THE TACTICAL TRAVELER FOR 2013

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 26 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: How to beat the 2014 frequent-travel plans devaluations. It's an old-fashioned hub war between Delta and Alaska. American will switch to banked hubs next year. Hyatt opens an Andaz on Peninsula Papagayo. Hilton returns to central Paris late in 2014. Southwest juggles its schedules from coast to coast. Delta will retire its last DC-9 On January 6. And more.

December 19 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Labor peace at the merged American? Hah! TSA opens PreCheck centers in three cities. Israel gets a Ritz-Carlton hotel near Tel Aviv. US Airways extends elite status through March. Virgin Atlantic is charging for seat assignments. SPG members get perks at Caesars Casinos. Surprise! United lies about its frequent flyer program. And to all a Good Flight ...

December 12 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The new federal budget means more TSA fees for us and kickbacks for the airlines. JetBlue adds high-speed (and mostly free) WiFi. Portland's Eastland Hotel reopens as a Westin. Delta adds confirmed upgrades, but cuts some seats. United removes Singapore Airlines award availability from its website and app. Alaska Airlines creates more ways to earn elite status. US Airways will join Oneworld on March 31. Etihad and Qatar Airways will both fly to DFW. And more.

December 5 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The first AA-US merger move takes benefits from us. What will Virgin America do with its new LaGuardia slots? Delta tells the Supreme Court that fair play and good faith have no place in frequent flyer plans. Two more hotels open in the crazy-quilt New York market. Southwest drops three cities off its route map. Marriott Rewards adds new properties in Rome and Milan. TSA opens its first PreCheck enrollment center. And much more.

November 21 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: United is losing 300,000 flyers a month and its solution is to make flying even worse. JetBlue joins PreCheck but there are notable quirks. Southwest now offers gate-to-gate Net access. Whose flag is flying at that hotel at the airport? After a downgrade, Gold Passport has good news. American Airlines auctioning upgrades six days out. The best car-rental firm? J.D. Power says it's National. And much more.

November 14 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Slot War Redux: JetBlue and Southwest will go head-to-head again in New York and Washington. Hyatt raises the price of Gold Passport awards for its best rooms and best hotels. Delta is adding flights at Sea-Tac and Boston/Logan. Marriott opens new hotels in all price segments. Southwest Airlines joins the TSA PreCheck plan. More carriers allow PED use below 10,000 feet. Alaska Airlines raises the price of many flight awards; and much more.

November 9 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: A Tower of Babel on PED use below 10,000 feet. United and Delta race to bottom of award charts. Frontier expands again in Wilmington and Trenton. Marriott instantly doubles its Africa presence. Starwood gains a few hotels, loses a few hotels. Some American elites retain a small perk. Changes from the Official Airline of Oliver Twist and much more.

October 31 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: FAA's new electronics rule isn't what you think. The TSA opens PreCheck lanes at five more airports. Alaska Air increases check-in time to 40 minutes. JetBlue expands its Caribbean network from Fort Lauderdale. Western hotels continue their invasion of India. Cathay Pacific opens another Hong Kong lounge. It turns out United's Jeff Smisek is bad tough guy, too. And much more.

October 24 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The quarterly "United-sucks-still-denies-it" item. Delta is walking on Memphis and building in Sea-Tac. The high cost of a 16-day government shutdown. Qatar Airways says it will fly to Miami next year. US Airways adds four Europe cities from Charlotte. Atlanta won't switch to free WiFi this year. Warning: Loose lips sink business travelers. And much more...

October 17 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The new discounter on U.S.-London routes is... Norwegian Air Shuttle. American Express opens a club at DFW and waives entry fee for more cardholders. Hyatt adds three more Hyatt Place hotels. American Airlines juggles its Asia flight network. A new runway opens at O'Hare and should reduce delays. JetBlue will fly between Boston and Detroit. An injured kangaroo hops into an airport pharmacy...and much more.

October 10 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: United and Delta duke it out in the West. American Airlines bails on Barbados and JetBlue picks up the slack. Western hotels open new branches in Asia. Air Canada's hot to fly from Montreal again. Life after US Airways at Pittsburgh Airport. Frontier Airlines adds more Trenton flights. The Powerscourt Hotel in Ireland dumps Ritz-Carlton. And much more.

October 3 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Do you believe in (flying) magic? We just flew it! The timing of antitrust trial gets hinky ... again. Delta bulks up at Seattle-Tacoma ... again. Frontier is sold to a man who hates customers. JetBlue's transcon premium prices are $599-$999 each way. Hyatt converts hotels in Orlando and Denver. When will the FAA ease in-flight electronics rule? And much more.

