The Tactical Traveler

FOR JULY 18 TO JULY 25, 2002


This week: Midway Airlines and US Airways team up to screw you; Sports Express offers fast, convenient luggage shipping; the government again delays your right to control your cellphone number; two more European carriers cut fares; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Airlines Cooperate--and You Get Screwed
Midway Airlines has voluntarily stopped flying for the second time since September 11. Once again, Midway is screwing ticket holders and, this time, it even has a willing partner in corporate sleaze: US Airways. Without advance notice, the Raleigh-Durham-based Midway abruptly stopped flying at the close of business on Wednesday, July 17, and announced it would resume flying in about 60 days as a US Airways Express commuter carrier. What happens to travelers who have booked and paid for a ticket on Midway? You're not being protected by either Midway or US Airways. In fact, you're at the mercy of US Airways. First, travelers must go to a Midway ticket counter to receive documents for US Airways travel. But US Airways will confirm reservations for Midway flyers only "if US Airways has a comparable fare available from the customer's originating city, or within 200 miles of the originating city." (US Airways' Charlotte hub is 129 miles from Raleigh-Durham.) What happens if US Airways doesn't have a comparable fare? Midway ticket holders will have to fly standby or settle for a refund. For more details of your slim chances for help, consult the Midway Website.

AIRPORT REPORT: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A "work-to-rules" action by employees of private security companies is delaying flights at Paris/DeGaulle and Paris/Orly airports. Some delays have reached three hours on weekend flights. ... A new rail link between central Madrid and Barajas Airport has opened. Trains fitted with luggage racks now whisk travelers in 12 minutes from the airport to the Nuevos Ministerios underground transportation hub in Madrid's financial district. At Nuevos Ministerios, travelers can connect to two other metro lines and commuter trains. There are also check-in and baggage-check facilities for several local and regional airlines. A one-way ticket on the three-stop train costs about US$1. ... An Australian bank has bought a 45 percent stake in the company that manages Rome's two airports, Rome/Fiumicino and Rome/Ciampino. ... A plan to build a new airport in Mexico City has led to days of sometimes-violent protest in the Mexican capital.

CYBERTRAVELER: Listen to My Wife When It Comes to 'Checked' Bags
I travel light and have an absolute aversion to checking bags if I can avoid it. On the other hand, my wife travels heavy and she's often weighed down with the detritus of a business-travel life: client collateral, display gear, and a cornucopia of stuff that simply can't be left behind. But she's recently discovered the joy of shipping bags that she otherwise would have checked and she raves about Sports Express, a new company that specializes in business-travel services. As the name implies, Sports Express was created to ship sports equipment for business travelers intent on using their own gear on the road. Since September 11, however, it has also focused on convincing frequent flyers to ship luggage instead of check it. The company offers both overnight and second-day service, picks up at your home or office and delivers directly to your hotel or resort. "It's incredibly convenient," my wife tells me. "You don't have to schlep anything and it's easy to arrange online." You probably should listen to her. She's usually right about stuff like this.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Your Cellphone Number Still Isn't Yours
The Federal Communications Commission has again buckled under pressure from the cellphone industry and delayed implementation of a regulation that would allow you to keep your mobile number when you change wireless carriers. Unlike land-line phone numbers, which are "portable" and can be retained when you change phone companies, cellphone numbers are not freely transferable if you move to a new wireless provider. The FCC originally ruled that cellphone numbers should be the property of the cellphone user in the mid-1990s. But it twice delayed implementation of the ruling at the behest of the cellphone industry. "Portability" was finally scheduled to go into effect in November, but on Tuesday, July 16, the FCC once again delayed implementation for an additional year. The cellphone companies oppose portability for an obvious reason: If you can keep your mobile number when you change carriers, then you're more likely to switch when a cellphone provider gives you lousy service or jacks up your rates. The cellphone industry is expected to continue its long-running and relentless campaign to force the FCC to drop its portability ruling.

Faced with increasing competition from discount carriers such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Go!, mainline European carriers continue to slash airfares. The latest convert: KLM, which is introducing a new fare structure on 66 intra-Europe routes. Prices have been reduced by about 40 percent on some routes, although the fares require advance-purchase and minimum-stay rules. And British Airways, which has already lowered some UK and European fares, has announced further reductions. Prices start at about US$150 roundtrip between London and destinations such as Geneva, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. Most of the new BA fares are capacity-controlled, but they do not have advance-purchase or Saturday-night stay restrictions. ... Varig has resumed daily service on its bellwether New York/Kennedy-Rio de Janiero route. The Brazilian carrier has also launched a weekly nonstop flight between Miami and Salvador in the state of Bahia.

This column originally appeared at

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