The Tactical Traveler



A note to readers: The information reported here was accurate as of 10am Eastern time on Thursday, September 13. Due to the extremely fluid nature of events arising out of Tuesday's tragedy, however, you should re-confirm all relevant details and be prepared for drastic changes with little or no notice.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Expect Chaos When Flights Resume
The Transportation Department decided to reopen the nation's skies at 11am on Thursday and individual carriers and airports were planning to resume limited services today. However, business travelers will find airlines struggling to play catch up on both the security issues and the simple operational details. Quite apart from the new security protocols (see below) imposed on travelers, frequent flyers should expect a certain degree of additional chaos as airlines try to match available planes with available crews, juggle schedules to accommodate passenger demand and travelers whose flights have been cancelled, and wrestle with a system that has ground to a halt. "Travelers had better be damned patient," one airline executive told me Wednesday. "We're going to have to run flights on a case-by-case basis and it may take a week or more before we get everything back on schedule and running anything like smoothly."

THE NEW REALITY: Coping With Heightened Security
The new security measures announced Wednesday by Transportation Department Secretary Norman Mineta will impose draconian new burdens on travelers across the nation. Immediately eliminated are curbside baggage check and off-airport check-in. Only ticketed passengers will be permitted past airport security checkpoints. And automobiles will be required to park further from airport terminals and they will not be permitted to stop for extended period of times in front of terminals. How do you cope? First, expect to arrive at the airport as much as three hours before departure and only after you have double-checked that your flight is actually scheduled to operate. Second, cut down on your luggage because there will be more scrutiny of every bag, both checked and carry-on. The fewer bags you carry, the faster you will clear security checkpoints. Third, eliminate as many electronic devices as possible because they will attract added attention from security screeners. Fourth, carry your passport and as many forms of photo identification as possible and be prepared to show them at multiple locations. Finally, if you travel on electronic tickets, be sure to carry a printout of the airline-provided confirmation or itinerary.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: Midway Closes Its Doors
The shutdown of the nation's commercial air-traffic system on Tuesday morning broke the financial back of Midway Airlines, which had been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since last month. "We simply do not have the resources necessary to permit us to reorganize in this environment," a company spokesperson said Wednesday as the Raleigh-Durham based carrier shut its doors. The airline fired about 1,700 workers, began returning its aircraft to lessors, and will not resume service when the Federal Aviation Administration lifts its flight ban. Midway's troubles began earlier this year when American Airlines, under pressure from its pilots, severed marketing and frequent-flyer ties and launched new flights from Raleigh-Durham. Then the business-travel slowdown caused what company officials called a "catastrophic" collapse of traffic and revenue.

CYBERTRAVELER: Best Websites for Breaking News
If the round-the-clock coverage of this crisis offered by the nation's television networks and cable-news outlets isn't suiting your needs, then you can find excellent, travel-related reporting on several special websites. Yahoo! Finance's Aviation page is constantly refreshed and aggregates stories culled from the Associated Press, Reuters and public-relations wires. Aviation Now draws on the work of McGraw-Hill's publications, especially the Aviation Daily newsletter. Lastly, try Hot Spots, a daily newsletter that focuses travel and aviation crises around the world.

HOTEL BEAT: Lodging at Ground Zero
At least four major New York hotels--two Marriotts and two Hilton properties--are in the immediate vicinity of the World Trade Center and all have suffered varying degrees of physical damage. Guests and staff of the Hilton Millenium and the Embassy Suites Battery Park were evacuated on Tuesday morning, but the buildings appear to have suffered minor damage. The two Marriott properties--the Marriott World Trade Center and the nearby Marriott Financial Center--were not so lucky. Marriott says it considers the World Trade Center property "irreparable" and the property was teetering near collapse in the early hours of Thursday morning. The Financial Center hotel suffered "substantial" damage. Marriott says all guests were evacuated, but the whereabouts of two employees remain unknown.

SAFETY WATCH: Keeping Track of the Tragedy
Aviation safety is spectacularly well covered on the web and many websites are working to track the unique airline component of this tragedy. Air Safe is focusing on details of each of the four hijackings. Air Safety Online is compiling reports on the ongoing security issues and the crash investigations. And the Aviation Safety Network is offering details on the incidents, follow-up stories and information on each hijacked aircraft.

This column originally appeared at

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