The Tactical Traveler

FOR JUNE 13 TO JUNE 20, 2002


This week: Airlines warp the meaning of a "direct" flight; the surging Euro raises the price of travel in Europe; major airline traffic plummets in May; and hotels keep switching brand affiliations.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Don't Get Tricked by Airline Word Games
In their desperation to make their schedules seem better than they are, airlines are beginning to fiddle with the long-understood definitions of flight services. "Nonstop" and "connection" service always meant what they were and the term "direct" traditionally referred to a single-plane service with one or more intermediate stops along the way. In recent months, however, more and more carriers are slapping the "direct" label on "change of gauge" or "funnel flight" services. Those are services that carry a single flight number, but actually entail a plane change en route to the destination. Want to make sure you're not tricked by a phony "direct" flight? Check carefully before you book. Don't rely on flight numbers, which can mask airline trickery. Request specific routing and equipment information before confirming any itinerary.

CYBERTRAVELER: When Travel Wasn't Rotten
Once upon a time, the act of travel must have been romantic, exotic and truly exciting. That's the only conclusion you can reach when you peruse the incredibly alluring and seductive Travel Brochure Graphics site. David Levine, a private collector, has amassed more than 1,000 pieces of travel-advertising art from the 1920s and 1930s and built the site to showcase the designs and the graphics. Nothing on the site--airline ads, destination brochures, hotel flyers and much more--is for sale. It's just a treat for the eyes--and another hole in the heart for those of us who've found our lives on the road to be anything but romantic.

DOLLAR WATCH: Euro Resurgence Means Higher Prices in Europe
The unprecedented decline of the Euro--and the equally amazing bargains for U.S. travelers in Europe--seems to be over. Introduced at US$1.13 in 1999, the 12-nation common currency steadily eroded in value, falling as low as about 85 U.S. cents last year. But the Euro has been bouncing back and the resurgence can roughly be traced to its introduction as an official street-level currency on January 1. It is now fetching about 95 U.S. cents, which means goods denominated in Euros cost about 12 percent more now than last year.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Mainline Airlines Just Don't Get It
It's long past time for the mainline U.S. airlines to get the message: Business travelers aren't returning to major carriers until they simplify their product, clean up their service and lower their business fares. Despite their strident claims that traffic would slowly return throughout the year, the statistics are proving exactly the opposite. In May, the six mainline carriers continued to be hammered. American's traffic dropped 12.3 percent compared to May, 2001. Continental was off 9.9 percent and Delta dropped 7.1 percent. Northwest traffic was off 11.2 percent, United was down a startling 17.2 percent and US Airways registered an eye-popping 20.6 percent traffic drop.

IN THE LOBBY: Hotels Continue to Pass the Flags
It's getting harder and harder to tell which hotels are which without the proverbial scorecard. Even then, you'd better write the names down in pencil because hotels continue to change brand affiliations with breathtaking speed. In no particular order, here are this week's changes. Sixty-five Suburban Lodge hotels will adopt the InTown Suites brand. The extended-stay hotel portfolio was acquired earlier this year by InTown. ... The 418-room Westin Surabaya in the downtown business district of the Indonesian city has been reflagged as the JW Marriott Surabaya. ... And Hilton has converted two well-known city properties. The 624-room Omni Netherland Plaza in downtown Cincinnati is now a Hilton. So is the former Radisson Twelve Caesars, the 209-room hotel on City Avenue in Philadelphia.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: New and Noteworthy Around the World
US Airways has opened its first international club at London/Gatwick airport. It is located on the fourth level of Gatwick's South terminal. ... Mexicana launches nonstop flights between Sacramento and Guadalajara on July 1. The flights will continue on to Mexico City. ... Hyatt Hotels has opened a 591-room Grand Hyatt property in Beijing. Nightly rates start at $210. Worth noting: The hotel offers parking space for 12,000 bicycles.

This column originally appeared at

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