The Tactical Traveler

FOR JUNE 27 TO JULY 11, 2002


This week: The TSA bans open containers of liquids at checkpoints and changes the airport-club access rule; ATA simplifies its fares; Frontier will add at-seat live television service; Amtrak imposes a two-bag carry-on limit; and American raises the fee for paper tickets to $20.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: More New Rules the TSA Didn't Tell You About
The Transportation Security Administration has imposed two new rules you need to know about. Of course, the TSA hasn't bothered to announce the rules, so it's only by luck and reportorial enterprise that we've learned about them. The first new rule applies to beverages: Opened containers of liquids are now banned at security checkpoints. Cups of drinks or open bottles that cannot be resealed cannot be taken through security. Steve Huettel of the St. Petersburg Times ferreted out that otherwise secret TSA ruling. The other decision: The TSA now says visitors who wish to clear security to use an airport club must be on an appointment list at the security checkpoint. In recent weeks, the agency began allowing travelers access to airport clubs inside security perimeters without tickets. But now it has tightened the rule without public announcement. If you wish to visit an airline club on a day you aren't traveling, check with your carrier for specific procedures. At Northwest Airlines, for example, WorldClubs members are being told they must make an appointment 24 hours in advance if they do not have a ticket on the day they wish to visit lounges inside security checkpoints.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: New Names, New Fares and New Services
The little guys continue to innovate while the major mainline carriers continue to bully customers and hemorrhage red ink. For example: American Trans Air, which is slowly transforming itself from a predominantly leisure-travel airline into a carrier that can compete for business travelers, has reorganized its fares. Besides what it claims are price reductions in the 25-60 percent range, ATA says advance-purchase, minimum-stay or Saturday-stay rules have been eliminated. Fuel surcharges have also been dropped. ... Frontier Airlines, which continues to gain market share against United at its Denver hub, says it will begin installing at-seat, live-television service on its planes. The installation program will begin in the fall, but the airline says it has not decided whether it will charge travelers to use the service. At the moment, only JetBlue offers at-seat live television. It doesn't charge for the service. ... Midwest Express will change its name next year to Midwest Airlines. The Milwaukee-based carrier is the only airline in the nation to offer wide, comfortable 2x2 seating in all its coach cabins.

AIRPORT REPORT: Do What He Says, Not What He Does
Speaking of the TSA, the newly appointed federal security director of Louisville International Airport was stripped of his duties last week after reports surfaced that he skipped a security checkpoint. The official, a 20-year FBI veteran, was due to assume his duties this week. ... A 300-pound sea lion crossed two runways and entered a passenger terminal at San Francisco International and was not detected by ground radar or observed by tower personnel. SFO officials now says it might put up a fence around the airport perimeter. ... A 156-room Hilton Garden Inn has opened at Columbus Airport. ... National and Alamo, rental-car companies owned by the same bankrupt parent company, are consolidating their on-airport rental facilities. Although faced with legal challenges by some airport operations, the two rental firms now have combined shuttle-bus and counter operations in Cincinnati, Detroit and about a dozen other airports. Alamo customers who use the Quicksilver self-service kiosks will now be shunted onto the general rental lines at the combined facilities.

RAIL WATCH: New Amtrak Carry-On Rules Just to Annoy You
Amtrak says its will impose a two-bag limit for carry-on bags beginning July 1. Identification tags will also be required on most carry-on pieces. Moreover, the rail service says no piece of carry-on luggage should exceed a size limit of 28x22x14 or weigh more than 50 pounds. The railroad does not say how it's going to enforce any of these rules, however, and has apparently made no arrangement to increase the number of Red Caps to handle checked bag. None of this information was available on the Amtrak Website as late as Thursday afternoon, June 27, either. And you were wondering why Amtrak is on the verge of collapse... (Update as of 5 p.m., June 29 update: Amtrak has finally posted its new carry-on policy on its Website. However, the statement doesn't address enforcement or additional checked-bag service.)

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines raised the fee for paper tickets to $20 on any trip where an E-ticket is available. ... Lufthansa, the German carrier that has resisted the tidal wave of lower-priced, simplified fares that is engulfing Europe, has partially relented. Facing low-fare competition from both Ryanair and Deutsche BA in the domestic German market, Lufthansa has introduced low-priced tickets that require a two-day advance purchase and off-peak travel. ... Wyndham Hotels says it will no longer charge guests for local calls, domestic long-distance calls, faxes, photocopies or high-speed Internet access. But there are some hefty restrictions: You must join the Wyndham By Request frequent-guest program and complete one stay by September 30; the offer is only available at participating hotels in the 48 contiguous states; and Wyndham reserves the right to rescind the offer to any guest for any reason.

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