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 The Tactical Traveler

joe JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL
BRIEFING FOR SEPTEMBER 22 - OCTOBER 6, 2005


Here Come the Cuts at Northwest and Delta
Last week their mantra was "business as usual," of course. But as I warned you in last week's Tactical Traveler, the service cuts would come quickly at now-bankrupt Northwest and Delta. Let's start with Northwest. The airline will be trimming at 5-6 percent of its total capacity by the end of the year. Cuts we already know about: a reduction in frequency to London and Paris from Detroit and Minneapolis. The carrier is also abandoning its New York-Tokyo service. But that's just the tip of a very big iceberg because the airline told the bankruptcy court that it is planning to shed at least 80 of its 430 planes currently in service. Also gone: 400 pilots and 1,400 flight attendants. Over at Delta, the numbers are even larger, including as many as 9,000 job cuts in the next two years and big flight cuts effective December 1. Gone will be 16 percent of Delta's capacity at New York/Kennedy, including the end of nonstop flights to Tallahassee, Pensacola, Savannah, Greensboro, Detroit and Charleston. The airline's Salt Lake City hub will be cut by 10 percent. Fifteen percent of Delta's Orlando service will go, including nonstop flights to Chattanooga, Charlottesville, Charleston and Fort Wayne. The airline previously announced a 26 percent cutback at its Cincinnati hub.

Free Wi-Fi and Illegal Palm Trees
Akron-Canton Airport says its Wi-Fi Internet service is now free throughout public areas. It had charged $1.95 an hour for the service. Los Angeles Airport will spend $200,000 to uproot and replant dozens of palm trees that it illegally planted five years ago. The 92 trees, planted around the outer edges of the airport, ran afoul of the California Coastal Commission for a variety of aesthetic and environmental reasons. It's been plagued by construction delays and scandal, but Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International airport celebrates a symbolic opening next Thursday (September 29). The airport, about a generation in the making, won't open to passenger traffic for at least another six months, however. ... Traffic-plagued Boston/Logan is considering a reserved-parking scheme. Some of the new spaces in the airport's newly renovated and expanded central garage will be available for advance reservation at an as-yet undisclosed fee above the current $22-a-day charge.

New Orleans' Loss Is San Antonio's Gain
Southwest Airlines had been operating 57 daily flights to New Orleans, but its post-Katrina schedule is just two daily flights. So that has freed up aircraft for expansion elsewhere. Besides frequency boosts on existing routes, the airline has announced that it will launch flights between Chicago/Midway and San Antonio on October 2. JetBlue Airways tip-toed into New York/LaGuardia last year with seven flights to Fort Lauderdale. But on November 17 it cuts back to five Fort Lauderdale flights and adds a new route: LaGuardia-West Palm Beach. There will be three daily flights on that route. Midwest Airlines is expanding at Kansas City. Effective October 31, there will be one daily nonstop to three new cities: San Diego, Orlando and Pittsburgh. The flights will offer Midwest's Signature Service with 2x2 seating and added legroom.

Will Independence Air Join the Bankruptcy Brigade?
Washington/Dulles-based Independence Air has been busily slashing routes and frequencies, raising fares and attempting to raise new financing, but it's a matter of when, not if, it will file Chapter 11. The carrier's revenue, available cash and load factors are dropping, so watch for a filing before the new bankruptcy laws kick in on October 17. Bankrupt Northwest Airlines stock stops trading on Nasdaq on Monday (September 26). The delisted shares could still be traded over the counter, however. US Airways cleared a number of hurdles in its attempt to exit bankruptcy last week and it is free to leave Chapter 11 and then merge with America West as soon as next Tuesday (September 27). The airline is also planning to raise $275 million in stock and bond sales. Hawaiian Airlines left bankruptcy during the summer and now Joshua Gotbaum, the court-appointed trustee, is looking for an $8 million bonus. That's the equivalent of the airline's operating profit in the first half of the year. Gotbaum was appointed after the airline's old management essentially pocketed the 2001 bailout money given to Hawaiian by taxpayers.

An Internet-Based Poke in Southwest's Ribs
Consumer-unfriendly service policies are not the sole purview of the Big Six carriers. Over at Southwest Airlines, the powers that be have resolutely refused to permit advanced seat assignments. And when Southwest put in its online check-in system, it was limited: Flyers could only check in beginning at a minute after midnight on the day of travel. That meant the much-valued "A" boarding assignments, which allow flyers to board the plane first and grab the best seats, were only available after midnight. Inevitably, such a stupid policy spawned entrepreneurship: A Web site called BoardFirst.com recently sprung up and offered to secure "A" boarding assignments automatically. The fee: $5 a segment. BoardFirst.com started promoting itself this week and that provoked an immediate response from Southwest. It promptly switched policies and now allows travelers to check in and get those "A" boarding assignments 24 hours before a flight departs.

Just What's Needed: More New York-London Service
If there's one route on the planet that has all the seats that business travelers need, it's New York-London. But that isn't stopping two new niche carriers from attempting to grab a piece of the action. Maxjet Airways and Eos Airlines have both gotten government clearance to fly and both claim that they will launch flights on November 1 between New York/Kennedy and London/Stansted. Maxjet is promising an all-business-class service on specially configured, 102-seat Boeing 767-200ER jets. Maxjet's club-chair seats offer 60 inches of legroom and introductory prices are $799 to $1,979 one-way. Over at Eos, the airline is promising an all-first-class service on specially configured, 48-seat Boeing 757s. The EOS seat-suites fold into lie-flat beds and are outfitted with cashmere blankets; the seats are staggered so that each one is adjacent to both a window and an aisle. Introductory roundtrip fares are $5,000; normal, walk-up prices are $6,500 roundtrip. If your travel includes Saipan in the Mariana Islands, get ready for major route shifts. Continental Airlines says it is dropping its twice-weekly Taipei-Saipan flights. And Japan Airlines is dropping its 14 weekly Tokyo-Saipan flights. On the other hand, bankrupt Northwest Airlines is expanding its service from Japan to Saipan and Guam. On October 1, it will begin daily nonstops between Osaka and Saipan and between Osaka and Guam. Nonstop flights between Nagoya and Guam begin on November 1. Boeing 757-200s configured with 20 business and 162 coach seats will be used on all the routes.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
US Airways is pulling the power ports from its fleet of Airbus A319s, A320s and A321s. The ports are being immediately disabled and will eventually be removed. The airline says it will keep the power ports on its small fleet of long-haul Airbus A330s. United Airlines has joined the other carriers that have slashed international checked-baggage allowances. Effective immediately, checked bags exceeding 50 pounds will cost at least $25 each. The previous free allowance was 70 pounds. Under pressure from frequent-riding Congresspeople, Amtrak has delayed the fare increase that was scheduled for this week. Alaska Airlines and its commuter carrier, Horizon Air, has completely eliminated paper tickets. South African Airways and United Airlines begin code-sharing on November 1. Four Seasons Hotels has opened a 339-room property in Hong Kong. The hotel is located at the International Finance Centre in the Central district. Prices start at about $400 a night.

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