The Tactical Traveler



This week: Aviation security legislation heads for oblivion; the nation's alternate airlines introduce new flights to Florida; international carriers are slashing their flights to the United States; America West extends the credentials of its elite frequent flyers through 2002; and our 'no-fly zone' of airlines and routes to avoid right now.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Aviation Security Moves to Oblivion
The House of Representatives narrowly rejected the Senate version of an aviation security bill Thursday evening, and that means meaningful safety legislation remains weeks, or possibly months, away. The Senate measure, which called for federalization of airport screeners under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, passed 100-0 several weeks ago. The House voted 218-214 against the bill. Later in the evening, the House then passed a Republican-sponsored bill that would essentially retain the status quo: security screening handled by private firms under the auspices of the Department of Transportation. The competing bills are now headed to conference, where they face an uncertain future and possible oblivion due to partisan bickering. President Bush prefers the House measure, but indicated he would sign either bill.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: More Florida from the Other Carriers
With winter just around the proverbial corner, several alternate airlines are boosting their service to Florida. JetBlue Airways, for example, will launch twice-daily flights between Washington/Dulles and Fort Lauderdale on November 28. Introductory fares are $49 one-way for travel before December 15 if tickets are purchased by November 30. JetBlue's regular fares on its all-coach service are $79 to $199 each way. Vanguard Airlines is adding a daily flight between its Kansas City hub and Fort Lauderdale starting December 10. Coach fares start at $99 each way; Vanguard also offers business-class service on the MD-80 flights. And Spirit Airlines is gearing up twice-daily flights between New York/LaGuardia and Fort Myers beginning December 14. Introductory roundtrip prices for the all-coach service start at $152 for travel until January 31, but tickets must be purchased by November 15.

CUTBACK CENTRAL: Fall Schedules Mean Fewer Flights
Most airlines with international service launched their winter schedules this week and what's most noticeable is what's not there. Large flight cutbacks have been instituted and, in some cases, they go beyond the carriers' previously announced curtailments. Here's a brief look at the major new cuts and changes: British Airways has eliminated service to London/Gatwick from three gateways: New York/Kennedy, Baltimore/Washington and Charlotte. A Charlotte-BWI-Heathrow service has been created, however. BA has also thinned out the frequency of its flights to London from Kennedy, Boston, Washington/Dulles and San Diego. London/Gatwick is also losing service at Virgin Atlantic as the British carrier moved its Newark and Boston service to London/Heathrow. KLM is dropping its Atlanta-Amsterdam flights. Lufthansa is ending flights to Munich from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Newark. It is also eliminating Newark-Dusseldorf flights. Sabena is dropping flights to Brussels from Dallas/Fort Worth, Montreal and Chicago. Korean Air has suspended its DFW-Seoul service. South African Airways has gone to four flights a week from seven between New York/Kennedy and Johannesburg.

MILES & POINTS: America West Protects Elite Members
Following the lead of American and Alaska airlines, America West is "grandfathering" current elite members of its FlightFund frequent-flyer program for next year. The credentials of current elite members will now be valid through February, 2003. American Airlines is finally allowing AAdvantage members to book award travel online, but it is restricting the perk to its cheapest PlanAAhead award. All other redemptions must be done the old-fashioned way, by telephone. Lufthansa Miles & More members are luckier: The German carrier now permits members to redeem miles for tickets, upgrades and all other awards at the Lufthansa Website.

NO-FLY ZONE: Flights and Airlines to Avoid
Don't be fooled by the sudden reappearance of Tel Aviv on the Delta Air Lines scheduled. The Delta flights from New York/Kennedy and Newark are actually code-shares operated by El Al. Delta dropped its own Tel Aviv flights after September 11, but says they will be restored on March 15. In the meantime, book away if you want to avoid El Al. You should also avoid booking any Swissair flights. The bankrupt carrier's publicly-funded bailout, which was designed to keep Swissair flying until next March, seems shaky and full of loopholes. Swissair's shutdown earlier this month could be repeated at any time due to the peculiarities of Swiss banking and investment laws and the nature of the Swiss government bailout. And while it now seems unlikely that the Belgian government would let Sabena fail, that carrier also faces possible shutdown and liquidation as early as next week.

This column originally appeared at

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