THE TACTICAL TRAVELER FOR 2012

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TACTICAL TRAVELER
Joe Brancatelli created Tactical Traveler in 1998 for the now-defunct biztravel.com. The weekly column was conceived as a series of items that would make frequent business travelers more productive on the road. There was also a heaping helping of Joe's trademark skepticism about the travel industry and its practices. After the 9/11 terrorism attacks, however, Joe recreated Tactical Traveler as the news and analysis column for JoeSentMe. There's still plenty of skepticism, of course, because life on the road makes us a wary lot.

December 20 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: At the TSA, no good deed (like the PreCheck plan) goes unpunished. Marriott Rewards changes the lifetime membership rules. Southwest says AirTran will survive two more years. Note to AAdvantage Players: Iberia is cutting some key routes. A burst of new properties open in Asia to end the year. Hyatt juggles award prices for some top hotels. Don't expect any year-end news on AA-US Airways merger front; and more.

December 13 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: American Airlines wants to sell you bundles of stuff airlines once gave you free. JetBlue challenges US Airways on the Philadelphia-Boston route. Fast-growing, ultra-popular Charleston gets a burst of new lodgings. Virgin America opens its first airport lounge at LAX. Lufthansa and AirBerlin make big flight changes. JFK security guards plan a pre-Christmas strike. No one uses it, so Qantas dumps in-flight WiFi on its A380s, and more.

December 6 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: San Diego isn't an airline orphan anymore. Award alert: Starwood Preferred Guest adds several luxury properties. Austrian Airlines resumes its O'Hare-Vienna route. Air Canada adds flights to Seoul and Istanbul. United raises annual fees at its airport clubs. Hilton HHonors changes the rules again. US Airways starts a Charlotte-Heathrow run. Mitt gets upgraded to the Presidential Suite; and more.

November 29 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The TSA adds three airports (and Canadians) to PreCheck. JetBlue: Better Albuquerque than Pittsburgh. Southwest Airlines will finally land in Wichita, Kansas. Iberia faces five days of strikes in December. Marriott adds lower-priced off-peak rewards. Hilton opens a clutch of hotels around the world. Frontier revives jet flights at Trenton Airport. Denver Airport gives away free international calls and more.

November 15 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: A timely reminder that United Airlines still sucks. Global Entry now works for Australia travel, too. American Airlines is sorry and gives you double elite-status miles, but Delta Air Lines wants to sell you elite-status miles. Marriott opens a really tall hotel tower in Dubai. Europe's austerity plans play havoc with continental travel. The world's most global carrier is Turkish Airlines, and more.

November 8 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The high cost of closing hubs in stormy weather. A new carrier between the U.S. and Scandinavia. Delta updates the premium cabins on its transcon runs. Got spare rooms? DoubleTree may reflag them. Delays hit the newest United and American aircraft. British Hampton Inns defect to Holiday Inn Express. Vino Volo opens a wine bar off airport grounds ... and more.

November 1 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: An international work-around for call-center chaos. Alaska Airlines cozies up to Delta Air Lines (again) with SEA-SLC flights. Hilton bulks up in Canada while Hyatt grows in India. An Andaz opens in a former library in Amsterdam. American Airlines adds four international routes. Malaysia Airlines will join the Oneworld alliance. Tropicana in Las Vegas adds DoubleTree branding and more.

October 25 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: A "Frankenstorm" threatens travel next week. Singapore Airlines ends its ultra-long-haul nonstops to JFK and LAX. Dr. Strangeroute ... or how to stop worrying and burn your miles. Back to the future in New York for OpenSkies. North Dakota's oil boom brings a boom in Hampton Inns, too. United Airlines inherits the ill wind in the fiscal third quarter. At last! North Korea's Air Koryo is now online; and much more.

October 18 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Marriott and the Eden Roc go to war in Miami Beach. Delta grows in Paris, but cuts many Europe nonstop routes. Virgin America will shrink this winter to save cash. There's better international-partner award availability on AA.com and Delta.com. More AirTran flights convert to Southwest service. Finally! An Anchorage-Reykjavík route. The greatest airline innovation since the Wright Brothers. And much more.

October 11 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: A great year for on-time operations, but sorry about United and American. Delta will tell you all about changes to SkyMiles--unless it won't. Where is Marriott's Renaissance Hotels going? Barcelona! Avianca is the new name for many Latin carriers. Paris/CDG tries to rationalize Terminal 2. Again. United tries (and fails) to raise fares. Again. Amtrak ridership is up 50 percent since 2000 and much more.

