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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR APRIL 12 TO APRIL 19


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Desperation Is the Mother of Fare Sales

This week: Desperate times mean a startling business-class fare sale at Delta; Aloha Airlines is expanding its service between Hawaii and the mainland; San Francisco airport will impose a passenger-facility charge this fall; a must-avoid new hotel in New York; good news on the strike front at Northwest and Delta; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Desperation Is the Mother of Fare Sales
How bad are things at Delta Air Lines? Desperate enough for the carrier to launch the rarest of the rare: a fare sale on business-class tickets. Facing depressed demand to Europe due to a slowing economy and the fear of foot-and-mouth disease--not to mention the possibility of a pilot's strike late in June--Delta's summer business-class bookings are nearly nonexistent. The solution? A short, almost secretive, fare sale on virtually all of its European routes. Here are some examples of the roundtrip BusinessElite prices: New York/Kennedy-Barcelona for $1,600; Atlanta-Milan for $1,700; Cincinnati-Brussels for $2,000; and Salt Lake-Paris for $2,100. The restrictions: Tickets must be purchased by Monday, April 16; there is a 7-day minimum stay; travel must commence between June 1 and August 31; and tickets can only be purchased through the Delta Web site.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: A Better Way to Fly to Paradise
One of the worst things about United Airlines' year-long plunge into the abyss is that it controls about half the traffic to the Hawaiian Islands. But as the nation's worst carrier continues to decline, the nation's best carrier, Honolulu-based Aloha Airlines, is planning a timely increase in its service between Paradise and the mainland. Aloha already flies from Honolulu and Maui to Oakland and Las Vegas. Last week, Aloha added still another route: Oakland to Kona on the Big Island. Next month, Aloha expands to John Wayne/Orange County. Honolulu flights begin May 1 and Maui service begins June 1. Aloha's long-haul mainland service uses Boeing 737-700 jets configured with 12 first-class seats and 112 coach seats with 33 inches of legroom.

CONNECTIONS I: American Airport News You Need to Know
The Hub Tram has opened at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. The $25 million underground shuttle service takes passengers to and from the Lindbergh Terminal and the parking and rental-car facility. Orlando/Sanford airport, a secondary facility used primarily by Pan Am, has opened a $27 million terminal. The new, two-story building has seven gates and 120,000 square feet of passenger space. San Francisco International, the last major holdout against passenger-facility charges, will impose a $4.50 per segment charge as early as October 1.

CONNECTIONS II: International Airport News You Need to Know
The long, strange odyssey of Kuala Lumpur International continues. It barely survived a chaotic opening in July, 1998, and now two more major carriers, British Airways and All Nippon Airways, have dropped service to the Malaysian capital. Qantas and Lufthansa have also eliminated Kuala Lumpur service since the new airport opened. A new international airport has opened in Chittagong, Bangledesh. Air France is crowing about Paris/Charles de Gaulle airport. "We are developing a vacuum cleaner sucking in high-yield passengers," Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, the airline's chief operating officer, told the Financial Times. "Ten years ago the best way to go to Rio, Tokyo or the United States was through Heathrow or Amsterdam. Five years ago it would have been through Frankfurt. Now it is through Charles de Gaulle."

CYBERTRAVELER: It's Funny Because It Might As Well Be True
If you're not lucky enough to have had a friend E-mail you this link already, allow me. Surf to a comedy site called Breaking News for a frighteningly good airline parody. In fact, it'd be absolutely hilarious if it wasn't such a trenchant comment on the state of domestic airline service. Without giving too much away, the parody envisions FedEx's unique method for entering the passenger-transportation market.

ON THE FLY: The Curse of the T&L Cover
Sports fans out there have undoubtedly heard of "The Curse of Sports Illustrated." That's when bad things happen to good athletes shortly after they are featured on the magazine's cover. A similar hex, "The Curse of Travel&Leisure," afflicts business travelers. Take T&L's April cover, for example. It features the 1,000-room Hudson Hotel in New York and tips it as one of American's most stylish new hotels. Business travelers who've been inside the place tell a different story: small rooms, weird décor, and snooty service. "The desk in my room was a 15-inch-wide table," one business traveler complained to me. "The bathroom was so small I couldn't close the door when I was inside," another wrote. "I had a bigger television in my college dorm," snapped another.

STRIKE WATCH: A Deal at Northwest, Progress at Delta
After months of dreary developments on the strike front, it is a pleasure to report some good news. Northwest Airlines and its mechanics on Monday reached a tentative agreement to end nearly five years of stalemate. The deal came just days before a Presidential Emergency Board was due to make its recommendations. The chairman of the pilot's union of Delta Air Lines and Delta chairman Leo Mullin agree that a settlement is within sight. The two sides are "two, long hard days" of negotiating away from a contract, the union said Sunday. Talks are scheduled to resume next week. A federally mandated 30-day cooling off period ends April 29. Not all the news is good, however. Strike-bound Comair, grounded since March 26, has canceled all flights through Friday, April 13. No talks are scheduled between striking pilots and management of the Delta Connection commuter carrier.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.