Business Travel Briefing
For September 16-30, 2021
The briefing in brief: Hilton expands Honors elite status into 2023. Southwest makes a play for a bigger share of Austin traffic. Finnair is launching nonstops to Stockholm from New York, Los Angeles and Miami. Bill Gates is now majority owner of Four Seasons Hotels. Alaska Airlines will add a new top-tier elite level next year. Are you ready for some football (on the road)? And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

Hilton Extends Elite Status and Other Perks Until 2023
Hilton Hotels has essentially given up on the 2021 business travel year. That's the only conclusion you can reach after the lodging giant announced this week that it would again extend member status and perks of the Hilton Honors program. Whatever elite status you now hold with Hilton--including levels earned with credit cards--will be valid through March 31, 2023. Existing points in your Honors account will be valid through December 31, 2022. Rollover nights accrued this year also will count in 2022 for 2023 status. There are other perks, including continuing the existing Hilton policy of making elite free weekend-night certificates valid any day of the week. The details of Hilton's moves are here.

Southwest Makes a Play for a Bigger Piece of Austin
Everybody wants a bigger piece of Austin these days. The fast-growing, uber-trendy capital of Texas already has American, Delta and United chasing market leader Southwest. But Southwest, which commands 34% of traffic at Bergstrom Airport, is making a play for an even larger share. On March 10, it adds new daily nonstops to Charleston, South Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Amarillo and Midland-Odessa, Texas; and Ontario, California. Two days later, it will also begin a Saturday-only run from Bergstrom to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
        Columbus has opened a new consolidated rental car center. All rental firms serving the airport are now housed in the 900,000-square-foot facility, which cost a cool $134 million. The lobby is on the second floor of the building, which is planned to connect to a new passenger terminal.
        Baltimore-Washington now has an on-site medical facility. The urgent-care operation is in the main terminal near Concourse C.
        Manchester/Boston Airport yesterday (September 15) opened a business center. It offers free Wi-Fi, computer workstations and water stations. Fidelity, the big financial firm, has signed a five-year deal to brand the operation.

Finnair and Lufthansa Target SAS at Stockholm
SAS Scandinavian is the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden via a unique partnership that dates back to 1946. That has mostly left SAS as the big international player at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. But no more. As SAS cuts back--it's about half its pre-pandemic size and around three dozen jets smaller--three European airlines are coming after Scandinavian at Stockholm. Finnair, for example, is planning a slate of nonstops to the United States from the Swedish capital. As many as four weekly flights to Miami begin October 23 and will continue until April 22. Three weekly flights to Los Angeles begin November 2 and will run until March 23. As many as four weekly nonstops to New York/JFK will operate between December 7 and March 25. All three routes will be served with Airbus A350-900s configured with 32 business class seatbeds, 42 premium economy chairs and 262 coach seats. Finnair will also add runs from Stockholm to Bangkok and Phuket. Meanwhile, Lufthansa is ready to make good on its long-stated goal of invading the Scandinavian market. Using Eurowings, its low-cost subsidiary, Lufthansa will launch flights to 20 destinations in Europe. And Ryanair returns to Stockholm's Arlanda Airport next month and will add routes to 19 European cities and two internal Swedish destinations.
        Delta Air Lines has delayed plans to resume flights to Tokyo/Haneda and Seoul/Incheon from Minneapolis/St. Paul. Both routes were due to return next month, but now won't start until at least late March.
        All Nippon Airways says it will resume flights between Seattle/Tacoma and Tokyo/Haneda on December 4. There'll be Saturday flights using Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners.

Bill Gates Buys Control of Four Seasons Hotels
Cascade Investments, the private firm that handles Bill Gates' assets, has bought controlling interest in the Four Seasons hotel chain. Gates already held 47.5% of the swanky chain, but Cascade last week purchased half the interest in Four Seasons owned by a controversial Saudi prince. That brings Gates' holdings in Four Seasons to 71.25%. Ultimate effect on your life if you check into a Four Seasons property? Probably none.
        IHG Rewards, the not-particularly-rewarding frequent-stay plan of InterContinental Hotels, has introduced a typically weak quarterly promotion. The so-called 3X scheme offers double points starting with the second stay and triple points on the third and additional stays. The promotion period extends until December 31. IHG points are low value and cannot be used for anything but basic rooms. Advance registration is required, of course. More details are here.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
Alaska Airlines has quietly alerted customers that it will create a new elite level in the Mileage Plan program. The so-called MVP Gold 100K tier will require 100,000 miles or 140 segments a year and a minimum of 24 flights on Alaska Airlines itself. Benefits announced so far look surprisingly modest: 150% elite mileage bonus; highest priority for upgrades starting at 120 hours before departure; two international upgrades on American Airlines flights; and free drinks and snacks when flying in coach. The initial details are here.
        Philippine Airlines has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York federal court. The carrier said in a filing that it plans to slash fleet capacity by 25 percent. In recent years, the airline has sporadically served Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto and New York.
        Air Canada has resumed service between Toronto's close-in Island Airport and Montreal. The five daily flights, specifically aimed at foiling Porter Airlines, use Dash 8-400 aircraft.
        The London Underground opens two new stops on Monday (September 20). The Nine Elms and Battersea Power stations are just across the Thames from Imperial Wharf and the stops will be served by the Tube's Northern Line.

Are You Ready For Some Football?
The NFL and ReachTV, the operation which inherited the airport-TV screens that once broadcast the CNN Airport Network, have cut a deal. ReachTV will broadcast NFL games on its 2,500 screens, including Sunday and weeknight contests. The playoffs and Super Bowl are included. Meanwhile, American Airlines has begun live-streaming college and NFL games on its aircraft. Most American domestic jets don't have seatback monitors, but they do cast signals to your personal devices such as tablets and smartphones.