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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR FEBRUARY 22, 1999


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: The Tokyo two-step on Japan flights; finding Africa news on the Net; airport slots and delay statistics; the airline strike watch; deals for March Madness; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Tokyo Two-Step
When the United States and Japan finally concluded a bi-lateral aviation agreement earlier this year, airlines giddily announced a plethora of new routes to Tokyo. Now, of course, reality has set in. With Japan's economy stubbornly recessed and most of the rest of Asia in financial turmoil, there's virtually no demand for all the new flights. So carriers are doing a two-step around their previously announced plans. Among the new routes to Tokyo abruptly deferred or canceled: American Airlines from New York and Boston; Continental Micronesia from Honolulu; and TWA from St. Louis. Additionally, Delta Air Lines has chosen not to start flights between Portland, Oregon, and Osaka, Japan.

CYBERTRAVELER: Finding the Lost Continent
Africa is a virtual lost continent when you look at the route maps of the U.S. airlines; in fact, no U.S. flag carrier even offers service to a sub-Saharan destination. The region is also poorly represented on the web. But point your browser to Africa.com (http://www.africa.com) and you'll find a cogent, effective site dedicated to African news, public affairs, religion, culture and travel. It's an invaluable resource for Africa watchers.

AIRPORT REPORT: Slots and Statistics
The Clinton Administration wants to end the "slot" restrictions that control traffic and flights at three of the nation's busiest airports: O'Hare in Chicago, and LaGuardia and Kennedy in New York. But just days after floating the proposal, the Federal Aviation Administration released statistics that showed all three are among the ten worst airports for delayed flights. Ending slot controls would allow an unlimited number of new flights and new carriers at the three airports. More flights and new airlines in Chicago and New York would lead to lower fares, promise bureaucrats at the FAA and the Transportation Department. And even though the slot controls were originally imposed to reduce delays, Clinton Administration officials insist additional flights would not lead to more delays at O'Hare, LaGuardia and Kennedy. But ten days after proposing the end of slot restrictions, the FAA released national on-time statistics that showed the three airports can't efficiently handle the traffic they already have. In 1998, O'Hare registered 28,751 flight delays, or 3.2 percent of its traffic. That ranked O'Hare third on the FAA list of most congested airports. Number 5 was LaGuardia, with 24,689 delays, or 6.8 percent of its traffic. Kennedy came in eighth, with 12,962 delays, which represented 3.6 percent of its traffic. The most congested airport in the nation? Newark Airport, which had 31,924 flight delays, or 6.9 percent of its traffic. Just across the river from Manhattan, Newark is the fastest growing airport in the Metropolitan area because it is the only facility in the region without slot controls.

STRIKE WATCH: Next in Line
The end of the pilot's sickout at American Airlines is hardly the end of labor unrest in business travel. Next in line for potential service disruption: America West. The carrier's flight attendants have been unable to cut a deal with America West management and the National Mediation Board has declared negotiations at an impasse. A federally mandated 30-day "cooling off" period is now in effect. When it ends at midnight March 19, the flight attendants will be free to strike if no deal is reached. But the labor turmoil doesn't end there. With the exception of Continental and Southwest, all the major carriers have open union contracts. "It could be ugly," one analyst says. "Unions are fighting to regain the givebacks they surrendered when the airlines were losing money early in the decade. There's a feeling among employees that they sacrificed to keep the carriers flying, but management hasn't shared the wealth when the profits rolled in."

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
You've only got until Thursday, February 25, to book these super-low fares to Europe offered by Sabena, the Belgian Airline. Non-refundable roundtrip prices start at $300 from Chicago to 40 European cities and you can travel from April 12 through May 15. Sample fares: $300 to Madrid or Barcelona; $310 to Frankfurt, Munich and other German cities; $390 to Lisbon; and $510 to many Scandinavian cities. Restrictions: purchase tickets within 72 hours of booking and stay over the first Sunday after departure. Contact Sabena by phone (800-955-2000). Magellan's (http://www.magellans.com), the superlative supplier of essential travel gear, has now churned out a wonderful guide to packing. "Magellan's Passport to Compact Packing" is a compact 16 pages, and its crammed with wit, wisdom and common-sense advice for lightening your load. There are tips on choosing the right bag, packing without wrinkles, and a section called "unexpected assets," which suggests some specialty gear you may want to carry along. Best of all, the guide is free; call 800-962-4943.

WEEKLY WONDER: March Madness
Even casual fans get stoked by "March Madness," the 64-team basketball orgy that represents the playoff system of Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Tickets for the "Final Four"--where the surviving teams battle for the national championship--are usually impossible to get. But Spectacular Sports Specials (800-451-5772) is offering Final Four packages for prices that start at $2,130 a person. The 5-day/4-night bundles from March 26-30 include: tickets to the Final Four tournament at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida; lodgings in Tampa Bay or St. Petersburg; daily breakfast; parties; game and airport transportation; and taxes.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.