Business Travel Briefing
For October 15 to 29, 2020
The briefing in brief: American Airlines makes elite status easier in 2021 and National Car Rental extends perks. Lufthansa slashes North Atlantic winter schedule. Silver Airways adds three Florida routes from Charleston, South Carolina. WestJet abandons Atlantic Canada airports. Hawaiian Airlines drops Molokai and Lanai flights. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

After years of devaluing elite levels or making them more difficult to reach, the travel industry is desperately backpedaling in hopes of keeping travelers loyal when we return to the road. After across-the-board status extensions for 2020, the 2021 field now seems rife for changes and extensions, too. Hyatt last week started the ball rolling and now both American Airlines and National Car Rental have made changes, too. At American, the carrier is reducing the amount of dollars, miles and segments required in 2021 for 2022 AAdvantage elite status. It is also permitting any flights flown during the remainder of this year to count as 2021 travel for 2022 elite status. There are other changes--customer-friendly changes, in fact--for AAdvantage players. You can examine all the adjustments here. Meanwhile, National Car says elite members of the Emerald Club will have their status extended until February 28, 2022. Another improvement: Emerald Club free days due to expire on December 31 will be valid until December 31, 2021.

Transatlantic traffic hasn't rebounded--And how could it with countries on both sides of the pond banning entry?--so airlines are slashing schedules again. Even conservative restart plans are getting the axe. For example, the new Lufthansa schedule for flights between December 1 and March 27 shows substantial cuts to its once-impressive North America-Europe network. From its Frankfurt hub, Lufthansa has cancelled routes to Austin, Denver and San Diego. From its Munich hub, routes to New York/Kennedy and Washington/Dulles have been dumped. Routes from Frankfurt to Atlanta and Tampa won't even return until March. On all other routes, frequencies have been slashed (daily to three times a week, for instance) and/or smaller aircraft with fewer seats will be used.
        Copa Airlines says it will resume Panama City-Toronto flights this weekend. There'll be three weekly flights using Boeing 737-800s.
        Air India is launching nonstops from Vancouver to Delhi effective November 1. There'll be three weekly flights using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Airlines began reporting third-quarter earnings this week and it's gone about as you'd expect: disaster, desperation and whistling past an uncounted number of graveyards. At Delta Air Lines, the carrier reported a 3Q loss of $5.8 billion on revenue of just $3 billion. Numbers looked better at United Airlines: a loss of "only" $1.8 billion on revenues of $2.49 billion. Why did Delta have such a large loss compared to United? Delta has already written down the value of many its aircraft, which resulted in a $2 billion charge. That pain is yet to come at United. Stay tuned because more major carriers report next week and it won't be any prettier.
        Porter Airlines, the carrier based at Toronto/City Island airport, has again delayed its return. Now the target date is December 15, at least the third time Porter has pushed back its return.
        Southwest Airlines says it will add flights next year at two new airports: Chicago/O'Hare and Houston/Intercontinental. Southwest already has hubs at Midway in Chicago and Hobby in Houston.

Silver Airways, a mostly independent commuter airline, has largely focused on flights between Florida and the Caribbean. But with the Caribbean still off the board for many travelers, Silver is looking closer to home. The result? Three new routes to Charleston, South Carolina, from Florida. Effective November 23, there'll be three weekly flights to Orlando, two weekly flights to Fort Lauderdale and three weekly runs to Tampa. Silver will operate the routes with 34-seat Saab 340Bs.
        Atlantic Canada airports are losing flights from WestJet, Canada's second-largest airline. The discounter is dumping--WestJet calls its "suspending"--service at Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Charlottetown. The carrier is also sharply reducing service at Halifax. Also gone: Flights to Quebec City. When will WestJet restore the "suspended" airports? "Unknown," the airline admits.
        Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa is losing flights from United Airlines. United dropped flights to Denver in April and now it'll dump service to San Francisco at the end of the month. United promises to resume flights in the spring, but gives no specific dates.

Hawaiian Airlines is making it even harder to get around Hawaii, no easy task given the overlapping series of rules, restrictions and testing requirements retarding inter-island travel. On November 1, Hawaiian says it will ground 'Ohana commuter service. That means no more flights to the islands of Molokai and Lanai. Those two islands will now have to make do with 9-seat flights from a small, local carrier.
        Air Canada is going ahead with its purchase of Transat, but it is getting a huge Coronavirus discount. The deal is now valued at C$190 million. When the deal was announced in August, 2019, the purchase price was C$720 million.
        Alaska Airlines has pushed back the relaunch of San Francisco-Anchorage service. The daily flights are now planned to begin May 20. Alaska hasn't flown SFO-ANC in a decade.