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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR APRIL 10 TO APRIL 24, 2003


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

In this report: British Airways and Air France will retire their Concorde jets; airlines continue cutting flights; the compass on Northwest's new 'logo' actually points northeast at least half of the time; a new Minneapolis hotel will have 42-inch TVs in all guestrooms; Song launches low-fare flights next week; and much, much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Concorde Flies Into the Sunset
British Airways and Air France announced Thursday (April 10) that they would ground the 27-year-old Concorde, effectively ending the era of supersonic passenger transport. Air France will drop supersonic flights between New York and Paris on May 31, but British Airways will keep the 100-seat plane flying between London and New York until the end of October. The needle-nosed, narrow-bodied, gas-guzzling speedster has been plagued by high fares, low passenger traffic and maintenance woes since it returned to the skies last November after the Air France crash in 2000. Both airlines claim the ongoing cost of maintaining the 12-plane fleet in these sour economic times makes the Concorde a losing proposition. Somnambulant Air France is apparently content to let Concorde fly into the sunset without fanfare, but British Airways coupled its retirement announcement with several interesting short-term fare promotions. It also introduced a 7-day advance-purchase, one-way fare of $3,822--that's about 40 percent below Concorde's walk-up fare--that is valid until September.

AIRPORT REPORT: Oneworld Shifts Terminal in Zurich
Four Oneworld carriers serving Zurich--American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair and Iberia--have changed terminals. Flights now depart from Pier A and check-in facilities have moved to Area 1. ... Want some hard figures about the impact of SARS on air travel in Asia? Hong Kong airport authorities say one in four flight departures were cancelled on Monday. ... Bangkok has opened a second pier of flight gates, each one dedicated to wide-body jets such as Boeing 747-400s, 777-300s and Airbus A340-600s. ... For the second time in two weeks, a private security guard was caught napping at his post at Hartford/Bradley Airport. Things must be really slow in Connecticut.

CUTBACK CAROUSEL: More Flight Schedules Get Trimmed
The triple whammy of SARS, the Iraq War and a weak economy continues to wreck havoc with airline schedules. Here are this week's cuts: Continental has dropped Newark-Hong Kong nonstop flights until at least June 2. ... US Airways will suspend its nonstop Pittsburgh-Frankfurt flights in May. The airline's Pittsburgh-London/Gatwick flights, which haven't operated since March, will remain grounded throughout April and May. ... American Airlines says it will trim its worldwide schedule by about 2 percent in May although it will retain service on all its current routes. It also announced it had once again delayed the launch of its Los Angeles-Tokyo service until at least next spring. ... Japan Airlines has cut its flights between Japan and Hawaii by about 50 percent. ... Lufthansa delayed all the expansion it had announced for its summer schedule, which began last week. It has also cut some flights to Asia and South America.

CYBERTRAVELER: Read on the Web
Associated Press business columnist Rachel Beck wonders why several of the Big Six engineered multi-billion-dollar stock buybacks just as their shares were headed into the tank. Good question. ... You may wonder about the color of the sky in Bob Levey's world after reading the columnist's love letter to US Airways in The Washington Post.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Northwest Goes Northeast (Sometimes)
As I mentioned last week, Northwest has introduced a new livery that will be rolled out on its aircraft over the next five years. But the company's new identity, which includes a stylized compass highlighting a northwest compass point, has both design and directional problems. As you can see from this photo on the Northwest Web site, the right side of Northwest's aircraft will have the compass point heading northeast rather than northwest. Why? Look at the tail. A logo simply with a northwest compass point wouldn't fit on Northwest's signature red tails. Of course, the compass will point northwest on the left side of Northwest's aircraft. Makes you wonder what kind of executives think so little of their airline that they would approve a new design that and contradicts the company's brand name and market positioning.

IN THE LOBBY: Luxury Claim Costs Seaside Hotel $150,000
Ever been to the Diamond Beach Resort and Grand Hotel in the New Jersey Shore town of Wildwood, New Jersey? Consider yourself lucky. The hotel's owner paid big time for using the word "luxurious" to describe the property in an ad. But the hotel was filthy, foul-smelling and lacked functional air conditioning, the state attorney general said. He sued and accepted a $125,000 penalty and $25,000 in customer restitution to settle the case. The owner, John Patitucci, said he settled to avoid a court case and dismissed the state's charges as "a big lie." ... The Le Meridien Minneapolis is now due to open on May 1 and its big feature is big TVs: Guestrooms will be equipped with 42-inch screen units. ... The Outrigger Hervey Bay Resort has opened in Queensland, Australia, and offers 166 one- to three-bedroom suites. ... Speaking of Australia, Hong Kong-based Shangri-La hotels will take over the management of Sydney's ANA Harbour Grand Hotel and will rebrand it as the Shangri-La Sydney.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know The Transportation Department approved limited code-sharing for American Airlines and British Airways. They cannot code-share on flights between the United States and Britain, however. ... Four more carriers have agreed to interline E-tickets. American and Midwest Airlines (formerly Midwest Express) have tied their E-tix and Continental and Delta now allow E-ticket interlining, too. ... Song, Delta's latest crack at running a low-fare carrier, launches on April 15 with flights between New York and West Palm Beach. But forget all those fancy video extras that Song executives have been promising. The in-flight TVs won't be ready until at least October--assuming someone builds them, tests them and gets them approved by the government. ... Speaking of Delta, the airline retired its last Boeing 727 last week. ... Watch out for this one: American Airlines, which skirted bankruptcy last week after securing nearly $2 billion in concessions, may be headed toward Chapter 11 after all. One of its unions has suspended voting on the concessions and insiders at American's pilot's union say rank-and-file pilots may vote no on the giveback package. American earlier this week refused the union's request to renegotiate some of the concession terms.

A note to readers: In observance of Passover and Easter, Tactical Traveler will not publish next Thursday. The next edition will post on Thursday, April 24.

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

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