October 4 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: That Was The Awful Week That Was at American. Hilton slashes Diamond Elite HHonors benefits again. TSA opens PreCheck in Denver and expands it at DFW. Hyatt adds a Park Hyatt in Chennai, India. Will Qatar Airways join the Oneworld alliance? Clear Channel challenges the CNN airport monopoly. Kingfisher Airlines has fallen and may not get up; and much more.

September 27 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: It's not getting better at American Airlines. United Airlines fiddles with Cleveland schedule. Virgin America adds service at Palm Springs. Two Manhattan hotels get new identities. WestJet cuts code-share with British Airways. Marriott and Hilton add "aspirational" resorts. TSA adds PreCheck checkpoints at Dulles Airport. US Airways employees vote down another contract; and more.

September 20 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: American joins United at the bottom of the barrel. The TSA opens new PreCheck lanes at several airports. JetBlue adds Charleston flights from Boston and New York/JFK. Berlin Brandenburg Airport opening is delayed. Again. Marriott heads back to the future on New York's Central Park. Hyatt converts two Avia hotels to the Andaz chain. United will restore "expert mode" to its Web site; and more.

September 6 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Oneworld? It's Four Seasons' pleasure to overcharge you in two new locations. Delta is remaking its Minneapolis and LaGuardia hubs. Surprise! United finishes dead last for on-time in August. Bankrupt American can dump its pilots contracts. Four new dining spots open at Phoenix/Sky Harbor. Of course, airline executives think passengers are idiots! and much more.

August 30 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The TSA's Potemkin village of "passenger advocates." A new Hyatt in Kuala Lumpur and an "old" Ritz-Carlton in Vienna. Frankfurt is the target of today's Lufthansa strike. United's excuse for Tuesday's mess? Nothing works. A PreCheck lane opens at Phoenix/Sky Harbor. Hertz buys Dollar Thrifty (finally) for about $2.5 billion. Five airlines move to Terminal 3 at Las Vegas. And much more.

August 23 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: What makes you "unacceptable" to PreCheck? Chongqing: 28 million people, two new hotels. Beware of "Carmageddon" at LAX next month. United Airlines goes back to the future--and Jackson, Mississippi. Capital One goes to the dark side on ATM and foreign exchange fees. Lufthansa faces another strike early next week. United rolls out schedule for Dreamliner flights. They'll huff and puff and blow the truth down...and much more.

August 16 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: A rare (tiny and temporary) win for labor in the American bankruptcy. New hotels opening near, far and on Britain's football pitch. Qatar Airways flies to Chicago and American Airlines bolts on Brussels. Branson's Virgin trains booted off British routes. Hilton HHonors loses its only central Paris hotel. Watch for fares to rise as oil hits $95 a barrel. Is Smisek too arrogant to know United's sinking? And much more.

August 9 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: United continues to collapse with amazing speed. We don't hate the TSA after all. Frontier overhauls its schedule again. WestJet thinks we're almost as dumb as airline execs. A bad week for American and a worse one for US Airways. Interjet starts New York/JFK-Mexico City flights. The paper ticket gets its final punch at Amtrak…and much more.

August 2 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Fly-Over country finally gets new hotels and even some new flights. WestJet adds premium economy on B737s. JetBlue adds even more Even More Space seats on its E190s. Lufthansa hopes Frankfurt will go back to the future. Hotel conversions, reflags and openings, oh my! Delta will shut down its Comair commuter operation. And now for something completely political...and much more.

July 26 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: American Airlines will keep first class on its new narrowbody transcons. Another big shake-up on international routes. TSA expands PreCheck to two more hubs. JetBlue and Virgin America add elite levels. United says it lied to you yesterday, but is telling the truth today. National's One-Two-Free promotion returns on August 22. Enterprise brings its exotic car collection to LAX, and much more.

July 19 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Wall Street finally understands that US Airways' Doug Parker is a poseur. JetBlue Airways launches flights from Providence. Sheraton opens in Shandong and Hilton converts a DoubleTree in Hyannis. Hawaiian Airlines will fly to Brisbane and Auckland. A month of cancellations underlines an awful week at United Airlines. PreCheck arrives at Charlotte and Tampa airports. And the (Jet)Blue may inherit the earth.

July 12 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Believe it or not, United Airlines is getting worse. Stuck in Delta's downsizing with the Memphis blues again. New hotels from A (Albuquerque) to Z (Zirakpur). Qantas award tickets are now bookable on AA.com. Virgin America records another huge 1Q loss. Houston/Intercontinental adds valet parking. What happens when you don't get enough sleep on the road. And much more.

