Business Travel Briefing
For April 15-April 30, 2023
The briefing in brief: Airlines and hotels don't need to offer travel deals now. JAL's new discount carrier offers $2,000 roundtrip business class fares between Japan and United States. Britain is lifting three-ounce liquid rule for carry-on bags. Air Canada will fly nonstop from Vancouver to Dubai. Breeze Airways finds no market for transcontinental nonstops from suburban New York airport. JetBlue will fly to Amsterdam. United trimming "shuttle" routes to Washington/Dulles. And more.

Three years after the pandemic began, U.S. airlines have recovered about 95% of their pre-Covid traffic. Yet they're flying 10-15% fewer seats and that means many fewer discount fares. In fact, the U.S. government pegs airline fares as one of the few categories that have not reversed or slowed their post-pandemic inflationary spiral. Ditto for hotels and car rentals, where prices continue to rise due to strong consumer demand and limited supply. That's my long-winded way of explaining why I haven't resumed JoeSentMe's Steals and Deals page after its pandemic hiatus. Want tangible examples of the stumbling blocks facing resumed deal coverage? Here's a doozy: Earlier this month, United Airlines quietly posted a promo code offering flyers a 15% discount on any base coach fare for travel until June 28th. The airline promised you had until April 30th to use the code. However, United unceremoniously pulled the deal with no notice in less than 36 hours. Or how about this? JoeSentMe contributor Ralph Raffio wrote last year about scoring a $1,400 roundtrip fare on all-business-class La Compagnie between Newark and Milan. When La Compagnie's 2023 promo dropped this month, the fare was $2,400 roundtrip, a price hike of more than 70%. Needless to say, it looks like a long and very expensive spring and summer of travel. But stay tuned. I promise to resume the Steals and Deals page as soon as I can find some reasonable steals and deals to report.

Before the pandemic, Japan Airlines had planned an intra-Asia and transpacific discount carrier. Eventually named Zipair, the low fare/high fee operation was due to launch in 2020 with nonstop flights between the United States and Tokyo/Narita as well as flights to key Asian cities from Narita. Pandemic realities forced JAL to start Zipair as an all-cargo carrier, however. Also at issue: the huge letter Z that JAL painted on the tail of Zipair's Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. (Russia adopted Z as the symbol of its invasion of Ukraine, so JAL hastily repainted Zipair aircraft with a green geometric tail design.) But now that Japan has reopened for business and leisure travel, JAL has returned to the idea of using ZipAir as a low-cost passenger line. Nonstops from Narita to Honolulu, San Jose and Los Angeles have already begun and ZipAir says San Francisco service will launch June 2. Normally a pack-'em-in ride on a no-frills airline stuffing Boeing 787s with 290 seats wouldn't be a particularly attractive option on the long hauls across the Pacific. But Zipair has a surprise: a premium class configured with fully flat seatbeds. Introductory prices are startling--as low as $2,000 roundtrip this summer. The so-called ZIP Full-Flat cabin is admittedly no frills--you'll pay for checked baggage and some carry-on bags, all seat assignments and even in-flight meals--but a $2,000 bed across the Pacific is nothing to dismiss. And the Wi-Fi is free. ZipAir flights aren't showing up on most traditional booking engines so surf to for full details.
        Air Canada says that it will launch nonstops to Dubai from its Vancouver West Coast hub. Four weekly flights using Boeing 787 Dreamliners begin on October 28th.
        Aer Lingus will move to Terminal 7 from its New York/JFK home at Terminal 5 beginning April 27. The Irish carrier flies nonstop from JFK to Dublin, Shannon and Manchester, England.

The British government vowed last December to end the 3-ounce/100-millilter liquids rule for carry-on bags. That promise is now coming to fruition. London/City airport (LCY) earlier this month eliminated the need to separate and limit liquids and now permits items up to two liters in carry-on bags. An English regional airport, Teesside International (MME) scrapped the rule last month and the U.K. government says all British airports must end the liquids ban by June, 2024. The reason? New carry-on bag scanners that can more accurately assess the contents of passenger luggage. Many of these scanners are already in use in the United States. Which raises the obvious question: Will the TSA follow suit and scrap the 3-ounce rule anytime soon? "Not going to happen," one TSA official told me this week, but he refused to offer any reason why U.S. airports could not follow the British example. As you recall, the current liquid rule was adopted in 2006 following a single failed attempt to hijack or destroy a passenger aircraft using a cocktail of liquids smuggled aboard in a carry-on bag.

Unlike its U.S. competitors, JetBlue Airways has struggled to make a profit during the post-pandemic travel surge. It is also fighting federal lawsuits challenging its proposed merger with Spirit Airlines and its so-called Northeast Alliance with American Airlines. Faced with the uncertainty, feckless JetBlue management does what airline executives always do in downtimes: fiddle with the route network. JetBlue is dropping flights to Dallas/Fort Worth and Minneapolis/St Paul from its New York/JFK hub. A domestic flight between Worcester/Boston and Orlando resumes June 15th. JetBlue is also adding two more international destinations to its map. Previously announced JFK-Paris/CDG flights begin June 29th using Airbus A321LRs configured with 24 business class seatbeds and 115 coach and premium economy seats. The airline has also announced it will fly nonstop to Amsterdam after winning legal skirmishes with Schiphol Airport and Dutch government authorities. Although the airline has not announced specific dates, it promises to begin JFK-Amsterdam this summer and Boston-Amsterdam flights later in the year.
        Breeze Airways, the cash-gushing start-up launched by JetBlue founder David Neeleman, is learning that long-haul flights from Westchester County Airport (HPN) in suburban New York City aren't the ticket. Its much-touted nonstop to Los Angeles ends on April 30 after just six months of service. It cancelled flights to Las Vegas after just a month of operation and never even bothered to launch the nonstops to San Francisco International it promised last year with great fanfare.

Here's some happy news: The European community has announced still another delay to its ETIAS scheme, which would require U.S. and Canadian travelers to secure electronic entry approval before departing on a flight to most European destinations. The system, which roughly duplicates an entry burden imposed on European travelers by the United States after 9/11, now won't be activated for at least another year. In other words, mid-2024 at the earliest. A similar system for U.S. and Canadian travelers headed to the United Kingdom has also been delayed until next year.
        United Airlines is slashing flights at its Newark hub by nearly 10%. Under pressure from federal authorities hoping to mitigate flight delays in the New York Metro area, United's move includes deep cuts to its so-called shuttle flights to its Washington/Dulles hub. Also getting trimmed: Many United frequencies between New York/LaGuardia and Dulles.
        Amtrak says that business travel on its key Northeast Corridor routes has fallen to 60% of total traffic. Before the pandemic, frequent riders made up 80% of the volume on the Boston-Washington routes.