THE BRIEFING FOR AUGUST 2 TO 16, 2007
By Joe Brancatelli
· Yes, Virginia, the TSA Hates Registered Traveler
· As if Minnesotans Don't Have Enough Troubles…
· How Dare You Try to Use Heathrow Airport
· Getting Ready for In-Flight Internet 2.0
· Record Fines for BA Over Fuel Surcharges
· A News Show Just for Canadian Airports
· How to Oppose Your Carrier's China Bid
Yes, Virginia, the TSA Really Hates Registered Traveler Plans
The war over the future of airport registered traveler (RT) programs burst into public view this week as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the entrepreneur most identified with the plan clashed in Congress. The members of the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security were overwhelmingly sympathetic to the complaints of Steve Brill, who created the privately run Clear program, but the hearings belonged to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley. Making plain what most business travelers have long known--the TSA despises the Congressionally mandated security-bypass plan and will do everything in its bureaucratic power to delay it or regulate it into irrelevance--Hawley vigorously denounced RT programs with the agency's two all-purpose epithets. Not only are RT plans "not an effective operational tool" against terrorists, but Hawley also said that TSA "decided that taxpayer resources are best applied to more critical needs." Hawley also inferred that RT programs do not fit what is obviously the TSA's current approach to frequent flyers: We're all potential terrorists until the TSA proves we're innocent and even then we're a security risk. Separately, Clear opened at Albany Airport today (August 2). That's that eighth airport nationwide with lanes operated by Clear or rtGO. About 55,000 flyers have RT cards, which now offer only the limited benefit of cutting the line to get to a TSA security checkpoint.
As if Minnesotans Don't Have Enough Troubles…
The horrific bridge collapse in downtown Minneapolis and Northwest's crisis of cancellations isn't all that Minnesota flyers have to worry about. Beginning August 13 and continuing until at least mid-October, one of the primary runways at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport will be closed. Officials are claiming that flight schedules won't be affected because arrivals and departures will be dispersed to MSP's three other runways. Of course, airport officials always say that and you aren't disposed to listen to anything Northwest says these days, are you? … Seattle-Tacoma airport officials say that this year's holiday displays will not have Christmas trees. As you'll recall, last year's displays made nationwide news after a local rabbi claimed that Sea-Tac ignored his request to display menorahs along with the trees. … CBC, the Canadian national broadcaster, says that it will produce a special one-hour news broadcast that will be screened in Canadian Airports. The program, CBC Express, will be updated seven times daily and it is already being shown on monitors at Toronto/Pearson and Ottawa International.
How Dare You Try to Use Heathrow Airport
The annual summer of horrors at London/Heathrow has taken a new and ominous twist: A planned environmental protest later this month has led the airport's owner, BAA, to request an unprecedented injunction that would bar upwards of five million British citizens from Heathrow and even public facilities like the London underground and roads that lead to the airport. After universal public condemnation--opponents said that even the Prince of Wales would be barred from Heathrow--BAA said today (August 2) that it narrowed its request. Airport officials now say that they really only want an order against four specific individuals. The lawyer for one of the individuals BAA is now targeting says that she and her children are on vacation in France and won't even be in the country during the protest. A judge is could rule as early as tomorrow (August 3). The protest is due to begin August 14.
Getting Ready for In-Flight Internet 2.0
Business travelers have been without in-flight Internet since Boeing pulled the plug on its ill-fated Connexion program last year. But the next generation of in-flight Internet is likely to launch sometime next year. First out of the box among the U.S. legacy carriers is American Airlines. It announced this week that it is teaming with Aircell to test wireless in-flight connectivity on the carrier's fleet of Boeing 767-200 aircraft. No further details were forthcoming, however. Overseas, Lufthansa, the biggest proponent of the old Connexion service, is teaming up with German-based cell-phone giant T-mobile on a new in-flight Internet initiative. Other than to reassure travelers that no in-flight mobile-phone calls will be permitted, Lufthansa revealed no details about its 2008 plans, either.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
British Airways got whacked this week with huge fines by both U.S. and U.K. regulators. The charge: That BA, Virgin Atlantic and other carriers conspired to set the price of fuel surcharges in recent years. In separate but related actions, BA was fined more than US$550 million. Virgin Atlantic escaped a penalty because it blew the whistle on the scheme, but regulators made it clear that Virgin was equally culpable. Korean Air was also fined. … Cathay Pacific says that it will add a morning nonstop (9 a.m.) from New York/Kennedy to Hong Kong. The flight arrives in Hong Kong at 2 p.m. the next day. … A federal judge has ruled that a Hawaiian Airlines lawsuit against Mesa Air and its go! Hawaii subsidiary will go to trial as scheduled on September 25. Aloha Airlines is also suing Mesa. The claim: That Mesa used proprietary data disclosed under confidentiality agreements to launch go! Both Hawaiian and Aloha claim Mesa's goal is to put one of them out of business. In recent weeks, the 14-month-old go! has offered promotional fares as low as $1 one-way.
Hate Your Airline? Here's How to Oppose Its China Bid.
By now you've been contacted by one airline--or six of them--asking for your support for their respective bids for new China routes. But I've been stunned by the number of E-mails from JoeSentMe members who want to know where they can send a letter to urge the Transportation Department not to give a China route to their least-favorite airline. "Why would I support these jerks for a 14-hour flight to China when I can't stand their service on a two-hour flight to Philadelphia?" one of your E-mails asked. "The pitch for support came on the same day that they cancelled three of my flights next week. Why would I support that?" asked another. Well, okay, folks, if you really think that the Department of Transportation cares about your opinion, write to Mary E. Peters, U.S. Transportation Secretary, Department of Transportation, 400 7th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590. I suggest you keep it brief and minimally polite, even when discussing the airline you hate.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.