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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JUNE 10 TO JUNE 17, 2004


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Fare simplification, after a fashion, from the Big Six; Aloha dumps inter-island first-class seats; are you ready to visit Molvania?; a new fleet of international flights; Continental's latest fare hike fails; Air Canada is dumping Zip; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: 'New' Simple Fares, Same Old Malarkey
Today (June 10) was a big day for Big Six fare simplification--at least in the fantasyland where airline press releases pass as news. US Airways, for example, announced its 15th GoFares market, Philadelphia-San Diego, where coach fares have been slashed to $94-$499 each way and first-class prices have been sliced to $698 roundtrip (with a seven-day advance purchase and one-night stay) or $699 one-way walk-up. A few hours later, American Airlines announced what it called a "low-fare structure" on flights between its Dallas-Fort Worth hub and Los Angeles area airports. The five-tier pricing starts at $99 each way (14-day advance purchase) and tops out at $349 one way in first class. None of the fares require a Saturday stay. Sound good? Sure. Sound like at least some of the Big Six are getting the message? Sure. The problem: Thursday's "new" fares are merely desperate competitive responses to the arrival of low-fare carriers. The US Airways GoFares are all from its Philadelphia hub and only available on routes where Southwest launched service last month or will add flights on July 6. The American move is a reaction to AirTran's decision to begin twice-daily DFW-LAX flights on July 1.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: Aloha Dumps Its Inter-Island First Class
Twenty years ago, Aloha Airlines upset the Hawaiian inter-island balance by adding a first-class cabin on all its flights. The move helped make Aloha, a 40-year also-ran to Hawaiian Airlines, the choice of Hawaii's frequent business travelers. But Aloha announced this week that it is dumping its first-class seats on inter-island flights. "Times have changed," Aloha chief executive Glenn Zander said. "Nobody wants to pay a premium for a first-class seat on a 30-minute inter-island flight." Maybe not, but hard-pressed inter-island business flyers still want the upgrade. And since the inter-island carriers do not assign coach seats, Hawaiian might win back some business flyers if it retains its first-class cabins. ... Primaris Airlines, a start-up carrier that has been plodding its way through the financing and regulatory maze for more than a year, received Federal Aviation Administration certification earlier this month. Although the airline now says it wants to start charter service first, it still expects to launch scheduled flights using B-757s configured with 120 business-class seats. According to a preliminary schedule filed with OAG, the airline hopes to launch scheduled flights on October 15 with service to Los Angeles, Chicago/Midway and Newark.

CYBERTRAVELER: Looking for a Summer Getaway? How About Molvania?
A JoeSentMe member tips us to this great Web site, which promotes a new guidebook to Molvania, "the land untouched by modern dentistry." Everything about this hilarious site--posted to promote a spoof guide to the fictional country of Molvania--will make you laugh: the awful background music, the hackneyed travel writing extolling dreadful places, the phony author bios, even the wonderfully goofy explanation that football-mad Molvania's 80,000-seat soccer stadium "is now largely used for public hangings." Published by JetLag Travel Guides (perfect, eh?), the Molvania book won't be available in the United States until September, but it's now selling in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Next up for JetLag (at least according to the Molvania Web site): guides to San Sombrero, Central America's "least war ravaged country"; Bongoswana, birthplace of the safari suit; and Moustaschistan, which is "tucked between the break-away Soviet state of Kalashnikov and the former Persian province of Carpetsan."

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: More Flights Headed Over There
U.S. carriers launched a fleet of new international flights today (June 10). Among them: daily nonstops from Newark to Edinburgh and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Continental); daily nonstops between Chicago/O'Hare and Osaka and between Washington/Dulles and Zurich (United); daily nonstops between Portland, Oregon, and Tokyo (Northwest); and daily nonstops between New York/Kennedy and Santiago, Dominican Republic (JetBlue). ... Bulgari, the Italian jeweler, wants to launch a chain of super-deluxe hotels. The company's first property, a 52-room hotel, opened last month in Milan's major shopping district.

ON THE FLY: Business Travel News You Need to Know
Last week's attempt by Continental Airlines to raise fares failed, marking the third time in three weeks that a price hike has gone down the tubes. ... Speaking of airfares, the European Commission says European carriers no longer discriminate by offering different fares based on the traveler's country of residence. Don't believe it. A quick look at the intra-Europe fares this week still shows dozens of inequitable prices. ... The airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, now offers wireless access throughout its passenger terminals. ... Three new airlines have joined the Star Alliance. Besides South African Airways and TAP Air Portugal, a Finnish regional carrier named Blue1 has joined the alliance.

THE PARTING SHOT: Mssrs. Santayana and Hagel to the White Courtesy Phone
Air Canada said this week that Zip will be absorbed back into the main airline by the end of the year. So, if you're keeping track, that means United (Shuttle by United), Delta (Delta Express), Continental (Continental Lite), US Airways (Metrojet) and Air Canada (Zip and Tango) have all failed in their attempts to launch low-fare subsidiaries. And don't forget that British Airways (Go) and KLM (Buzz) ended up selling off their low-fare start-ups. It not only makes you wonder about the fate of Song, Delta's current low-fare service, and Ted, United's airline-within-an-airline, it also makes you wonder if anyone at the old-line carriers ever read George Santayana or Wilhelm Hegel. It was Santayana who said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." And Hegel, that old barrel of laughs himself, once noted that "people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles."

This column originally appeared at joesentme.com.

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