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 The Tactical Traveler

joe JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR APRIL 28 TO MAY 12, 2005
A Really Bad Week to Be US Airways
Next week is likely to be another one of those difficult weeks to be US Airways. Its primary lender, a division of General Electric, is expecting the airline to file a plan of reorganization with the carrier's bankruptcy court. The plan was supposed to be filed by February 15, but GE has consistently given the airline extensions. Since it's doubtful that US Airways has a plan--by its own admission, the carrier hasn't yet secured all of its exit financing--it will be interesting to see what GE's next move will be. Then there's the actual business of running the airline. Next Wednesday, May 4, is when Southwest Airlines launches service from US Airways' no-longer-a-hub Pittsburgh hub and when AirTran Airways launches flights from Charlotte, US Airways' last fortress hub. The Southwest assault includes flights to Chicago/Midway, Las Vegas, Orlando and Philadelphia. At Charlotte, AirTran begins flying nonstop to Baltimore/Washington and Atlanta.

More Flights to Everywhere Are on the Runway
Delta Air Lines says it will begin nonstop flights between its Atlanta hub and Rio de Janeiro on October 1. Two-class Boeing 767-300s will be used on the route. ... On July 15, Continental Airlines will launch a daily Boeing 737-700 flight between its Houston/Intercontinental hub and Cali, Columbia. Continental is also launching regional-jet flights between Los Angeles and two more Mexican cities, Durango and Queretaro. The service will run daily in the summer and twice-weekly in the off-season. … Transaero, a private Russian airline, launches a weekly flight between Montreal and Moscow on May 29. … South African Airways begins four weekly flights between Washington/Dulles and Johannesburg on July 2. The three-class Boeing 747-400s will make a refueling stop in Accra, Ghana, on the outbound flights. … Korean Air launches Seattle-Seoul service on June 2. The three weekly flights will operate with Boeing 777s. ... Finnair launches seasonal service from Boston and Toronto in June. There will be three weekly Boston-Skavsta, Sweden-Helsinki flights between June 12 and September 9. Toronto-Helsinki nonstops will run three times a week between June 9 and September 8. All-coach Boeing 757s will operate on both routes. ... Royal Jordanian is bumping up service, too. Twice-weekly Detroit-Amman flights become nonstops on May 23; the New York-Kennedy-Amman route will get five weekly nonstops beginning June 1; and Chicago/O'Hare-Amman will get four weekly nonstops beginning June 19.

Big-Deal, Big-Name Hotels Open Around the World
Casino entrepreneur Steve Wynn opened the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas this week. The 217-acre property has 2,700 rooms. … The Four Seasons Doha has opened in Qatar. The 232-room hotel has a spa, 24-hour business center and a 110-berth marina. … The Hong Kong-based Shangri-La hotel group has opened a 162-room Traders Hotel in Chennai, India. … The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta is scheduled to open next week. The 278-room property is located in a new commercial area called Maga Kuningan. … The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs is buying the Hotel Jerome in Aspen. … The Plaza hotel in New York will still close on Saturday, April 30, but a weird alliance of special-interest groups has prevailed on the new owners to change its plans for the property. The owners were going to reopen the property as a residential complex with just 150 hotel rooms and a shopping mall in the space currently occupied by some of the Plaza's famous restaurants. Now the property will reopen in a few years with about 350 hotel rooms and the Palm Court, Oak Room and Oak Bar will remain intact.

Surprise! The Airlines Lied. Just Not as Much.
When airport security was federalized after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the cost of federalization was supposed to be borne by passengers and the airlines. We paid via the so-called 9/11 security fee on all tickets. The airlines were required to contribute an amount equal to what they paid for security in 2000, the last full year that the carriers controlled airport checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) claimed the airlines spent $750 million in 2000 on security, but the carriers claimed that the total was just $319 million. Needless to say, outsiders were stunned to hear the airlines claim that the same security efforts they once praised as comprehensive, relentless and expensive were pegged at just $319 million. This week the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, reported that the airlines underreported their security costs in 2000 by more than $129 million. In other words, the airlines lied, just not as much as the TSA thought.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Priority Club Rewards, the frequent-stay program that includes InterContinental, Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites, has introduced a new award: A prepaid American Express card that can be used at any hotel that accepts Amex. The card is available in five denominations from $100 to $250. The $250 card costs 59,000 points, which is a value of four-tenths of a cent per point. The award will be available starting in July. … Dallas/Fort Worth Airport premieres its Skylink automated people-mover next week. The system won't go into passenger service until late May, however. … The death toll in this week's Tokyo train crash has risen to at least 105. … Assailed by a broad coalition of interests who believe a plan to embed radio chips in our passports is dangerous, the State Department has relented a bit. State now says it will redesign the device, but critics say that any radio chip would make Americans vulnerable to terrorism and high-tech snooping. … Qantas has apologized for a baggage handler who stole a camel suit from a passenger's checked luggage and then paraded across an airport tarmac wearing the costume. The baggage handler was fired and Qantas says it will install closed-circuit television in baggage areas in terminals around Australia.

And I Care About the A380 Because…
You undoubtedly heard that Airbus this week completed the first test flight of the Airbus A380 super-jumbo jet. The four-hour flight of the double-decked, 555-seat plane went flawlessly, according to observers and the plane's test pilot. And I care about this because…? I mean, I never seem to fly anything but cramped, cold, noisy regional jets these days. So you'll forgive me if I don't share the world's enthusiasm for a plane that supposedly could be outfitted with lounges, bars, casinos and showers. I'm just looking for another inch of room on my next run to Palookaville.

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