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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR DECEMBER 6 TO DECEMBER 13, 2001


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: The feds won't operate fast-track security screening; Midway will fly again; United and US Airways offer selected discounts; Orbitz now charges for the privilege of being an airline customer; the politics of airline snacks; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: No Special Security Treatment from the Feds
At least three major carriers are hastily creating special security-screening lines for their premium-class travelers and elite-level frequent flyers. My suggestion: Enjoy the privilege while it lasts because you're not likely to get that kind of pampering when the federal government takes over security next year. "I understand what the airlines are doing," one Department of Transportation official told me this week. "But the government can't discriminate like that. We have to treat all passengers equally." Another DOT official said planning for federal security screening "is in the earliest stages," but he agreed that it would be "inconceivable" for a government program to favor any particular airline's preferred flyers. "Anything we do would have to be industry wide and available to all passengers," regardless of frequent-flyer status or class of ticket.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: Midway Will Fly Again
Put this one in the "Your Tax Dollar at Work" file: Midway Airlines, which folded on September 12 while the nation's carriers were grounded, says it will fly again. Thanks to stout lobbying by the North Carolina Congressional delegation, Midway was permitted to apply for aid from the $5 billion bailout fund. The airline has received about $10 million in taxpayer-funded grants and that will allow it to return to the skies, company officials say. The carrier, based in Raleigh-Durham, may resume service later this month with a schedule of 737 flights to a half-dozen East Coast cities. How long Midway can keep flying is an open question, however. It was operating in bankruptcy on September 11 and had been struggling after American Airlines severed Midway's link to the AAdvantage frequent-flyer program. … Frontier Airlines continues to make gains against United at its Denver hub. Effective February 28, Frontier will add new nonstop flights between Denver and New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale and Sacramento. … Speaking of Colorado, Vanguard Airlines will launch twice-daily nonstop service between Colorado Springs and its Kansas City hub on December 20.

CYBERTRAVELER: Preparing for the Euro
Twelve European nations make the conversion to the Euro on January 1 and predictions run the gamut from mass chaos to blasι acceptance. The change from local currencies will take place in three phases. Initially, most nations will allow their local currency to comingle with the Euro during January and February. By March, however, local currencies will be exchangeable for Euros only at local banks. In the final phase, which begins as early as April in Portugal, local currencies must be changed for Euros at a central bank. For more information on the most complicated currency exchange in history, consult the European Central Bank Website (http://www.euro.ecb.int/en.html). Better yet, check the pithy special section prepared by the Financial Times (http://www.ft.com/euro) . The FT offers a detailed, country-by-country chart of the changeover dates. (A note to readers: I'll be in the Euro Zone beginning December 29 and will file reports beginning January 3.)

FARE WATCH: United and US Airways Offer Selected Discounts
United Airlines has extended the no-Saturday-stay fares it introduced in October. The fares offer 50 percent off full-coach prices when you buy 21 days in advance and 25 percent off when you buy 10 days in advance. Other major carriers matched on competitive routes. Originally due to expire on December 31, the fares are now available until at least March 31. … US Airways has introduced a spread of discounted fares for its Boston-New York-Washington Shuttle operation. Most notable: the $138 roundtrip "Go Often" fare that requires a 7-day advance purchase, off-peak-hour travel, and a Friday-night stay.

OBITUARIES: Three More Carriers Bite the Dust
Without fanfare, TWA ended eight decades of flying last weekend. There was minimal disruption during the switchover to American Airlines. Moreover, there have been few reports of problems during the transfer of TWA Aviators miles to American AAdvantage accounts. But check your AAdvantage account to be sure you've received proper credit. … MetroJet, the ill-begotten low-fare subsidiary of USAirways, also died over the weekend. … Transbrasil stopped flying this week after it was unable to pay for fuel. Once one of Brazil's leading carriers, Transbrasil dropped international service some time ago. Airline spokesmen claim the carrier will eventually resume its domestic Brazilian flights.

WEB WATCH: Paying for the Privilege of Buying
Here's another reason to hate the airlines: Orbitz.com, the Website owned by a consortium of major carriers, now charges a $5 service fee for each ticket you buy. In other words, if you buy from Orbitz, you're also paying the airlines for the privilege of being a customer. … Delta is offering 5,000 bonus SkyMiles if you sign up for an Earthlink account. You must register with Delta in advance for the promotion and use code 10971.

VERBATIM: The Politics of Airline Peanuts
Air Canada's market share has jumped to 80 per cent from 65 per cent since the recent collapse of Canada 3000. Worse, it now accounts for 90 per cent of all airline revenues in Canada. Those eye-popping statistics have drawn the attention of the Canadian Parliament and a Senate hearing earlier this week largely focused on weighty competitive issues. But never underestimate the ability of certain clueless politicians to miss the forest for the trees. Consider this verbatim dispatch from the Canadian Press wire service: "Liberal Senator Laurier LaPierre said Air Canada should drop peanuts and pretzels, the former because of lethal allergies and the latter because they're 'no … good for anybody's health. You should give them cookies or chocolate,' LaPierre said. Peanuts were dropped three years ago, he was told."

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

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