June 28 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Much easier airport security, but sorry about those murders in Mexico City. American AAdvantage and WestJet Rewards tie up. Michael Symon opens his first airport restaurant. Four Points by Sheraton converts two city hotels. Marriotts open in Baku, Guangzhou and Maui. Tampa Airport remakes its dining choices. Anheuser-Busch is trying to trademark airport codes. And much, much more.

June 21 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Surprise! There are very few gripes about checkpoint groping. Just before the Olympics open, a burst of London hotel openings. Lost in Translation: The new satellite terminat at Paris/CDG. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner apparently isn't good for dreaming. "Local" sports bars open at Cleveland and Pittsburgh airports. The TSA opens PreCheck facilities at Boston/Logan Terminal A. Marriott brands go "silky smooth" with Paul Mitchell. And much more.

June 14 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Atlanta's new international terminal is not feeling the flyer love. Everywhere you look, there are more hotels worldwide. Avis adds new options for Preferred Service renters. The TSA approves private screeners for some airports. The Star Alliance opens a joint terminal in Vienna. American and the unions head for a court decision on contracts. United, Mr. Peabody and the Wayback Machine. And much more.

June 7 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Alaska Airlines adds two more long-haul routes. Lufthansa's new business-class seat goes fully flat. Marriott has another new brand: Gaylord Hotels. JetBlue will add an overseas arrivals facility at New York/JFK. It gets weirder and nastier at United Airlines. Cathay Pacific joins Membership Rewards. Saudi Arabian Airlines quietly joins SkyTeam. And much more.

May 24 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Delta and Southwest solve each other's fleet problems. A revived Sonesta takes hotels from InterContinental. El Al adds a premium-economy class of service. Southwest gets approval for overseas facilities at Hobby. The Clear registered-travel program reopens at SFO. Five cable firms link their WiFi systems. Hilton's owner buys Motel 6 ... and more.

May 17 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Washington/National Airport gets eight new long-haul routes. United drops to the bottom of the DOT ratings. The new Berlin is airport pushed back until next March. The price of crude drops and the dollar firms against the euro. International routes will come and go this autumn. CVG shrinks down to one terminal. Must to avoid this weekend: sports-crazed LA; and much more.

May 10 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: American dumps most international first class ... very slowly. A slew of new (old) Hyatts and a notable departure. A bad day at O'Hare shows United's continuing computer woes. Another Greek tragedy: Athens flights disappear. Sea-Tac opens a consolidated rental-car facility. Priority Club Rewards drops Amex Membership Rewards. An airline buys an oil refinery--and oil prices plunge. And more...

May 3 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Suntrust and Delta revive miles on debit cards. TSA adds Seattle-Tacoma and Orlando to PreCheck plan. It's a JetBlue world and we just fly its international partners. Milwaukee's days as a hub are officially over. Icelandair returns to Minneapolis and adds Denver flights. American lays off the guy who does the layoffs. Just in case you need a hotel room in Doha ... and more.

April 26 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: United's huge first-quarter loss means more pain for you. And, right on schedule, United tries to bribe us back. Southwest and AirTran link frequent flyer plans. British Airways and Hawaiian Air awards are now available on AA.com. Air Berlin will fly nonstop between LAX. ANA launches its Seattle-Tokyo nonstops in July. Virgin Atlantic moves the bar out of business class. Italy's high-speed private train starts; and more.

April 19 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Are you ready for some airport disruptions?; Interesting new places to burn hotel points; Hilton devalues the HHonors program again; How customers are penalizing United; Dallas/Fort Worth airport will get free WiFi; BMI will leave the Star Alliance; Iberia plagued by more cancellations; and much more.

April 12 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Are you ready for some airport disruptions? Interesting new places to burn hotel points. Hilton devalues the HHonors program again. How customers are penalizing United Airlines; DFW will get free WiFi. BMI will leave the Star Alliance. Iberia plagued by more cancellations and much more.

April 5 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Computer woes lead Southwest to back off AirTran changes. American Airlines resumes flights to Tokyo/Haneda. United Drops service to Copenhagen and Accra. Citibank makes overdue improvements to AAdvantage card. St. Louis reopens a tornado-damaged concourse. The chocolate chip cookie crumbles at Frontier. United drops to the bottom of the on-time barrel in March; and much more.

