Business Travel Briefing
For Oct. 29-Nov. 12, 2020
The briefing in brief: Hilton Honors extends elite status for another year. Berlin Brandenburg finally opens (again) after an eight-year delay. Southwest Airlines adds flights to Colorado Springs and Chicago/O'Hare. New airport clubs for Nashville and Calgary. Eurostar starts direct Amsterdam-London trains. Borat catchphrase becomes Kazakhstan's tourism slogan. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

What once was important travel stuff in Europe is now just a rather depressing exercise in armchair voyeurism. Take, for example, this bit: Eurostar finally started a direct high-speed rail route between Amsterdam and London. Launched Monday (October 26), the run eliminates the need for passengers to change at Brussels/Midi for passport and border checks. The train makes an intermediate stop in Rotterdam and travelers in both Dutch cities can clear border formalities at their points of origin. Ditto for riders who start their journey at London/St. Pancras. The direct run knocks an hour off the old travel time and takes around four hours. Meanwhile, Berlin's cursed "new" airport, Brandenburg is scheduled to open on Saturday (October 31). I say scheduled because we went through all this more than eight years ago, when the facility was just a few weeks from opening. Then a slew of safety and construction faults were uncovered and it's been nearly nine years of hell to get everything fixed. Now Europe's newest airport is something of a white elephant. Former hub carrier Air Berlin is out of business. There were tiny status boards--just think how large your monitors have grown since 2012--and the original terminal didn't have self-service check-in kiosks or even phone-charging stations. But those anachronisms are being addressed, part of US$4 billion in overruns. Assuming Brandenburg gets open, Berlin's existing airport, Tegel, will be closed in November.

As travel remains stubbornly slow and the next pandemic wave is upon us, hoteliers are again scrambling to keep their brands at the top of our Covid-addled minds. World of Hyatt extended its elite status and other perks two weeks ago and now Hilton Honors is following suit. Hilton announced this week that existing elites will be extended another year, this time through March 31, 2022. Also notable: If you somehow think you can earn status in a new program in the future, Hilton is slashing requirements. Effective January 1, earning Honors elite status will need just half the nights or base points. Surf here for complete details.

With flying inching back to life, albeit very slowly, airport clubs are important perks again. The bad news? Many remain closed, including most Amex Centurion Lounges. The good news? Two new operations of note are opening. In Nashville, a new branch of Minute Suites is due to open on Tueday (November 3). Located in Terminal D, the club has five private suites, bathroom and shower. Meanwhile, in Calgary, WestJet opens its first airport club, the Elevation Lounge. Located in Concourse B, the 9,300-square-foot club is due to open Monday, November 2. There are several food-and-beverage options and shower rooms available by reservation. The club is available free of charge to elite WestJet elite flyers and business class passengers on WestJet's Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Both the Nashville and Calgary clubs also are available to Priority Pass cardholders.

Southwest Airlines thought it could run its 9/11 playbook in 2020 and win market share by rapidly restarting service to all of its route map. It didn't work out that way, of course, and Southwest will only run about half of its 2019 schedule during the rest of the year. Now the 800-pound gorilla of alternate carriers is looking at other alternatives. Option 1: A schedule of flights from Colorado Springs. Effective March 11, Southwest says it'll launch twice-daily flights to Phoenix, Las Vegas and its Chicago/Midway hub. There'll also be thrice-daily service to its Dallas/Love Field hub and four runs a day to Denver, a 40-/45-minute flight. Option 2: Flights from Chicago/O'Hare, which will supplement flights from Midway. There'll be twice daily flights to Phoenix; four daily flights each to Nashville, Baltimore-Washington and Love; and six daily flights to Denver. O'Hare service begins February 14.
        JetBlue Airways now says it'll finally launch its flights to Georgetown, Guyana, on December 11. The daily flight from JetBlue's New York/Kennedy hub was originally due to launch more than a year ago. JetBlue will use its newest aircraft, the Airbus A321neo, on the route.

I don't find Borat particularly funny. YMMV, as they say, and it's hard to dispute that Sacha Baron Cohen's strange visitor from another planet--er, Kazakhstan--is popular. He's even had some moments in the political sun. (Looking at you with your hands down your pants, Rudy Giuliani!) When the first movie was released in 2006, the Kazakh government threatened to sue. But the sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, is getting a different reaction. Thanks to the efforts of an American living in Kazakhstan, Borat's catchphrase--"Very Nice!"--is now the country's official tourism slogan. There is even a series of short commercials using the catchphrase. Borat's slogan "offers the perfect description of Kazakhstan's vast tourism potential in a short, memorable way," says Kazakh tourism official Kairat Sadvakassov. You can view the commercials here. Truth to tell, the spots are, um, very nice ...

Most of the nation switches over to Standard Time at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, November 1. The rest of the world that uses Daylight Saving Time switched last weekend. Remember when time changes played havoc with our flight schedules and we had to double-check our itineraries and connections? Yeah, me neither ...
        Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, considered one of the best places in the Windy City, has a rather unsavory financial reputation. You knew that since it bears the Trump name, right? But the specific details--bad loans, workouts, lawsuits, empty spaces and double-dealing--were outlined this week in The New York Times.