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 The Tactical Traveler

joe JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JULY 14 - JULY 28, 2005
The Big Six Raise Walk-Up Fares By $100 Each Way
If you ever needed proof that the Big Six airlines are run by idiots, consider this: Delta Air Lines broke its own SimpliFares cap today (Thursday, July 14) by raising its highest coach fares to $599 one-way from $499 and its highest first-class fares to $699 from $599. Several carriers, led by Northwest Airlines, had repeatedly tried to raise the caps by $50 each-way in recent weeks, but Delta declined to match and Northwest and the others were forced to withdraw the increases. As of Thursday evening, four of the other Big Six (Northwest, Continental, United and American) have matched the $100 increase, which is a whopping 20 percent. That means the increase will probably stick. But mark it down: Air traffic began to skyrocket right about the time Delta adopted SimpliFares in January. If traffic starts dropping, you'll know why. And consider what Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said Thursday when informed of Delta's decision. "We love it when our competitors raise fares," he said to airline analysts listening to a conference call after Southwest announced a 40 percent rise in second-quarter profits. "It just makes our job that much easier."

Worst Airline in America? Does Pan Am Ring a Bell?
What's the worst airline in America? Well, if you ask people at Newburgh/Stewart in New York's Hudson Valley, the answer is simple: Pan Am. The latest reincarnation of the once-famous name has infuriated Newburgh passengers by turning their flights to Orlando/Sanford and Clearwater/St. Petersburg into multi-stop affairs even though they were advertised and sold as nonstops. Pan Am blames a plane shortage and still hasn't had the good grace to change the route map or schedule on its Web site. The service, such as it is, started June 23 and some initial flights required more than 12 hours to make the 1,000-mile journey. Speaking of Newburgh, Delta Air Lines says it will drop the airport from its route map when it ends its two daily flights to Cincinnati on August 31. A 298-room Grand Hyatt hotel has opened adjacent to the new Terminal D at Dallas/Fort Worth. The terminal itself is due to open later this month. The Department of Homeland Security said this week that it would end the 30-minute rule for flights at Washington/National. The rule, implemented after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, requires passengers to remain seated for the first 30 minutes after take-off from National or within 30 minutes of an arrival at National. The rule will be eliminated at 6 p.m. tomorrow (July 15).

Southwest Rolls Out Its Fort Myers Fares and Schedules
Southwest Airlines, which is due to launch flights from Fort Myers on October 2, this week announced its routes: two daily flights to both Baltimore/Washington and Chicago/Midway; three daily flights to Orlando; and daily flights to both Philadelphia and Islip, Long Island. Introductory fares are $29 one-way to Orlando and $79 one-way to the other cities. The fares require a 21-day advance purchase. On August 4, AirTran Airways launches flights from its Atlanta hub to both Akron-Canton, Ohio, and Flint, Michigan. There will be five weekly flights to each city.

Northwest and Its Mechanics Head Toward a Strike
Northwest Airlines isn't bankrupt yet, but its insiders are selling stock like it's going out of style. And now the airline's mechanics have asked the National Mediation Board (NMB) to declare an impasse in negotiations. Northwest's management tried the ploy several weeks ago and was rejected, but the NMB might have to declare the impasse now that both sides want one. Once an impasse is declared, a federally mandated, 30-day cooling off period is imposed. Then the airline is free to lock out workers and the employees are free to strike. Northwest is demanding $176 million in concessions and the right to lay off up to half of the mechanics. After a disastrous foray into the transcontinental market, America West will fly its last coast-to-coast nonstops on September 6 when it drops its New York/Kennedy and Boston/Logan flights to Los Angeles. Most of the transcon planes will be redeployed to help America West launch service to Hawaii. The airline, which is hoping to merge with bankrupt US Airways this fall, will begin daily nonstops from its Phoenix hub to Honolulu and Maui. That service starts on December 16. The airline says it will expand Hawaii flying next March with flights from Phoenix to Lihue and Kona and flights from its Las Vegas hub to Maui. Speaking of US Airways, the airline is dropping free pretzels in coach.

A Changing of the Guard in Britain
If you're headed to Britain, be prepared to see new names on some familiar hotels. In Edinburgh, InterContinental has sold the iconic George Hotel on Prince Street to Britain's Principal Hotels. So off comes the InterContinental name. Five Hilton hotels--in Leeds, Brighton, Corby, East Kilbride near Glasgow and at Norwich City Airport--have been sold to a joint venture of Starwood Hotels and Glasgow hotelier Maurice Taylor. All five properties, which Hilton acquired when it bought Stakis Hotels about 10 years ago, will be reflagged as Holiday Inn. Half a dozen more former Stakis Hiltons have also been sold to the joint venture and will soon be rebranded, too.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Amtrak has resumed limited service of its high-speed Acela Express trains in the Boston-Washington corridor. There are now two departures in each direction each weekday between New York/Penn Station and Washington/Union Station. The railroad now admits that it will be the fall before all 20 Acela trains will return to the tracks. A man who won an American Airlines contest has rejected the prize of a dozen restricted roundtrip tickets for two. The reason? The federal and state income taxes on the freebies would cost more than if the tickets were bought at prevailing fares. Alamo Rent A Car says it will begin charging for some cancellations. The basic fee is $10. Cancel within 24 hours of a reservation and the car-rental firm will charge you $25. British Airways has begun testing an online boarding pass system. Passengers departing on BA flights from Seattle-Tacoma can now print their boarding passes at the BA Web site. The airline also has created a Fast Bag Drop facility near its Sea-Tac check-in counter for passengers who have printed their own boarding pass. Air New Zealand flyers take note: The airline's flight attendants say they will strike on July 18, 21 and 24.

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