The Tactical Traveler

FOR JULY 27, 2000


This week: ground woes to match the flight delays at Newark Airport; websites dedicated to TWA Flight 800; information on in-flight use of mobile phones; Air Canada ejects an 88-year-old woman from a flight; and several superb summer hotel deals.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Worst Airport Gets Worse
Newark Airport has the most numerous arrival and departure delays in the nation, and that, it seems, is the good news. Travelers using the frenetic airport, located just across the Hudson from Manhattan, are in for a series of painful ground delays, too. The parking lot for Terminal C, home of Continental's huge hub and the airport's busiest facility, is already partially closed. The airport's balky monorail system is deteriorating rapidly and was partially shut earlier this month. Worse, the entire monorail network will shut down after Labor Day for a complete overhaul. That means travelers will be forced to rely on buses to connect to the airports' three passenger terminals, car-rental facilities and its distant long-term parking lots. Given the congested and often impassable roads at Newark, that means extensive ground delays that may soon match or exceed the airport's notorious air delays. For more information--or at least the official story--call 888-EWR-INFO or surf to the Newark Airport website.

CYBERTRAVELER: More Information on TWA Flight 800
Many readers contacted me after last week's Brancatelli File column and requested more details on the TWA Flight 800 tragedy. Thankfully, the Internet makes data of this type much more easily accessible. For example, some of the documents and evidence examined during the National Transportation Safety Administration hearings on TWA 800 are available at the NTSB's site []. A group of retired military officials and commercial aviators convinced that the NTSB botched the investigation have posted their own page []. The self-styled Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization is also on the web []. Families of the victims of TWA 800 maintain a site, too. And links to hundreds more websites, stories and opinions can be found at The Only Truth [], which is operated by observers who insist a missile was involved in the destruction of TWA 800.

AIRPORT REPORT: Pittsburgh International Gets an Upscale Hotel
A Hyatt Regency hotel has opened at Pittsburgh International Airport. The 11-story property has 331 rooms and 18,000 square feet of meeting space. … Washington-area airport authorities have approved a $3.4 billion expansion of Dulles International. The projects will include a new terminal, a fourth runway, more parking and a subway system to replace Dulles' hated "mobile lounges," which connect passengers to the airport's mid-field terminals. … An inter-city train station has opened at Düsseldorf Airport in Germany. About 270 trains a day stop at the station and they offer direct service to destinations as far away as Cologne, Berlin, and Erfurt. … Turnover of personnel at security-screening checkpoints averaged more than 125 percent at 19 large airports between May 1998 and April 1999. The General Accounting Office, which recently audited the Federal Aviation Administration's screening practices, says the turnover was due primarily to "low pay and few, if any, benefits" for employees.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The ban on in-flight use of personal mobile phones is not based on hard evidence of a safety risk, the Federal Aviation Administration admitted last week. Instead, the restriction is "preventing the extremely remote event" that cell phones might interfere with aircraft operations, an FAA executive said at a House Transportation subcommittee hearing. … Richard Branson's low-fare Australian airline will not launch on August 3 after all. Virgin Blue was due to begin next week with flights between Sydney and Brisbane. No new launch date was announced. … JetBlue Airways has decided not to charge for its live in-flight television broadcasts that use the airline's seat-back video screens and DirecTV satellite programming. The start-up carrier offers the 24-channel service at every seat. … Canadian regulators have rebuked Air Canada for removing an 88-year-old woman from a flight because she would not sit near the bathroom. The woman had booked a forward seat, but a flight attendant and the captain summarily deemed her "non-self-reliant" and demanded she sit in the back near a lavatory. The woman, who walks with a cane, refused to surrender her pre-assigned seat, so the pilot ejected her.

WEEKLY WONDERS: Hotel Deals Near and Far
The Waldorf Towers (212-355-3100), the private enclave at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, is offering suites for $375 a night. The price is valid Thursdays through Sundays until August 27. … The 185-room Melia Lima (800-33-MELIA) has opened in the Peruvian business capital. An introductory rate of $99 a night is available through September 30. … The "Relaxation and Rail Package" at the New Otani (800-421-8795) hotel in Los Angeles includes lodging, breakfast, parking and a roundtrip ticket on the expanded Metro Red Line. The price is $125 a night through the end of the year.

This column originally appeared at

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