Business Travel Briefing
For August 5-August 19, 2021
The briefing in brief: Major travel consulting firm offers dreary picture of business travel in the year ahead. Europe plans a new fee to visit. Spirit Airlines has been cancelling more than half its flights all week. Canadian border agents plan to strike this weekend. Indianapolis gets three more short-haul routes. Controversial Congressman tries to carry a gun in his carry-on bag and the TSA lets him skate. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

Mass-media stories and analyst claims that business travel would come roaring back after Labor Day are looking pretty foolish just now. The Delta variant is giving many firms second thoughts and major employers such as Amazon and Google have pushed back their return-to-the-office plans, a key indicator of business travel demand. Many events scheduled for late this year already have been pro-actively cancelled. But most notable this week is a very detailed report released by Deloitte, the business consultancy. It says fewer than one in five companies reached 25% of their 2019 business travel spending in the second quarter. By the fourth quarter of next year, Deloitte says, nearly half the 150 firms it contacted said they still wouldn't reach their 2019 business travel spending. "Companies find it hard to ask employees to take work trips" given prevailing conditions, Deloitte adds. You can examine the complete and highly detailed report here. It makes for less-than-encouraging reading.

We will, eventually, be able to freely travel to Europe. But when we do, there will be a new fee. The European Union is launching a program that will force us to pay for the right to travel within the Schengen Zone. The so-called European Travel Information and Authorization System kicks in before the end of next year. Visitors to a Schengen Zone country will be required to fill out an online form and pay a 7-euro fee. The relative good news? The fee covers three years and will permit multiple visits. More information on the upcoming scheme is available here.
        British Airways has reopened the Galleries lounge in Terminal 7 at New York/Kennedy. It is open to the carrier's business class and first class flyers.
        Lufthansa is now selling a so-called Sleeper's Row of three or four coach seats. Similar to Air New Zealand's Skycouch, the makeshift coach bed is outfitted with a pillow, blanket and "mattress" topper. Unlike the ANZ arrangement, however, there are only three Sleeper's Row accommodations per flight and they cannot be booked in advance. They can only be secured--for a fee of up to US$250--at check-in. The service will be available on flights longer than 11 hours, which basically limits them to LH flights to/from the West Coast of the United States and Canada. More information is here.

We've gotten used to airline meltdowns this spring and summer, but nothing quite like the continuing disintegration this week of Spirit Airlines. Flight-stats firm says the low-fare/high-fee carrier dumped 19% of its schedule on Sunday (August 1). The airline blamed bad weather and an isolated flight-rostering problem. But on Monday (August 2), the carrier cancelled 42% of its schedule, followed by 61% on Tuesday, 60% on Wednesday and 56% today by 10pm Eastern Time. Airline officials have stopped discussing the meltdown and mostly abandoned flyers at airports without alternate flight arrangements. At one point, the carrier even told airport staff to remove their uniforms and abandon their posts so as to avoid stranded and irate passengers. The carrier's pilot and flight attendant unions were so mortified that they issued public statements denying they were on strike or engaging in job actions. Spirit's collapse overshadowed an American Airlines meltdown over the weekend. AA dumped 9% of its Sunday flights, 18% of its schedule Monday and 12% Tuesday. American claimed end-of-the-month crew problems caused its problems. (Friday, August 6, update: Spirit has already cancelled 35% of today's schedule by 10:30am ET. Ted Christie, the chief executive, finally emerged from hiding last evening and offered platitudes about the meltdown and non sequiturs about the causes. "This is not our proudest moment and we know that," he added.)

Three days before Canada reopens its borders with the United States Monday (August 9), the country's two unions of border agents are planning a "work to rules" strike. Effective at 6am Eastern time tomorrow (August 6), the unions will commence the job action and they're warning travelers to "expect long lineups and lengthy delays" at land crossings and international airports. The 9,000 employees of the Canada Border Services Agency are striking over wages and workplace issues.
        Indianapolis gets three new short-haul nonstop routes from Contour Airlines, an independent commuter carrier. Starting on October 12, Contour will offer 30-seat ERJ-135 or ERJ-145 to Milwaukee, Nashville and Pittsburgh. Contour first announced the routes last year, but they were delayed by the pandemic.
        Seattle-Tacoma and Calgary will be linked with a new nonstop operated by WestJet, the Canadian discounter. Four weekly Q400 flights operated by WestJet's Encore commuter division launch on November 4. Service is scheduled to increase to daily by May 19.

This week in ugly passenger behavior: A 22-year-old Frontier Airlines flyer was duct-taped to his seat Sunday (August 1) after he allegedly spilled a drink on himself, removed his shirt and groped female flight attendants. Several viral videos show him starting a fistfight with male flight attendants after being implored to calm down. He then screamed that Frontier didn't know who it was dealing with because his parents are worth $2 million. After he was arrested upon landing of the flight from Philadelphia to Miami, he took to Twitter to defend himself. In a feed festooned with crude, sexist remarks--and some generally stupid commentary--he claimed he groped no one and found the entire experience "dehumanizing."
        Hilton is converting three beachfront resorts in Mexico in the next few months. Two all-inclusive resorts (one in Puerto Vallarta and one in Tulum) and the third, a newly built 349-room property in Tulum, will join the Conrad luxury brand.
        Madison Cawthorn, a controversial first-term Congressman from North Carolina, had a gun confiscated from his carry-on bag in February. That generally means arrest or detention and a fine, but Cawthorne skated with a warning. Moreover, the unloaded Glock 9mm and a loaded magazine were stored by the TSA and returned when he returned to Asheville Regional Airport. Neither the TSA nor the Congressman disclosed the event. It took a public-records request to glean the details.