This week: TWA begins converting to American's more spacious coach seating configuration; our weekly report on America's alternate carriers; CBS MarketWatch adds a business-travel columnist; Northwest is finally renewing its aging fleet; airline strikes are causing chaos around the world; and much more.
COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Space Race in Coach at TWA
The first major in-flight change in TWA service since American Airlines gobbled up the carrier is scheduled for June 26. That's when the first TWA MD-80 will feature More Room Throughout Coach, American's awkwardly named, but extremely comfortable, configuration that offers more legroom at each coach seat. By Labor Day, the entire TWA fleet of MD-80s, B-717s and B-757s should be reconfigured with coach seating offering at least 34 inches of legroom. TWA's B-767s, used primarily on its transcontinental flights and its remaining international service, should be converted by the end of October. At the moment, there is no conversion schedule for TWA's shrinking fleet of aging DC-9s, so you might want to book away from those dinosaurs whenever possible.
ALTERNATE ITINERARY: America's Other Carriers Keep Expanding
The major U.S. airlines are slashing service, but the nation's low-fare alternate carriers are continuing to expand. At American Trans Air, for example, nonstop service between ATA's Chicago/Midway hub and Newark begins on August 13. There will be three flights every business day, increasing to four on September 1. Introductory fares are $99 one-way for travel through October 15. Roundtrip tickets must be purchased by June 30. … And the mother of all discounters, Southwest Airlines, will add service to Norfolk, Virginia, in October. Flights and prices have not yet been announced, but Southwest traditionally opens a new city with flights to Florida.
CYBERTRAVELER: Another New Voice on the Web
CBSMarketWatch.com has developed quite a following among business travelers who use the site to keep track of the business world and their personal portfolios. Now MarketWatch is creating a specialist to work the business-travel beat. Joe Mathieu, a personable, earnest reporter whose dulcet tones you hear on radio stations that carry MarketWatch's audio-news reports, has launched a weekly report called Business Travel Bytes. A new edition posts every Saturday and offers useful insight on breaking news, route changes and other invaluable frequent-travel information.
ON THE FLY: Airline News You Need to Know
Northwest Airlines has the nation's oldest fleet--the average plane is about 20 years old--but chief executive Richard Anderson says the carrier will take delivery of a new plane every other week for the next five years. Northwest's ancient, decrepit DC-9s will remain in the fleet, however. … US Airways has abandoned plans to launch commuter flights from Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts. … Richard Branson, the flamboyant entrepreneur who owns 51 percent of Virgin Atlantic, has mortgaged his stake in the airline. Branson says he'll use the cash to fund new ventures, including mobile-phone companies in the United States and Australia. … America West has bagged its hated Snack Sack on long-haul flights. The airline, which is desperately trying to improve its image after years of dreadful service and operational snafus, now serves hot meals on its longest flights from its Phoenix hub. … Swissair is slashing Asia service. Beginning in October, the airline will eliminate flights from its Zurich hub to Shanghai, Taipei and Ho Chi Minh City.
STRIKE WATCH: Chaos Around the World
Under pressure from Transportation Department Secretary Norman Mineta, Comair and its striking pilots are talking again. But the strike, now in its 12th week, continues to cause chaos. Air France has "suspended" its flights from its Paris hub to Comair's Cincinnati hub until September 30. … Contentious negotiations between Aerolineas Argentina and its workers have led the airline to suspend all of its long-haul flights from Buenos Aires, including service to the United States. That decision led workers to cause disruptions of flights operated by other carriers at Buenos Aires. … Talks between American Airlines and its flight attendants are scheduled to resume next week. Failing a contract agreement or Presidential intervention to delay a work stoppage for 60 days, the flight attendants would be free to strike on July 1. … If you're headed to France any time soon, carefully monitor the situation at AOM/Air Liberte. A strike at the domestic carrier began this week and is threatening to spread to other airlines.
WEEKLY WONDER: Big Apple Hotel Bargains
A hotel building boom and a long-overdue slowdown in demand for lodgings in New York has led to a handful of bargains in the Big Apple this summer. One example: the Summer Space Odyssey at the Flatotel (800-352-8683). Weekday rates have been slashed to $215 a night; on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, room rates are $155, with a second room renting for $99. Prices are valid through September 4. Meanwhile, the Weekend Extension deal at The Time hotel (877-TIME-NYC) offers rooms on Thursdays through Sundays for $199 a night. A third night's stay is half price. Rates are valid through September 3.