The Tactical Traveler

FOR JANUARY 26, 2000


This week: Time to revive our winter-weather travel regimen; more academics want to know about us; the winter bargains to Europe may extend into the spring; the "misery" at US Airways; and Worcester, Massachusetts, gets more service, a boon for New England travelers to hate Boston/Logan.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Reviving The Winter-Weather Travel Regimen
Miserable winter weather has caused thousands of delays and throngs of cancellations around the nation this month. The adverse conditions are a chilling reminder that business travelers should have already revived their winter-travel regimen. Among the standard procedures: Book early-morning flights because they are the least frequently delayed and give you maximum flexibility to rebook during the day. Carry a list of airline toll-free reservation numbers and a print-out of alternate routings to your destinations. Having this list will speed the rebooking process in case of cancellations or delays. Pack your carry-on bag with healthy snacks and bottled water; these will help you resist the temptations of the high-fat fast-food joints at the airport. Carry extra work or additional reading material to pass the time during delays. And have back-up reservations at an airport hotel on bad-weather days. Then you won't need to scramble for a room at the last moment if you're stranded at the airport overnight.

CYBERTRAVELER: Life on the Road, Analyzed by Academics
It seems that everyone is suddenly interested in our opinions and feelings about our lives on the road. The latest attempt to categorize and summarize us comes from two researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle. According to their website, they want to "better understand personal and situational factors related to air travel." At the site, A Study of Air Travel Experiences, you can fill out seven brief surveys that question you about your background, preferences, feelings, travel experiences and work-related activity. The surveys are anonymous, seem harmless enough, and require about 20 minutes to complete.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: How Long Will Trans-Atlantic Bargains Last?
Delta jumped into the trans-Atlantic fare fray last week, offering advance-purchase round-trip coach seats for as little as $198 (between Boston and Manchester, England) and $298 (Washington, DC to Barcelona). Like other carriers offering deep-discount fares across the pond, Delta's offer is aimed at shoring up weak winter travel and tickets must be purchased by January 31. But the eye-popping fares may be extended well into the spring, according to several airline executives I consulted last week. Even at prices as low as $99 one-way, winter traffic has been very slow and spring bookings at higher prices look sparse. Another factor: an immense amount of excess trans-Atlantic capacity, the result of a two-year build-up of service. "Continental and USAirways have both added capacity and destinations in Europe and several other carriers moved [planes] to trans-Atlantic markets when Asia traffic collapsed" in 1997, one airline pricing expert explained. "There just aren't enough passengers to fill all the seats we've got," another said. "You're going to see a lot of routes selling for under $300 round-trip [in coach] this spring and we'll be lucky to get that. And there'll be all sorts of business-class promotions: upgrade offers, two-for-ones, companion fares, bonus miles deals." One wrinkle: many of the best business-class deals will not be available to the public. Instead, they'll be marketed privately, to selected travelers, through frequent-flyer program offers, direct-mail promotions or via Email solicitations.

VERBATIM: The 'Misery' at USAirways
Due to a series of management blunders, the operational performance of US Airways in 1999 was nothing less than atrocious. During some months, in fact, the airline canceled an average of 186 flights a day. Did the carrier's long-suffering customers notice? Absolutely, admits US Airways president Rakesh Gangwal. In fact, the airline's most profitable customers--full-fare business travelers--have taken their business elsewhere. Talking to security analysts last week, Gangwal reflected on the airline's inability to win back frequent travelers. "The biggest shortfall is in the walk-up customer," he said. "That customer has now found Continental and Delta to be a better option for them because of the misery we caused last year."

THE WEEKLY WONDER: A Real New England Bargain
Boston's Logan Airport is bursting at the seams and many New England flyers would prefer to use the regional airport in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts. The problem? With the exception of US Airways Express flights to Philadelphia, there is no service. That changes February 1, however, when Delta Connection carrier Atlantic Southeast launches two daily regional jet flights to Delta's Atlanta hub. Introductory prices are as low as $158 round-trip on the Atlanta nonstops; connecting prices include $178 round-trip to Tampa, $198 to Miami, and $218 to Austin, Texas. Fares require a 7-day advance purchase and a Saturday stay. All travel must be completed by February 29.

This column originally appeared at

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