Business Travel Briefing
For October 1 to 14, 2020
The briefing in brief: Hyatt unveils a rich fourth-quarter promotion and extends award rebates. Brussels will get a U.S. Customs pre-clearance facility. InterContinental thinks we need Voco, another hotel brand. Delta and United trim Canada flights. New Yorkers get Global Entry membership extended. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

Hyatt has been behind the business travel eight ball ever since it replaced the rich Gold Passport for the chintzy World of Hyatt program. But the chain--which is literally multiple thousands of locations smaller than major competitors--has lapped the field during the pandemic. World of Hyatt's offers have been richer and more frequent than any other loyalty plan. And Hyatt upped the ante again this week by unleashing a gaudy fourth-quarter promotion--and extending its innovative points-rebate plan, too. The new offer: The Bonus Journey scheme offers triple points for qualifying stays until January 4. If you have a Hyatt-branded credit card and stay at a resort property, you'll earn even more: quadruple points. And there's still more: Each stay earns elite-status credit now and again in 2021 for 2022 status. The only major restriction: You must register by November 30. Prefer to burn off points instead? World of Hyatt has extended until January 4 the 15/25 percent scheme first introduced in July. In that promo, you earn a 15 percent rebate on awards used for free nights. If you have a Hyatt credit card, the rebate is 25 percent. You get free parking, too. If you previously registered for the promo, you're good to go. If you didn't, register for the 15 percent rebate here. If you have a Hyatt card, register here.

The last thing U.S. travelers need now is another customs pre-clearance facility at an international airport. After all, there's virtually no one who'll let us into their country, let alone be a need for a customs clearance operation when we leave. Nevertheless, the CBP says Brussels will get a U.S. customs operation. If you've already forgotten, pre-clearance means you deal with immigration and customs formalities at your departure airport. Then you disembark and are treated as a domestic flyer when you arrive in the United States. Pre-clearance facilities already exist at nine Canadian airports, four Caribbean airports, in Abu Dhabi and at Dublin and Shannon in Ireland. The U.S. and Belgium have been discussing preclearance for five years. No timeline was announced for when the facility will open.
        Delta Air Lines is adding service in Latin America as it searches for routes it can fly with some passing relation to profit. From its New York/Kennedy hub, it'll resume daily flights to Los Cabos (SJD) and add daily San Salvador (SAL) service, too. Boeing 737s will be used on both runs. Delta hasn't flown the Los Cabos route since early 2019. Delta is also reviving a Mexico route from its Salt Lake City hub. Effective November 8, it'll resume daily flights to Guadalajara with Airbus A319s. It hasn't flown that run since early 2018.

The next-to-last thing travelers need is another brand from a major hotel chain. But that won't stop Intercontinental. Its newest operation is Voco, which the hotel industry called a "conversion brand." In other words, it's a mostly standard-free accumulation of properties wooed from other chains because the owner is dissatisfied with policies, doesn't want to invest in renovations or wants a lower-cost option. Think DoubleTree by Hilton or Marriott's growing Delta Hotels brand. In the case of Voco, IHG is pitching it as hip, small, boutique-y and (shudder!) lifestyle. InterContinental launched Voco in June, 2018, mostly to accommodate the owner of about a dozen British hotels. It has also reflagged a few in Australia, too. Last week brought the first continental European properties: a 102-room hotel in Paris' Montparnasse district and a resort in Villach, Austria. Both properties shifted from InterContinental's Holiday Inn brand. This week brings news of the first three U.S. hotels that will reflag as Voco. They include the 50-room Franklin on Manhattan's Upper East Side; The Tiger Hotel, adjacent to the University of Missouri campus in Columbia; and a three-year-old, 50-room hotel in St. Augustine, Florida, that opened as a LaQuinta.

With the United States and Canada closing land borders and discouraging nonessential flying, U.S. carriers have bowed to the obvious and cut transborder flights. United Airlines, for example, will limit service to six routes from its hubs until at least mid-February. From Denver, there'll be flights to Calgary and Vancouver. There'll also be Vancouver flights from San Francisco. From Washington/Dulles, there'll be service to Montreal and Toronto/Pearson. There'll also be flights from Chicago/O'Hare to Toronto. Over at Delta Air Lines, there will be just five routes from its hubs until at least early December. From Detroit/Metro, there's service to both Montreal and Toronto. From Minneapolis/St. Paul, there will be three weekly runs to both Calgary and Winnipeg. Delta will also run Seattle-Vancouver flights.
        Baltimore/Washington doesn't have an on-airport hotel, but now, at least, there is someplace to perch for long layovers. Minute Suites opened today in Concourse C.
        Global Entry members in New York whose membership expired when Homeland Security closed the program for political reasons had their membership extended for 18 months. Memberships were reinstated on September 25. This wasn't largesse from Homeland Security, of course. The Trump Administration was forced to overturn the New York ban after a disastrous court case.

Uber will continue to operate in London after a local magistrate overruled the city's transit regulatory body. Uber originally lost its license in 2017 and had it revoked again in 2019. The transit authority, Transport for London, said the ride-share operation violated a multitude of rules. But Uber has fought in the courts and this week won an 18-month renewal of its operating authority. Almost two dozen conditions were placed on the renewal, many of them to protect riders against the same practices that the regulator highlighted.
        Chase Ultimate Rewards is offering some intriguing transfer bonuses. Through October 31, you'll get a 20 percent bonus for transferring points to Southwest Rapid Rewards and a 40 percent bonus for sending points to Marriott Bonvoy.
        TD Bank is hiking the annual fee on its Air Canada Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege card. On November 8, the yearly increases to C$599 (up from C$399) and additional cards will cost C$199 each (up from C$99). Benefits will be improved, however. Earnings on Air Canada charges will jump to two points per dollar, up from 1.5 points. Also added: a C$100 fee rebate for Nexus, a U.S. bypass program for transborder travelers.