September 26 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Delta and Virgin Atlantic do the Heathrow shuffle. They just keep opening focused-service hotels. The lounge life gets just a little better at LAX. Alitalia is back on the financial ropes. Southwest raises price of its cheapest awards. International airlines don't love the Dreamliner. China has quietly revised its U.S. Visa policy. And much more.

September 19 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Room rates soar as the world's politicians descend on New York. New global nonstop routes you didn't expect. JetBlue adds routes to Savannah and Trinidad. Phase one of new Bradley Terminal opens at LAX. Starwood Preferred Guest loses a Rome hotel and Hilton HHonors might get a central Paris property again. Hyatt opens a hotel on Delaware's Rehoboth Beach. OnePass miles in unused accounts expire September 30. And much more.

September 13 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: You are not getting fatter, the coach seats are getting smaller. AAdvantage gets Qatar Airways later this month. Phase one of New Bradley Terminal opens next week at LAX. Gogo rolls out faster in-flight WiFi--late next year. United adds routes from Chicago/O'Hare hub. Another burst of new hotels opens around the world. Worst. Summer. Flying. Season. Ever. And much more.

September 5 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The revenge of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. New places in the sun to use Hyatt Points. TSA expands PreCheck to 60 more airports. Delta turns its attention to JFK Terminal 2. What to expect from a US Air-run American Airlines. Residence Inn opens second Manhattan hotel. Another fare increase goes down in flames. And much more.

August 22 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: United Airlines shuffles its international fleet--again. DoubleTree converts some more crappy hotels. Delta adds and subtracts rapidly at its Sea-Tac mini-hub. First Merger Fight: when to start the antitrust trial. Cathay Pacific launches a Newark-Hong Kong run. Air Canada adds international upgrade co-pay charges. WestJet's new fare bucket includes more perks. And much more.

August 15 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: The Justice Department says "Sorry" for approving other mergers. Delta raises the price of its cheapest international business-class awards. Aerolineas Argentinas resumes JFK-Buenos Aires service. June: One of the worst flying months in 18 years. Bob Crandall, the self-declared King of Spain, is suddenly a consumer advocate. United opens a new club lounge in San Diego. How much is that maggot in my sandwich? And much more.

August 8 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Just 5.9 percent of flyers are using in-flight WiFi when it is available. JetBlue, now a corporate teenager, is changing fast. There are signs of (hotel) life in downtown Syracuse and Baton Rouge. Airport food and drink options are getting much better. National Car's new app allows advance car selection. San Juan's Condado Beach Hotel switches flags--again. (Blue) smoke and menus on Delta's JFK-LHR run. And much more.

August 1 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Just like old times: Chaos in the California Corridor. U.S. hotel chains continue their worldwide expansion. American upgrades commuter jets on three O'Hare runs. Turkish Airlines will add a Boston-Istanbul route. Porter Airlines imposes checked-bag charges on transborder flights. Airlines launching winter ski and snowbird routes. Proof that we're not as stupid as airline executives think.

July 25 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: TSA will expand PreCheck to all flyers who pay, but there's a better way. Delta will launch a nonstop Seattle-Heathrow run. To get a merger, US Air-American will shed slots to permit a Philadelphia competitor. Detroit's Pontchartrain reopens as a Crowne Plaza. Very few flyers generate the most transcon dough. Qantas offers limos to some DFW and LAX flyers. Hyatt will open all-inclusive resorts in Mexico. And much more.

July 18 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: There'll always be England--fighting over the future of London/Heathrow. You know that hotel you like? It may have changed. Marriott and United offer reciprocal elite perks. Hartsfield gets its first public club lounge. San Antonio Airport gets a hot Mexican restaurant. United tests inter-terminal limo transfers at Houston/Intercontinental. JetBlue upgrades food offerings on some transcon flights. And more.

July 11 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: United's 787 Dreamliners are even less reliable than United systemwide. A new Hartsfield eatery offers more than your average airport fare. Aer Lingus will add nonstops to San Francisco and Toronto. Frontier says no more free TV for elite flyers. DoubleTree hasn't seen the hotel it won't reflag. Alaska Airlines jacks up checked-baggage and change fees. The Airport Transport Guide is now available for Android phones, too. And much more.

