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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR OCTOBER 30 TO NOVEMBER 6, 2003


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Southwest takes on US Airways in Philadelphia; two new business-travel columns launch; why Song has no songs--and no TVs--on its planes; the Candlewood Suites chain changes hands; Midway Airlines folds; another French pilot says the b-word at security; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Deja Vu All Over Again in Philadelphia
You can be forgiven for thinking that Southwest Airlines' decision to launch service next year in Philadelphia sounds like what Yogi Berra once called "deja vu all over again." In making its announcement this week, Southwest officials tried to downplay the obvious: that it was about to breach a stronghold of US Airways, an airline that Southwest has effortlessly bested wherever they have competed. In the early 1990s, for example, Southwest entered the intra-California market and promptly drove US Air out, even though US Airways once commanded more than half of the market. Several years later, Southwest drove US Airways out of the lucrative intra-Florida market, another region where US Airways once dominated. And, a decade ago, Southwest also began flying from Baltimore-Washington, which was then home to a large US Airways hub. Today, Southwest dominates at BWI and US Airways is a bit player. Another notable piece of history: Like California, Florida and BWI, Philadelphia is a place where US Airways bought, not built, its dominant position. US Airways purchased the hub in the early 1990s from the original Midway Airlines. US Airways currently controls about half the traffic at Philadelphia and Southwest said this week it would launch service with 14 daily flights. The specific routes will be announced in December. Yogi Berra, who lives in neighboring New Jersey, could not be reached for comment.

CYBERTRAVELER: Two More Fellow Travelers
Business-travel news too often gets short shrift at the nation's major television and newspaper outlets. But this week there's good news: Two new columnists on the beat. Ted Reed, the no-nonsense aviation reporter for the Charlotte Observer, has launched the Fare Guy column for the paper and its Web site. And Chris McGinnis, who writes The Ticket online newsletter for Atlanta-area travelers, has launched the Travel Adviser column for CNN.com.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: It's the Same Old Song at Song
If you've been on a Song flight this month, did you notice what you didn't get: no personal video monitor; no satellite-television programming; no pay-per-view selections; no streaming MP3 audio; no multi-player video games and no Internet connectivity. All of those marvels were promised for October by Song executives when they unveiled the airline in January. But October has come and gone and none of those amenities exist on Delta's latest low-fare loser. And assuming the entertainment system works--Northwest Airlines flyers on the carrier's newest jets can attest that the Masushita-designed gear fails as often as it succeeds--Song executives are now privately admitting that it may not be fully operational until next September. But here's the coda: Delta's top executives always knew that the entertainment system could never be ready by October. "Of course they knew," one of Song's technical wizards told me this week. "We told them this thing would take 18 months to get on the planes. But they didn't want to hear that. So they just made up the October date."

IN THE LOBBY: Comings, Goings and Renovations
Twice wasn't nice for Jack DeBoer, the guy who invented the Residence Inn chain and sold it to Marriott. The company that owns his Candlewood Suites chain is liquidating. The brand name is being sold to Intercontinental Hotels. Intercontinental will also take over management of most of the Candlewood properties. ... The Doral Park Avenue in New York is closing for a renovation. It will reopen next year as a boutique property managed by Kimpton, which operates the Hotel Monaco chain and clusters of independent properties in San Francisco, Denver, Chicago and Washington. ... The Le Meridien Vienna (800-543-4300) is scheduled to open on November 11. The 294-room hotel across from the Imperial Palace has posted an introductory nightly rate of 135. ... The Starwood Preferred Guest program is now selling Starpoints to members. Prices begin at $25, which buys 500 points.

SECURITY WATCH: Of Course I'm Rude, I'm a French Pilot
Even by the wacky standards of today's security environment, this one is weird. An Air France pilot was detained at New York's Kennedy Airport earlier this month after he allegedly made comments that included suggestions about his plane blowing up. This is the second time in recent months that an Air France pilot has caused chaos at security. An Air France pilot was arrested at Kennedy in August after allegedly telling a security screener that he was carrying a bomb. ... The State Department has updated and renewed a travel warning for Saudi Arabia. The government wants U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel there. The British and Canadian governments have issued similar warnings to their citizens.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
JetBlue Airways is bailing on its Atlanta service on December 4 after only seven months in the market. Delta Air Lines, the hometown carrier, responded to JetBlue's launch of three daily flights to Long Beach, California, in May with an unprecedented barrage of fare cuts, service increases and triple-mileage offers. ... A federal bankruptcy judge has ordered the liquidation of Midway Airlines. The airline has been flying as a US Airways Express carrier. ... Watch out for this one: Baggage handlers and check-in staff at London/Heathrow airport have called a 48-hour hour strike starting Sunday. ... British Airways, which stopped flying its fleet of seven Concorde supersonic jets last week, says the planes will be going to museums in New York; Seattle; Bridgetown, Barbados; and four British cities: London, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh.

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

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