Business Travel Briefing
For November 6-17, 2022
The briefing in brief: British Airways moves to Terminal 8 at JFK later this month. (Iberia, too.) New credit cards from Amtrak. New upsells from Hilton Honors. The Silver Line rail link to Washington/Dulles (finally) opens this month. Air France returns to Newark. Air Canada gives free WiFi to premium class Rouge flyers. In-flight mask mandates aren't dead yet. TSA lowers the price of PreCheck. Delta pays off a pilot it tried to smear. United opens new gates at Denver. LAX gets a nonstop to ... Grand Cayman. And more.

British Airways is the next Oneworld Alliance carrier to abandon its old haunt at New York/Kennedy Airport and relocate at Terminal 8, home of Oneworld partner American Airlines. Starting on the evening of Thursday, November 17, BA flights to and from JFK will exit British Airways' old stomping grounds of Terminal 7 and shift into Terminal 8. The move of all BA flights to T8 should be complete by November 30, so be flexible if you have a BA flight this month at JFK. (Assume nothing and check carefully for BA flights' arrival and departure locations.) Another Oneworld Alliance carrier, Iberia, moves into T8 effective December 1. A subsidiary of the same airline conglomerate as BA, Iberia has also been using Terminal 7. Several other Oneworld airlines, including Cathay Pacific and Finnair, are already located at AA's home. The BA move should--and, remember, should is the operative word--coincide with some new lounges and facilities at Terminal 8. This includes a Champagne bar, fireside lounge and a new pre-departure dining room. All are aimed at premium class travelers, of course. AA's well-regarded Flagship First dining room will also be repositioned and redesigned to handle the influx of BA premium flyers, who are also being promised their own check-in facilities. To paraphrase Bette Davis in an entirely different context, fasten your seatbelts, seems like we're in for some bumpy nights.

Busy few days in what we hope against hope is the "loyalty" corner. Get your scorecards out to stay current:
        Hilton Honors has been massively devalued over the years, but it retained one small benefit: Any accommodation, even the best suite in the house, was available if you ponied up enough points. Now the chain is flat-out selling upgrades to elite Gold and Diamond members when they check in digitally. The goal? Increase revenue for the hotels, of course, and beat money out of you rather than deliver promised complimentary upgrades.
        Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members can now receive one mile for every dollar spent on Lyft rides. To introduce the deal--you must link your Alaska Air and Lyft accounts, of course--the airline is offering two miles per Lyft dollar spent until December 31. Complete details are here.
        Amtrak Rewards has changed credit card vendors. The new bank, FNBO, also handles Best Western Rewards and the new Amtrak cards bear a startling structural resemblance to those charge vehicles. Full details are here.
        American Express Platinum cardholders have a new benefit: Hertz President's Circle status. The upgrade was quietly announced to cardholders via E-mail this week. It's understandable that Amex is soft-pedaling the new benefit given the fact that Hertz has become a laughing stock for dishonoring reservations, running out of cars and, sometimes, having renters arrested with bogus police reports.

Air France abandoned Newark Airport in 2012, preferring to concentrate its New York area flights at Kennedy Airport. But now it has reconsidered. Effective December 12, there will be one daily flight to Air France's hub at Paris/CDG. The carrier will use Boeing 777-200 aircraft configured with 40 business class seatbeds, 24 premium economy seats and 216 coach chairs.
        Air Canada will launch what it says is the only nonstop between North America and Thailand. Starting December 1, there will be four weekly flights between Vancouver and Bangkok. Air Canada will operate the route until April 14 using Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
        Delta Air Lines will launch its long-promised route to Cape Town on December 17. There'll be four weekly nonstops from Atlanta using Airbus A350s configured with business, premium economy, Comfort+ and coach classes.
        Cayman Airways launched a weekly flight from LAX to Grand Cayman. The nonstops require about six hours flying time and operate using Boeing 737-8 aircraft.

More than a dozen years after it was first promised, the Washington Metro Silver line will finally open its stop at Washington/Dulles airport on November 15. The six-stop expansion of the Silver run--there also will be new stations at Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn--will connect Dulles to the center of downtown Washington. Complete details are here.
        Denver Airport has officially completed the extension of the east end of Concourse B. United Airlines is already using all seven of the new gates. Southwest Airlines took control of 16 new gates at the east end of Concourse C earlier this year.

It all seems long ago: The TSA and CDC abandoned the in-flight mask mandate in April after a rogue ruling from a Florida federal judge. The Justice Department eventually appealed to a higher court and that appeal will be heard early next year. In the meantime, however, the Supreme Court this week upheld the right of the government to impose a mask mandate. The Supreme Court decision--technically, it refused to reconsider an appeals court ruling--came in a separate case that had worked its way through federal courts in the District of Columbia. Stay tuned. There's little chance a mask mandate will return, of course, but the government is committed to upholding the TSA's right to impose one if another crisis hits.
        Spain continues its travel-mask rules until next March. The decision by Spanish authorities means all travelers on public transportation--planes, trains, subways, buses and taxis--must remain masked up. Spain is the last key country in Europe to hold on to its mask mandate for transportation.

There are just a few weeks before the World Cup is expected to draw a million or more fans to Qatar, the tiny, gas-rich nation in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Qatar has long been criticized for its vicious treatment of guest workers who've built its stadiums and other venues. But there's more. Five Australian women are suing Qatar Airways and Qatar's aviation authority over invasive medical "inspection" procedures conducted under duress at Doha's Hamad International Airport in 2020.
        Delta Air Lines settled a case against a female pilot who was also a safety whistleblower. The airline was accused of " 'weaponizing' mental health rules" against the pilot and will pay $500,000 in compensation and reimburse several years of her legal fees. The doctor Delta hired to smear the pilot forfeited his medical license in 2020 rather than face charges over his conduct.
        The travel pirates of Belarus, who commandeered a Ryanair jet overflying the Russian vassal state last year, are back in the news. obtained an International Civil Aviation Organization report detailing how air traffic controllers and security thugs conspired to force down the jet in order to capture a political opponent of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

You probably don't pay for PreCheck--that's what credit card statement credits are for, right?--but this is worth noting: The TSA this week reduced the in-person enrollment fee to $78 from $85. Online enrollment or renewal remains $70. The fees cover five years of membership.
        Air Canada says passengers flying in Premium Rouge--heaven help them--now receive free in-flight WiFi.
        London flyers are in for another helping of grief. Ground-handling workers and other employees of Heathrow Airport say they will strike for three days starting November 18. The work stoppage will primarily impact flyers using Terminals 2,3 and 4.
        Perth Airport in Western Australia now has a direct-to-city airport rail line. The trains operate every 12 minutes during peak periods. More information is here.