June 27 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: There are two more fancy Paris hotels where we can earn and burn points. Alaska Airlines adds to and revives routes out West. Air Canada tweaks Aeroplan and (of course) hikes award costs. Delta and Virgin Atlantic hook up starting next week. A burst of Marriott hotels open in North America. The DOT fines Delta (sorta) for denied-boarding violations. Gogo in-flight WiFi goes public and tanks on Nasdaq. And much more.

June 20 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: United chief executive Smisek says let them eat split cashews. The feds raise the alarm on an American-US Air deal. Three new hotels open on one block in Chicago. Together Again: Marriott Rewards and American AAdvantage. Hertz starts renting "Dream Cars" in 35 markets. Turkish Airlines is dropping its premium-economy class. Krusty Burger and Lard Lad donuts--for real; and much more.

June 13 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: It's beginning to look a lot like US Airways at American Airlines. Omni Hotels takes over five iconic independent resorts. Again: The airlines should brush up their Dylan. Ritz-Carlton gets booted from its Palm Beach hotel. Spooky: Hilton opens a Hampton in Transylvania. The dollar drops against the pound, yen and euro. United goes all flat-bed on long-haul flights. And much more.

June 6 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Hyatt fills its Las Vegas gap with an MGM Resorts deal. Delta officially drops its shrinking Memphis hub. A Marriott hotel opens in Deadwood, South Dakota. What would Wild Bill Hickok say? Want more SkyMiles MQMs? Fewer airlines offer them. The TSA reinstates the ban on Swiss Army Knives. Southwest says you can now buy or transfer Rapid Rewards points. United sells Economy-Plus subscriptions again.

May 30 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: A shiny new terminal doesn't solve Delta's split hub at JFK. American is launching flights from Miami to Milan. Planning to cash in miles for Hawaii? Better hurry. The Eden Roc in Miami Beach wants to toss Marriott as managers. A burst of limited-service hotels opens around the world. Avianca-Taca abruptly ends LAX and JFK flights to Costa Rica. United adds new club lounge at Sea-Tac. And much more.

May 16 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: American's new carry-on bag policy is, uh, ironic. Manhattan and Midland, Texas, get the same hotel. Isn't it ironic? United adds an ORD-San Juan route. No irony: JetBlue builds fast in Fort Lauderdale. Qatar Airways will fly to Philadelphia next year. Dreamliner 787 flights finally resume. Virgin America keeps losing money, but plans an IPO. A Saudi man arrested at Detroit's Metro Airport for packing...a pressure cooker. And much more.

May 9 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Big airlines should brush up their Bob Dylan. Comings and Goings: Aspirational Hotel Division. This should improve the Bradley Terminal at LAX. From Luxury to Limited: A rare hotel conversion. U.S. dollar hits 100 yen for the first time in four years. Hilton opens two Hampton Inns in Amsterdam. Lipstick on a pig, Turkish Airlines edition. And much more.

May 2 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Time to add Frontier to your "Do Not Fly" list. How to find airlines' standby rules and fees. You can sue U.S. hotels domestically for trouble overseas. JetBlue beefs up service to Hartford, Connecticut. Lufthansa settles pay dispute and the strikes end. Alaska Airlines adds flights in Portland, Oregon. Maybe they should name it after a sausage ... and much more.

April 25 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Southwest will dump AirTran's Atlanta hub. Alaska Airlines is stuffing more seats on its planes. US Airways follows United and ups the change fees. The FAA officially clears the Dreamliner to fly again and Japan follows suit. A dual-branded Hilton opens in an historic downtown Denver building. JetBlue will fly to Peru from Ft. Lauderdale, and much more.

April 18 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: As American Airlines showed this week, beware when carriers claim they are "back to normal." Frontier Airlines says flying anywhere is better than Philadelphia. The Nikko in San Francisco opens a nightclub. The new United Express terminal opens in Houston. The price of crude oil drops below $88 a barrel. New York/Kennedy is king of international flights. You get $19.5 million! And you get $19.5 million! And much more.

April 11 Briefing for Business Travelers
Airlines hit the pricing fare wall in March, but they keep trying in April. JetBlue adds flights to Worcester, Massachusetts. Hyatt increases perks for Diamond Gold Passport members. Delta ups the price of most same-day standbys. Emirates says it'll fly nonstop between New York and Milan. The FAA delays sequester-inspired air-control tower closings. Marriott adds two edgy British boutique hotels. And more.

