The Tactical Traveler

FOR APRIL 25 TO MAY 2, 2002


This week: The new Swiss carrier is dumping summer seats; AirTran simplifies fares in Atlanta and Delta reacts; Argenbright ain't dead yet; Dulles scraps a replacement of its Midfield Terminal; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Europe's Summer Deals Fly Through Zurich
The airline auction sites, especially, are offering some stunning summer airfares to Europe. One example: $499 roundtrip to Barcelona in the height of the tourist season compared to quotes of almost $1,200 at the Iberia and Delta Websites. There are similar deals available to more than a dozen destinations around the continent. Where are those low fares coming from? The new Swiss carrier, which is desperate to fly travelers via its Zurich hub. Swiss, the successor carrier to bankrupt and disgraced Swissair, is having trouble selling seats to skeptical Americans, so the airline is dumping its transatlantic inventory at the auction sites. Exactly how good a deal is $499 to Barcelona via Zurich? If you don't want to give Iberia or Delta $1,200 for their nonstop flights, you can wander over to the Swiss Website. On Sunday, for exactly the same flights on exactly the same summer dates that Hotwire offered up the $499 Swiss roundtrip, the Swiss Website was quoting $911 roundtrip.

ALTERNATE ARRANGEMENTS: AirTran Forces Delta to Respond
AirTran Airways has launched a streamlined fare structure to dozens of destinations from its Atlanta hub. There are just five fares--14-day, 7-day and 3-day advance purchase, a walk-up coach price and a business-class fare--and none require a Saturday stay or roundtrip purchase. Business class is priced at $25 above walk-up coach. Sample fares: $209 walk-up coach to Chicago or Newark, and $219 walk-up coach to Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston. The aggressive pricing has forced a response from Delta, which also has its primary hub in Atlanta. Wherever they compete, Delta has matched AirTran's coach prices on a capacity-controlled basis. In some markets, Delta has even slashed the price of its first-class tickets.

CYBERTRAVELER: The Glasers Get Online
Like a lot of other business travelers who obsess over their luggage, I am an unabashed fan of bags and briefcases that emerge from Glaser Designs, the small San Francisco firm headed by the husband-and-wife team of Myron and Kari Glaser. They use top-notch leathers, the best nylon and the highest-quality fittings to produce attractive, ingeniously designed bags for business travelers. More importantly, perhaps, the Glasers think creatively about luggage, consult one-on-one with their buyers and give valuable advice about buying and using the bags. My first two Glaser pieces--a garment bag and a carry-on bag--are now 10 years old, but look nearly brand new. After a long delay, Glaser has built a Website, which gives newcomers a chance to look at the luggage and understand the extensive Glaser line of accessories that fit into the bags.

AIRPORT REPORT: Argenbright's Not Dead Yet
The Transportation Department keeps saying that it won't work with Argenbright Security, the disgraced private-screening firm tied to many of the worst airport security lapses. But even after another public series of dismissals in recent days, Argenbright continues on the job at six airports: Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Orlando, New York/Kennedy and San Francisco. ... Here's bad news for Washington-area travelers hoping for some relief from the cramped conditions of the Midfield Terminal at Washington/Dulles Airport. Citing slumping traffic since September 11 and an uncertain future, airport authorities have scrapped plans to replace the 15-year-old facility. Also abandoned is an underground people mover for international arrivals. ... Adelaide Airport has delayed its expansion plans now that Ansett, once Australia's second-largest airport has folded. ... Continental Airlines has opened an international arrivals facility at its Newark hub.

ON THE FLY: Business Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines is dropping its nonstop service between New York/Kennedy and Buenos Aires. The decision is being described as a temporary move between June 7 and October 31. ... American Airlines is installing new seats in the first-class cabins of its Fokker 100s. Seat pitch will be increased to 40 inches. ... Northwest Airlines and American now offer interline electronic tickets. ... Singapore-based Raffles Hotels has added its brand name to four of its hotels, including Brown's in London and the Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg. ... Hertz has opened car-rental locations in three Chinese cities: Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. The operation is a licensing agreement with a local Chinese tour firm. Unless you have a Chinese drivers license, however, you'll be required to rent a chauffeur-driven vehicle. ... Finally, a sad note: Paul Grimes, the gifted journalist who created the "Practical Traveler" column in The New York Times and then wrote a column for Conde Nast Traveler, died on Tuesday. He retired last year and stopped writing his column at because he said ill health had made reporting on travel impossible.

This column originally appeared at

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