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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR APRIL 19 TO APRIL 26, 2001


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: The airlines lose their taste for carry-on baggage sizing templates; Canada 3000 prepares to challenge Air Canada's monopoly; a slew of major hotels change names and management; five Nordic nations join Europe's passport-free travel zone; hotels in London and Paris reduce rates; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Is This the End of Baggage Templates?
No issue has so enraged frequent flyers in recent years as several airlines' unilateral decision to install carry-on baggage sizing templates at security checkpoints. First pioneered by United, the leader in strategies to alienate customers, templates were eventually adopted by Delta, American and Southwest airlines. But now the tide is being reversed. Regulatory problems have forced American to remove the templates at eight of the nine cities where it installed them. Delta has halted plans to add templates at additional cities. And Continental, which invested in oversized carry-on bins, has successfully fought off the implementation of templates at several airports. It even won a federal court order to force the removal of the templates at Washington/Dulles airport. Only United remains committed to templates and continues to argue--against all statistical evidence to the contrary--that the sizing devices improve on-time performance. "United is basically alone on this one now," an executive of one major carrier told me last week. "The things infuriate our best customers, they don't reduce the amount of carry-on bags and they don't improve on-time performance, so what's the point?"

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: A Bulked-Up Canada 3000 Challenges 'Mapleflot'
Air Canada's stranglehold on Canadian air travel won't end now that Canada 3000 is buying both Royal Air and CanJet, but "Mapleflot" should get a run for its money. "We won't be able to compete with Air Canada," says Canada 3000 president Angus Kinnear, but "we will be able to make sure that Canadians have a choice and that pricing remains competitive." Canada 3000 will triple its routes with the Royal and CanJet acquisitions and it also promises a raft of new flights: twice-daily weekday service to New York/Newark from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto; daily weekday service to Los Angeles from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax; and summer service to St. John's and Fredericton. The new Canada 3000 would then have routes between 70 city pairs and flights to 21 cities. When the merging operations begin on June 1, Canada 3000 will also unveil its new business class. The so-called Club C3 will offer 38 inches of seat pitch and will eventually be available on all Canada 3000 routes.

NEUTRON HOSPITALITY: Names Disappear, But Hotel Buildings Remain
It continues to be impossible to keep track of the hotel industry without a very large scorecard to make note of all the "rebranding." In fact, it's the equivalent of neutron hospitality: Well-known names disappear, but the buildings remain. In New York, for example, a new owner spent more than $190 million last month to buy the all-suite Righa Royal. It was promptly renamed the JW Marriott New York. Meanwhile, two years after it purchased the U.S. portfolio of 12 Regal Hotels, Singapore-based Millennium & Copthorne has finally changed the name of those properties. All U.S. hotels that carried the Regal name became Millennium properties on April 9. That includes the Knickerbocker in Chicago, the UN Plaza in New York and the Biltmore in Los Angeles. In Washington, a real-estate investment trust has bought four small hotels--the Canterbury, the Clarion Hampshire House, the Quality Hotels and Suites, and the Howard Johnson Plaza--and will turn the management over to Kimpton Hotels. Kimpton manages boutique properties and will rename the hotels after renovations are completed.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
We warned a couple of weeks back that airlines would begin dropping previously announced routes as the economy slows. Take note of what may be the first of many: Air Canada will not launch its service between Calgary, Alberta and San Jose, California. The route was supposed to begin on June 29. Flyers continue to punish United Airlines for its dreadful service. Domestic traffic dropped 7.5 percent in March compared to March, 2000. That marks the ninth consecutive month of declining domestic traffic for the nation's worst major carrier. Five Nordic nations--Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland--have joined Europe's passport-free zone. Now travelers moving between those nations and the 10 so-called Schengen countries will not be required to show passports at airports, ferry terminals and land frontiers. BMI British Midland has delayed the start of its first trans-Atlantic routes. The airline now plans to launch Washington/Dulles-Manchester service on May 12 and its Chicago/O'Hare-Manchester flights on June 8. Austrian Airlines has removed a row of seats from its Grand Class business-class cabin. That has allowed the carrier to increase seat pitch to 59 inches and seat recline to 155 degrees.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Spring Breaks on London and Paris Hotels
Six Millennium & Copthorne hotels in London and Paris have posted special Warm Welcome rates that should lower the price of business travel during the next few months. Most notable is the $255 a night rate until July 12 at the Millennium Hotel Opera in Paris. The nicely renovated property on the Boulevard Haussman was formerly known as the Commodore. Also worth special note: the $210 a night rate through June 30 at the Millennium Bailey's in South Kensington; a two-night minimum stay is required. For more information, call 800-465-6486.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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