Business Travel Briefing
For Oct. 21-Nov. 4, 2021
The briefing in brief: With U.S. borders about to reopen, the airlines restore more international routes. Is Alaska Airlines running a hub in Boise? (No, but ...) Trains are having quite a moment in Europe. Resort fees are as rapacious as you thought. Airlines make third-quarter profits, but it was mostly about the bailout funds. The "women of Alitalia" strip down in public to protest the carrier's demise. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

With U.S. borders due to reopen on November 8--details still TBA, of course--carriers are rebuilding some air links between the United States and the rest of the world. Singapore Airlines, for example, will relaunch that oddball nonstop between Houston/IAH and Manchester, England, beginning December 1. There'll be three weekly flights using Airbus A350s. Korean Air will resume flying between Honolulu and its Seoul/Incheon hub. Three weekly flights return on November 3 for the first time since April 2, 2020. Aer Lingus will resume its tech-favorite San Francisco-Dublin nonstops starting December 12. The route will operate for one month for the holidays, then return full-time with four weekly flights beginning February 25. And Delta Air Lines is bringing back service from its New York/Kennedy hub. Nonstops to Frankfurt return on December 13 after being suspended for 18 months. Also coming back just before Christmas: JFK nonstops to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Los Cabos, Mexico; and Panama City, Panama. But Delta is dumping international routes, too. Getting the chop are flights from Atlanta to Stuttgart and Salt Lake City to London/Heathrow. Also notable: the end of nonstops between Los Angeles and Shanghai, an indication that Delta does not believe U.S.-China service will return to normal anytime soon.

Nah, it's not. But if Boise were not in the comparative middle of nowhere and if Alaska Airlines was a savvier marketing operation, it wouldn't be ridiculous to call the Idaho capital the carrier's first "focus city." Alaska Air this week announced year-round nonstops from Boise to both Las Vegas and Idaho Falls, the Eastern Idaho city that's a business hub for Western Wyoming and Northern Montana. Both runs launch June 16 and will be operated by Alaska's Horizon Air commuter operation. But that's not all. Even before it launches on November 19, Alaska upgraded its previously announced Boise-Phoenix route to year-round status. Flights will operate daily. By summer, Alaska Air will operate as many as 36 daily flights to 15 nonstop destinations from Boise. There'll be runs as far east as Chicago and service to destinations along the California coast, to Washington State and to Oregon. Sounds like a focus city, doesn't it?
        Toronto will have a nonstop to Santo Domingo again. Air Canada says it'll launch twice-weekly seasonal Rouge flights beginning on December 16.
        Worcester, Massachusetts, an airport about an hour's drive from Boston, is getting a second carrier (again). For the moment, JetBlue Airlines is the only airlines operating there, but Delta Air Lines arrives on November 1. There'll be a new daily flight to New York/LaGuardia.

Recent government bailouts of Air France and Lufthansa require both carriers to abandon some shorter-haul routes to make way for less polluting, more efficient trains. But even before those changes kick in, though, trains are having a moment in Europe. For example, today (October 21) marked the launch of Lumo, a free-market rail service between London/King's Cross and Edinburgh's Waverley Station. The 4.5-hour Lumo run will compete with existing service once operated by Virgin Trains but now controlled by the British government. And December marks the start of Frecciarossa trains on the Milan-Torino-Lyon-Paris route. Operated by Trenitalia France, a division of the Italian rail system, the trains will cut as much as 30 minutes off the 7-hour Paris-Milan service operated by France's SNCF. The trainsets are outfitted with equipment that allows them to operate at the highest speeds in both countries, something the French TGVs can't do. Meanwhile, night trains are being revived across the continent. Mid-December brings so-called Nightjet service on two routes: Vienna-Salzburg-Paris and Amsterdam-Dusseldorf-Zurich. Both are operated by Austria's OBB with specially refurbished trainsets. And don't think trains are the stuff of fluke and fantasy. Trenitalia and free-market competitor Italo helped speed the demise of Alitalia. Some experts even predict the return of elegant Trans Europe Express rail service that once served business travelers.

No one on the planet likes hotel "resort" and "destination" fees. Well, no one but hoteliers, of course. And no surprise there, since recently unsealed documents reveal the fees rake in hundreds of millions of dollars for hotel owners, hotel managers and, not least, the major hotel chains. The documents are part of a 2019 lawsuit launched by the District of Columbia. USA Today reports on some of the granular details.
        Hilton Honors elite members may receive room upgrades up to 72 hours before check-in under a new tech initiative launched by the chain. It's all in the test stage and extremely limited so far. In fact, at this point, it's more public relations flash than business travel substance. But stay tuned, something may eventually come of it.

Most of the major U.S. carriers have reported third-quarter earnings--and they have "earnings" thanks to the tens of billions of taxpayer bailouts we've provided since the pandemic began. American Airlines said today it recorded a 3Q net profit of $169 million. The net loss would have been $641 million without bailout funds. United Airlines this week registered a $473 million 3Q profit, but only after a bailout contribution of more than $1 billion. Southwest Airlines clocked in with a $443 million 3Q net profit, but only after $763 million in bailout funds. Last week, of course, Delta Air Lines rang up a $216 million pre-tax profit, but aided by $1.3 billion in bailout support.
        Calgary Airport has gotten its common-use club back. The Aspire Lounge on Concourse D is again open seven days a week.
        Boeing 737 Max blowback continues. Boeing's former chief test pilot has been charged with fraud for allegedly withholding vital safety information from the FAA during the 737 Max's original certification process. Mark Forkner, 49, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if he's convicted of the most serious charge.

When Alitalia died for the third and final time last week, the new state-funded carrier, ITA Airways, took some Alitalia aircraft, the old AZ computer code and some airport gates and facilities. It bought the Alitalia name, too, but is choosing not to use it. ITA also hired fewer than 3,000 of Alitalia's staff of 11,000. So it won't surprise you that some "women of Alitalia" did not take kindly to being left behind. Their oh-so-Italian response? A Fellini-esque flash mob stripping down to undies in the Campidoglio, seat of Rome's municipal government and home to some of Michelangelo's greatest public works. You can watch the entire 28-minute video or er, um, a stripped down 98-second version.