Business Travel Briefing
For May 20-June 3, 2021
The briefing in brief: Many major hotels have dumped their mask mandates. JetBlue will fly to two London airports starting in August. LAX and Atlanta/Hartsfield dominate the nation's 10 busiest routes. The FAA fines four disruptive passengers a total of more than $100,000. Breeze Airways starts selling tickets on Friday. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

Barring a surprise reversal from aviation regulators, we'll be wearing masks on flights until at least September 13. Hotels? Not so much anymore. Although they have tread gingerly--and virtually silently-many major hotel chains have rescinded their mask mandates. Most cite the CDC guidance and their own trade group's subsequent statement for their decisions. All, of course, say that unvaccinated visitors must still wear masks, but not a single lodging chain I contacted said they would ask for proof of vaccination. So, in practice, they've lifted their mandates for all guests. There are some holdouts--most notably, Hilton and Accor--and, of course, individual properties in the United States and Canada must continue to follow local and state rules on indoor masking. Here's how the mask off/mask on decision goes chain-by-chain:
        Hotel chains that still require guests to wear masks: Hilton; Accor; Sonesta; Best Western; Wyndham; and Loews Hotels. The mask rules primarily cover lobbies and other public areas such as elevators and ballrooms.
        Hotel chains that have lifted their mask mandates: Marriott; Hyatt; InterContinental; Four Seasons; Choice; Drury; and Omni. Many of these chains say that customer-facing employees will still wear face coverings, however.

JetBlue Airways' long gestation period for its transatlantic flights is about to end--assuming we ever get to travel to Europe again. The airline announced this week that it will launch flights from its New York/Kennedy hub to London starting August 11. That's when a daily roundtrip to Heathrow Airport begins. But, wait, there's more. On September 29, JetBlue will also begin daily JFK-London/Gatwick service. Since that covers all of JetBlue's London slots, flights from Boston/Logan have been delayed until the summer of 2022. The New York-London flights will operate with Airbus A321LR aircraft configured with 24 Mint business class seatbeds and 117 coach chairs. Fares are not exactly groundbreaking in coach, however. Prices start at $599 roundtrip. Mint is more intriguingly priced, starting at $1,979 roundtrip. Full details on the flights are here.

Breeze Airways, David Neeleman's latest start-up carrier, has received federal approval to sell tickets. The carrier still needs final Transportation Department approval before it can fly, however. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (May 21) and the airline hopes to launch starting Thursday, May 27, with routes linking Charleston, South Carolina; Tampa; Louisville; and Hartford. EMB-190s and 195s leased from Azul, Neeleman's Brazilian carrier, will be used to launch. There will be no seat-back monitors or in-flight WiFi, so it looks like a fairly sterile ride. Seats are configured 2x2, but seat pitch is substandard in coach and acceptable in premium economy. A genuine domestic first/business class will have to wait for the arrival of a fleet of Airbus A220s that Breeze has ordered.
        Porter Airlines is again delaying its restart. Based at Toronto/City Airport, the carrier is now targeting July 20 for a relaunch. The carrier has been grounded since March, 2020, and Porter has constantly delayed its restart ever since.

Last time we looked at the nation's busiest airline routes, Atlanta/Hartsfield ruled the roost. But three months is approximately forever in Coronavirus time. A look at the nation's ten busiest routes now as compiled by industry schedulekeeper OAG shows a different picture. While Atlanta-Fort Lauderdale still has the most seats on a daily basis, four of the busiest routes touch Los Angeles. That includes the short run to Las Vegas, long-hauls to New York/JFK and Honolulu and a link to American Airlines' Dallas-Fort Worth hub. Atlanta's other Top Ten routes are also in Florida: Orlando and Miami. United Airlines' Denver hub is in the Top Ten for connections to Phoenix and Chicago/O'Hare.
        John Wayne/Orange County opened an onsite medical clinic. Located in Terminal B across from Gate 10, the facility offers urgent care, health screenings, telehealth consultations and vaccines. The so-called Fly Well Clinic is operated by Hoag Memorial Hospital.
        Philadelphia is home to the first LifeWTR-branded kiosks. For reasons known only to the Pepsi water brand and PHL, it's being called a "lounge" even though there are no sofas, no restrooms--and, um, no doors. Basically, it is just a pop-up shop that sells the water and other Pepsi products. But, you know, it's the first ...

The Federal Aviation Administration fined four disruptive passengers a total of more than $100,000 for incidents between December and February. The largest--$52,500--was levied against a passenger on a Delta flight from Honolulu to Seattle. The flyer rushed the cockpit door and attacked flight attendants--and did it again after escaping from plastic cuffs. A $9,000 fine was issued against a traveler who repeatedly refused to wear a mask. The passengers have 30 days to appeal.
        New York City chalks up still another hotel casualty. The three-year-old Moxy on Fulton Street in the Financial District has been surrendered to lenders. Owners of the 30-story tower surrendered the building as well as the ground lease, which itself is valued at $108.8 million.