The Tactical Traveler

FOR APRIL 11 TO APRIL 18, 2002


This week: Airlines use 2001 losses to claim tax refunds; Aloha adds mainland flights to Hawaii; more Cyber options open at U.S. airports; a new lounge and hotel at Tokyo/Narita; the Middle East drops off the route map; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: More of Your Tax Dollars Go to Airlines
Struggling to complete your tax returns before the April 15 filing deadline? Then you'll be thrilled to learn your tax dollars are already hard at work funding still another airline bailout. The economic-stimulus package signed by President Bush on March 9 allows companies to "carry back" net operating losses incurred during 2001 and 2002 to the last five years. In other words, companies can claim tax refunds by applying current losses to previous tax filings. The airlines, of course, have made instantaneous use of the new loophole. On March 18, for example, United filed for a $464 million tax refund by carrying back some of its $2.1 billion 2001 loss. United received its tax booty just two days later. (United had already received a $169 million tax refund under the old version of the law, which limited carry-backs to two years.) And there's more: American, Delta and US Airways are filing for the carry-back refund, too, and each is in line for tax largesse in excess of $200 million. These tax refunds are in addition to the $5 billion taxpayer-funded bailout the airlines received last September. One final note: Carry-back tax refunds for individuals, otherwise called "income averaging," were eliminated years ago.

ALTERNATE ARRANGEMENTS: More--and Better--Options to Hawaii
Here's good news for travelers looking for something better than the mainline airlines' unimaginative Hawaii service. Aloha Airlines, the terrific little Hawaii-based carrier, is adding still more flights to the mainland. On June 1, it begins nonstop Honolulu-Burbank service and, on June 15, launches nonstop Honolulu-Vancouver flights. These new destinations augment Aloha's existing mainland flights to Oakland, John Wayne/Orange County and Las Vegas. Aloha uses 737-700s on the routes and the planes are configured with 12 first-class seats and 112 coach seats. Aloha's first-class service is excellent and its coach cabins offer decent legroom (less than American Airlines, but more than any other mainline carrier); free drinks and full meals; hot-towel service; and free movies.

AIRPORT REPORT: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A "Travel Right" Cybercafe has opened in Terminal Four at Los Angeles International Airport. The facility offers 48 tableside phone/electrical jacks and a menu of sandwiches, salads, sushi and soft and alcoholic beverages. ... The former "Laptop Lane" business center in the Main Terminal of Jacksonville International Airport has been reopened by an independent entrepreneur. Donald Manns told me last week that he bought the entire operation--computers, inventory, signage and the lease--out of bankruptcy. ... A 3,200-space parking garage opened at Newark Airport this week. The six-story facility is near Station E of the airport monorail. ... Hilton International has assumed management of the former Rihga Royal hotel at Tokyo's Narita Airport. Opened nine years ago, the 500-room hotel has seven restaurants and a fitness center, pool and sauna. Separately, Japan Airlines will open the Sakura Lounge Annex on April 18. The 13,000-square-foot lounge is located on the fourth floor of Terminal 2 and features a business center, bar, conference room, and private bedrooms for transit passengers. The facility is open to JAL's premium-class passengers and most of its full-fare coach and elite-level flyers.

CYBERTRAVELER: The Truth Is Stranger Than Security Fiction
Tired of the endless news stories about what continues to slip through airport security checkpoints? Distressed to learn that guns, knives, samurai swords and other weapons get through while you're being stripped to your skivvies? Well, consider this almost-too-real news spoof at However, in light of the fact that security officials at San Francisco International this week exploded a pair of foot warmers because they thought they were weapons, this satire, funny as it is, is simply not as strange as the truth.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: The Middle East Is Off the Route Map--Again
The horrific violence in the Middle East centered around the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict has basically wiped the Middle East off the route map of most U.S. frequent flyers. The U.S. State Department issued another Travel Warning for the region on Wednesday, but most corporations told their travelers weeks ago to avoid the area. "We couldn't in good conscience send any American into the Middle East right now," the experienced travel manager of one U.S.-based multinational corporation told me last weekend. "The situation is as unstable as I've seen it since the 1973 war." Overseas business travelers are also reassessing their travel plans and several European carriers have reported a sharp drop in traffic on their flights into most Middle Eastern destinations. "We have seen massive cancellations on flights to Israel, Egypt and Jordan," one European airline executive told me. "But we've seen large declines in traffic everywhere in the Middle East during the last 90 days. The latest development: Continental said Monday that it had postponed the planned addition of three weekly flights on its Newark-Tel Aviv route.

This column originally appeared at

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