The Tactical Traveler



This week: The DOT will miss its deadline for screening checked bags; Dogbert Airlines flies; Sun Country contracts, but WestJet expands; Emirates delays its U.S. flights; two carriers begin selling frequent-flyer miles to travelers; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Deadlines? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Deadlines...
Don't say I didn't warn you last week: Transpor-tation Department Secretary Norman Mineta said Tuesday that the DOT and the airline industry probably won't meet the 60-day deadline for screening all checked bags. That deadline was imposed by the landmark aviation bill signed early last week by President Bush. Mineta's announcement is all the more distressing because a 1990 law set a three-year deadline for the installation of bomb-detection equipment to screen checked luggage. The DOT ignored that deadline, too. It's also why some critics suggested the Transportation Department was not the appropriate federal agency to oversee aviation security. For all its good points, the DOT has no law-enforcement experience and has blithely disregarded federal law whenever the poobahs of the airline industry protested too much.

CYBERTRAVELER: Dilbert Dogs the Airlines
Dogbert, the truly evil canine in Scott Adams' brilliant Dilbert comic strip, has found his true calling: airline entrepreneur. All this week, Adams has been chronicling Dogbert Airlines, an arrogant, corrupt and prevaricating carrier that bears an uncomfortably hilarious resemblance to most any real-world airline. On Wednesday, for example, Dogbert announced that "our hub at the South Pole is experiencing Permafrost." He then advised stranded flyers to "form a primitive society and live in the terminal forever." If you missed any of the Dogbert Airlines series, fear not. Surf to and check out the entire week of strips.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: Sun Country Contracts While WestJet Expands
Two important alternate carriers are going in opposite directions. Sun Country Airlines, the only serious competition for Northwest at Minneapolis, is slashing its route network. But WestJet Airlines, Canada's fast-growing, low-fare alternative to Air Canada, continues to expand. … On Monday, Sun Country announced it was immediately dumping service to six business destinations from Minneapolis: Washington/Dulles, New York/Kennedy, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. The airline's owner, a major travel packager based in Milwaukee, is trying to sell the entire operation. … Up north, WestJet is adding a slew of new routes: nonstops between Sudbury and Hamilton, Ontario, beginning December 10; four weekly flights between Thompson, Manitoba, and Winnipeg on December 14; three weekly flights between Winnipeg and Sault Ste. Mario, Ontario, on December 18; and a weekly nonstop between Hamilton and Abbotsford, British Columbia, beginning on January 19.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Dubai Connection Gets Delayed
Frequent travelers to the Middle East, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent know that one of the best places to connect is in Dubai, the attractive city-state that is one of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai has a great airport, a long history as a relatively open city and regional trading center, and an elegant beachfront resort. It is also home to Emirates, one of the most respected airlines on the planet. Emirates was due to launch nonstop US-Dubai flights next year, but those plans have been delayed until 2003. That's a disappointment, especially since reliable Middle East connections have all but disappeared since September 11. Technical changes to the Airbus equipment that Emirates will use on the transatlantic service "require an additional certification process," an Emirates executive told me this week. "And given the tragic events of September 11, we felt that a delay to the start date would be beneficial in terms of sales and marketing." In the interim, Emirates is adding five more destinations from its Dubai hub next year: Perth, Australia; Osaka, Japan; Mauritius; Khartoum, Sudan; and Casablanca, Morocco.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Both America West and Alaska Airlines have begun selling frequent-flyer miles directly to program members. The price is 2.5 cents per mile. Alaska requires purchases in 2,000-mile increments with a maximum buy of 10,000 miles. America West will sell you up to 15,000 miles in 1,000-mile increments, but charges a $15 service fee, which makes the per-mile purchase price uneconomically high. Both carriers also permit you to buy miles as a "gift" to give to another member. … A feud between Air Canada pilots and their cockpit mates who formerly worked for Canadian Airlines is causing dangerous and potentially fatal working conditions, according to two Canadian researchers. … Speaking of Air Canada, the airline has cut its fuel surcharge in half. And despite the fact that fuel costs recently have dropped by about 50 percent, the major U.S. carriers refuse to lower or eliminate their fuel fees. … This week marks the 30th anniversary of the D.B. Cooper hijacking of a Northwest flight from Portland to Seattle. Cooper jumped from the plane with $200,000 in ransom money and was never heard from again.

ROUTE WATCH: As the Flights Change…
Northwest is adding three daily flights between its Detroit hub and Omaha beginning January 20. And Atlantic Coast, a United Express carrier, is adding four daily flights between United's Washington/Dulles hub and Manchester, New Hampshire. Both routes will be served with 50-seat regional jets. … SAS Scandinavian has scrapped plans to begin nonstop flights between San Francisco and its Copenhagen hub. The service was due to begin May 10. … Varig Brazilian Airlines says it will resume its flights between Miami and Rio de Janeiro in December. The route was dropped in the weeks after 9/11.
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