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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR SEPTEMBER 9 TO SEPTEMBER 23, 2004


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Aer Lingus will lead the transatlantic fare revolution; Delta dumps Dallas; a great tool for mileage conversion between programs; Southwest and Northwest move in on beleaguered ATA; Radisson offers Web check-in up to a week before arrival; Continental will fly nonstop to Bristol, England; five of the Big Six now charge fees for buying tickets on the phone or at the airport; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Transatlantic Fare Revolution Begins in Dublin
The big U.S. carriers and the major international airlines have been too stupid or too frightened to do it, so the fare and service revolution across the Atlantic will apparently be led by Aer Lingus. Watch for the Dublin-based airline to announce later this month an entirely new fare structure on its transatlantic flights and onward service to its 36 European destinations. Out will be roundtrip-purchase requirements and Saturday-stay rules. In will be a few, easy-to-understand one-way coach fares. Also new: business-class fares about 50 percent below the prevailing prices between the United States and Ireland. The airline, which has converted itself into a profitable, low-fare carrier since 9/11, will also switch to all-coach service on flights between Ireland and Europe. How will the big fish across the Atlantic respond? They'll surely match into and out of Ireland, but it will be intriguing to watch how they deal with Aer Lingus' drastically lower fares between the United States and Europe over its efficient, one-terminal Dublin hub.

AIRPORT REPORT: 'Transformation' Means Contraction at Delta
After months of claiming that it would announce a massive transformation of the airline, Delta Air Lines revealed on Wednesday that its definition of "transformation" is more of the same Big Six contraction. By February, Delta will shutter its hub at Dallas-Fort Worth, slashing service from its current 254 daily flights to just 21 flights. About half of the DFW flights will be moved to Delta's Atlanta, Cincinnati and Salt Lake City hubs. Also going are about 6,000 jobs in the next 18 months. ... If you can't stand Starbucks coffee, here's good news for you: six Peet's Coffee & Tea outlets are opening at San Francisco airport. Two are already open. ... ATA Airlines is currently the largest carrier at Chicago/Midway and its hometown of Indianapolis, but the airline is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and expected to shed all or most of its scheduled service. Southwest is ready to pick up the pieces at Midway with 14 new flights on existing routes beginning October 31. And Northwest is gearing up at Indianapolis. It will add service to 10 new cities on October 31 and seasonal service to three Florida destinations on December 15.

CYBERTRAVELER: A Crucial Mileage Tool for Uncertain Times
Travelers who are beginning to wonder about the safety and liquidity of frequent-flyer miles in one or more of the Big Six frequent-flyer programs have a new management tool: The Mileage Converter. A new feature of Randy Petersen's endlessly useful Webflyer.com site, the Mileage Converter shows you how to transfer miles, points, kilometers and credits between virtually any two travel loyalty programs. It also advises you which transfer is the most efficient and will cost the fewest miles or points.

IN THE LOBBY: Radisson Get to the Web First for Check-In
Radisson can claim the glory that goes with being the first major chain to offer Web-based room check-in. The company's new program, Express Yourself, allows guests to check in at Radisson.com up to seven days before their actual arrival. Once they reach the hotel, guests receive a key packet without having to deal with formalities at the front desk. The service is available for Radisson hotels in the Americas. ... Two hotels of note--the Marriott Mountain Shadows Resort in Scottsdale and the Roney Palace in Miami--have closed. ... Wyndham, the hotel chain, has purchased the previously independent Wyndham Hotel in New York. The hotel, a favorite with show-biz types, will be renovated and then converted to a Wyndham. Hey, folks, you can't make this stuff up. ... Rocco Forte Hotels has picked up another grand dame property. It has taken over the Le Richemond in Geneva to go along with its Hotel de Russie (Rome), Savoy (Florence), Balmoral (Edinburgh), Brown's (London) and others.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: Bristol? Nonstops to Bristol?
Hemmed in by a U.S.-U.K agreement that bars it from London/Heathrow, Continental Airlines has been slowly expanding elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Its newest route--a nonstop between its Newark hub and Bristol--was announced this week. Service begins next May to the airport in the Southwest of England. ... KLM, which dropped its Atlanta-Amsterdam route right after 9/11, is resuming the daily flights on September 15. ... British Airways has added its Sleeper Service on the 9 p.m. departure from Newark to London/Heathrow. Traditional meal service in business class is eliminated so passengers can maximize their in-flight sleep time. Travelers are offered dinner in the lounge before departure and breakfast and shower facilities upon arrival in London.

MILES & POINTS: More Points, More Miles and More Garbage
Thirfty Car Rental is offering triple frequent-flyer miles with eight airlines for all rentals booked at Thrifty.com until November 19. ... You have until October 17 to cash in on the latest offer from Red Roof Inn: stay two times and win a free night. The offer is unlimited for members of the chain's Redicard program. ... At Hawthorn Suites, Hyatt Gold Passport members earn a free night every time they stay at a Hawthorn location beginning with the second stay. The promotion is valid until December 31. ... And now the absurd garbage promotions. American AAdvantage members earn a 15,000-mile bonus when they fly American and two other Oneworld Alliance carriers between October 1 and November 30. The catch? Travel must be in first-, business- or full-fare coach class. You also must register for the promotion. Meanwhile, Northwest WorldPerks and United Mileage Plus will give you an incredibly restricted free ticket whenever you fly three times on the respective airlines before January 31. The catch? You've got to buy higher-priced tickets and the rules are literally two typed pages long. Lots of luck plowing through the garbage and don't forget to register.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Big Six continue to pave their path to oblivion with annoying fees. Three more of them--Continental, US Airways and United--have added a $5 fee for ticketing by phone and a $10 fee for tickets purchased at the airport. Northwest and American adopted the fees earlier this month. ... Alaska Airlines says it is closing its city ticket offices in Juneau, Anchorage and Bellevue, Washington. ... Delta Air Lines and KLM now offer interlined electronic ticketing. ... Air Canada has folded Zip, one of its zillion attempts to launch a low-fare unit. ... The high-speed ferry that connected Toronto and Rochester, New York, via Lake Ontario has folded. ... Hawaiian Airlines says it now offers Baggage Direct service for its flights between Honolulu and Maui and the mainland. For prices that start at $30 a person, Baggage Direct picks up your bags from your home, office or hotel, checks them through security and secures your Hawaiian Airlines boarding pass.

This column originally appeared at joesentme.com.

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