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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR MAY 18, 2000


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Tracking the nation's dissatisfaction with airlines; United is cancelling hundreds of flights a week; America West sinks to the bottom of the Transportation Department's ratings; airfares jump as much as $30 roundtrip; Northwest discounts award seats by 1,000 miles if you book on the web; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Airline Dissatisfaction Index
Carriers are quick to promote their wins in the numerous award programs that choose a "best" airline. But don't expect the carriers to talk about their performance in the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which rates the airlines in comparison with other service industries. The index covers 185 companies and 30 government agencies during the first quarter of the year. And the numbers for the airlines are dreary indeed. The overall index of satisfaction for all companies is 72.5 out of a possible 100. Not only did the scheduled U.S. carriers as a group rack up an appalling average satisfaction rating of just 63, no individual airline even reached the national average. All of the airlines posted lower satisfaction numbers than the U.S. Postal Service, the nation's long distance companies and most of the country's electric utilities. As an industry, the airlines even ranked lower on the satisfaction scale than newspapers, hospitals and broadcast television. And in a related item, America West has solidified its ranking as the worst airline in the nation with an unprecedented showing in the Transportation Department's latest Air Travel Consumer Report. America West finished last among the ten major carriers in on-time arrivals, had the worst mishandled baggage ratio, registered the highest percentage of flights regularly delayed, and generated the most consumer complaints.

DOLLAR WATCH: Your Fares Have Risen Again
After a few days of jockeying, posturing and equivocating about their actions and intentions, major U.S. carriers have increased airfares by as much as $30 roundtrip. As is regularly the case now, this round of increases was initiated by Continental Airlines, which last weekend filed an across-the-board price hike on both unrestricted business and restricted leisure fares. Most carriers eventually matched all the increases. Including the disingenuous "fuel surcharge" of February 1, this is the third fare increase of 2000 and the ninth across-the-board price hike since January, 1999.

MILES & POINTS: Save a Thousand (Miles) on Northwest
Northwest Airlines has a unique promotion: Book a Northwest WorldPerks travel award at the Northwest website and the airline will give you a 1,000-point discount. The deal is not a bonus, but a discount. Any award you choose will cost you 1,000 points less than the published rate when you book at the site. The awards have to be claimed by June 15 for travel within the next year. For complete details, consult the Northwest site.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines has canceled hundreds of flights in the last week due to a dispute with its pilots. Cancellations reached 10 percent of United's schedule on Saturday, but the situation has been less severe during the business week. Unannounced cancellations are expected to continue for several more weeks, however. Delta Air Lines is retrofitting its fleet of B-757s and MD-88s with larger overhead bins to better accommodate 22-inch rolling bags. The airline is not relaxing its stringent carry-on baggage policy, however. Complaints about fares and service have skyrocketed at Air Canada since its purchase earlier this year of Canadian Airlines. So now the airline says it will appoint an ombudsman to oversee customer service. And David Collenette, Canada's Transport minister, said he will permit international airlines to fly on domestic routes if Air Canada service does not improve in the next 18 to 24 months. Continental Airlines begins twice-daily nonstop B-737 flights between Oakland and Newark on August 1. It also launched twice-daily flights between its Houston hub and Sacramento. Effective June 1, Hawaiian Airlines will add a second daily DC-10 nonstop between San Francisco and Honolulu. Speaking of Hawaii, American Airlines will begin daily nonstops between Maui and its Dallas/Fort Worth hub on November 22. TWA is adding flights to Los Angeles from a variety of destinations. It launched service from Kona, Hawaii, on May 1. It will add a fourth daily flight from New York/Kennedy on July 8. It is also adding year-round service between Vancouver and its hub in St. Louis beginning May 19.

WEEKLY WONDER: Two-for-One in Swissair Business Class
Swissair (877-359-3876) is offering a free companion ticket to flyers who purchase a full-fare business-class ticket to Switzerland. The offer is valid for travelers who fly from New York/JFK or Newark to Zurich, Geneva or on connecting flights to Basel. Tickets must be purchased by June 12. Departures are permitted from June 1 through August 31 and travel must be completed by September 30.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.