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 The Tactical Traveler

joe JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL
BRIEFING FOR FEBRUARY 9 - FEBRUARY 23, 2006

Rules? Who Needs Rules? We Have 'Recommendations.'
It's not that Air Canada is any nastier or less consumer-friendly than the U.S. Big Six. It's just that Canadian regulators are a little more willing to slap Air Canada down and penalize it when the carrier violates its own rules. Last week the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) ordered Air Canada to pay C$1,482 to two travelers. That's reimbursement for the cost of the tickets they purchased on WestJet after Air Canada refused to honor their reservations and issue boarding passes for a flight from Montreal to Edmonton in May, 2004. According to CTA testimony, the travelers arrived at Montreal Airport at 8:10 a.m. for a flight scheduled to depart at 8:55 a.m. Yet Air Canada refused to issue boarding passes, citing a policy that "recommended" checking in 60 minutes before domestic departures. The CTA logically ruled that "a recommendation is not a requirement" and cited Air Canada's actual rule: Passengers must be at the boarding gate 25 minutes before departure. The travelers were able to show that Air Canada's "recommendation" didn't appear on the online tickets they purchased despite Air Canada's claims to the contrary. They also showed that Air Canada routinely disregarded its 60-minute "recommendation." The CTA ruled that the travelers would have easily met Air Canada's 25-minute boarding-gate rule if only the airline had issued the boarding passes in the first place.

Know Your 'Boston Alphabet' if You're Headed to Logan
We know they do things differently in Boston, but we didn't realize that those curmudgeonly New Englanders had their own alphabet, too. Under the terms of a "simplification" plan that will take effect at Boston/Logan beginning March 1, Terminals C and D will be combined. All the gates at the existing Terminal D will be relettered and numbered as Terminal C gates. Several months later, Terminal E, the international terminal, will be renamed Terminal D. And just to confuse things a little more, a bit of history: The current Terminal D, which is going to be folded into Terminal C, opened in September, 1964, as Logan's international terminal. ... There was a bit of chaos and lots of delays last weekend when Terminal 4 opened at Madrid Barajas airport. That is the terminal now used by Iberia and Oneworld carriers such as American Airlines. Things seem to be normal now, however. ... A start-up carrier called Porter Airlines hopes to launch commuter turboprop flights from close-in Toronto/City Centre airport. The airline says it will serve U.S. and Canadian destinations within 500 miles of Toronto.

'Fair' Is a Relative Term for Fares at Dulles
How have fares fared at Washington/Dulles since Independence Air tanked there a month ago? Not surprisingly, the prices are up because the mortally wounded Independence was desperate in the last few months and kept prices, even walk-up fares, extraordinarily low. According to a chart pulled together by fare maven Terry Trippler, the big losers are Pittsburgh (walk-up PIT-IAD fares have jumped to $900 roundtrip from $78-$228), Raleigh-Durham (walk-up roundtrips have gone to $418 from $68) and Buffalo, New York, where roundtrip walk-up prices are now $618 compared to $158 on January 6, the last day Independence flew. ... The management of United Airlines will have plenty to answer for in the months to come, but don't blame them for the tumble in the price of United shares since the carrier exited bankruptcy on February 2. United and the airline's advisors estimated the value of new shares at about $15, yet the stock was selling for as much as $40 in pre-issue trading. When the shares debuted on NASDAQ last week under the ticker symbol UAUA, the price promptly began to plummet. United closed at $32 yesterday (February 8), a 20 percent decline during the first week of trading.

What's Blue and Has Guestrooms in Australia?
The island of St. Lucia gets better nonstop connections from the U.S. northeast on February 23 when Air Jamaica resumes three weekly flights from New York/Kennedy. ... As previously reported, Taj Hotels bought the five-year-old former W Hotel in Sydney. But it didn't brand the 100-room property on Woolloomooloo Bay as a Taj. The new name for the hotel is Blue. ... The value of the U.S. dollar is firming up against the euro again and it cracked the $1.20 mark yesterday. ... Ryanair, the big European discount carrier, says it will begin charging for checked baggage starting on March 16. The fee will be €3.50 a bag for passengers who book on the web and €7 for others. The fee will cover checked bags up to a total weight of 30 kilos (about 66 pounds). Anything over that weight will require an additional payment.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Bush Administration wants to effectively double the 9/11 security charge to $5 each way. The current fee is $2.50 one-way for a nonstop flight and $5 for a connecting one-way itinerary. About 70 percent of all travelers fly nonstop. ... Ever wonder why the skies around New York's three major airports are so congested and so prone to delay? He's one reason: a constant stream of small regional-jet flights that the big airlines wedge into the New York market. And it's getting worse. On April 3, American Airlines will launch 37-seat flights from LaGuardia to Pittsburgh and from Kennedy to Baltimore/Washington. On the same day, Delta Air Lines will launch 50-seat flights from LaGuardia to both Chicago/O'Hare and Dallas/Fort Worth. ... Maybe the second time's the charm: Aloha Airlines has been cleared to leave bankruptcy around the middle of February. A plan to exit Chapter 11 last December 15 went awry after a last-minute objection by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, which has assumed most of Aloha's pension liabilities.

Oh, Shut Up! Please, Just Shut Up...
Serial promoter Richard Branson first claimed he was going to start a U.S. carrier called Virgin America in 1999. He continued making the unsubstantiated claim, with all sorts of Bransonian embellishments, throughout 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. In fact, however, Branson never found a sugar daddy to fund the carrier until late last year and Virgin America never got around to filing the requisite paperwork with the Department of Transportation (DOT) until two months ago. Yet when she announced this week that former American Airlines chief Donald Carty had signed on as Virgin America's figurehead chairman, the airline's spokeswoman took at swipe at DOT. "Our patience is wearing thin," she moaned. "We literally have no understanding of what is going to happen next." Since the DOT certification process for new carriers routinely takes about a year, you have to wonder whether anyone at Virgin America really knows what they are doing. (Hint: Virgin America's spokeswoman comes from Song and most of the top managers come from other divisions of Delta.)

Copyright 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.