The Tactical Traveler

FOR JULY 13, 2000


This week: United's service declines dramatically; a raft of worldwide airport developments; major changes at Hertz and Courtyard by Marriott; a new international calling plan from AT&T Wireless, and a premium-class deal from LanChile.

Experienced inept service from United Airlines lately? You're not alone. United has skidded to the bottom of almost every category tracked in the Transportation Department's monthly Air Travel Consumer Report. According to the most recent report, released last week and covering travel in May, only 56.6 percent of United's flights arrived on time compared to the industry average of 73.4 percent. Worse, United canceled more than 5,900 flights in May, equal to 8.7 percent of the airline's schedule. (Southwest canceled less than 1 percent of its flights in May.) United also has the worst mishandled-bag rate--6.71 reports per 1,000 passengers compared to an industry-average of 4.80--and racked up more than twice as many customer complaints than the average of the nation's 10 major carriers.

AIRPORT REPORT: Global Developments and Deterioration
An $18 million parking garage opened last week adjacent to Terminal 6 of Los Angeles International Airport. It offers 953 short-term spaces; parking on the first level is limited to a maximum of two hours. The monorail that connects the terminals and parking lots of Newark Airport is deteriorating and has been partially closed. The entire monorail system will close after Labor Day for extensive reconstruction. The battle over Love Field in Dallas appears to be over. American Airlines, based at Dallas/Fort Worth International, says it will abandon litigation aimed at squelching flights at Love. Legend Airlines launched luxury flights from Love earlier this year. Japan's three major airlines have begun a joint shuttle service between Itami and Kansai airports in Osaka and Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Most of the 35 million business travelers who commute between Japan's two largest cities currently use the country's high-speed bullet train.

CYBERTRAVELER: OAG Gets it Wrong--Again
When OAG unceremoniously ended publication of Frequent Flyer magazine last month, it made a pair of hard-to-swallow claims: Subscribers to the OAG Pocket Flight Guide didn't deserve a rebate on their $99 annual subscriptions to make good on the loss of Frequent Flyer and the magazine would be replaced by a "timely" web site. The new site has now debuted and it is unremittingly dreary. It's a pastiche of reprints and out-of-date, incomplete data about airports, car-rent firms, club lounges and frequent-flyer programs. There is no new material or breaking news of any kind. Worse, many links are still under construction. It can't even be bothered to integrate the archive of past issues of Frequent Flyer. Worst of all, the first edition of the site's bi-weekly newsletter, Frequent Flyer Update, offered blatant OAG promotions, useless pap and repackaged material from an old issue of Frequent Flyer.

PHONE FACTS: AT&T Changes International Cell-Phone Plans
AT&T Wireless customers who wish to use their domestic cell-phone number overseas might want to check out AT&T's new World Connect service. The program replaces the International Cell Card plan, but works in essentially the same manner: AT&T customers receive a memory card that is inserted into an international GSM-based phone that they may purchase or rent. The SIM card allows the international phone to receive calls placed to customer's domestic phone number. World Connect service costs $25 a year and $7.99 a month. Outgoing calls cost 99 cents a minute plus long distance charges of 25-95 cents a minute. Incoming international calls cost 25-95 cents per minute. The old Cell Card plan cost $49 annually; calls cost $1.95 a minute plus long distance charges.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
All Courtyard by Marriott hotels will add a "business library" and a 24-hour pantry. The library will feature workstations, power outlets, high-speed dataports and ergonomic seating. The pantry will sell prepared sandwiches, salads and beverages. Installations will begin later this year. The Hertz instant-renter program, Hertz #1 Club Gold, has added tiers based on rental activity. Ten rentals in 12 months earn "Five Star" status, which offers free one-class upgrades and a free rental day for every 20 rentals. Forty rentals earn "President's Circle" status, which offers an array of additional perks. Eight airlines have won the right to provide new flights to slot-controlled Reagan National Airport near Washington, DC. Most notably, none of the eight are among the nation's largest carriers. The winners include America West, for flights to Phoenix; Frontier, for service to its Denver hub; National Airlines, for service to Las Vegas; and TWA, for Reagan National's first-ever nonstop flights to Los Angeles.

WEEKLY WONDER: Loading Up on Extras at LanChile
Headed to Santiago before the end of the year? Consider business or first class on LanChile (800-735-5526). Travelers booking the airline's premium cabins by December 31 receive two free nights in a junior suite at the Radisson Royal Santiago, daily breakfast and a free cell-phone rental. LanChile operates 36 weekly nonstops from Miami, New York and Los Angeles.

This column originally appeared at

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