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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JULY 12 TO JULY 19, 2001


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Air Wisconsin is 30 days from a strike; work stoppages cripple Cathay Pacific and Iberia; Frontier is nipping at United's heels in Denver; Four Points hotels open at six U.S. airports; Alaska Airlines comes East; there's a unique golf club hotel just seven miles from London's Heathrow Airport; and much more

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Airline Strikes Just Keep Coming
We're just 30 days from a possible strike at Air Wisconsin, the commuter airline that serves 44 cities, most of them as a United Express carrier from Denver and Chicago/O'Hare. The National Mediation Board declared an impasse Tuesday between the airline and its pilots. The pilots union rejected binding arbitration, thus triggering a federally mandated 30-day cooling off period. Cathay Pacific and its pilots are embroiled in an ugly industrial dispute which has led the carrier to abandon about a quarter of its daily flight schedule. Included in the cuts is Cathay's New York-Hong Kong service; the airline has also stopped accepting reservations for any of its other North American flights. A weekly Tuesday pilots strike is taking its toll on Iberia of Spain. It cancelled about a third of its schedule on Tuesday and the carrier has broken off negotiations. The pilots plan to strike again on Tuesday, July 17, as well as on July 24 and August 6, 13, 20 and 27.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: Frontier Finds Its Niche
The second incarnation of Frontier Airlines launched seven years ago this month and, astonishing more than a few critics, it has developed into a serious alternative to United Airlines at their shared Denver hub. As United's in-flight service and on-time performance has tanked, Frontier has expanded dramatically: It now flies to 23 cities, it carried more than 3 million passengers in the last 12 months and its monthly traffic has grown steadily while United's domestic passenger count has declined for 11 consecutive months. And, by the way, Frontier is making money--$54.9 million last year--and United isn't. "There's no doubt we've gotten new customers based on United's problems," says Tom Allee, Frontier's director of national sales. "But my strongest selling tool is pricing. I've got great service, good people and I'm 30-to-40 percent lower than Brand X" on business-travel fares.

CONNECTIONS: Airport News You Need to Know
As part of the gradual consolidation of TWA into its American Airlines parent, TWA has moved its gates and ticket counters to American's facilities at Las Vegas, Nashville and Pittsburgh. Brussels is leaking like a proverbial sieve and that has led a dozen airlines to stop shipping valuable cargo--diamonds, bank notes and the like--through the Belgian capital. In recent months, two flights have been robbed of expensive cargo while on the ground at Brussels. Starwood Hotels has planted the flag of its limited-service brand, Four Points, at six more U.S. airports. During the past two weeks, a newly-built 100-room Four Points opened at San Francisco International; Sheraton Inns were renovated and converted to the Four Points brand at the airports in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Columbus, Georgia; and other properties were renovated and reflagged as Four Points hotels at Chicago/Midway, Boston/Logan and Des Moines.

JOE SENT ME: A Special Hotel Near Heathrow
British Airways and other carriers have been slashing fares to London all summer, so you may have the opportunity to check out the Stoke Park Club, a truly special hotel only seven miles from Heathrow Airport. It offers 20 individually and meticulously decorated rooms and suites in a Paladian Mansion situated on the 27-hole Stoke Poges Golf Club. The golf club is famous from the movie Goldfinger (it's where Oddjob decapitated a statue with his hat) and the hotel itself was recently the site of the spectacular wedding scene in the movie Bridget Jones's Diary. Best of all, all this fame, tradition and 350 acres of luxurious British club life is just a 15-minute train ride from Paddington Station in London. Room rates start at about $350 a night and include breakfast and transportation to and from Heathrow. Two-night golf packages start at about $400 a night and include daily breakfast, one dinner, airport transfers and a round of golf. For more information, call 877-HOTEL-UK.

ON THE FLY: New Flights to New Places
Alaska Airlines launches its first flights east of Chicago in mid-September when it begins nonstop service between its Seattle hub and Washington/National. Singapore Airlines launches service at Chicago/O'Hare on August 1 when it begins thrice-weekly flights to Singapore via its European base in Amsterdam. The airline will use two-class Boeing 777s on the service. Continental Airlines has a competitor on flights to Birmingham, England. Bet you can't guess which carrier is competing with Continental's Newark flights. Give up? It's Uzbekistan Airways, which now flies B-767s from New York/Kennedy to Birmingham. The once-weekly flight continues on to Delhi and Tashkent. Speaking of Kennedy, TWA has launched a daily MD-80 nonstop from Kennedy to Nassau in the Bahamas.

WEEKLY WONDER: Two for One and More to Spain
Spanair (888-545-5757), the Spanish airline that flies from Washington/Dulles, has unleashed a hefty short-term business-class promotion. Travelers who purchase a business-class ticket to Spain through August 31 also receive: a free companion ticket, complimentary limousine service to Dulles and a free stopover in Madrid. Tickets must be purchased with a MasterCard by August 15.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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