The Tactical Traveler



This week: How to buy two cheap coach seats to increase your personal space; our weekly look at America's alternate airlines; the two best websites for airline-safety information; Amtrak is losing $21 for every passenger it carries; British Airways rolls out a huge fall promotion for business-class travel; and much more.

The world's airlines are giving away the proverbial store--but only if you're willing to wedge yourself into the least-appealing coach seat and prepared to book far in advance and stay over on a Saturday. Well, here's one way to beat the system: Buy two of the cheap seats and create your own private, comfortable world. With the lowest-priced coach seats now selling for as little as one-twelfth the price of a premium-class fare, buying two seats is an incredible bargain. And while occupying two coach seats isn't as comfortable as sitting in first or business class, the two-seat scenario offers plenty of personal space and a modicum of privacy. But be warned: You can't just purchase two tickets under your name, walk up to the ticket counter and claim your spaces. You or your travel agent must--repeat, must--call the airline in advance, alert it to your intentions, and then buy the tickets via phone. Most carriers will code the second ticket purchase as an "extra seat"-some will even assign it to a Mr. E. Seat--and tie it to your itinerary. And be sure to arrange for advance seat assignments--the seats must be next to each other, of course--at the time you call the airline.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: A Weekly Look at the Nation's Other Carriers
Midway Airlines is struggling to rebuild its traffic after declaring Chapter 11 and slashing its route network. Its first move: a fare sale on all routes to, from and through its hub at Raleigh-Durham. Prices start at $51 one-way, require a roundtrip purchase and an advance purchase of up to 14 days. Tickets must be purchased by October 9, but travel is permitted until December 13. Spirit Airlines says it will launch two daily nonstops between Fort Lauderdale and San Juan on November 8. There will also be connecting service between San Juan and Newark. Introductory fares start at $99 one-way from Fort Lauderdale and $129 from Newark. Southwest Airlines, the 800-pound gorilla of alternate carriers, is proving itself nearly invulnerable even to this economic downturn. While virtually all other airlines are reporting declining traffic and/or drops in the percentage of seats filled in August, Southwest experienced solid gains in both categories last month. Its passenger traffic increased 11.7 percent and its load factor jumped 3.7 percent.

The good news is that there hasn't been a fatal commercial airline crash in some time. The bad news is that they do happen. And last months frightening, but thankfully non-lethal, incident involving an Air Transat Airbus 330 reminds us that vigilance is always a smart precaution for business travelers. Two worthy websites specialize in news, views and endless statistics and analysis of the safety field. is an easy-on-the-eye, menu-driven site that offers up a wealth of details, tips and solid insight into safety on the road. It is also very quick to jump on safety-related incidents, including the Air Transat matter and the fatal charter-flight accident involving the singer/actress Aalyiah. Over at, the focus is on safety-related news. The site also publishes a free, daily safety letter and has recently posted an extensive and fascinating report called Air Safety in America.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines is scheduled to move into new facilities in the East Concourse at Dallas/Love Field on September 22. American is reducing flights at the controversial Dallas airport, however. Effective next Tuesday, American will drop its four daily flights to Los Angeles. Amtrak, the nation's struggling passenger-rail service, is losing $21 on every customer it carries. According to its 2000 results, Amtrak lost $472.5 million and accommodated 22.5 million passengers. The two-month-old dispute between Cathay Pacific and its pilots may escalate in coming weeks as pilots pledge to ratchet up their "go slow" campaign. The airline, based in Hong Kong, has been forced to cancel some flights and has suffered numerous delays as it scrambled to cope with the pilot's labor action. Continental has tabbed October 2 as the inaugural date for its third concourse at Terminal C at its Newark hub. The 325,000-square-foot facility will have 19 gates.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: BA's Big Business-Class Deal
A triple whammy of adverse conditions--the general decline in business travel, the annual fall slowdown of trans-Atlantic travel, and the unprecedented reluctance of Americans to visit London this year--has led British Airways to roll out the big promotional guns. BA is offering new U.S. members of its Executive Club two free roundtrip coach tickets almost anywhere in the world if they fly one business- or first-class trans-Atlantic roundtrip before December 15. Existing Executive Club members will receive triple miles for every qualifying business- or first-class trip they complete before December 15. Consult the BA website for restrictions and to register for the promotion.

This column originally appeared at

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