Business Travel Briefing
For October 2-20, 2022
The briefing in brief: United is bailing on New York/Kennedy again--and also exits four other airports. Delta will open nine more gates at LAX this week. American's long goodbye to its transcontinental and international first class cabin sure is confusing. Orlando's newly opened Terminal C already has a capacity issue. Virgin Atlantic will join Skyteam. Marriott Bonvoy adds two more credit cards. And more.

Less than two years after leading a charge back into New York/Kennedy Airport with transcon flights to both Los Angeles and San Francisco, United Airlines is retreating to its hub at Newark. Flights at JFK end October 29, foiling the carrier's latest quixotic attempt to compete at the airport dominated by Delta, JetBlue and American. Long before it pulled out of JFK in 2015, United had been shrinking, eliminating international flights and discounting heavily to keep LAX and SFO flights filled. United isn't blaming itself, of course. Instead it is casting aspersions on the FAA for not granting it new take-off and landing positions at slot-controlled JFK. It called four daily flights to the West Coast a "too-small-to-be-competitive schedule." But that completely ignores the fact that United has leased dozens of its existing JFK slots to other airlines, mostly Delta Air Lines. Separately, United is exiting four other cities, dropping commuter flights at two West Virginia airports (Clarksburg and Lewisburg) as well as West Paducah, Kentucky, and Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. But wait, there's more, as the TV commercials say. United will dump a dozen other runs this fall, including Newark-Northwest Arkansas, Walmart's hometown airport; Houston-Intercontinental to Edmonton; O'Hare to Eugene, Oregon; and three routes from LAX (Eugene; Dane County, Wisconsin; and Rogue Valley, Oregon) as well as three from San Francisco (Detroit/Metro, St. Louis and Oklahoma City).

Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International only seems like an endless building site. But the $2.3 billion facility is (slowly) coming along. Delta Air Lines opened the first phase of the remade terminal in the spring and will open nine more gates on Wednesday (October 5). Eight of the nine should be ready for service next week. A slew of new dining options--including a chicken, biscuits and beer concept fronted by the rapper known as Ludacris--will open in the coming weeks. The final phase of the Terminal 3 remake is due next year and will essentially consolidate Terminals 2 and 3. It'll include an airside pedestrian connection to the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
        Cleveland/Hopkins gets its first major international flights to Europe since 2009 on May 19 when Aer Lingus adds four weekly nonstops to Dublin. The Irish carrier will use narrowbody Airbus A321LR aircraft on the run and they will be configured with 16 business class seatbeds and 168 coach chairs. Although Cleveland is believed to be one of Aer Lingus' better "feeder" markets, don't think the Irish carrier is taking a particularly large gamble by bringing international service back to Cleveland. The local government and business groups are kicking in $2.4 million in incentives. Cleveland hasn't had international service since Continental bailed on London flights in 2009 although the city did have routes to Iceland in the summer of 2018 when both Icelandair and defunct Wow Air offered seasonal runs.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, American Airlines is dumping first class cabins on its transcontinental and remaining international flights. But you may be surprised by timing: It'll take until 2024 before the process even begins. When American eventually gets its fleet in line, it will then match Delta and American, both of which long ago dumped the long-superfluous cabin. Here is how we think American's long goodbye will play out:
        Newly delivered Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A321XLR starting in 2024 will be configured with new business class seatbed pods with privacy doors. The Boeing 787s will have 51 business class seats and the narrowbody A321s will have 20 positions.
        Twenty existing Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will be reconfigured with new up-front business class cabins starting late in 2024. These aircraft will eventually have a whopping 70 seats in business class.
        So-called Airbus A321T aircraft, the planes American uses on its premium transcontinental routes, will be reconfigured with to match other Airbus A320-series aircraft. American insists transcon routes will continue to offer a premium business class product although it did not specify what aircraft it will use.
        Unknown? The future of Boeing 787s and Boeing 777-200s already in the fleet. American hasn't spoken to those planes and cabins. Also undecided is the fate of the American Flagship First Dining facilities in its major hubs.

The reconfiguration includes more premium economy seats, too. The A321XLRs will get American's initial tranche of narrowbody premium economy cabins and each aircraft will have 12 seats. The newly delivered 787-9s will have 32 premium economy chairs and the reconfigured 777-300s will get 44-seat premium economy cabins. Do all these changes confuse you? No surprise. Why would American make it easy for you? Yet here's where the long goodbye works in our favor. Changes should become clearer as the months drag on. Stay tuned.

Just days before Hurricane Ian played havoc with Florida this week, Orlando International Airport (MCO) opened its long-awaited Terminal C. Built at a cost of nearly $3 billion, the sparkling facility has 15 gates, eight TSA security lanes, 1.8 million square feet of space and sweeping views of airport flight operations. It will also be connected to Florida's Brightline with an in-terminal station ready for the rail service's arrival in Orlando. A half-dozen international airlines--Aer Lingus, Azul, British Airways, Emirates, GOL and Lufthansa--will call Terminal C home, but the key tenant is JetBlue Airways. Therein lies the problem. While Terminal C is large enough to handle JetBlue at its current size, it'll instantly be too small if the carrier wins approval to buy Spirit Airlines. As currently configured, Terminal C can't handle all of JetBlue's and Spirit's combined 125 daily flights. Solution? Unknown. Stay tuned as the federal government decides the merger's fate and airport managers work to figure out how it can accommodate the merged carriers, which would operate more seats at MCO than any other airline.
        Norse Atlantic, the emotional and partially physical successor to Norwegian Air, is pulling in its Viking horns. Expecting a slow winter travel season across the Atlantic, Norse is dropping all flights at LAX effective October 16. It is also reducing daily JFK-Oslo nonstop to three weekly flights.

As of Saturday (October 1), Canada has dropped all its Covid-related travel restrictions. Passengers are no longer required to wear masks on trains or on flights to/from/within the country. Also gone: pre-testing Covid regimens for arriving passengers. "There is the sense that these border measures were no longer effective, or no longer justified," explained Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
        Virgin Atlantic Airways is already a vassal carrier, largely controlled by Delta Air Lines and partially owned by Air France-KLM. Now the other shoe is dropping: Virgin will join the Skyteam Alliance next year. Skyteam, of course, is fronted by Delta, Air France and KLM.
        Sheffield Doncaster Airport is done as an airfield effective October 31. The airport's operator says it'll seek new uses for the 6-gate facility that opened as Robin Hood Airport in 2005. The airport actually dates to 1915 when it was called Finningley Airfield and was used by the Royal Air Force. Another airport in the area, Sheffield City, closed in 2002.
        Marriott Bonvoy has introduced two new credit cards, one issued by American Express (it's called Bevy) and the other fronted by Chase (it's called Bountiful). Neither is particularly impressive although there are 125,000-point acquisition bonuses available. At the same time, the Marriott Brilliant Card (an Amex product) is raising its annual fee to an eye-watering $650 and adding perks, including Bonvoy Platinum Elite status. Here are the Chase and Amex card lineups.