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 The Tactical Traveler

joe JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL
BRIEFING FOR DECEMBER 22, 2005 - DECEMBER 31, 2005


AirTran Goes Where Southwest Fears to Fly
Southwest Airlines may be the 800-pound gorilla of the skies, but there are two places where it resolutely refuses to tread: Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and the major New York area airports. So while it has been absorbing ATA Airlines' Chicago/Midway hub, Southwest pared Newark from the ATA schedule. And rather than fly from Midway to DFW itself, Southwest is relying on code-sharing with ATA. So into the breech comes AirTran Airways. It announced this week that it will launch three daily Midway-Newark flights and three daily Midway-DFW flights. Newark runs start March 8 and the DFW service launches May 9. To make room for the new Midway flights, AirTran is shying away from a fight in the crowded Boston-Washington/Dulles market. Rather than compete with JetBlue, United and Independence Air, Atlanta-based AirTran has dropped its plans to launch Dulles-Boston service next year.

Beware of Delays on United at O'Hare Airport
The supposedly crack team that has been running bankrupt United Airlines for the last three years ran into still another operational glitch last week: massive delays at Chicago/O'Hare caused by huge lines of passengers. The situation was so bad that Chicago's airport authority rushed in "warming buses" for travelers who were waiting outside United's Terminal 1 in below-freezing weather. After initially blaming factors beyond its control, United executives admitted that they had understaffed the airport. Passenger waiting times reached three hours during peak periods. Needless to say, this sort of problem doesn't auger well for the Christmas-New Year's rush that is now underway. A new cell-phone lot opened at Washington/Dulles yesterday (December 21). A 6,300-space parking garage opened at Chicago/Midway over the weekend. The seven-level garage is at the corner of 55th Street and Laramie Avenue. Midway will close a remote lot on 72nd and Cicero on January 4. Stewart International in Newburgh, New York, about 65 miles north of Manhattan, is changing its name to Hudson Valley International. The airport's code remains SWF, however.

New Hotels, New Names, New Places
Hyatt opened an 1,100-room hotel at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver this week. The $285 million property, built by the city after private developers failed, is a 37-story tower designated a Hyatt Regency. Opening rates are as low as $89 a night. The old Ritz-Carlton Kansas City, which most recently has been run as the Fairmont Kansas City, is changing flags again. The 336-room hotel officially becomes the InterContinental Kansas City next month. Also changing flags in January: The Hilton Manama in Bahrain. It will become a Golden Tulip. There's a hotel building boom in Ontario, the heart of California's so-called Inland Empire. Several new properties have opened in close proximity to Ontario Airport and the massive Ontario Mills mall. New hotels that have already opened their doors are the 103-room Homewood Suites and a 112-room Marriot TownePlace Suites. A 122-room Hilton Garden Inn and a 120-room Courtyard by Marriott are due in the next 90 days.

The Dollar Is a Little Less Anemic
The U.S. dollar seems to have emerged from its multi-year down cycle and is ending the year in better shape than when 2005 began. It was trading today (December 22) at about $1.19 against the euro. Not great, but leagues better than the frightening $1.25-$1.29 range of earlier this year. And it has grown considerably stronger against the British pound and Japanese yen. It's now about $1.74 to the pound, much better than the $1.90-$1.95 range of earlier this year. It's also commanding 117 yen, near the top of its recent surge against the Japanese currency. Car rentals at Cincinnati Airport will get more expensive beginning New Year's Day when a new $3.75-a-day surcharge goes in effect. The fee will fund a new consolidated rental facility at the airport. Northwest Airlines has once again backed off an attempt to raise fares by collecting airport-imposed passenger-facility fees on connecting itineraries through its hubs. When no one matched its move earlier this month, Northwest resumed absorbing the PFCs.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Transportation Security Administration chose today (December 22) to juggle the rules of acceptable carry-on items and revise its secondary-screening selection process. Expect the normal chaos and confusion for the next few weeks. Chalk's Ocean Airways has grounded its fleet for inspection. A Chalk's seaplane crashed near Miami on Monday and killed 20 passengers and crew. Air Canada began flying the Embraer 190 this week on flights between Ottawa and Orlando. The hybrid plane that blurs the lines between regional and traditional jets is configured with nine first-class seats and 84 coach seats. The coach cabin offers 2x2 seating with 33 inches of legroom. JetBlue Airways launched the EMB-190 earlier this year.

All Through the House Frequent Flyers Were Stirring
This is the start of the Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa-New Year's break for business travelers and the last Tactical Traveler of the year. I hope you'll be stirring around your house rather than trudging through an airport. I wish you peace and joy and serenity and a 2006 full of upgrades. See you on January 5, 2006.

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