The Tactical Traveler



This week: Northwest pollutes the muddied fare waters; low-fare carriers prosper while full-fare airlines bleed; TWA reaches the end of the road; Continental and British Airways add surcharges; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Northwest Pollutes the Muddied Fare Waters
Just when you thought the nation's major carriers couldn't make the fare structure any more complicated, along comes Northwest with a stultifying new spread of coach prices. Atop the Babel of existing prices, Northwest has added: an "every day" fare, which offers 25 percent off "leisure fares" if you buy 14 days in advance and include a Saturday-stay; a "family and friends" fare, which offers up to 50 percent off if you travel with a companion, book 14 days in advance, stay over on Saturday and do not include Sunday travel; a "seven-day stay" fare, which is 40 percent off, but only if you book 14 days in advance and stay exactly seven days; and an "advance planner," which offers 40 percent off if you buy 30 days in advance, include a Saturday stay, and do not travel on Sunday. (If you want to read more about the fares--including more than a page of tiny-type rules and restrictions--surf to the appropriate page at the Northwest Website.) Most carriers have matched Northwest's fares on competitive routes, which again proves the maxim that the airline industry is often led by its dumbest competitors.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: Meanwhile, Where Sanity Rules…
While the major full-fare carriers continue to fiddle with fares and rack up billions of dollars in losses, there remains an oasis of sanity and profit: the world's one-class, low-fare alternate airlines. As the global airline community reported generally disastrous earnings for the calendar third quarter, the obvious exceptions were the airlines offering simplified, lower fares and all-coach service. In Europe, for example, both Ryanair and Easyjet reported solid quarterly profits, even while competitors such as Swissair and Sabena were literally collapsing. In the United States, where the Big Three Carriers (American, United and Delta) reported combined quarterly losses exceeding $2 billion, both Southwest and JetBlue registered admirable profits.

CYBERTRAVELER: Concorde Flies Again
With precious little good news to report about travel, this item merits note: Concorde, the only supersonic passenger transport still in service, is flying again. Fifteen months after the fatal crash of an Air France Concorde near Paris, British Airways and Air France have both resumed scheduled service on the needle-nosed aircraft. BA is running Concorde between New York/Kennedy and London/Heathrow and Air France is flying between Kennedy and Paris. Since Concorde is beyond the financial reach of all but a few, most of us will have to make due with a Cyberride. British Airways has built an extensive and attractive site celebrating Concorde's return. The Air France Web offering is much more pedestrian, however. Meanwhile, if you're interested in a non-commercial overview, then try the private Concorde site built by a group of French supersonic enthusiasts.

LAST FLIGHT OUT: TWA Goes the Way of the Dodo
The end is finally near for TWA. Effective December 2, all former TWA flights will be operated under the code of American Airlines, which bought TWA out of bankruptcy earlier this year. The last day to book TWA Internet deals is November 16; regular TWA booking ends November 30. The Aviators frequent-flyer program ends the same day, when Aviator balances are scheduled to be automatically transferred to your American AAdvantage account. The Website will close on January 2. American says all TWA gates and ticket counters will be rebounded with American livery by December 2. Most of TWA's remaining fleet have already been converted to American's more spacious coach seating.

MILES AND POINTS: Bonus Opportunities Worth Noting
If you fly full fare on Delta--and why in hell are you paying full fare?--you can generate some bonus miles in the SkyMiles program. Until March 31, Delta is offering a 50 percent bonus to business-class passengers who book in the J,C or D categories. Coach travelers who pay a Y or Y6 fare will receive a 25 percent mileage bonus until December 31. However, you must register for the coach promotion at 800-558-3358; use code 2017. … Hilton Hotels is offering an array of private bonuses and perks to selected elite members of its Hilton HHonors program. Check your snail mail or E-mail for the offers. Some travelers are being offered bonus points for stays and others are being informed that their elite status has been grandfathered through 2002.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Continental has imposed a $10 fee for paper tickets issued by Continental ticketing outlets whenever an electronic-ticketing option is available. … Beginning November 9, British Airways is adding a $4 surcharge on each one-way flight segment. The airline says the fee covers the added cost of security and insurance. … Singapore Airlines is slashing its U.S. service. The Chicago-Amsterdam-Singapore route, which was launched in May, will be eliminated between January 13 and April 30. It will also cut three of its weekly New York-Frankfurt-Singapore frequencies during the same period. Two other routes--Los Angeles-Taipei-Singapore and San Francisco-Seoul-Singapore--will be offered five times weekly instead of daily. … Northwest Airlines now says its passengers need only appear 90 minutes before domestic departures and two hours before international flights. … America West says it is resuming food service on nonstop flights from its Phoenix hub to its East Coast destinations. … Varig says it now offers a business-class cabin on all domestic Brazilian flights. The service is priced at 20 percent above full coach and includes access to dedicated check-in counters and a special lounge. The Air Bridge shuttle route between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero will not offer business class, however.

This column originally appeared at

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