Business Travel Briefing
For February 10-24, 2022
The briefing in brief: Airlines are hurriedly rebuilding their transatlantic route networks. Your American AAdvantage miles might be worth this much. Alaska Airlines increases first class award prices. Delta Air Lines downgrades in-flight experience in the name of environmental activism. American Airlines and British Airways plan big makeover in Terminal 8 at JFK. Southwest resumes alcohol sales next week. Ugly tales from the road get uglier. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

U.S. daily air traffic fell below two-thirds of 2019 levels yesterday (February 9), extending the noticeable post-New Year slump in flying. But airlines seem convinced an after-Omicron boom of transatlantic flying in just weeks away and they're gearing up for schedules that look much like the boom summer of 2019. Here's some of what's being added in the months ahead:
        Aer Lingus will restore flights to Dublin from San Francisco on February 25; from Los Angeles on May 12; and Seattle on May 26. Miami service returns on October 21. Aer Lingus will also resume nonstops to Shannon from New York/JFK and Boston/Logan beginning March 10.
        Air France says it will add flights between Quebec City and Paris/CDG starting May 17. The three weekly nonstops will operate with Airbus A330-200s outfitted with 36 business class seatbeds, 21 premium economy seats and 167 coach chairs.
        SAS Scandinavian says that it will begin flights from Canada in June. Using narrowbody Airbus A321LR aircraft, there'll be three weekly flights from Toronto to Copenhagen and four weekly nonstops to Stockholm. The A321LRs are configured with 22 seatbeds in business, 12 seats in premium economy and 123 coach chairs
        TAP Air Portugal says that it already has resumed flights to all the North American gateways it served before the pandemic. Frequencies are reduced, however, and the carrier's New York/JFK-Lisbon nonstop has shifted to Terminal 1 from its former home at the JetBlue Airways Terminal.
        United Airlines is bumping service between Newark and Cape Town to daily operation on June 5. The ultra-long-haul flight uses a premium-heavy Boeing 787-9 aircraft configured with 48 business class seatbeds, 21 premium economy seats and 19 chairs in Economy Plus.

There's a cottage industry of bloggers and credit card floggers who obsess over their proprietary valuation of frequent travel points and miles. They argue over differences gauged in basis points and insist that only their methodology is valid. None of it is real, however, since only what you get in value for your miles or points is the relevant measure. Yet once in a blue moon you can make an apples-to-apple comparison that is irrefutably accurate. One case in point: New, dueling promotions from Citibank, issuer of several American AAdvantage credit cards. Citi is pitching AA cardholders a so-called Citi Priority checking account. If you take the promo and open a Citi Priority account, Citi will award you 50,000 AAdvantage miles. At the same time, however, Citi is running a public promotion for Citi Priority. Open it that way and you will earn a cash bonus of $700. It doesn't take much back-of-the-envelope space to figure out that Citi thus values AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents each.
        Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is making some changes, none of them good. Effective March 1, using Mileage Plan awards to claim first class seats on Alaska Air flights may cost nearly 40% more. One example: a first class seat to Hawaii now costs 40-80,000 miles. Effective next month, they could cost as much as 95,000 miles. Also on March 1, Alaska will begin pricing awards on American Airlines flights dynamically. While airlines claim demand-dependent dynamic pricing can yield savings in off-peak periods, that rarely offsets the dramatic increase you're required to pay in peak periods.

There's never a good reason to believe an airline when it claims it's doing good to make our lives--or the planet--better. So it goes with the latest announcement from Delta Air Lines about some of its in-flight services. Having already eliminated metal flatware in many cabins and many flights, Delta now claims it is being environmentally aware by switching to bamboo cutlery. It promises that will reduce plastic usage by about 4.3 million pounds annually, which is cool except metal flatware is washable and reusable, something neither plastic nor bamboo is. Meanwhile, having dumped bottled wine for plastic containers on many routes, Delta now touts its environmental bone fides by switching to canned wine. (Delta has a strange affinity for tinned wine, a strategy it has intermittently deployed for decades.) At the same time, Delta is replacing international business class bedding with "premium" stuff made from recycled plastics. And its existing deal with Tumi for amenity kits is out, replaced by "Mexican traditional handcrafts" from a company called Someone Somewhere. Because, as we all know, Mexican artisans have a long history of crafting airline amenity kits from natural materials ...
        Breeze Airways, the start-up from David Neeleman, continues to juggle its network. Out is the Tampa-Columbus route, which ends April 30. The carrier is also cutting frequencies on five routes and adding flights on about a half-dozen other runs.

British Airways is decamping from its long-time home in Terminal 7 at New York/Kennedy and planning to co-locate at Terminal 8 with code-share, joint-venture and Oneworld Alliance partner American Airlines. The move is scheduled for December 1 after nearly a dozen years of discussion. AA and BA are promising great things at the remade terminal and it claims $400 million is being devoted to a renovation and expansion. First thing you may notice: American's Flagship First Check-In area has already closed and been replaced with a makeshift facility for premium customers. That'll eventually be replaced with a rebranded premium check-in area for both BA and AA customers. The lounges will also be reworked into new spaces for about 1,000 flyers. The carriers are promising a Champagne bar, fireside space, an a la carte dining room, cocktail lounge and other perks. Most of the amenities are heading to the club aimed at first class customers. Business class flyers will have a new space, largely carved from the existing Concourse B Admirals Club and the Flagship Lounge. Will any of this improve your travel experience? TBD. But be prepared for a spring, summer and fall of heavy construction and endless disruptions and diversions.
        Minneapolis-St. Paul has cut a deal with Farmer's Fridge, which offers pre-made meals for home delivery and vending machines. There are now Farmer's Fridge vending machines throughout the airport and they dispense items such as pre-packaged Caesar's salad and falafel bowls.
        Memphis says that its restyled B Concourse will celebrate its grand opening on February 15. More details are here.

Southwest Airlines says it will resume in-flight alcohol sales on February 16. Booze has been verboten since March, 2020. The airline says it will honor free-drinks coupons that expired in 2020 or 2021. Otherwise, prices are $6 or $7 for beer, wine and spirits.
        Four Seasons is bailing on Los Colinas, the resort, golf club and spa complex it has run since it opened in 1983. The property, about eight miles from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, will leave the Four Seasons system on December 31. New operators for the hotel and golf course have not yet been named.
        Aeromexico has been approved to exit bankruptcy. The new structure leaves Delta Air Lines with a 20% stake, down from 51%. The Mexican carrier also says that it has reacquired 100% of its loyalty program. It paid $405 million to regain the 48.5% stake it sold to a private company starting in 2010.

We've become nearly immune to tales of boorish flyers doing despicable things under the influence of alcohol or pandemic-induced rage or just their own moral turpitude. But even in these debased times, a few stories stand out. NBC News reports that a 40-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of rape after a United Airlines flight from Newark to London. And the Irish Times has the tale of a 29-year-old man arrested after a Delta Air Lines flight from Dublin to New York/Kennedy. Among his indiscretions? Mooning flight attendants and passengers after a dispute over in-flight food.