The Tactical Traveler

FOR OCTOBER 19, 2000


This week: Northwest rolls out Internet boarding passes; our weekly update on America's low-fare carriers; Salt Lake City begins ticket sales for the 2002 Winter Olympics; airlines abandon Kuala Lumpur's new airport; United settles with some stranded passengers; and your summer horror story could win you a Caribbean cruise.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: E Boarding Passes for E Tickets
Some carriers are thinking about it and a few are testing it, but Northwest Airlines is actually rolling out a useful new benefit: create-your-own Internet boarding passes. Domestic travelers who have purchased electronic tickets and are flying to or from Northwest's Minneapolis and Memphis hubs can go to the Northwest website and print out their own boarding pass. The computer-generated plain-paper pass permits travelers to bypass check-in lines and go directly to the departure gate. This Internet procedure is available from 24 hours to 90 minutes before the scheduled departure. Northwest says travelers at its Detroit hub will be able to use electronic check-in beginning next week. Additional markets will be phased in November 1 and all travelers purchasing E-tix for domestic flights will have Internet access on December 1. As an added incentive, travelers using Internet check-in before December 31 will receive 1,000 WorldPerks miles.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: Our Weekly Update on America's Low-Fare Airlines
AirTran Airways announced Tuesday it will expand into Pittsburgh on December 12. It will challenge USAirways, Pittsburgh's largest carrier, with two daily nonstops to Atlanta, three to Chicago/O'Hare and three to New York/LaGuardia. Prices start at $59 one-way for 14-day advance-purchase fares; business-class fares start at $194 one-way. American Trans Air is adding three more flights between Chicago/Midway and its home base in Indianapolis. Effective November 9, ATA will fly nine times daily between the two cities. ATA is also adding an additional nonstop between Midway and Dayton on the same day. Southwest Airlines will launch a daily nonstop flight between Salt Lake City and Baltimore/Washington on December 10. Separately, Southwest shattered analysts' expectations Tuesday by reporting that its third-quarter earnings jumped 45 percent compared to the same period of 1999.

CYBERTRAVELER: Are You Ready for the 2002 Winter Olympics?
Some travelers aren't even back from their Australian sojourn yet, but that isn't stopping the folks in Salt Lake City, home of the 2002 Winter Olympics. They've already begun selling tickets at their website for the 165 winter events from February 8 to February 24. The Winter Games take place at 10 venues, including Park City, Snowbasin and Deer Valley. Plan carefully and be prepared to travel: Some of the venues are almost three hours drive from each other and more than two hours from Salt Lake International Airport. Prices range from $25 to $885 for opening and closing ceremonies; tickets must be requested by December 12.

AIRPORT REPORT: The Dream is Dying in Kuala Lumpur
In the mid-1990s, the Malaysian government gambled a billion dollars on Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and dreamed the facility would develop into a hub to challenge Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. No such luck. Malaysia and most of Asia's economies cratered in mid-1997, airline traffic promptly plummeted and that made the airport a white elephant even before it was finished. When KLIA finally opened a year later, it was plagued by operational snafus and complaints about its distant location. Several Malaysia carriers even refused to move short-haul flights to the new airport. Now KLIA is losing long-haul service, too. British Airways announced last week that it would drop its London-Kuala Lumpur route in March. Lufthansa has also abandonned Kuala Lumpur, meaning KLIA will be a distant third behind Changi in Singapore and Hong Kong International for years, and perhaps decades, to come.

LEGAL BRIEFS: Stranded Passengers Fight Back
United Airlines settled a class-action suit last week filed by passengers stranded on a Milwaukee tarmac for about six hours on Christmas Eve, 1997. The 168 passengers on Flight 1536 will each receive $500 in cash and a $500 travel voucher. Separately, a Michigan judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of the 8,000 Northwest Airlines passengers stranded at Detroit/Metro airport during the New Year's weekend snowstorm of 1999. Northwest continues to insist it did nothing wrong even though some passengers spent up to 10 hours on planes with malfunctioning toilets and no food or water.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Chef/entrepreneur Todd English, whose empire includes the Olives and Figs Mediterranean restaurant chains, is branching out to airports. An outlet of Figs is scheduled to open October 26 at New York's LaGuardia Airport. There will be a 125-seat restaurant and take-out facilities. Ritz-Carlton is out as the manager of the Double Bay hotel in Sydney. The 9-year-old property will now be managed by Stamford Hotels, a Singapore-based chain. London callers take note: the 0171 and 0181 dialing codes have been discontinued. Calls must be placed with the 0207 or 0208 codes or they will not be completed. ... It may be cold comfort--well, actually, it would be warm comfort--but Travel Guard International will award a Caribbean cruise for two to the traveler with the most compelling summer "travel survivor" story. Entries for the contest sponsored by the well-known travel-insurance company should be no more than 250 words and must be submitted by November 30. The story should focus on this summer's horrific, delay-plagued and cancellation-ridden travel season and how the situation was eventually resolved. For more details and to pen an entry, consult the Travel Guard website.

This column originally appeared at

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