March 29 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Japan Airlines brings a less-than-dreamy Dreamliner configuration to the Boston-Narita route. A new Velcro hotel: The Westin Lake Las Vegas. A Hyatt Park hotel opens in Hyderabad, India. Chase rolls a new credit card with United Club access. SAS will fly between Copenhagen and Tel Aviv. Southwest leads a new fare increase. Is American dumping Eagle flights in San Juan? and more.

March 22 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: United blames you for its clogged phone lines. Delta re-times its East Coast shuttle flights. Alaska Airlines shifts to Terminal 6 at LAX. Thai Airways dumps LAX-Bangkok nonstops. Japan Airlines plans a San Diego-Tokyo nonstop. Marriott opens Courtyard hotels in France. Meanwhile, back at Martin Van Buren International Airport...and more.

March 15 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Washington/National gets more long-haul flights. United still can't get its computer act together. In Miami, Marriott loses The Doral to The Donald. Emirates launches flights to Dubai from Dulles. United juggles planes on its new route to Istanbul. Behind the scenes (not) at JoeSentMe.com World headquarters. Porn, profit and piety (not) in the hotel business--and much more.

March 8 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: What's not working right at United? How much time do you have? Turkish Airlines goes daily on LAX-Istanbul flights. An extremely humbling week for American Airlines. JetBlue will fly from Fort Lauderdale to Bogota. Canada's Labor Minister stops an Air Canada strike and lockout. Delta offers free in-flight WiFi access to Amazon. The unintended consequences of Spirit's Unintended Consequences Fee. And much more.

March 1 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: American rolls out specifics of its premium-economy service. Marriott Rewards sharply devalues its hotel award chart. United now collects upgrade co-pay in advance. Hilton opens three more properties in China. Nine months late, W opens its hotel in Paris. Fare hike fails, so airlines start cutting routes. TSA's PreCheck Security Bypass opens at New York/Kennedy; and more.

February 23 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: It's okay to be scared of next weekend's UA-CO computer merger. Starwood's 2012 award chart increases prices. Miami and New York/Kennedy get new hotel options. Marriott adds limited-service hotels in smaller cities. Southwest juggles the AirTran route network. WestJet will fly to Chicago from Vancouver and Calgary. Did you get a 1099 for bonus miles from Citibank?; and more.

February 16 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The Obama budget proposal pitches new fees and security cuts. Alaska Airlines adds Philadelphia and Ft. Lauderdale. JetBlue will fly Boston-Nantucket this summer. A tisket, a tasket, there’s lots more in your hotel basket. Air Canada and pilots avoid a strike for now. Qantas dumps Los Angeles-to-Auckland flights. The Underwear Bomber gets a life sentence; and more.

February 9 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Airport security and customs clearance may finally begin making sense. New York City's Algonquin hotel closes the Oak Room. Back to the future--and coach--at OpenSkies. United will fly from Washington to Doha, Qatar. American Airlines' boss disses US Airways. A TSA agent is caught on video stealing $5,000. Marriott opens two hotels in Calgary, Alberta; and more.

February 2 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Starwood ups benefits for gold, platinum elites. American Airlines lost $900 million in December. Major hotel chains flip flags around the world. United will fly nonstop from Dulles to Honolulu. Spanair and Malev collapse in Europe. Continental adds Economy Plus to Europe B757s. Half of all flight delays are blamed on New York; and more.

January 26 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The next Southwest: more seats and fewer cities. Mileage Plus, OnePass Elite benefits last longer. A St. Regis where a famous Sheraton once stood. Virgin America will fly SFO-Philadelphia. Alaska Airlines ramps up service from San Diego. The TSA adds PreCheck for (some) LAX and MSP flyers. DoubleTree takes over a hated Hilton in Maryland; and more.

January 12 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Get ready to pay higher fares, maybe lots higher fares. If at first you don't succeed, do something dumb. American cuts two more cities off the route map. Mr. Deluce goes to Washington (well, Dulles...). What a surprise: More fancy new hotels in China. The “good” news about those transatlantic 757 diversions; Southwest will launch its own Atlanta-LAX flights; and more.

January 5 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: If at first you don't succeed, do it wrong again. Deep in the heart of Texas, many new hotels. US Airways adds flights to small cities from Washington/National. Priority Club Rewards complicates its award chart. Michael Symon is coming to Pittsburgh Airport. American Airlines cuts three more routes. The Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi gets a hotel; and more.

These columns originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

Copyright © 1993-2012 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.