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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR MAY 30 TO JUNE 6, 2002


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Don't buy tickets this weekend since Continental is trying another price hike; JetBlue fills out its Long Beach schedule; Podunk finds a home on the Web; Jetsgo launches next month in Canada; another voice decries the bad prices at Hotels.com; and a pilot strike grounds Aer Lingus.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Another Lousy Weekend to Buy Tickets
Continental Airlines raised most of its lowest-priced domestic tickets by $20 roundtrip on Thursday afternoon and that's sure to set off another round of price jockeying over the weekend among the major carriers. My advice, as always, is don't buy tickets this or any other weekend. Wait until the dust clears and you can see if Continental successfully leads other carriers to raise fares. If any of the other majors refuse to match Continental's prices, Continental will back off the increase by Monday morning. If you buy from Continental or any other carrier at the higher prices, however, then chances are you won't get your money back when fares are reduced.

ALTERNATE ARRANGEMENTS: JetBlue Fills Out Its Long Beach Schedule
As you probably already know, JetBlue Airways and American Airlines, the biggest, meanest, ugliest predator in the skies, are sparring over the available take-off and landing slots at once-drowsy Long Beach Airport. JetBlue scooped up all the slots last year when no one else was interested. Now American, alarmed at JetBlue's transcontinental growth, is trying to muscle its way in. JetBlue is responding, however, by rushing new flights onto its Long Beach schedule. Effective September 6, JetBlue says it will launch nine flights a day between Long Beach and Oakland. On October 10, it will add six daily flights from Long Beach to Las Vegas, a daily flight to Salt Lake City and its fifth daily flight to its New York/Kennedy hub. ... The Air Transportation Stabilization Board, the federal agency overseeing the $10 billion loan-guarantee program created last year, has rejected the application of Vanguard Airlines. The Kansas City-based carrier was in parlous financial shape even before September 11 and it had requested that the government guarantee $13.5 million of a $15 million loan.

CANADIAN CORNER: Canada Gets Another Low-Fare Carrier
Michel Leblanc, who created Royal Airlines, sold it off to Canada 3000 and then watched it disappear when Canada 3000 collapsed last year, said last week that he would create a new low-fare carrier called Jetsgo. The no-frills, low-fare airline is scheduled to launch on June 12 with a fleet of three MD-83s configured with 160 coach seats. The carrier, which will have no lounges, paper tickets, or complimentary in-flight food and beverage, will initially serve Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax. There will also be seasonal summer service to destinations in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. For more information, surf to the Jetsgo Website.

CYBERTRAVELER: How to Find Podunk Online
A reader tipped me to Epodunk.com, an attractive and appealing Website that promises coverage of thousands of small communities throughout the United States. The site is clever, has a sense of humor about itself and seems to have done a fairly good job lashing together basic information about thousands of small towns. You can even find information about Cold Spring, the tiny village of 2,000 people that serves as worldwide headquarters of the vast JoeSentMe.com empire.

IN THE LOBBY: Once Again, Hotels.com Fails the Test
I've been warning you for months on JoeSentMe's Steals & Deals page that Hotels.com--AKA Hotel Reservations Network and hoteldiscounts.com--is a poor choice for hotel booking. Despite the company's loud and lavish claims, its room rates are almost always higher than other discount (and some retail) hotel channels, the company has offensive and anti-consumer purchase rules and it constantly overrates the hotels it promotes. Now more confirmation of Hotels.com's failings comes in a recent test of prices by Gary Gately, a technology columnist for Business Week. The site, says Gately, "makes a big promise it can't keep."

INTERNATIONAL INTINERARY: A Strike Grounds Aer Lingus
Aer Lingus grounded all of its flights Thursday until further notice and won't even be taking future bookings until next Wednesday. The action comes after pilots launched a strike over work rules. The carrier says it hopes to transport some previously booked passengers in the coming days, so check the Aer Lingus Website for further details. ... Effective July 1, Continental says it will charge $4 per alcoholic beverage served in the coach cabin of its international flights. The airline claims the revenue will go toward an improved meal service. ... Greek civil servants went on strike Wednesday and that caused disruptions at Athens airport and delayed or cancelled many flights of Olympic Airways, the troubled Greek national carrier. ... Lasca and Taca, two carriers owned by Grupo Taca, say they will launch joint nonstop flights from Boston to El Salvador beginning June 28. The service will operate three times weekly.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A woman died on Monday after suffering shotgun wounds last week at New Orleans airport. She and another traveler were injured when an apparently deranged man opened fire in a ticket lobby. The gunman, Patrick Gott, claims he has been under a doctor's care. The victim has only been identified as a Defense Department employee from California. ... Delta Air Lines, which has never shied away from code-sharing with airlines that have abysmal safety records, has "delayed" its code-share deal with China Air Lines. A China Air Lines 747 broke up over the Pacific earlier this week and more than 200 passengers and crew died. ... US Airways says travelers are now required to be at the gate and ready for boarding at least 15 minutes before departure.

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

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