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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR NOVEMBER 4, 1999


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Passenger rights and political wrongs; a new 12-gate concourse in Phoenix; a burst of food Web sites focused on specific cities; get used to some new area codes; American Airlines thinks fares are too low; a whimsical fare sale from Swissair; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Passenger Rights, Political Wrongs
Remember the Congressional outrage aimed at airlines in the weeks after Northwest stranded thousands of passengers for up to eight hours on runways and tarmacs at Detroit Metro Airport? Remember the political promises to make the carriers straighten up and fly right? Then remember how all the rhetoric dissolved into farce when Congress allowed the airlines to formulate their voluntary and meaningless "customer service plans?" Here's one possible explanation for how the "passenger rights" movement got sidetracked. During the first half of 1999, when Congress was considering passenger-rights legislation, transportation interests channeled $2,740,700 of "soft money" to politicians. According to Common Cause [http://www.commoncause.org], that is more than three times the amount contributed during the same period of 1995. In the first six months of the year, Common Cause also reports, airlines contributed a total of $1,024,594 in soft money to Republicans and Democrats.

AIRPORT REPORT: Phoenix Gets Another Dozen
A new 12-gate concourse opened at Terminal 4 of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. America West, which will use the new gates, says it will open an America West Club on the concourse by the end of the month. A business center with an 80-seat theater and 21 meeting rooms has opened at London City Airport, the vest-pocket facility in the Docklands area of the British capital. Delta Air Lines says it will provide $335 million of the estimated $386 million cost of renovating Terminal A at Boston's Logan Airport. Construction is expected to begin in 18 months and be completed by 2004. The cost of a plan to add two new terminals and two customs facilities at O'Hare International in Chicago has nearly quadrupled to $3.7 billion. The city's aviation department, which quoted the new financing cost last week, estimated the project at $1 billion when it announced the plan in February.

CYBERTRAVELER: Food! Glorious Food!
It's okay to admit it. You go to Philadelphia and you stock up on Tastykakes. You stuff a dozen bagels in your carry-on as you leave New York. You grab a couple of containers of barbecue in Memphis. And who leaves London without a few jars of their favorite marmalade? Thanks to the web, however, there is an easier way to get the food we love from the places we visit. A growing number of specialty sites now cater to the culinary craving of business travelers and ship anywhere. The British Grocers (http://www.britishgrocers.com) naturally focuses on British products, including sauces, condiments, teas and groceries. Taste of Philadelphia (http://www.tasteofphiladelphia.com/) covers your need for Tastykakes, cheese steaks and even scrapple. The Homesick Gourmet (http://www.homesickgourmet.com/) is a wonderful referral site, offering hundreds of links to specialty and regional food makers around the nation. And if you're looking for hard-to-find oldies like Moxie soda and Maypo breakfast cereal, try Hometown Favorites (http://www.hometownfavorites.com/).

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Dialing for Change
The telecommunications boom continues to play havoc with area codes throughout the country. And the pace of change is accelerating as more and more people require multiple telephone numbers for second voice lines, fax machines, modems and cell phones. Business travelers take note: These are just some of the telephone changes taking effect in November. The familiar 516 area code no longer encompasses all of Long Island, the heavily populated suburb of New York City. Area code 631 replaces 516 in Suffolk County, home of the Hamptons, the summer beach enclave. In southern New Jersey, area code 856 will supplant area code 609 in some communities near Camden. The region around Knoxville, Tennessee, gets another new code, 865, to join 423. And in central Florida, the fast-growing Orlando area will get a new code, 321, to supplement the traditional 407 code. And don't think these phone follies are limited to the United States. To prepare for its telecommunications liberalization, Portugal changed all its area codes last weekend. And come April 22, Britain will reorder its codes for the third time in a decade.

DOLLAR WATCH: A Call for Higher Fares
You may think your airfares are already too high, but American Airlines chief executive Donald Carty thinks otherwise. He lashed out at the aviation industry last month and complained that it is adding too many flights and cutting too many fares. Speaking to Wall Street analysts, Carty complained: "I think we [airlines] are lousy pricers. It's a management problem." Carty railed against carriers using fare wars to steal market share. "This is just abject stupidity--increasing market share while profits are going down." Carty also complained about competitors who add capacity then slash prices to fill seats. "The industry has got real profitability problem. Unless the industry gets more disciplined about capacity, long-term profitability prospects are rather bleak."

THE WEEKLY WONDER: $3.30 for an A-330 Seat
Swissair isn't a carrier known for its sense of humor, but give them their due on this one: To promote its new Airbus A-330 service between Boston and Zurich, Swissair (800-221-4750) is selling companion seats for $3.30 each. The restrictions are relatively light: Buy a Boston-Zurich coach seat (from $636 roundtrip) or a full-fare business or first-class ticket and you'll pay just $3.30 for a companion seat in the same class of service. Travel is valid November 14-December 14 and January 11-January 31. Tickets must be purchased by November 19.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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