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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR APRIL 24 TO MAY 1, 2003


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Carty quits as American Airlines chief executive as management and unions spar over concessions; Bromma Airport in Stockholm gets a new life after 40 years; does anyone like Delta Song?; a raft of new hotels open; a SARS update; Amtrak cuts fares on some Acela Express trains; and much more.

COUNTER INTEGELLIGENCE: The American Saga Takes Another Turn
American chairman and chief executive Donald Carty quit late Thursday (April 24), a sacrificial lamb in the widening corporate-governance scandal that has engulfed the nation's Big Six carriers. Carty lost his job because details of previously secret corporate perks were withheld until after American's labor unions last week accepted $1.8 billion in annual concessions. The disclosures scuttled the deals with the airline's pilots, mechanics and flight attendants. American and the unions were still ironing out details of a less-draconian concessions package late today and management was still threatening an immediate bankruptcy filing if the unions didn't comply. Carty was replaced as chairman by an old hack (retired Sears chief Edward Brennan) and as chief executive by a rising star (American president Gerard Arpey). Naturally, there is very little justice here: Despite his recent management blunder, Carty has been among the lowest-paid top men in the otherwise profligate ranks of airline bosses. He has consistently refused bonuses and pay raises as American has struggled in recent years, an action which stands in stark contrast to the piggish behavior of Delta's Leo Mullin, Continental's Gordon Bethune and the unlamented king of pork, former United and US Airways buccaneer-in-chief Steve Wolf.

AIRPORT REPORT: Forty Years Later, Bromma Airport Lives Again
A $90 million, 12-gate concourse opened at Hartford's Bradley International Airport today (April 24). It is an expansion of Terminal A. Southwest Airlines has already moved its gates. ... Philadelphia has unofficially opened its long-delayed $500 million International terminal. The first flights are expected to begin using the terminal next Friday. ... There's life after all at Stockholm's close-in Bromma Airport. Virgin Express began operating from Bromma to Brussels last month and now SAS says it will launch three daily flights to Copenhagen on May 12. SAS hasn't operated at Bromma in more than 40 years. ... Air Canada moves next Thursday to Terminal C at Boston/Logan Airport, meaning it will be in the same terminal as other Star Alliance carriers. ... San Francisco International finally gets BART rapid-transit service on June 22. The long-delayed, 8.7-mile extension will not only serve San Francisco flyers headed to SFO, but also the cities of South San Francisco, San Bruno and Millbrae. ... Seven months after a fatal crash, the AirTrain at New York's Kennedy Airport has resumed testing. When it finally opens to the public, AirTrain will connect the airport's terminals, long-term parking lots and the car-rental area with the Long Island Rail Road and the New York subways.

CYBERTRAVELER: Anybody Have a Happy Song?
Delta's much-ballyhooed low-fare carrier called Song began flying 10 days ago, but, oddly, there's yet to be a posting at the Song Web site Compliments page. I don't know if it means anything, I'm just saying... ... Austrian Airlines now posts its weekly Web-only travel specials on Wednesdays at 10 a.m.

IN THE LOBBY: A Raft of New Hotel Openings Around the World
The 358-room Seattle Marriott Waterfront Hotel has opened at 2100 Alaskan Way. It features 11,000-square-feet of meeting space and a restaurant called Fish Club, which is operated by Boston celebrity chef Todd English. ... The timing may not be great, but the 392-room Conrad Bangkok has opened at All Seasons Place. All the rooms have high-speed Internet access and the hotel has four restaurants. ... A 122-room Courtyard by Marriott opened in Daytona Beach, Florida, which, surprisingly enough, is the only Marriott-branded hotel in Daytona Beach. What are the odds? ... Speaking of southern resort towns, a $15 million renovation has transformed a Wyndham hotel into the Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort. The 385-room property is located on the north end of the city's oceanfront "Grand Strand." ... Western Canada's Coast Hotels chain has rebranded 15 mid-market properties in the Western United States. They are Coast's first hotels in the United States.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: Delta Extends Its Shaky Asia Alliance
Take note: Delta Air Lines widens its code-share arrangement next month with Korean Air, a carrier many frequent flyers avoid because of Korean's poor safety record. Effective May 1, Delta will put its code on Korean flights from Seoul to 10 cities in Japan. Beginning May 15, Delta slaps its "DL" identifier on Korean Air flights from Seoul to Hong Kong, Auckland and Kuala Lumpur. ... WestJet began a daily nonstop flight between Calgary and Montreal/Dorval today. ... Mexicana begins three weekly nonstops between Portland, Oregon, and Guadalajara, Mexico, next Thursday. ... Virgin Blue, the low-fare Australian carrier, has opened what is believed to be the first airport lounge operated by a low-fare airline. The Blue Room in Brisbane charges an A$5 entrance fee for walk-up travelers; annual memberships cost A$175 if purchased by June 30.

SARS WATCH: Asia Schedules Fractured and WHO Targets Toronto
The spreading SARS outbreak--more than 4,400 people infected and more than 260 dead worldwide--is creating havoc with Asia/Pacific flight schedules. Singapore Airlines service is down about 20 percent. Cathay Pacific, which hubs in Hong Kong, one of the places where SARS has caused the greatest concerns, has reduced its schedule by about 50 percent. United, Northwest, Japan Airlines, Thai, Malaysia Air System and other carriers with extensive Asia/Pacific routes have also continued to slash short-term capacity. Nurses have begun working at New Zealand's international airports, offering advice and information. And at Hong Kong airport, where traffic has plummeted by 60 percent, officials have begun checking the temperature of air travelers using the facility. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is now recommending travelers postpone all but essential travel to Beijing; Hong Kong; Toronto; and Shanxi and Guangdong provinces in China. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has exempted Toronto from its "do not travel" list.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Amtrak has cut the price on its high-speed Acela Express service between New York and Boston. Non-peak departures now cost as little as $85 one-way; peak fares are capped at $99 one-way. The previous walk-up fare was $127. Amtrak didn't cut prices on Acela's New York-Washington trains, however. ... The AAA says the cost of driving this year has increased 1.5 cents to 51.7 cents per mile. ... The memorial to the 1996 victims of TWA Flight 800 on the Long Island beach where major pieces of the stricken Boeing 747 landed is in danger of being engulfed by the Atlantic Ocean. The black granite memorial was completed last year and was 100 feet from the surf. But a bad winter and several severe storms have eroded the beach and now the ocean is just 50 feet away. ... Don't expect a candlelit dinner in Baltimore any time soon. The city's new fire marshal has imposed a ban on candles, oil lamps or any unattended open flame in Baltimore's bars and restaurants.

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

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