Business Travel Briefing
For June 3-June 17, 2021
The briefing in brief: Airlines and hotels rejigger many rules of their frequency plans. Emirates and KLM add flights to Florida. SFO adds seven new gates at Harvey Milk Terminal 1. David Neeleman's Breeze Airways has point-to-point flights, but no perks. Florida connects all its toll roads to E-Z Pass network. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

As travelers slowly get back on the road after more than a year of torpor, airlines and hotels are furiously rejiggering the terms, conditions and offers of their frequency plans. Here are some of the most notable recent changes:
        Hilton Honors in July will replace its breakfast benefit for elite members. In its place will be an any-time-of-day food-and-beverage credit of $10 (Hilton Garden Inn); $12-$15 (full-service properties); or $25 (luxury hotels and resorts). The credit can be used at on-property restaurants, grab-and-go markets or room service. Whether this change, scheduled to last until at least the end of the year, is beneficial or a devaluation depends on what you expect from your hotel.
        American AAdvantage has made a slew of changes. It has paused the expiration of miles until January 1 or longer (April 1) if you played in a recent promotion. Also extended: systemwide upgrades, which will be valid through July, 2022. For elite members, there are also several new ways to extend or upgrade your status. For specific details--registration is required--log into your AAdvantage account and click on the promotions tab.
        Marriott Bonvoy has tightened its policies for the popular points-advance feature. You'll have less time to use a points-advance reservation and must use all points in your account before you can request a points advance. You'll also be limited to three bookings at a time using points advance.
        IHG Rewards Club has extended the expiration date on credit card free-night certificates until the end of the year if they had been scheduled to expire before August 31.

Transatlantic flying is still dicey, but international carriers are positioning their networks for what may be a post-pandemic boom. Emirates Airline announced today (June 3) that it will launch four weekly nonstops from Miami to Dubai. Flights begin July 22 with Boeing 777-300ERs configured with eight first class pods, 42 business class seatbeds and 304 chairs in coach. Meanwhile, KLM is reviving an old route: Orlando-Amsterdam. KLM subsidiary Martinair flew nonstop between the two cities until a decade ago. More recently, KLM's SkyTeam Alliance partner Delta Air Lines operated nonstop on the route, but dropped the service last year at the beginning of the pandemic. Now it's KLM's turn. Effective October 31, there will be four weekly flights using a combination routing. Twice a week, the flights will operate nonstop between Orlando and Amsterdam and twice a week it'll run on the "circle" Orlando-Miami-Amsterdam route.
        Mexican airlines are in a bind now that the U.S. Department of Transportation has classified the country's aviation as Category 2 for safety standards. Until Mexico regains Category 1 standing, Mexican flag carriers can continue to fly existing routes, but cannot add service. They will also be required to cease code-shares with U.S. airlines. That last bit affects mostly the Delta Air Lines code-share operation with Aeromexico.
        Norwegian Air Shuttle has emerged from bankruptcy as a much-shrunken airline. It dropped all transatlantic flights and now serves only routes within Europe.

If you haven't been on the road lately, you will find major airport upgrades and expansion at New York/LaGuardia, LAX, Salt Lake City and several other facilities. Now add San Francisco to the list. It has opened seven new gates in Harvey Milk Terminal 1. An airside passenger walkway connects Terminal 1 and Boarding Area A in the International Terminal.
        Worcester Regional Airport in Massachusetts is back on the national route map. JetBlue Airways dropped service there last year, but resumes flights to New York/JFK in August and Fort Lauderdale in October.
        Hawaii airports are getting another shake-up. Hawaiian Airlines, the state's primary carrier, says it has permanently closed its 'Ohana commuter division. That means Hawaiian has ceased flying from its Honolulu hub to the airports on the islands of Molokai and Lanai.

David Neeleman's Breeze Airways launched service last week and its primary sales hook right now is nonstop flights in secondary markets that haven't had point-to-point options. But unlike Neeleman's JetBlue Airways, which launched in 2000 with a slew of perks in major markets, Breeze offers little besides nonstops. There's no in-flight WiFi and no seatback monitors--and checked luggage and a second carry-on bag will cost you in coach. Breeze's Embraers--leased from Neeleman's Azul Airlines of Brazil--are configured 2x2 with generously proportioned 18-inch-wide seats. Seat pitch is unimpressive, however, with 31 inches in coach and several extra inches in premium economy. The route network will center on four focus cities--Tampa; Charleston, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; and New Orleans. The airline is currently flying to Louisville, Kentucky; Hartford, Connecticut; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Introductory prices start at $39 one-way and are most easily booked at the Breeze Web Site.

Florida travelers take note: E-Z Pass transponders will now work on all of the state's toll roads. That means the E-Z Pass is valid in 19 states. If you're a Florida driver with a SunPass, however, you'll have to upgrade to the new SunPass Pro transponder to interact with out-of-state E-Z Pass roads.
        Lufthansa is flying to Russia again--and Russian carriers can fly to Germany again--after a brief standoff this week over routes that avoided Belarusian airspace. The flap was the by-product of Belarus' forced diversion of a Ryanair flight last week to arrest an ex-pat dissident. Meanwhile, Belavia, the flag carrier of Belarus, was forced to cancel flights to four more countries: Cyprus, Hungary, Moldova and Serbia.
        Boeing will pay at least $17 million in fines stemming from wiring issues on the Boeing 737 Max series aircraft. The wiring is a separate issue from problems that grounded the aircraft for more than a year after two fatal crashes.