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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR DECEMBER 2 TO DECEMBER 16, 2004


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: How to donate your miles and points this holiday season; Palmdale gets back on the scheduled-service route map and Del Rio gets its first flights; AirTran expands at Chicago/Midway and Frontier gives up on Los Angeles; Air Canada goes nonstop to Sydney and United heads for Vietnam; Volare folds with typical Italian drama; the book on JetBlue; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: How to Donate Your Miles to a Good Cause
It's the holidays. You've got that feeling that maybe some of your airline miles and hotel points could be put to good use if you donate them to a worthy cause. Good for you. Just don't bother trying to figure out what charities are aligned with which airlines and hotels. Even when it is trying to be charitable, the travel industry can't get out of its own way. Thankfully, Randy Peterson, the guru of miles and points, has done all the work for us. His MileDonor.com is a one-stop site that helps you donate your miles and points to the appropriate charity. Go surf over and give heartily.

AIRPORT REPORT: Del Rio and Palmdale Are Added to the Route Map
Southern California's Palmdale Airport (PMD), which has been off the airport route map since 1997, will get scheduled air service again. Beginning on December 29, Scenic Airlines will operate 10 weekly roundtrips from North Las Vegas Airport (VGT) to Palmdale, which is about 35 miles north of the Los Angeles Civic Center. Scenic will use 19-seat prop planes on the route. ... The airport at Del Rio, Texas, will get its first-ever commercial service next year when Continental Airlines launches service from its Houston Intercontinental hub. Effective March 3, Continental commuter carrier SkyWest will offer twice-daily regional-jet flights to the airport near the Mexican border town of Ciudad Acuna. ... Shannon Airport in west Ireland, a boondoggle supported only by a weird Irish government aviation treaty that requires it to be served, has suddenly picked up a powerful ally. European low-fare giant Ryanair says it will launch flights from Shannon to 14 cities in the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: More Midway Flights From AirTran, Less L.A. From Frontier
AirTran Airways, which has a deal on the table to buy assets at Chicago/Midway from bankrupt ATA Airlines, isn't waiting for bankruptcy-court approval to expand in the Windy City. Effective January 11, it will add new nonstop routes from Midway to five Florida cities: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Orlando and Tampa. ... Meanwhile, ATA is trying to regroup around its hometown headquarters of Indianapolis. It will launch a raft of new regional-jet routes effective January 11. It will fly from Indianapolis to three Indiana cities (Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend) and to Dayton and Milwaukee. ... Denver-based Frontier Airlines has given up on its attempt to expand in Los Angeles. Effective February 1, it drops its LAX-Philadelphia flights while LAX-Kansas City service ends on February 23. Frontier also said it would drop Denver-Washington/Dulles flights on February 1. ... America West begins daily regional-jet nonstops between its Phoenix hub and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on December 18. ... Southeast Airlines, a public-charter carrier, folded this week.

CANADIAN CORNER: Does Toronto Need Another Airport?
Air Canada begins daily nonstop flights between Vancouver and Sydney on December 16. The three-class service will be flown with Airbus A340-300 aircraft and take 14 hours and 40 minutes. ... The airport authority in Toronto has revived a decades-old plan to develop a new airport to augment Pearson International. Officials want to build a two-runway airport in Pickering, about 20 miles east and a C$65 cab ride from downtown Toronto. The cost: C$2 billion. Critics wonder why another airport is needed when a C$3.6 billion terminal expansion is already underway at Pearson. ... Effective December 31, Air Canada's Maple Leaf Lounges in eight cities will leave the Priority Pass program. ... WestJet says it will launch six weekly flights between Toronto and Kelowna on January 10. It will also launch a nonstop weekly flight between Calgary and Halifax. ... America West says it will launch a daily regional-jet nonstop between San Diego and Vancouver on March 5. ... CanJet begins nonstop weekly seasonal service between Winnipeg and Orlando starting February 9.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: Returning to Vietnam's Skies After 30 Years
Barring any last-minute hitches, United Airlines next week will launch the first commercial service between the United States and Vietnam in almost 30 years. The three-class Boeing 747-400 flights will operate from San Francisco to Ho Chi Minh City with a stop in Hong Kong. The daily service will begin on December 9. ... Volare, Italy's first low-fare airline, has been grounded. And it was done with the typical Italian flare for drama. A Volare flight from Paris to Bologna was delayed for four hours while a bailiff brandishing repossession papers tried to stop the flight. The plane was eventually allowed to depart after a seizure notice was lifted. ... Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have both launched in-flight Internet with the Connexion by Boeing service. The Net-equipped JAL flights operate between Tokyo and London. The Net-equipped ANA planes operate between Tokyo and Shanghai.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Internal Revenue Service has increased the national per-mile business deduction for driving to 40.5 cents in 2005. It was 37.5 cents in 2004. ... Delta Air Lines now has interline electronic-ticket deals with British Airways, America West, Aloha and Midwest Airlines. ... An 80-year-old woman was arrested just before Thanksgiving Day at Fort Lauderdale Airport. She was carrying a gun concealed in a book. ... Vasp, the Brazilian airline, has laid off half its staff and is near collapse. It is now down to seven aircraft after starting the year with 31 planes.

THE PARTING SHOT: The Book on JetBlue Airways
Did you know that the endlessly self-promoting Richard Branson pulled out of a last-minute deal to be the front man of soon-to-be-launched JetBlue Airways? Did you know that JetBlue was then going to be called Virgin America? And did you know that virtually every move the five-year-old airline made in its early days came out of an almost-Socratic battle between the carrier's penny-pinching former Southwest employees and its promotion-oriented former Virgin employees? Neither did I. But all those fascinating tidbits and more are in Blue Streak, the excellent new book on the rise of the carrier that has revolutionized U.S. air travel. Written by Barbara S. Peterson, the book is an entertaining and informative look at a unique corporate culture in a industry that JetBlue founder David Neeleman rightly calls "stupid." The book retails for $24.95, but is available at a substantial discount at both Amazon.com and BN.com.

This column originally appeared at joesentme.com.

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