April 4 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: How many Washington/National slots will US Airways and American Airlines cede? Hyatt grows by five hotels overnight in India. Myrtle Beach gets a new terminal building. Penair, the commuter carrier from Alaska, opens a Boston/Logan hub. Air Canada simplifies cross-border luggage. Atlantic City's year-old, $2.4 billion Revel goes bust and is now worth $450 million. Marriott's hidden hotel-trick in Cooperstown, New York. And much more.

March 28 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Lufthansa hopes you're ready to buy discounted first-class seats. Priority Club says come for the new perks, stay for points accrual. Delta adds more flights to London and Paris from Atlanta. TSA adds the PreCheck service at five more airports. JetBlue is now the power player at Boston/Logan. No severance for Tom Horton, says the American bankruptcy judge. Apparently, frequent flyers are the "5 percent." And more.

March 21 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Southwest and AirTran finally link networks. A new terminal opens in Birmingham. Just like old times: European airlines on strike. Everywhere you look around the world, more new hotels open. JetBlue will fly from O'Hare to San Juan. Membership Rewards says no more loaner points. American launches Miami-San Diego using a 737, and much more.

March 7 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Why we pay so much attention to London flights. Delta takes a run at Los Angeles, the Open City. Don't count your Moxy hotels before they hatch from the Marriott and IKEA partnership. All of the new flight action is Out West in Canada. The NTSB can't explain the 787's battery problems. The TSA lifts the ban on Swiss Army knives and Leatherman tools in carry-on bags. Don't stand between Willie Walsh and his bonus and much more.

February 28 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Fly the unfriendly skies of "Sequestration Nation." Amex jumps into the airport lounge business. Marriott opens a really tall luxury hotel in Dubai. JetBlue's Terminal 5 at JFK will get a club lounge. TSA will roll out PreCheck to five more airports. The dollar firms up against world currencies. Already "plane rich"? Buy a commuter airline! And much more.

February 21 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: How not to get shafted by the gigantic Hilton HHonors cutbacks. Starwood and Wyndham devalue their frequency programs, too. United's crawlout (er, rollout) of the new transcontinental p.s. service. Frontier pulls out of Colorado Springs. Starwood debuts a "Velcro" hotel in Atlanta. There are plenty of strike-related cancellations in Europe. Diamonds Are Forever, Business Travel Edition; and much more.

February 14 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: United moves many of its aging 747s to San Francisco routes; changes you're sure to hate at Marriott Rewards; Iberia cancels about 400 flights ahead of strikes; eight major Holiday Inns defect to Wyndham; Virgin America adds SFO-Austin "nerd bird" flights; a new JetBlue app allows mobile boarding passes; a wasted-away hotel becomes Margaritaville; and more.

February 7 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Forget Iberia--and AAdvantage Awards on Iberia. Hyatt will reflag four iconic French hotels in April. Delta and Starwood link elite programs...sort of. Air Canada adds international Premium Economy. Virgin America adds San Jose and Frontier adds Cincinnati. Southwest offers double Rapid Reward Points. India gets three more big-name chain hotels and much more.

January 31 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Embassy Suites has another idea for those silly atriums. American Advantage and Hyatt Gold Passport offer big bonuses for miles and points purchases. The euro is on the rampage against the dollar. Life after the Great Recession for Chicago hotels. The new number six in Europe: Istanbul Airport. Loews Hotel snaps up Boston's Back Bay Hotel. Star Alliance opens a lounge in Buenos Aires, and much more.

January 24 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Let's get small (again): Airlines keep shrinking. Independent hotels are adding major brand names. New Southwest "service": $40 for A boarding slot. New American Eagle jets get Main Cabin Extra seats. Toronto/Pearson gets two Massimo Capra restaurants. Will "The Friendly Confines" get its own hotel? And more.

January 17 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Delta begins the transition to a revenue-based SkyMiles program. Frontier's final frontier is, apparently, Trenton, New Jersey. Jameson Inn is dismembered, then plans a revival. An American hub no more, Eagle flees San Juan. The FAA warns about in-flight coffee explosions. A Spanx store opens at Atlanta/Hartsfield. Would you rent a silver Audi from this guy?

January 10 Briefing for Business Travelers
This week: Everything’s coming up China in business travel. Airlines start 2013 by bulking up at their hubs. US Airways admits the obvious: Its partner awards are very limited. United changes its boarding process. Again. Alaska Air offers award seats on Emirates. Hilton's out in Toledo and Hyatt's out in Tampa. The first airfare hike of the year goes south; and much more.

These columns originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

Copyright © 1993-2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.