Business Travel Briefing
For April 21-May 5, 2022
The briefing in brief: Breeze Airways will fly nonstop to Los Angeles and San Francisco from Westchester County Airport in the New York suburbs. Delta opens huge new SkyClub at LAX. Charlotte opens an expansion of Concourse E. BA tacks another $100 each way on American AAvantage business class award tickets. Mexico City opens a new airport--and no one is there. JetBlue will fly to Heathrow and Gatwick in London from its Boston hub. And more, including the daily Coronavirus updates.

The battle for Connecticut being waged by start-ups Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways has spilled into the nearby northern New York suburb of Westchester. David Neeleman, the serial airline entrepreneur fronting Breeze, announced this week that he will expand into Westchester County Airport (HPN) just over the border from Connecticut. That'll give the New York suburbs three mini-hubs within 100 miles of each other: Breeze is also building out at Hartford's Bradley Airport and Avelo is growing at New Haven/Tweed Airport, the third point in the suburban triangle. Even more interesting is Breeze's choice of destinations from Westchester: transcon nonstops to Los Angeles and San Francisco and nonstop service to Las Vegas. Daily LAX and Las Vegas flights launch in September and the daily SFO route will start in November. All three routes--as well as daily service to Charleston, South Carolina, that launches in June--will be flown with Airbus A220s. Breeze has configured them with coach, premium economy and first class. Breeze will also add Embraer 190/195 flights from HPN to Norfolk; Jacksonville; New Orleans; and Savannah. Those four will operate with two-class (coach and premium economy) Embraer 190/195 aircraft that Breeze has recycled from Azul, Neeleman's Brazilian airline. The logical question? Where are enough flyer going to come from to support three suburban airports north of New York City? The answer: From frustrated suburbanites and exurbanites who hate long, traffic-choked treks to LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark airports. Stay tuned.

It's impossible for one carrier to dominate sprawling LAX, the anchor airport for all of the huge Southern California catchment area. In fact, four airlines (American, Delta, United and Southwest) have at least 12% of the airport's traffic. A fifth, SkyWest, the super-regional that flies for all four out of LAX, has another 11% of the market. In other words, competition reigns supreme and that forces airlines to actually be creative. The latest LAX amenity: a 30,000-square-foot Delta Sky Club in Terminal 3. Opened this week, the two-level club has an array of discrete seating and working spaces, several buffet areas and bars and eight shower suites. There's also a year-round terrace with views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills.
        Charlotte/Douglas has opened a Concourse E expansion that adds one new gate and relocates nine others. The $50 million renovation is designated Gates E36-45. Seats in the gate areas have power outlets. Separately, a new branch of The Club has opened on Concourse A. The 100-seat lounge accepts Priority Pass for free entry. With Charlotte-hubbed American Airlines having closed all but one of its American Admirals locations, the new lounge is desperately needed.
        Portland Jetport in Maine has closed one of its runways for two months. Assume there will be delays.

As I explained last week, now is not a great time to cash miles for award tickets. Prices are through the metaphoric roof. But that doesn't mean you should ignore what's going on with the programs. Major changes are afoot. Consider:
        American AAdvantage players have already been hit with dynamic pricing that has pushed summer business class award prices on American aircraft as high as 500,000 miles each way. Think you'll use British Airways flights instead? Be prepared to pay another $100 or so in annoying BA co-pays. That'll kick you up to about $750 of fees each way on a business class award.
        Delta SkyMles has made two temporary program changes part of the permanent infrastructure. Award tickets now count toward Medallion elite status and SkyMiles has eliminated the 75,000-mile cap on earnings per ticket.
        World of Hyatt is integrating more than 100 all-inclusive products recently picked up by Hyatt. To accommodate the influx, World of Hyatt has created a separate award chart for the all-inclusives. It ranges from Category A (12,000-18,000 points per night) to Category F (42,000-58,000). Hyatt's existing all-inclusives, trading under the Ziva and Ziara names, are, well, included. About half of the new resorts from the AMR Collection join World of Hyatt next month although six properties trading under the Secrets and Dreams names, joined earlier this month.

Mexico City opened a new airport last month called Felipe Angeles. Bucking conventional memes, however, they've built it and no one is coming. The facility, about 28 miles from downtown Mexico City, has fewer than a dozen flights a day and no international service. There are 26 gates at the airport converted from a military base. Its theoretical capacity is 20 million passengers.
        JetBlue Airways says it will launch flights from its Boston hub to both London/Heathrow and London/Gatwick airports. The daily Gatwick flights begin July 19 and the daily Heathrow runs launch August 22. The flights will be operated by Airbus A321LR aircraft configured with 24 business class seat beds and 114 coach seats. JetBlue launched London flights from its New York/Kennedy hub last year.
        Condor Airlines says it will operate nonstop from 12 U.S. destinations to its Frankfurt hub this summer. The runs include flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York/Kennedy as well as from Portland (Oregon), Minneapolis and Boston. Condor's only year-round route to the United States is from Seattle-Tacoma.

Oh, boy! More buses masquerading as planes. And, no, I'm not suggesting really bad aircraft. I'm talking actual buses. American Airlines says two routes from its Philadelphia hub--to Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Atlantic City--will actually be operated by motorcoaches. The service will be operated by Landline, a company that runs buses for United Airlines in Denver and Sun Country in Minneapolis. The new service starts June 3.
        Southwest Airlines says it will introduce a fourth fare class sometime this spring. It's the first change to Southwest's fare structure since 2007. The new bucket, Wanna Get Away Plus, will be priced higher than the carrier's lowest fares. Southwest hasn't released any information on perks or rules for the new fares.
        Jurys Inn, a mid-priced chain once popular in Ireland and the United Kingdom, is no more. The hotels will be folded into the Leonardo Hotel portfolio. Leonardo acquired Jurys in 2017.
        Eurostar, which currently has a monopoly on Channel Tunnel trains between England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, has been approved to merge with Thalys, the French high-speed line. Both train services are already owned by SNCF, the French national railroad.