The Tactical Traveler

FOR JULY 11 TO JULY 18, 2002


This week: International airlines begin enforcing their carry-on weight limits; Toronto/Pearson is now a "dead zone" for cellphones; National Airlines slashes business fares; New York's LaGuardia Airport is once again the nation's most-delayed airport; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: A Weighty International Carry-On Issue
Business travelers take note: International airlines are putting the squeeze on what they consider "overweight" carry-on bags. Unlike domestic carriers, which traditionally police carry-on bags by size, international carriers have long had weight limits for carry-on bags. The rules were rarely enforced in the past, but many travelers this summer have been told to check carry-on bags that exceeded the carrier's weight limit. Most international carriers also impose weight limits on the "hand baggage" or "cabin baggage" carried by business- and first-class passengers. Carry-on limits vary wildly by class and carrier--Lufthansa permits 18 pounds, for example, but British Airways allows about twice that much in its premium classes--so check with your airline before you fly this summer if you want to avoid a weighty surprise.

AIRPORT REPORT: Toronto Turns Off the Cellphones
A squabble between airport management and wireless service providers has made Toronto/Pearson airport a dead zone for wireless phones, pagers and even Internet access. ... Dallas/Love Field has opened more than 1,100 new covered parking spaces as part of its 18-month parking-garage construction program. ... Some familiar names appear on the Transportation Department's latest list of most-delayed airports. According to figures for May, the most recent available, the nation's worst airport is once again New York/LaGuardia. Only 74 percent of its flights arrived on time in May. Rounding out the bottom five were Atlanta (77.4 percent); New York/Kennedy (77.9 percent); Philadelphia (78.3 percent); and Fort Lauderdale (79.2 percent). The nation's best airports for on-time arrivals? Denver reported 87.1 percent reliability in May, followed by Houston/Intercontinental at 87 percent.

ALTERNATE ARRANGEMENTS: National Slashes Business Fares
Add Las Vegas-based National Airlines to the list of alternate carriers that have cut their airfares to attract more business travelers. Among the highlights of the new structure: Three-day advance-purchase one-way coach fares as low as $99 (Las Vegas to San Francisco) or $219 (Las Vegas to Washington/Dulles or Philadelphia) and advance-purchase first-class Web fares such as $434 between New York/Kennedy and Los Angeles via Las Vegas. Fares do not require a Saturday stay. ... AirTran, which is growing its hub at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport, had also hoped to build a hub operation in Pittsburgh to compete with US Airways. But those dreams are dead. The airline had already dropped its flights from Pittsburgh to New York and Philadelphia and last week it dumped its service to Chicago/Midway. All that remains now in Pittsburgh are flights to Atlanta.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Something Stupid in the Air--Again!
You'd have thought American Airlines would have learned its corporate lesson after chief executive Donald Carty made ill-conceived and much-reviled remarks in May about security procedures and expenditures. But the arrogant brain trust at American seems incapable of learning lessons. Two weeks ago, for example, the airline began demanding that its staff receive special and expedited treatment at security checkpoints because running crews through standard security regimens causes "unnecessary delays for the pilots, flight attendants and other employees." But airline crews--or people who look like airline crews--may actually pose a greater security risk than average passengers. Why? As American and all other carriers know, suspected terrorists have stolen dozens of U.S. flight crew uniforms, flight bags and passports in an alarming rash of hotel break-ins since September 11. "Someone or some organization is targeting flight crews at hotels around the world," the security chief at one major carrier told me this week. "Rooms are being pilfered. Valuables like jewelry, cameras and credit cards are ignored, but uniforms and ID cards are being stolen. It's obvious that terrorists think they could infiltrate the system by masquerading as a pilot or a flight attendant."

IN THE LOBBY: New Hotels and New Services
Hilton International has converted the former 147-room Sofitel CNIT in Paris and renamed it the Hilton Paris La Defense. ... Fairmont says all its properties now offer wireless Internet access in all public areas and guest rooms. The price is $9.95 for 24 hours; elite members of the chain's President's Club receive complimentary access. ... Here's a useful service from Gleneagles, the famed Scottish golf resort. The property guarantees rooms will be ready for U.S. visitors arriving between 6 a.m. and noon. Guests must provide estimated arrival time when they make a reservation.

ON THE FLY: Business Travel News You Need to Know
The 6-year-old Business Travel Coalition says it will begin accepting new corporate members next week. The organization, which lobbies on business-travel issues, has concentrated its previous efforts on large corporations, but will now reach out to smaller firms as well. ... American Express is hiking fees for ATM cash advances to 3 percent of the transaction with a minimum charge of $5. ... Aer Lingus says the airline's "@erfares," which are published at its Website, are the lowest available from the carrier. "Customers need not worry that Aer Lingus fares are cheaper elsewhere," says Jack Foley, the airline's executive vice president of North America. @erfares are "the best deal Aer Lingus has to offer, guaranteed." ... The major airlines tried raising some leisure fares just before the July 4 weekend, but dropped the attempt when Northwest refused to hike its prices. It is at least the fourth time this year the airlines have tried raising fares.

This column originally appeared at

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