Commuter service is due to begin October 1. Delta hasn't flown the route in more than five years.

Porter Airlines, the quirky carrier based at Billy Bishop City Airport, just a short walk from downtown Toronto, has once again pushed back its relaunch. It grounded itself on March 21 as Canada and the United States shut down in the early stages of the pandemic. Porter's original restart date was June 1, but that has consistently been delayed. It was going to be August 31, then October 7. Now the privately owned airline has rescheduled its relaunch for November 12, an odd date given that Canadian traffic slows down in late fall through the harsh winter months. "Every one of our markets is affected by the Canadian government's non-essential travel advisory and border closures," complained chief executive Michael Deluce. Before shutdown, Porter flew to five U.S. cities and more than a dozen Canadian airports using a fleet of uniquely configured 78-seat Q400 turboprops.
        Kuwait Airways resumes its flights between New York/Kennedy and Kuwait City on October 6. There'll be one weekly roundtrip using Boeing 777-300ERs.

You've probably forgotten, but the United States currently limits flights from Europe, China and Brazil to 15 U.S. airports. The alleged purpose: CDC screening for Covid-19 on arrival. But the CDC Coronavirus Kabuki was more fantasy than fact and the agency announced this week that it wouldn't even bother with the cursory screenings after Sunday (September 13). The biggest beneficiary of the new, even-more-laissez-faire CDC attitude? American Airlines. Its hubs in Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix have not been on the approved list. Also a beneficiary: Delta Air Lines, which can now resume international service at its Minneapolis/St. Paul hub. Of course, the question is why even bother? The travel ban between the United States and Europe remains in effect, no one sane would travel to Brazil just now--it's in even worse shape than us--and the ongoing squabble between the United States and China limits traffic to eight flights a week from each side.
        Dallas/Fort Worth finally gets its Plaza Premium lounge. Originally due to open earlier this year, but delayed by the growing pandemic, the 1,400-square-foot club is located near Gate E31.

In case you hadn't noticed, airline traffic plummeted in July. According to newly released figures from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), traffic fell 73 percent compared to 2019. That's about 21.4 million passengers. If you're looking for the silver lining, the BTS says the 21.4 million is up dramatically compared to the 3 million who flew in April.
        Cuba has lost its last U.S.-operated and U.S.-branded hotel. The Four Points Havana closed on September 1. It opened in 2016 shortly after President Obama loosened rules on investments in Cuba and closed at the order of the Trump Administration, which has essentially shut down U.S.-Cuba travel again.
        American Airlines in June quietly removed its complete ticket rules from its Web site. That's important because any AA ticket you purchase incorporates the full rules by reference and directs you to the Web site to examine them. No one noticed AA's move--which the carrier refuses to explain--until someone this month filed a complaint with the Transportation Department.