Business Travel Briefing
For April 22-April 29, 2021
The briefing in brief: American-JetBlue alliance yields a slew of new routes from New York and Boston. Notorious Gate 35X at Washington/National replaced by 14-gate concourse. Airlines add routes to some places you can't fly. Capital One adds three transfer partners. Established airlines pile on start-up Avelo Air. Taxpayers will fund a new Delta club in Atlanta. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

No matter that the Biden Administration Justice Department is now probing the Transportation Department's approval of an American Airlines-JetBlue Airways alliance in the waning days of the Trump Administration. The carriers unveiled a spread of new or restored routes this week. Each naturally claims the runs wouldn't be possible without the so-called Northeast Alliance. Example: American says it'll revive its New York/JFK-New Delhi route on October 31. Domestically, it intends to add flights from Boston/Logan to Cincinnati, St. Louis and Toronto/Pearson. American is also putting premium-heavy Airbus A321T aircraft on LAX-Boston flights. It's okay to question AA's commitment to reviving JFK-Delhi, especially given India's current Coronavirus crisis. Besides, AA hasn't launched the Seattle-Bangalore run originally promised for last October. As for the LAX-BOS upgrade, it's less of a perk than American matching JetBlue's Mint Service on Boston-Los Angeles flights. As for JetBlue, it promises flights to seven new cities from Boston and/or Kennedy, including San Antonio; Milwaukee; Vancouver; Kansas City; Asheville; Puerto Vallarta and San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The routes are due to launch between October and next summer, so don't hold your breath. In the same long time frame, JetBlue claims it'll launch routes to six additional cities from New York/LaGuardia.

Globally loathed Gate 35X at Washington/National has reached the end. And it ended about how you expected: The last flight out Monday (April 19) returned to the gate and was two hours late departing for Albany, New York. The replacement for Gate 35X--which The Washington Post called a bus terminal at an airport--is a $400 million, 14-gate concourse that covers 225,000 square feet. As with Gate 35X, the new concourse (designated Gates 46-59) will serve American Eagle commuter flights. There are passenger boarding bridges, 850 seats and 14,000 square feet of concessions. Few are open, of course, but there eventually should be a book store and branches of several national restaurant chains. The new terminal also lacks security checkpoints. Two are expected to open later this year. In the interim, travelers using Gates 46-59 must use checkpoints elsewhere and reach the new concourse via temporary corridors. More details are here.

Airlines are bullish on new international routes--even though you can't yet fly to most of the destinations. Air France, for example, says it'll launch flights from Denver to Paris/CDG starting July 2. The airline plans three weekly flights using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners configured with 30 business class seatbeds, 21 premium economy seats and 228 coach seats. On September 9, Delta Air Lines says it'll launch a route between Portland, Oregon, and Seoul/Incheon, the hub of Skyteam partner Korean Air. Delta says the route will run three times a week using Airbus A330-200s. Only United Airlines has added routes to places you can visit. From July through October, United will fly Newark-Dubrovnik, Croatia; Washington/Dulles-Athens; and Chicago/O'Hare-Reykjavik. The first two routes will operate with Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. The ORD-Iceland run will use Boeing 757-200s. You can fly to Iceland and Croatia with proof of vaccination or negative Coronavirus test. Greece will soon allow Americans to visit if they have been vaccinated.

Hilton Honors unveiled its summer points promotion and the More Nights, More Points scheme is slightly more generous than recent offers. Hilton points are so devalued that it routinely offers double points on each stay. More Nights, More Points offers double points, of course, but escalates to triple points on stays of three days or more. The promo runs from May 3 to September 6 and advance registration is required.
        Capital One has added three new partners to its points-transfer program: British Airways, TAP Air Portugal and Turkish Airlines. Also new: a transfer tier that that allows you to move Cap One points on a 1:1 basis to the Aeromexico, Cathay Pacific and Finnair programs. Most other carriers transfer 2:1.5. But remember: Capital One offers two points for each dollar charged so transfer ratios are better than they seem.
        Radisson Rewards, which is splitting into two programs for international political reasons, has unveiled some of its upcoming changes. The program will have five award levels instead of seven and about 60% of properties will rise in price. Because of course they'd bury a devaluation inside a program change.

It's not easy being Avelo Air, the low-fare/high-fee leisure carrier due to launch next week from Burbank. Besides the fact that it can't book tickets because its third-party reservations system has been down for days, Avelo faces harassment from both Alaska Airlines and American Airlines. Alaska Air says it'll launch a Burbank-Santa Rosa route on June 1, directly competing with Avelo's inaugural service. Meanwhile, American is upgrading the aircraft on its Phoenix/SkyHarbor-Burbank route, more than doubling the number of weekly seats in the market. Avelo is planning to fly from Burbank to Phoenix/Mesa.
        United Airlines says it will retrofit its older Boeing 737s to add seatback monitors and larger overhead bins.

Remember when the U.S. airlines like Delta Air Lines were livid that Middle East carriers such as Emirates and Qatar Airways were the recipient of lavish government subsidies? Yeah, me too. But several rounds of taxpayer bailouts have made U.S. carriers much happier to suckle at the public teat. It's not like Delta will draw the line there, either. Atlanta/Hartsfield this week approved $33 million in spending so Delta can build a new Sky Club on ATL's Concourse D. The 20,000-square-foot lounge is only for members who pay for the privilege, of course. The taxpaying public need not apply. By the way, this isn't the first time Delta will be picking Atlanta's pocket to build a lounge. The massive Delta Sky Club on Concourse B, which opened in 2016, was funded with $24 million in public funds.