Business Travel Briefing
For September 2-16, 2021
The briefing in brief: Hurricane Ida makes it a tough week to fly. Airlines continue to shuffle route networks. United Airlines reduces business class seats on revived transcon routes from JFK. Alaska Airlines opens a new lounge at SFO. Minute Suites will open at Detroit/Metro. Canadian airlines relaunch several Europe routes. Hyatt tests an app-based fast-delivery service of food, booze and essentials. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

If the pandemic wasn't still raging--and passenger traffic falling as the summer ends--this would have been a terrible week to fly. New Orleans Airport has been without flights since last Sunday (August 29) as airlines at the facility first prepared for and then dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. All flights will be cancelled tomorrow (September 3) with the exception of a few Delta Air Lines operations. If schedules hold, there will be several other carriers operating on Saturday. Most airlines should resume something close to normal schedules starting on Sunday, September 5. When a busted-down-to-Tropical-Storm Ida hit the northeast yesterday (September 1), it flooded some airports. About 8.4 inches of rain fell at Newark Airport, briefly flooding the B Terminal and closing down flight operations on Wednesday evening into today (September 2). Around 6.9 inches fell at New York/LGA, followed by 6.16 inches at Westchester County Airport (HPN). It was 7.3 inches at Stewart/Newburgh (SWF) in the Hudson Valley and 4.5 inches at New Haven/Tweed in Connecticut. A more modest 2.8 inches dropped at New York/JFK. Of course, this pales in comparison to the loss of life and property damage caused by Ida, now one of the most destructive storms on record.

The TSA's seven-day moving average of U.S. passenger traffic has fallen for the 31 consecutive days and there are plenty of reasons why: The summer leisure travel boom is over, the Delta variant has flyers reassessing plans and corporations are delaying back-to-the-office initiatives, which will further depress a business travel recovery. The result? A raft of airline schedule adjustments as carriers desperately try to match supply with demand. Here are some of this week's notable changes:
        American Airlines is dumping two routes from its Philadelphia hub, ending the runs to Omaha and Des Moines. The routes have been suspended for a year and were expected to return in November. Meanwhile, American is adding seasonal routes to Costa Rica from its Chicago/O'Hare hub. Starting in November, there will be a total of three weekly flights to the resort area of Liberia and the capital of San Jose.
        United Airlines is scaling back its ambitions to offer "premium-heavy" flights on its revived transcontinental routes between New York/Kennedy, Los Angeles and San Francisco. On October 5, widebody Boeing 767s with 46 business class seats are out and single-aisle Boeing 757s with just 16 business chairs are in.
        JetBlue Airways continues to struggle with its hideously timed launch of New York-London nonstops. It already cut its September schedule to four weekly flights from seven and has now quietly put its October flights on the same 4-day rotation.
        Avelo Airlines, the Burbank-based start-up, has dropped two more routes: to Monterey (MRY), California, and St. George, Utah (SGU). The routes were due to launch in the next month.

U.S. airports are thinning out as leisure travelers end their summer travels. That alone should make the experience better. Another perk: More lounges are opening or reopening from pandemic closures. Alaska Airlines, for example, this week opened its new Alaska Lounge at Terminal 2 in San Francisco International. The 9,200-square-foot facility, the former American Admirals Club, offers local craft brews on tap and a staffed espresso bar. Meanwhile, British Airways has reopened its Concorde Room clubs at Terminal 5 in London/Heathrow and Terminal 7 in New York/Kennedy. (The lounges are mostly reserved for BA first class flyers.) Finally, a Minute Suites opens September 11 inside the McNamara Terminal at Detroit/Metro. There'll be five suites and shower facilities for rent by the hour.

Canadian airlines are suddenly in love with Europe routes again. Air Canada is planning to return to Milan, resuming service it operated between 2014 and 2019. This time, however, it'll be a Toronto-Montreal-Milan/Malpensa run using Airbus A330-300 aircraft. The five weekly flights launch May 20 with 32 business class seatbeds, 24 premium economy seats and 241 coach chairs. On the resumption front, Air Canada will relaunch Toronto-Munich flights on Monday (September 6) and return to the Calgary-London/Heathrow route on Tuesday. Both routes will operate three times weekly with Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Meanwhile, WestJet is planning to return to Scotland in the spring. On May 20, it'll add four weekly flights between Toronto and Glasgow. On June 2, it'll begin three weekly nonstops between Toronto and Edinburgh. On May 3, the carrier will resume flights between Halifax and Glasgow, a route it last served before the pandemic.

Hyatt Hotels says it will test a collaboration with GoPuff, an app that offers fast delivery of food, alcohol and essentials such as toiletries and electronic accessories. A baker's dozen of Hyatt Place properties in Chicago, Phoenix, Denver and Nashville now offer free delivery on GoPuff items in fewer than 30 minutes. Users also receive $10 off their first two orders. More details are here.
        Denver Airport is testing a passenger meet-and-greet service and the assistance plan is free during the introductory period. Complete details of operating hours, services offered and reservations are here.
        North Korea will remain off-limits for U.S. travelers for another year. The Biden Administration this week quietly extended a Trump-era ban on the use of U.S. passports for the erratic Asian nation.