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 The Tactical Traveler

JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR FEBRUARY 17 TO MARCH 3, 2005
joe COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Southwest and AirTran Come After US Airways
If US Airways finally tanks, historians may look at May 4 as the day that the airline's foundation began to crumble. Why? Both Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways have announced new flights on key US Airways routes beginning May 4. Southwest announced today that its May 4 start-up schedule from US Airways' former hub in Pittsburgh will include four daily flights to Philadelphia. US Airways now has a monopoly on the intra-Pennsylvania route and its walk-up price tomorrow is $365 one-way. But Southwest will offer prices as low as $29 one-way and walk-up fares of just $79. Besides the Philadelphia flights, Southwest announced that the Pittsburgh launch will include four daily flights to its Chicago/Midway hub and one daily flight to both Las Vegas and Orlando. Hours after Southwest unveiled its Pittsburgh service, AirTran announced it would be attacking at Charlotte, US Airways' last fortress hub. And once again the start-up date will be May 4. AirTran will fly four times daily from Charlotte to its Atlanta hub and twice daily to Baltimore/Washington. US Airways is charging $444 one-way tomorrow on the Charlotte-Atlanta run; AirTran's introductory walk-up fare will be $189. On the Charlotte-BWI route, US Airways is charging $477 walk-up tomorrow. AirTran will sell walk-up flights for $157.

AIRPORT REPORT: Sex, Death and Spas at the Airport
The collapse of the vaulted roof of Terminal 2E at Paris/Charles deGaulle last year has been blamed on an array of structural problems. Extremely cold weather contributed to the tragedy that killed four people, according to a French government commission. A passenger who had flown to Newark International from Lisbon was found hanged in an unlocked janitor's closet this week. The death was ruled a suicide. A British man and a Swedish woman were found shagging in the check-in hall of Terminal 3 of Manchester Airport. British police decided to chalk up the behavior to the Valentine's Day spirit and the travelers, who met earlier in the day in the terminal, were sent on their way with a warning. Remember Delta Air Lines' much-hyped announcement a couple of years ago that it would begin a program to track passenger bags using a computer chip embedded into baggage tags? The airline quietly cancelled the program earlier this month. It never proceeded past the initial test at Jacksonville. A day spa has opened at JetBlue's Terminal 6 at New York/Kennedy Airport.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Another Rotten Week to Fly Northwest Airlines
Northwest Airlines continues to be the most inconsistent of the Big Six carriers. Just when you think it had improved enough to be slightly less than dreadful, it has a week that reminds you why it has justifiably earned the moniker "Northworst" over the years. The bad news started over the weekend at its Detroit hub, where thousands of checked bags missed flights and ended up being stacked floor-to-ceiling behind check-in counters. Northwest said the glitch was due to delays caused by the Transportation Security Administration. But the airline's machinists union, which represents baggage handlers, claimed that Northwest is understaffed and may suffer another baggage meltdown this weekend. On Wednesday (February 16), Northwest announced that it will eliminate coach meal service on long-haul domestic flights and service to warm-weather destinations. The cuts begin March 1. And today a Boeing 757 bound for Orlando got stuck in the mud at Detroit/Metro. The aircraft's 224 passengers had to be removed from the plane and bussed back to the terminal.

IN THE LOBBY: Fawlty Towers Has Been Sold
The Hotel Gleneagles, the Torquay hotel that John Cleese used as the model for his maniacally mismanaged Fawlty Towers, has been sold. The 41-room seaside property was purchased for about US$2.8 million by a family that claims they are big fans of the sitcom that Cleese wrote and created in 1975 with then-wife Connie Booth, who played the waitress Polly. Cleese based the show on Donald Sinclair, the hotel's former owner, who died in 1981 and whom Cleese has called "the most wonderfully rude man I have ever met." The former Radisson Suites hotel at Winnipeg Airport has been converted to the Hilton Suites Winnipeg Airport. The first LaQuinta hotel, built in San Antonio in 1968, has been demolished to make way for a parking lot.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: Tough New Compensation Rules for EC Flights
Travelers flying in European Union countries, including passengers on U.S. carriers operating from EC destinations, now have substantial new rights when an airline messes up your schedule. If an airline bumps you or cancels a flight or if you are delayed more than two hours, the airline must offer hefty financial restitution. Based on length of the flight and the delay in getting you to your final destination, you can claim between 250 and 600, which works out to between $325 and $780 at current exchange rates. If a long delay grounds you overnight, you must be offered meals, refreshments, free phone calls and hotel accommodations. If a delay exceeds five hours, you can demand passage home and an unconditional refund of your original ticket. A PDF version of a brochure detailing your rights is available by clicking here.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Hertz this week announced--and then promptly withdrew--a $2.50 per car reservation fee. The surcharge was going to apply to any Hertz reservation booked through any channel, including the company's Web site. Apparently, Hertz didn't think people would object to such a transparent and annoying money grab. Boingo Wireless Wi-Fi customers will soon be able to use the service to surf the Internet on aircraft equipped with the Connexion by Boeing system. Speaking of Connexions, El Al says it will begin equipping its long-haul routes with the service in June. And SAS Scandinavia says all its long-haul planes will be equipped with Connexion by the end of the month.

THE PARTING SHOT: A New Kind on Job Outsourcing
If you think job outsourcing only happens to blue-collar workers and call-center employees and that your job can never be sent overseas, consider this: AirTran Airways launched a new in-flight magazine this month called Go. It's not produced in Orlando, where the airline is headquartered. It doesn't come out of Atlanta, where the airline has its largest hub. In fact, it isn't written, edited or printed anywhere in the United States. It's produced by a British company with offices in London.

This column originally appeared at joesentme.com.

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