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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR FEBRUARY 3 TO FEBRUARY 17, 2005


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: JetBlue makes a big move in Boston; Delta dumps its guaranteed-seat promise on the Northeast Corridor shuttle; still more flights for Las Vegas; AirTran accelerates its Indianapolis expansion; Air Canada adds new Asian flights; new hotel openings around the world; the Bush Administration wants to double the security fee; Amex will refund foreign-currency conversion fees; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: JetBlue Makes a Big Move in Boston
There'll be an almost ceremonial changing of the guard at Boston/Logan in May when JetBlue Airways takes over a huge chunk of Terminal C after Delta Air Lines moves out next month. JetBlue said this week it would spend about $9 million to remodel the least attractive part of Logan, adding bathrooms, expanding seating, replacing carpeting and improving lighting. The existing Delta Crown Room will be replaced by a food court. Delta is abandoning more than a dozen gates at Terminal C and most of those will go to JetBlue, too. JetBlue now operates 19 flights a day from Logan but said it expects to hit 100 daily flights by 2008. Delta, meanwhile, is retreating to smaller quarters in Terminal A. But anyone who thinks that alternate carriers such as JetBlue and Southwest are invulnerable and fated to beat the Big Six at every turn is mistaken. American Airlines has apparently fended off JetBlue's challenge on the New York/Kennedy-Santo Domingo route. JetBlue says it will drop its daily flight to the capital of the Dominican Republic on March 3.

AIRPORT REPORT: Everything But High Fares Are Gone From the Northeast 'Shuttle'
Delta Air Lines has ended its "guaranteed seat" policy on Delta Shuttle flights between New York/LaGuardia, Boston/Logan and Washington/National airports. The airline also says it will no longer operate as-needed "extra sections," airline jargon for a second flight, during peak travel periods. Delta's competitor, the US Airways Shuttle, dropped both practices several years ago. So why does either carrier still call their service a "Shuttle" when there's no guaranteed seat available on a walk-up basis? Well, here's a theory: If they stopped calling them shuttles, travelers might begin to notice that they are paying an outrageous $1+ a mile for flights that are now plain-vanilla Big Six fare. Iberia has moved to Terminal 7 at New York/Kennedy Airport.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: More Low-Fare Service for Las Vegas Low Rollers
Struggling Independence Air says it will launch two daily flights between its Washington/Dulles hub and Las Vegas. Independence will operate its new Airbus A319s on the route, which launches on March 1. Coincidentally, March 1 is when America West begins a daily flight from its Las Vegas hub to Albuquerque. Mesa Air, America West's commuter carrier, will fly the route with 86-seat regional jets. The big pullback by ATA Airlines in Indianapolis has led AirTran Airways to move up the launch date of its Atlanta-Indianapolis service. Three daily nonstop flights will now begin on April 9. On the same day, AirTran will also launch a daily Tampa-Indianapolis flight. Nonstop Indianapolis-Orlando flights will launch June 7 as scheduled, AirTran says.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: Air Canada Will Expand in Asia
Air Canada is bulking up in Asia. On June 3, it will launch four weekly flights between its Toronto hub and Beijing. Then it will add three weekly flights between Toronto and Seoul on July 1. Air Canada says three-class Airbus A340-300s will be used on both routes. Continental Airlines will begin a daily nonstop flight between its Newark hub and Guayaquil, Ecuador, on June 9. The airline will use a Boeing 737-800 configured with 14 first-class and 141 coach seats on the route. American Airlines launches regional-jet flights between its Dallas/Fort Worth hub and Chihuahua, Mexico, on May 1. Delta Air Lines now offers electronic interline ticketing with Alitalia and Emirates. Pacific Island Aviation, which operates flights for Northwest Airlines on routes between Guam, Rota and Saipan, is suspending operations on February 9. VASP, the chronically troubled Brazilian carrier, is on the verge of collapse again. It cancelled a raft of flights in recent weeks and now says it will cancel any future flights that are not 50 percent filled. Brazilian authorities have responded by revoking VASP's right to fly on many routes. Remember that 14-carrier scrum on the Jakarta-Singapore route I mentioned two weeks ago? Well, there are now two casualties to report: AWAIR never launched its service last month and the Singapore-Jakarta route has disappeared from future flight schedules of JetStarAsia.

IN THE LOBBY: New Hotel Openings Around the World
Marriott has opened a 575-room resort in Tucson. The JW Marriott Starr Pass offers a 20,000-square-foot spa, seven food and beverage outlets and a 27-hole golf course designed by Arnold Palmer. Speaking of Marriott, an $11 million renovation has converted a former Radisson hotel into the Courtyard by Marriott-San Fernando Valley. The 196-room property is on Ventura Boulevard just west of I-405. The Governor Morris hotel in Morristown, New Jersey, has reopened as the Westin Governor Morris. The 224-room property had been closed during an extensive renovation process. Shangri-La has opened two new properties in China. The Traders Fudu opened in Changzhou, which is about halfway between Shanghai and Nanjing. It's the first internationally managed hotel in the city. The company has also opened the 414-room Shangri-La Fuzhou in the capital of Fujian province.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
So did you hear President Bush tell you during Wednesday's State of the Union Address that he wasn't going to raise your taxes? I guess he forgot about the Department of Homeland Security's proposal to raise the airline security fee to $5.50 for a one-way flight and $8 roundtrip. The fee is currently $2.50 one-way and $5 roundtrip. But here's the real rub: The extra $1.5 billion annually that the Administration says the higher fees will generate will not be spent on air-travel security. American Express has settled a class-action suit concerning the conversion fees it imposes on foreign-currency charges. Cardholders will receive a refund of up to $15 for all conversion fees that Amex charged before February 1, 1999, and a full refund of all the fees charged between February 1, 1999, and October 15, 2004. If you used your Amex card overseas in either of those periods, file your refund claim by calling for a form (877-567-4294) or surfing to the LiPuma Settlement site.

THE PARTING SHOT: Last-Minute Travel Gifts for the Romantically Impaired
Still stumped for a Valentine's Day gift for your sweetie? Turn to a hotel. Every place has a Valentine-themed package and they range from the tacky to the terrific. Since I figure you can find your own roadside motel with a heart-shaped tub, let me offer up two terrific packages that have caught my otherwise jaundiced eye. The Lover's Delight at the swanky new Conrad Miami (305-503-6500) includes one night of lodging; a Valentine's Day dinner for two with wine pairings; turndown service with Champagne and chocolates; breakfast for two the next morning; and a spa treatment with chocolate-scented oil. It's available for check-in from February 11 through February 14 and costs $679 a couple. And the Fly Me to the Moon package at the Ritz-Carlton near New York's Battery Park (212-344-0800) includes a really cool perk: a 15-minute sightseeing helicopter ride. The $749 deal also includes a night of accommodations and roundtrip transportation to the heliport. The package is available on Friday or Saturday nights.

This column originally appeared at joesentme.com.

Copyright 1993-2005 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.