The Tactical Traveler

FOR MAY 17 TO MAY 31, 2001


This week: the United-US Airways deal may be dead; several alternate airlines are launching new flights; the end of the TWA Aviators program; and British Airways launches an amazing summer fare sale to Europe; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The United-US Airways Merger May Be Dead
United Airlines suspended planning for a US Airways acquisition last week and sent the 500 people working on its transition back to their regular duties. United officially denies that the move has any significance other than the fact that the planning teams have completed their work, but virtually everyone else interprets the decision as another sign the controversial merger has run aground. "There's never enough time to plan for something like this," one United insider said earlier this week. "Internally, most of us feel as if this is dead." United first proposed the merger almost exactly one year ago, but it has been delayed by regulatory opposition. In fact, the Justice Department has never said when, or even if, it will make a public statement on the merger. The next key date in the saga: August 1. That's when either United or US Airways can bail out of the deal with minimal financial penalty.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: More New Flights from America's Other Carriers
Midway Airlines
is adding two new routes from its Raleigh-Durham hub. On June 1, it begins daily nonstop night service to Los Angeles using Boeing 737s. On June 19, it launches four daily flights to Washington/Dulles using 50-seat regional jets. JetBlue Airways has launched three daily flights to Syracuse, New York, from its New York/Kennedy hub. Until May 31, JetBlue is waiving advance-purchase restrictions on Syracuse-Kennedy flights and onward service to five Florida destinations. One-way prices start at $49 to Kennedy and $94 to Florida through May 31. Southwest Airlines will continue its relentless expansion this summer by adding more longer-haul nonstop flights. On September 12, the carrier will add service between Houston/Hobby and both Los Angeles and Orlando. It will also add a daily nonstop between Islip, New York, and West Palm Beach.

CYBERTRAVELER: Say Goodbye to the TWA Aviators Program
Now that American Airlines has gobbled up the bankrupt TWA, some details of the inevitable end to the TWA Aviators frequent-flyer program have been announced. According to the TWA website, Aviators will cease to exist on November 30. (This assumes a pro forma approval by the bankruptcy court on June 18.) TWA members will receive an automatic one-time credit in their American AAdvantage account to cover the entire balance of their Aviators activity. But the credit depends on your name and address being listed identically in the records of both Aviators and AAdvantage. Travelers whose identities don't match or who don't have an existing AAdvantage account will have to register to receive the credit.

CONNECTIONS: Airport News You Need to Know
United Airlines last week finally removed the carry-on baggage sizing templates from X-ray security stations at Washington/Dulles Airport. United acted only after an order from a federal district court and under the threat of a contempt citation for not removing the sizers immediately after a court ruling in March. A Laptop Lane Aerzone Business Center has opened in the main terminal at St. Louis/Lambert Airport. Fully-equipped office cubicles rent for 65 cents a minute after a $5 minimum. A conference room in the facility rents for $60 an hour. Athens International Airport, which opened in March, is scheduled to get its first hotel in September. The French Sofitel chain says its property will offer 345 guest rooms and suites, 13,500 square feet of meeting space, a business center, two restaurants and a fitness center.

ON THE FLY: International Routes Are Coming--and Going
Virgin Atlantic will launch daily nonstop Boeing 747 service between Toronto/Pearson and London/Gatwick beginning June 12. Cathay Pacific will become the third carrier this year to offer nonstop flights to Hong Kong from the New York area. Twice-daily A340 service between Cathay's Hong Kong hub and Kennedy Airport begins on September 1. Continental launched a Hong Kong nonstop from its Newark hub in March and United began nonstop Hong Kong-Kennedy flights in April. On the negative side of the ledger, however, Delta Air Lines is dropping its flights to Lyon, France, on September 1. The service from Kennedy, launched last year, "has not developed sufficiently," Delta explained. American Airlines tried New York-Lyon several years ago with similar results. And Northwest Airlines says its will drop its Seattle-Osaka flights in September. Also going is Northwest's onward services from Osaka to Kuala Lumpur and Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: BA's Shocking Summer Bargains
Traffic to Europe is plummeting and that has forced major players like British Airlines (800-AIRWAYS) to react creatively. BA's new offer, London for Free, has several lovely perks, great fares and a shocking surprise. The basic offer--roundtrip fares as low as $358 to 46 destinations in Britain and Europe--includes three free hotel nights in London and extends until September 12. But here's the shocking surprise: Fares only require a 7-day advance purchase from June 1 and no advance purchase for travel before May 31.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.