The Tactical Traveler



This week: Airlines face 50 percent capacity cuts before the end of the year; Southwest bucks the trend and resumes flying its full schedule; Ansett Australia folds and Reagan National Airport remains closed; and you won't believe what is being confiscated from travelers at security checkpoints.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: 20 Percent Cuts Are Just the Beginning
Most major carriers and several alternate airlines announced 20 percent capacity cuts during the last several days and all blamed a precipitous drop in traffic caused by the horrific events of September 11. That explanation is more than a little disingenuous, however. Traffic, especially high-yield business travel, was plummeting for weeks before the quadruple hijackings and most airlines were already looking at bleak advance bookings through the end of the year. In fact, most carriers would probably have been forced to reduce seats and flights by around 20 percent this fall even if the September 11 tragedy had never occurred. "Now it wouldn't surprise me if the industry eliminates 50 percent of domestic capacity before the end of the year," one airline executive told me Tuesday. Causes for the sharp drop in business travel? The onset of recession in the general economy, the dot-com meltdown, and high fares, which led many firms to decide business travel simply wasn't a good bargain. And the worst is yet to come: Several savvy airline observers believe October will be the worst month in recent history for air traffic and airline revenue.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: Southwest Stays the Course
Southwest Airlines restored 100 percent of their scheduled flights by the middle of this week. Meanwhile, JetBlue Airways restored all of its 84 scheduled flights over the weekend, but will eliminate five roundtrip flights on October 1. It will drop one daily nonstop between its New York/Kennedy hub and Buffalo, Syracuse, and New Orleans. It will also cut two daily Rochester-Kennedy flights. Other alternate carriers haven't been so lucky: Denver-based Frontier Airlines is reducing service by 20 percent on October 1 while Milwaukee-based Midwest Express will cut flights by 15 percent that day. AirTran, American Trans Air, and Spirit are cutting back as well. Aloha Airlines slashed 25 percent of its flights serving intra-Hawaii routes, but it is maintaining all of its service between Hawaii and the mainland. Las Vegas-based National Airlines, which is already operating in bankruptcy, is first out of the box with a fare sale aimed at shoring up falling passenger traffic. The "Get America Flying" promotion is valid for departures on four successive Tuesdays beginning September 25 with returns on any day through November 8. Fares start as low as $25 roundtrip in coach and $500 in first class.

CYBERTRAVELER: Finding Airport Websites
Los Angeles International has banned private vehicles near departure terminals and has set up a new remote drop off/pick up site. Oakland's car-rent facility has been pushed away from the terminals and travelers returning cars must show their rental agreements and their vehicles are subject to search. Pick-up and drop-off locations for courtesy shuttles have been drastically altered at New York/Kennedy airport. Business travelers are desperate for these tidbits about how airports are adjusting to new security regimens. Sometimes, however, the only place to find that airport-specific information is from the airport's proprietary website. Unfortunately, airport websites don't always have intuitive URLs. So point your browser to, which maintains a good set of news and informational links for the world's leading airports.

ON THE FLY: Business Travel News You Need to Know
Australia's second largest airline, Ansett, shut down on Friday, September 14. Critics ranging from travel advocates to the Australian government itself are blaming the collapse on mismanagement by Air New Zealand, which owned the carrier. Sabena of Belgium says it is months from collapse. The carrier has lost money in all but one of the last 20 years. Washington Reagan National Airport remains closed indefinitely because existing flight paths to and from the airport direct jets down the Potomac and within seconds of major Washington monuments and government facilities. Most major international airlines have now been cleared to resume their flights to and from the United States, but many have sharply reduced their schedules.

SECURITY CHECK: What's a "Weapon?" That Depends.
What's being considered a weapon now that the Transportation Department has tightened its rules on what's permissible to carry on a plane? That depends on the airport, the security checkpoint and even a security screener's personal discretion. During the last week, travelers have reported the following items confiscated from their carry-on bags: fingernail files, scissors, nail clippers, corkscrews, aerosol cans, Swiss Army Knives, Leatherman tools, and even sharpened pencils and toothbrushes with gum-massage tips. The Federal Aviation Administration fined American Airlines on July 31 for allegedly violating pre-screening rules at Boston/Logan Airport, the same facility where one of the carrier's planes was hijacked on September 11. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta named two special security task forces this week. Among the appointees were airline executives, pilot and flight attendants union representatives, airport administrators, former police officials and even an executive from Boeing. No passenger was named to either task force, however.

This column originally appeared at

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