The Tactical Traveler



This week: The Bush Administration begins backtracking on airport-security deadlines; United and US Airways now try for a code-share deal; in-flight passenger vigilantism rears its ugly head again; costs soar for U.S. travelers in Europe; and Japan Airlines introduces a new business-class seat.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Airport-Security Backslide Begins
True to the G-man's code of conduct, John Magaw went quietly last week after he was abruptly fired as head of the Transportation Security Administration. But in axing Magaw, the Bush Administration sent a loud message: It is prepared to renounce the deadlines for making all airport screeners federal employees by November 19 and for examining all checked bags for bombs by December 31. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, the man who canned Mcgaw on July 18, showed up at Congressional hearings on Tuesday and pointedly refused to guarantee the twin deadlines will be met. And the White House has quietly told Congressional allies that it will not oppose legislation to delay the bomb-screening deadline by at least a year. What's all this mean for travelers? More chaos at security checkpoints while under-trained, underpaid screeners employed by private security companies remain on the job indefinitely. As for the bomb-screening deadline, it means another legal deadline scuttled at the behest of obstructionist airlines and airport managers. That unholy alliance has been ducking bomb-screening deadlines ever since the first federal law was passed after the Pan Am 103 bombing in December, 1988.

CODE-SHARE SCORECARD: Teaming Up for Their Own Benefit
Here's proof positive that bad ideas in the airline business never die--or perhaps that airline executives are so creatively bankrupt that they can't think of anything else to do. US Airways and United Airlines say they have reached a deal on a code-sharing alliance. The two carriers tried to merge two years ago, but dropped the idea when the Justice Department threatened to sue the carriers. The code-share proposal, which would not entail an equity arrangement, may still run afoul of the same antitrust concerns that killed the merger. ... Speaking of failed mergers, Aloha and Hawaiian, which abandoned their merger attempt earlier this year, are now trying for antitrust immunity on inter-island flights. The carriers are permitted to apply for immunity on inter-island routes thanks to a clause in last year's airport-security bill inserted by Hawaii Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye. ... American Airlines and Swiss, the successor carrier to defunct Swissair, will begin code-sharing on five routes. On July 31, American will put its code on Swiss flights from Zurich to Warsaw and Cracow, Poland, and to Muscat, Oman. On August 7, American will put its code on Swiss flights from Zurich to Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi, India. American flies to Zurich from New York/Kennedy and Dallas/Fort Worth. ... And international travelers take note: Air France and Aeroflot have forged a code-share deal on flights to Moscow from Paris. Each carrier will operate three flights and each will place their code on the other's flights. If you fly to Moscow via Paris, then make sure you know which carrier is actually operating the flight you're booking.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Vigilantism Rears Its Ugly Head Again
An ugly spate of passenger vigilantism masquerading as patriotism exploded in the days after September 11 and led to a series of lawsuits aided by the American Civil Liberties Union. But bigots and fools never learn. On July 16, a family of seven travelers was hustled off an American Trans Air flight by police after the plane arrived at New York's LaGuardia Airport escorted by two F-16 fighter jets. "At least one passenger perceived the seven to be engaged in suspicious actions," said Alan Hicks, a spokesman for the Port Authority, the agency that operates LaGuardia. "A passenger reported this to a flight attendant, who notified the pilot, who notified ground control." After being questioned for hours, the family--and an eighth, unrelated passenger--was released. The family's hideous in-flight crimes? They were Indian nationals. They were Hindus. They were talking excitedly in their native language and pointing out New York landmarks. Several were entertainers and one is among India's best-known movie stars. And all were en route to New York to perform in a show. The eighth man, who didn't know the family and wasn't traveling with them, was apprehended and questioned simply because he, too, was Indian.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: The Dollar Gets Pounded in Euro
After premiering in 1999 at $1.13, then slumping as low as 84 cents, The Euro has recently surged past "parity" with the U.S. dollar and is now worth $1.01. That means U.S. travelers in the 12-nation Euro zone are getting pounded, paying about 15 percent more for meals, cabs and other purchases made in Euros. ... Japan Airlines is upgrading its business-class seat. The new chair reclines 170 degrees and folds down into a 6-foot, 3-inch bed. The "Shell Flat" seats were due to premiere July 25 on the Tokyo-London route and will be introduced on the New York/Kennedy-Tokyo route in September. ... Virgin Atlantic is dropping out of the London-Delhi market next month and will end its two-year code-share with Air India. Frequent travelers will recall that Virgin founder Richard Branson whipped up a media frenzy several years ago with grandiose plans to enter the India market with his own flights.

ON THE FLY: Business Travel News You Need to Know
Four major carriers have recently dropped or reduced their senior-citizen discounts and alternate airlines have responded by expanding their senior fares. Midwest Express says travelers as young as 55 now qualify for senior fares and Frontier says its 10 percent senior discount is now available on Internet-only fares. ... It was a bad week for security breaches. Oakland International was locked down briefly Monday after a woman slipped by the security checkpoints. And a terminal at Los Angeles International was evacuated for about an hour last Sunday when a screener suspected a belt buckle might be an explosive device.

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