Business Travel Briefing
For December 17 to 31, 2023
The briefing in brief: Three European airlines--Lufthansa, Austrian and Swiss--return to Tel Aviv in January. Alaska Airlines simplifies elite-status qualifications next year. You can now earn American AAdvantage miles on some Philippine Airlines flights. Air Canada and JetBlue will also fly to Tulum, Mexico. Newburgh/Stewart finally gets a new carrier. British Airways quits flying to San Jose. And more.

The continued fighting in the West Bank and the ongoing terrorist threat to Israel has chased the world's carriers from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. With the exception of code-shares operated by Israel's airlines--El Al, Arkia and Israir--you won't find foreign carriers on TLV's current flight board. But the Lufthansa Group has announced several of its carriers will return to Tel Aviv starting on January 8. Lufthansa itself will offer four weekly roundtrips from its Frankfurt hub and three from its Munich hub. Austrian Airlines will fly eight roundtrips a week from Vienna and Swissair will resume five weekly roundtrips from Zurich. Lufthansa's move most definitely won't be matched by North American carriers, however. Delta this week said its Tel Aviv service is now cancelled through March 29, essentially matching the move already posted by American Airlines. United won't even say when its flights could resume. Meanwhile, Air Canada says its Tel Aviv flights are cancelled through at least February 29. A bit of a silver lining to the reluctance of U.S. airlines: Delta and El Al's previously announced code-share arrangement may go live as early as next month. Watch for details before the end of the year.

Alaska Airlines says qualifying for elite status in its Mileage Plan will be easier in 2024. For starters, the segment qualification option will be eliminated. Also gone: The requirement that you need to fly a minimum number of Alaska Air segments to reach elite levels. Mileage alone will be used for elite status qualification. Better yet, you'll be able to reach the mileage levels needed by flying any Alaska Airlines partner that awards qualifying miles. Best of all, mileage requirements for elite levels remain unchanged. For more information, surf here. Meanwhile, Mileage Plan is also adding a new partner, Porter Airlines of Canada. Miles flown on Porter will qualify for Alaska elite status, too. Porter in January begins flights from Toronto to two Alaska Air hubs, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
        American AAdvantage members can now earn miles on Philippine Airlines. To earn miles, however, American must code-share on the Philippines flight. That includes service to Manila from Guam, Honolulu and Tokyo/Narita and Tokyo/Haneda. AA is also code-sharing on Philippines flights between Cebu and Narita. The code-share deal was announced before the pandemic, but didn't actually happen until this week.
        Marriott Bonvoy and Singapore Airlines' KrisFlyer are offering a series of reciprocal elite benefits. Details are here.

The Big Three U.S. airlines already announced their initial slate of flights at the soon-to-open Tulum International (TQO) on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Now comes JetBlue and Air Canada. The Canadian carrier says it'll launch nonstops from Toronto/Pearson and Montreal beginning in May. There'll be two flights a week from Toronto and a weekly roundtrip from Montreal. JetBlue, meanwhile, says it'll fly daily from its New York/JFK hub starting June 13.
        Austin is bouncing back from its loss of many American Airlines flights. Delta Air Lines says it will add nearly a dozen more flights from Austin in April, including a new route to Nashville. The run launches April 22 using regional jets.
        Newburgh/Stewart, the woefully underserved airport about 65 miles north of Manhattan, gets a new carrier early next year. Breeze Airways, the money-gushing start-up fronted by JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman, says it'll fly from SWF to both Orlando and Charleston, South Carolina. Twice-weekly nonstops on both runs begin February 15 with three-class Airbus A220s.

A Delta Airlines Airbus A330-300 flying from Amsterdam to Detroit/Metro this week developed engine trouble and diverted to Goose Bay in Labrador. Delta sent a relief aircraft to the remote airport, a military base with some regional commercial flights. Inexplicably, however, the crew of the relief aircraft timed out and Delta was forced to send a third A330 to Goose Bay. Bewildered passengers spent hours on the original aircraft and, finally, a nearby barracks. The twisted tale caught the attention of both the Associated Press and ABC News. ... Meanwhile, a Russian man somehow stowed away aboard a Scandinavian Airlines flight from Copenhagen to Los Angeles. The strange tale--the man did not appear on the flight manifest, changed seats repeatedly and caged chocolates and meals during the flight--only ended when the illicit flyer presented himself to amazed Customs agents. Needless to say, the Scandinavian saga of Sergey Vladimirovich Ochigava was eagerly covered by The New York Times and The Washington Post. Naturally, The Los Angeles Times also covered it. ... Much as I dislike passengers who crowd the boarding gates long before their row or boarding group is called, I absolutely abhor the demeaning term "gate lice." Still, folks are now studying the mentality of rushing boarding gates before your time.

The potential combination of Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines won't come cheap. And it won't come cheap even if it doesn't happen. According to regulatory filings, Alaska will owe Hawaiian a cool $100 million if it bails on the deal. If Hawaiian backs out, it'll owe Alaska $36.6 million--or "only" $25 million if Hawaiian shareholders balk.
        Choice Hotels has been pursuing Wyndham Hotels for months and now negotiations have turned nasty. Choice this week said it had already accumulated 1.5 million shares of Wyndham valued at about $110 million. It has launched a hostile offer for the remaining shares and will nominate its own slate of directors for Wyndham's board.
        British Airways says it is done flying to San Jose in the Silicon Valley. The airline launched flights to London/Heathrow in 2016, then suspended them during the Covid pandemic. It resumed service in June, 2022, but suspended flights again at the end of October. BA has now told the airport that it wants to terminate its lease and won't be back.