The Tactical Traveler



This week: The Laptop Lane chain of airport business centers collapses; American Airlines and British Airways launch a website to promote their bid for anti-trust immunity; TWA drops its remaining Middle East flights; Hilton and Marriott offer more points and miles; heavy losses don't deter the airlines from adding flights on peculiar international routes; and much more.

Drowning in red ink and operated by a faltering parent company whose other technology businesses have all gone south, the three-year-old Laptop Lane chain of airport business centers has collapsed. As recently as two weeks ago, the convenient network of innovative, rent-by-the-minute office cubicles had been operating at about two dozen airports. However, all but nine Laptop Lane branches abruptly shut their doors on August 16. The surviving locations--three at Atlanta/Hartsfield, two at Chicago/O'Hare, and outlets at Dallas/Fort Worth, Seattle/Tacoma, New York/LaGuardia, and Salt Lake City--were hastily sold to Wayport, a high-speed Internet access provider. Dan Lowden, Wayport's vice president of marketing, says those remaining Laptop Lanes will soon be renamed, but the facilities--private workstations equipped with phones, computers, faxes and laptop access ports--will continue to rent for $5 for the first five minutes and 65 cents for each additional minute.

CYBERTRAVELER: The Web as Propaganda
American Airlines and British Airways have renewed their quixotic quest for anti-trust immunity for the Oneworld alliance and they've kicked the propaganda machine into high gear. Among the tools: a joint website ( to tell their side of the story. If you're interested in reading why the largest carriers in the United States and United Kingdom should be allowed to pool their revenues, collaborate on fares, control the skies over the North Atlantic and dominate Heathrow Airport, then this website is for you. Just check your common sense at the home page.

CONNECTIONS: Following Up on the News
Remember the flap American Airlines caused earlier this year when it cancelled TWA service to Tel Aviv immediately after buying TWA? Well, now TWA has also dropped service to Cairo and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The final flights to TWA's only Arab destinations depart on September 30. After years of annoying customers with carry-on baggage templates, Delta Air Lines has bowed to passenger pressure and enlarged the overhead bins on its entire domestic fleet of B-757s and MD-88s. The plunder of US Airways by its top management may finally be tested in court. An irate shareholder has filed suit against the airline's board of directors because chairman Steve Wolf, chief executive Rakesh Gangwal and general counsel Larry Nagin are eligible for a $45 million buyout triggered by the failure of the United Airlines merger. The nation's airlines are under Federal Aviation Administration mandate to upgrade the flight-data recorders on their entire fleets. As this week's deadline drew near, however, as many as 600 planes hadn't been retrofitted with the upgraded black boxes. The FAA's response? It pushed back the deadline until next year.

MILES AND POINTS: Delta Calls a 'Do Over'
The long strike at Delta Connection carrier Comair cost many members of the Delta SkyMiles program their shot at renewing their elite status for 2002. But Delta is quietly calling a "do over." Selected SkyMiles members have recently received a letter from the airline apologizing for the Comair disruption and extending their elite-level status and privileges through February, 2003. The Hilton HHonors program has taken its "double dip" concept beyond awarding HHonors points and frequent-flyer miles for each stay. Until August 31, 2002, members may choose to double dip by selecting up to 500 American Express Membership Rewards points instead of airline miles. Meanwhile, Marriott Rewards is offering a double-dip opportunity of its own. Guests who stay at Renaissance hotels between September 16 and December 20 will receive 1,000 frequent-flyer miles as well as Marriott Rewards points.

ROUTE WATCH: Are You Ready for These International Flights?
Most of the world's major airlines are on track to rack up gigantic losses this year. Their solution? Just keep adding flights on some rather peculiar international routes. Effective December 15, for example, AeroMexico is adding service to Salt Lake City. The Mexican carrier will operate two weekly flights to Mexico City and two weekly flights to Hermosillo. Not to be outdone, Alaska Airlines has announced it will launch daily flights between Los Angeles and Calgary on November 6. And while you're wondering why Alaska is flying between California and Canada, you may as well ask why Air Canada is launching nonstop flights between Honolulu and Melbourne, Australia. There'll be three flights a week on that route beginning December 1. Meanwhile, both Air Canada and United Airlines suddenly feel compelled to offer nonstop flights to New Delhi. There will be four weekly Air Canada services from Vancouver beginning October 19. United's daily nonstops will operate from Chicago/O'Hare beginning October 27.

This column originally appeared at

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