Business Travel Briefing
For February 17-March 3, 2022
The briefing in brief: Start-up airlines Avelo and Breeze battle for control of Connecticut. Hyatt raises award price of many of its best properties. Alaska Airlines offers flight pass for California runs. British Airways will operate two "poor man's Concorde" daylight flights to London. Delta will resume daily international runs from Minneapolis-St. Paul. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

Two of last year's start-ups--Burbank-based Avelo Airlines and David Neeleman's Breeze Airways--are going to war. The prize is Connecticut. Honest, Connecticut, where Mr. Blandings once built his dream house. Avelo on Wednesday (February 16) announced that it would expand to ten routes from its perch at Tweed-New Haven Airport. And this morning Breeze said that it would turn Bradley Airport in Hartford--about 55 miles up Interstate 91 from New Haven--into a base with flights to eight new destinations to supplement its four current routes. Avelo's play is obvious: It is connecting New Haven to sun destinations with densely packed Boeing 737 aircraft configured with as many as 189 seats. Avelo already flies from Tweed (HVN) to six Florida cities--Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa and West Palm Beach. New destinations scheduled to launch in early May are Myrtle Beach and Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah; and Nashville. Breeze is more opaque and diffuse in its strategy. It already services BDL customers with 118-seat Embraer 190/195 nonstops to Charleston, Columbus, Norfolk and Pittsburgh. The eight new destinations? Neeleman won't say until next month, but they'll be drawn from a pool of secondary cities that Breeze has targeted to skirt competition from larger carriers. Why does either carrier care about Connecticut besides Mr. Blandings' dream house? Both start-ups are looking for an opportunity to capture Connecticut flyers tired of driving to Boston or New York airports to catch a flight. Whether the market will sustain even one of the proto-hubs is anyone's guess.

Subscription flying--we used to call them flight booklets--isn't exactly a new idea. Hawaiian carriers used to permit customers to buy set-price booklets of tickets to fly between islands. The Eastern Shuttle and some Continental runs within Texas had prepaid coupons, too. And PSA, the old intra-California airline, also offered the service. That last point is relevant because Alaska Airlines thinks the time is right to revive the idea. This week it announced the Alaska Flight Pass that allows customers to "subscribe" to flights between 24 intra-California destinations as well as Las Vegas, Reno and Phoenix. As you can see by the terms and pricing table, the pass is far more complicated than the old booklet days. Prices start at $49 a month and permits you to purchase roundtrips in set increments. The $49 buy-in requires you to book at least 14 days in advance. The "pro" version, which starts at $199 a month, permits you to buy as close-in as two hours before departure. The cheapest version permits six roundtrips per year. The costliest, $749 a month, permits 24 roundtrips. Consult a calculator--and maybe your accountant--to see if the product works for you.

It's fair to say that the World of Hyatt was the most aggressive program during the worst days of the pandemic. It offered rich promotions, cut the cost of attaining elite-levels in half and even delayed a long-planned switch to peak/off-peak pricing. But all good things must come to an end and Hyatt now wants you to know that if you like its best hotels, you'll be paying a lot more points for them. Effective March 22, it is moving ten properties into Category 8, which can cost as much as 45,000 points a night now that the peak/off-peak pricing has been imposed. Hotels kicked up to the top pricing tier include the Park Hyatts in New York, Milan, Paris, Sydney, Kyoto and a mountain resort on Japan's Hokkaido Island. Also going to Category 8 is the Andaz Maui and the Alila resorts in Napa Valley and Big Sur. The movement of properties into Category 8 especially hurts top-level Globalist elites because their perks often include free-night certificates that limit redemptions to Category 1-7 hotels. Which leads to still another devaluation. As part of its annual repricing--nearly 150 properties changed categories up and down--Hyatt moved some key hotels into Category 5 and thus out of the reach of popular Category 1-4 certificates awarded during promotions and via credit cards. Among those upstreamed are Gild Hall, which had been Manhattan's only hotel below Category 5; the Park Hyatt in Istanbul; and the Confidante in Miami. One very thin silver lining: You can book at the old prices for future stays if you act before March 22.

The supersonic Concorde between New York/JFK and London is long gone, of course. But the idea of a "poor man's Concorde"--daylight flights from New York that arrive in London when you can actually check into a hotel--survived until the start of the pandemic. But the good news is that they are being revived in the spring by British Airways. BA says its Kennedy-Heathrow daylight flight resumes late in March and will be joined starting June 6 by a daylight run between Newark and London. The new Newark flight will depart at 7:55am Eastern time and operate with Boeing 777-200s configured with 48 business class seatbeds, 40 World Traveler Plus seats and 184 coach chairs.
        Delta Air Lines resumes daily international service this summer from its Minneapolis-St. Paul hub. Delta currently has restored nonstops several days a week to both Paris and Amsterdam, hubs of its SkyTeam Alliance partners Air France and KLM. Those flights will return to at least daily operation in May and be joined by nonstops to London/Heathrow and Reykjavik, Iceland.
        El Al says it will buy Arkia, a regional that flies within Israel and to some European destinations. Arkia will remain a separate brand, the company says.

Memphis International opened its $245 million remake of Concourse B this week. It has 23 gates, lots of floor-to-ceiling windows and space for live music performances. When the dust clears, all flights will operate from Concourse B and Concourses A and C will be mothballed. The airport has had to downsize since Delta Air Lines closed Northwest Airlines' old Memphis hub in 2013.
        Spirit Airlines, which last week announced a merger with Frontier Airlines, had "IT issues" on Monday (February 14) and was grounded for hours. That put it on par with Frontier, which melted down on February 7, the day the merger was announced.
        Detroit/Metro Airport has a long history of corruption and now you can add death to the list. James Warner, a former Metro supervisor convicted of profiting from $6 million of bribes, was found dead last Friday (February 11), the day after he was due to report to jail. He was convicted in 2020 of ten counts of bribery, conspiracy to launder money and obstruction of justice.