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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JUNE 29, 2000


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: avoiding the crush at airport parking lots; the new SkyTeam website; another strike threat at Air Canada; how the proposed United-US Airways merger could allow three airlines to control 78 percent of the traffic; and hotel deals in Paris and Hong Kong.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: A Whole Lot of Airport Parking Problems
Heavy early-summer traffic is filling airport parking lots all over the country. One potential solution: avoid the lots altogether and use one of the growing cadre of off-airport lots and alternatives. Many car-rental firms and hotels located at or near major airports now offer park-and-fly programs. The plans aren't heavily advertised or promoted, but if you're having trouble finding an on-airport parking spot, start calling. You'll be surprised how many airport hotels offer a decent parking rate, an on-demand shuttle to your terminal, and extras such as a newspaper, a morning cup of coffee or even a car wash. And most airport have at least one private off-airport parking lot. The latest twist: regional independents that offer off-airport parking lots in several cities. Among the larger players are Avistar [http://www.avistarparking.com], strong in the Northeast; Parking Spot [http://www.theparkingspot.com], strong in the Midwest and Texas; Park Air Express (216-362-7275) in the Midwest; and Park 'N Fly [http://www.pnf.com/pnf/pnfhome.htm], with lots near airports in a dozen cities.

CYBERTRAVELER: A New Alliance, Same Old Hot Air
After months of sifting through more than 800 potential names, the Delta-Air France alliance has settled on "SkyTeam" as its marketing brand. The alliance, which also includes AeroMexico and Korean Air, announced the name last week and promptly launched a SkyTeam website [http://www.skyteam.com]. The site perfectly illustrates all the hot air surrounding every airline alliance. Consider, for example, the SkyTeam "Benefits" page. It promotes "10 SkyTeam benefits," one of which is "in-flight service built around your needs." Four of the other ten are equally specious. The five substantive benefits are so conditional and skewed by asterisks and fine print as to be almost worthless. One example: Benefit No. 8 claims you can "ease your SkyTeam connecting flights with single check-in," but the condition in the fine print promptly limits the benefit to "a maximum of two SkyTeam airlines in an itinerary."

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Look of a Post-Merger World
Approval of the proposed United-US Airways merger would probably lead to rapid consolidation in the airline industry. Every industry observer--and virtually every airline executive except United chief James Goodwin--expects it. Within a year, most believe, the nation would probably be left with just three giants: United-US Airways, a possible combination of American and Northwest, and a potential Delta-Continental combo. What would a three-carrier world look like? A lot like a super-concentrated oligarchy. Based on their respective market shares in May, an allied American-Northwest would command 28.29 percent of the market. United-US Airways would control 24.72 percent of traffic. A combined Delta-Continental would command 25 percent of the U.S. market. That's an astonishing 78.01 percent of the nation's traffic in the hands of just three companies. Southwest would emerge as a distant fourth carrier with just 6.03 percent of the market.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
More than 90 percent of Air Canada's pilots have voted in favor of a strike and a work stoppage could begin as early as this weekend. The pilots and Air Canada were scheduled to meet Wednesday and the union representing the pilots said they would not give the required 72-hour notice of a work stoppage until after Wednesday's negotiations were completed. The 2,200 pilots have been working without a contract since April 1. A pilot's strike in 1998 shut down Air Canada for two weeks. ... American Airlines says it has converted 500 of its domestic aircraft to a more spacious coach cabin offering 34 inches of legroom at each seat. The airline says the remainder of the fleet of nearly 600 planes will be finished by October. United Airlines is doing a rotten job operating its flights. Who says? Peter McDonald, United's vice president of operational services. "United is not performing at an acceptable level of reliability and has fallen far below our competitors in reliability performance," McDonald said last week in a message to employees. SAS is joining British Airways and Virgin Atlantic in offering a dedicated full-fare economy cabin. The airline says the new class will begin September, 2001, on flights to Chicago, New York, Seattle and five Asian destinations. The new class of service, as yet unnamed, will be priced at the full-fare coach level. Airbus now says it will build a double-decker plane configured to hold as many as 555 passengers. The company says the plane will go into commercial service in 2005.

WEEKLY WONDERS: Summer Deals in Paris and Hong Kong
The Kowloon Shangri-La is knocking 35 percent off its published room and suite rates through August 15. That means prices begin at HK$1,430 (about US$183) a night. And if you download a "Value Voucher" coupon from the Shangri-La website, you'll qualify for a room upgrade, bonus miles or a $50 credit for food, beverage and hotel services. Meanwhile, the "Temporary Parisian" package at Hotel Nikko de Paris (800-645-5687) includes three nights of accommodations, daily breakfast, passes for the Metro and 65 museums, and all taxes. The price of FF3650 (about $529) is valid through September 7.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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