The Tactical Traveler



This week: European airlines fill the Africa gap; alternate carriers continue their growth; American and United now accept each other’s E-tix; Ansett goes under Down Under; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Do You Know the Way to Africa?
U.S. carriers continue to ignore Africa: Not a single scheduled American airline operates its own planes to any airport on the continent. In the past, U.S travelers headed to Africa have relied on European carriers to make the connection. But the recent collapses of Sabena and Swissair--and the virtual disintegration of Air Afrique--have created a new hole in service to Africa. However, Air France is moving into the gap, increasing Paris-Africa capacity by about 60 percent and restoring flights to Kinshasa, Zaire. And the successor carrier to Sabena, SN Brussels, says it will resume flights to eight African destinations from Brussels beginning April 26. Three more cities will be added in June.

ALTERNATE ARRANGEMENTS: More Options at Lower Fares
Alternate, low-fare carriers were making deep inroads into the market domination of the bloated mainline airlines long before September 11. But that trend has accelerated during the subsequent six months and alternate airlines are challenging the majors just about everywhere on the national route map. What’s new this week? AirTran continues to build up in Orlando and, on April 9, it will add nonstop daily flights to Rochester, New York, and Akron/Canton, Ohio. Beginning April 11, Vanguard will also fly into Orlando with a nonstop from its hub in Kansas City. Meanwhile, the 800-pound gorilla of alternate carriers, Southwest, continues to fill out its California network. On April 7, it will launch four daily nonstops between Sacramento and Orange County/John Wayne. Then, on May 5, it will begin flying three times daily between Los Angeles and Chicago/Midway.

AIRPORT REPORT: Now This is the Collusion We Like…
Airlines are always colluding on anti-competitive measures that make a business traveler’s life hell. But here’s a bit of cooperation you can’t help but like: American and United airlines have launched an “interline” electronic-ticket agreement. The deal, which went into effect on Wednesday, means that each carrier will accept the other’s E-tix without forcing the traveler to go back to the ticket counter and get a paper ticket. … Alaska Airlines has opened a Board Room club in Vancouver International Airport. It is located on Concourse E. … San Francisco International has scuttled plans to build a new airport hotel and renovate its former international terminal.

CYBERTRAVELER: Life (and Guidance) After has been slashing and burning its unique and once-admirable content, dumping hundreds of its human guides to informational categories and travel destinations. Gone with the travel guides are their destination-specific Websites that covered news and offered advice to many of the world’s most famous and obscure places. But you can’t keep a good guide down and many have resurfaced at the aptly named Former About Guides Website. Included at the site are links to Durant Imboden, who covered Europe; Jana Jones, whose beat was hotels; Linda Nelson, who handled air travel; and Julie Altebrando, who was the New York Guide.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: Airline Juggling Overseas Service
The upheaval caused by September 11 continues to force carriers to juggle their international schedules. Please take note of the following changes. … Lufthansa is scheduled to launch nonstop service between Boston and its Munich hub on May 1. The service will operate six days weekly with a three-class Airbus A340. … Air France has slashed North Atlantic capacity by about 13 percent from last summer’s levels, including the cancellation of Dallas/Fort Worth-Paris service. … Aerolineas Argentina, whose financial woes pre-date September 11, has nevertheless resumed service between Buenos Aires and New York/Kennedy. There are three weekly flights using two-class Airbus A340s. … American Airlines is scheduled to launch flights between its Miami hub and Medellin, Colombia, on October 1, but the carrier is requesting government permission to move the start date to June 1.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Ansett Australian stopped flying earlier this week, the second time the domestic carrier has collapsed since September 11. This time the airline was grounded after a private consortium that had agreed to buy the carrier out of the Australian equivalent of bankruptcy decided not to complete the deal. … The Internal Revenue Service says it won’t tax frequent-flyer miles. However, the ruling only covers mileage accrued during business travel and claimed for leisure trips. The IRS left the door open to taxing miles converted to cash. … Hertz has reintroduced its seasonal “Florida Drive Out” plan. For $12.99 to $19.99 a day, travelers can rent a car in Florida and drive it one-way to designated drop-off locations in the South, Midwest and Northeast. The program runs from March 31 to May 15 and is designed to help the rental firm move its fleet out of Florida after the winter season.

VERBATIM: There Are Clubs and Then There Are Clubs
You’ve undoubtedly heard the old saw that the U.S. Senate is the “most exclusive club in the world.” But apparently the Senate’s membership card doesn’t cut much ice at security-screening checkpoints, a lesson bitterly learned by Sam’s Club member and Montana Senator Conrad Burns. Consider this verbatim dispatch from the current issue of U.S. News & World Report: Asked for a photo ID, he pulled out his new Senate identification. The ticket screener looked at it and shrugged, “I don’t recognize that kind of an ID card.” Burns recalls, “I said, ‘Well, it has on there what I do. It has a picture of a nice-looking fellow and a number.’” Her reaction: “It doesn’t make any difference. I don’t recognize it.” So, he explains, “I pulled out one for Sam’s Club. That one worked good. I went right on through.”

This column originally appeared at

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