The Tactical Traveler



This week: Congress votes on the federalization of airport screening; LAX tacks a $10 fee on car rentals; Canada 3000 goes under; airlines get another tax bailout; United Airlines protects its elite flyers; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Congress Votes Friday on Airport Security
A last-minute deal on Thursday afternoon between the House and Senate cleared the way for a vote on Friday on a compromise measure to federalize airport security screeners. Under the general outlines of the bill, which was still being tweaked as late as 6 PM Thursday, a new agency of the Transportation Department will take over the screening functions at all commercial airports in the country. At five airports, however, a test program will allow the screening to remain in the hands of private security companies. If the private test is judged successful, individual airports will be permitted to opt out of federalized screening within three years. The program, which could take a year to implement, would be partially funded by a ticket surcharge of $2.50 a segment. The compromise bill is supported by leaders of both houses on both sides of the aisle, so the vote on Friday is expected to be overwhelming. The White House has already indicated it supports the bill, meaning the President could sign it into law by the weekend.

AIRPORT REPORT: Another Fee on Tap at LAX
Effective January 1, you'll pay a $10 "customer facility charge" whenever you rent a car from an on-airport firm located at Los Angeles International or Ontario International. Airport authorities say the surcharge will help build a consolidated car-rental facility at LAX and a system of common-use rental shuttles on airport grounds. Maryland transportation authorities have launched an express-bus service linking Baltimore-Washington International and the Washington Metro rail system. The bus costs $2 each way and connects BWI with the Greenbelt, Maryland, station on the Metro's Green Line.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: Canada 3000 Goes Under
It went almost unnoticed in the rush of events in the United States, but Canada 3000 went bankrupt and abruptly stopped flying last weekend. The second-largest carrier in Canada, Canada 3000 seems to be a victim of gross mismanagement, incredible hubris, intense pressure from Air Canada, and a downright wacky route network. One example: In the middle of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, Canada 3000 nevertheless launched a route to India on October 8. It also bungled its recent purchase of Royal Airlines, a low-fare carrier based in the Atlantic Provinces. With Canada 3000 off the route map, about 80 of Canada's 100 largest destinations are now served only by Air Canada. Ironically, on the day Canada 3000 went under, Canada's Transport Ministry was about to rule that Air Canada's low-fare start-up, Tango, was unfairly competing with Canada 3000.

BAILOUT NOTEBOOK: Airlines Get Another Tax Boost
Having already fleeced the nation's taxpayers for a $5 billion tax grant in September, the nation's major carriers went back to the well this week. They demanded that the government let them delay payment of about $4 billion in aviation taxes and other tax revenue collected from passengers. "We're looking for cash-flow assistance through the end of the year," explained an economist at the Air Transport Authority, the airline trade association. "Not paying taxes will help," he added. Astonishingly enough, the Treasury Department agreed to allow the airlines to temporarily hold on to at least some of the tax receipts. Do you think the IRS will be as lenient with business travelers come April 15?

FLIGHT DESK: More International Services Disappear
Qantas will abandon its New York/Kennedy-Sydney route on November 25. Service to Japan continues to evaporate, too. Besides recently announced cuts by Delta and Japan Airlines, American is dropping its Seattle-Tokyo and Dallas/Fort Worth-Osaka routes. The flights end on January 8. Meanwhile, All Nippon has ditched its attempt to combine its Chicago/O'Hare-Tokyo and Washington/Dulles-Tokyo routes. The airline dropped the individual services on November 1 in favor of a single daily Washington-Chicago-Tokyo flight. Beginning November 30, however, the Chicago stop will be eliminated and the Dulles-Tokyo nonstop will resume. Now that Belgian carrier Sabena has been declared bankrupt and stopped flying international routes, Delta is restoring its New York/Kennedy-Brussels route. Delta dumped the route in the wake of September 11, but now expects to resume five daily flights on December 14.

MILES & POINTS: United Gets It Right--and Wrong
United finally dropped the other mileage shoe this week and announced it would protect the elite credentials of its most frequent flyers next year. But unlike its competitors, who already extended existing elite status for next year or slashed mileage requirements, United chose an infinitely more complicated and convoluted route for Mileage Plus members. Follow this if you can: If you are Mileage Plus Premier this year and also held some elite status in either 1999 or 2000, then you'll be Premier in 2002. If you were Premier Executive this year and Premier Executive or 1K in 2000 or 1999, then you'll be Premier Executive in 2002. Premier Executive members this year who only held Premier status in previous years will be busted back to Mileage Plus Premier. If you're 1K in 2001 and held that status in either 2000 or 1999, then you'll retain your 1K status in 2002. Mileage 1K members who were either Premier or Premier Executive in 2000 or 1999 will be pushed back to Premier Executive in 2002. Travelers who flew enough miles to attain a higher status in 2002 will receive it, of course. Need some simplicity after that wrong-headed parsing of loyalty? Fair enough. The Starwood Preferred Guest program has a new Website,

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
ANC Rental, the parent company of the Alamo and National car-rental firms, filed for bankruptcy protection this week. ANC blamed the drop in travel after September 11, but both firms were struggling since being purchased by, and then spun off by, millionaire investor Wayne Huizenga. In the aftermath of the crash of American Flight 587, American Airlines is permitting travelers to change flight plans through mid-February without penalty. The changes must be completed by November 19, however. Japan Airlines, a distant second to All Nippon on domestic Japanese routes, says it will buy domestic carrier Japan Air Service.

This column originally appeared at

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