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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR SEPTEMBER 28, 2000


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: a strike alert at United's Denver hub; discount carriers expand their flight schedules; some reservations about making on-line restaurant reservations; a spate of lawsuits aimed at the airlines; new travel freebies from Avis Europe, Delta and Continental; and TWA offers a first-class fare sale on transcontinental flights.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: A Strike Alert for United Passengers at Denver
You might want to reconsider flying United Airlines to or through Denver International Airport during the next few days. Employees of United's luggage-handling subcontractor in Denver went on strike Tuesday morning. As of Wednesday afternoon, the strike hasn't had a substantial effect on United service, but that may change. Denver authorities have forced the strikers to demonstrate in a remote and isolated parking lot, out of sight of and proximity to United employees, many of whom have promised to honor a picket line. However, the union representing the strikers was planning to ask a judge for an injunction to allow the workers to picket at a more traditional and visible airport location. If that request is granted, and United employees refuse to cross the picket line, United flights nationwide could be affected.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: More Flights from America's Discount Carriers
Sun Country Airlines, which competes with Northwest from Minneapolis and Detroit, is expanding its winter service to sun destinations. From December 26 until April 17, it will offer a daily flight between Minneapolis and Honolulu. It will also launch flights from Minneapolis to Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan in Mexico. The seasonal service begins December 16. Southwest Airlines is also bulking up where the sun shines. The airline will launch service at Palm Beach International airport in January. Details, including prices and cities served, should be announced early in October. Pan Am, the start-up carrier with the famous name, has received approval to start a commuter airline. The commuter, Boston-Maine Airways, will fly 19-seat planes between Pan Am's hub in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Bangor, Maine. It will also fly between Orlando/Sanford and Fort Myers, Florida.

CYBERTRAVELER: Reservations About On-Line Reservations
It's trendy, but I have reservations about making restaurant reservations on-line. For one thing, there are upwards to two dozen Internet competitors, and none offers a comprehensive, nationwide database. None, in fact, even can offer all the restaurants in a single city. That's because restaurant owners usually give an exclusive to one of the major sites rather than make their table inventory available to any electronic comer. But if you'd rather click your way to a table rather than pick up the phone and make a long-distance call, here are the leading players: OpenTable.com offers reservations in 18 U.S. cities; Foodline.com covers 25 cities; and Savvy Diner.com books tables in 25 U.S. cities and Vancouver, British Columbia.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Everyone's Suing the Airlines
Seven travelers filed a lawsuit in 1997 claiming that Northwest Airlines engaged in monopolistic pricing after its 1986 merger with Republic Airlines. After several delays and legal maneuvers, a federal judge heard arguments earlier this month and will decide whether to grant class action status to the lawsuit. The widow of a 70-year-old man who suffered a fatal stroke on a Continental Airlines flight bound for Newark in 1998 is suing the carrier for $49 million. The flight from Houston was only airborne about 20 minutes when the incident occurred, but the pilot refused to land the plane until it reached Newark three hours later, the plaintiff asserts. The man died in a New Jersey hospital. An added twist: Continental chief executive Gordon Bethune was a passenger on the flight. An Alabama jury awarded $10,000 to a passenger whose golf clubs disappeared on a Delta Air Lines flight. The airline, which won't admit it lost the clubs, had offered the passenger $1,250, the standard compensation for lost luggage at the time of the 1997 flight. Delta says it will appeal the verdict. And, inevitably, one airline is suing another. Air France has filed suit against Continental, claiming a metal strip from a Continental DC-10 may have landed on a Paris runway and caused this summer's fatal Concorde crash.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Avis Europe now offers renters 21 days free use of a Nokia mobile phone. The phone will be delivered to the renter's home or office prior to the international departure. For more information, call 800-331-1084. Continental Airlines is offering double OnePass miles on all flights through November 15. Tickets must be purchased with an American Express card and travelers must register in advance by calling 800-554-5522. Delta Air Lines is offering a PowerXtender adapter to Skymiles members who book a business-class ticket between October 1 and December 31. The PowerXtender cable allows laptop computers to plug into Delta's at-seat power points or a car's cigarette lighter. Travelers must book their tickets via the Delta website.

WEEKLY WONDER: TWA's First-Class Sale on Transcon Flights
TWA is staking much of its future on an expansion of transcontinental service and it has launched a rare first-class sale to promote its coast-to-coast commitment. First-class seats on its new Los Angeles-Washington/National flights are priced at $999 one-way with a one-day advance purchase. The same fare is available on TWA's San Francisco-New York/Kennedy flights. The price includes the fuel surcharges and is valid for travel until October 31. Meanwhile, TWA launches nonstop service between Kennedy and John Wayne/Orange County on October 29. First-class seats on that run will be priced at $999 one-way until December 15; that fare also includes fuel surcharges and requires a one-day advance purchase.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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