The Tactical Traveler



This week: The strike clock ticks at Midwest Express; 10 airports now have federal screeners; Vanguard Airlines folds; how the major carriers lie about flight delays; Budget Rent-a-Car files for bankruptcy; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Strike Clock Is Ticking at Midwest Express
The strike clock is ticking at Midwest Express, where a contract dispute between the airline and its flight attendants could lead to a strike as early as 12:01 a.m. on August 30. The National Mediation Board released the two sides into a federally mandated 30-day "cooling off" period on Monday. If the two sides haven't come to an agreement when the 30-day period ends, then flight attendants are legally free to strike. The union representing Midwest Express' flight attendants has authorized a strike, but a total work stoppage doesn't appear likely. Instead, the union may use partial walkouts, surprise work stoppages and other tactics. Either way, Midwest Express travelers should monitor the situation closely and consider booking around Midwest Express.

AIRPORT REPORT: The TSA Federalizes Its Tenth Airport
The Transportation Security Administration faces a November 19 deadline for federalizing security screeners at more than 400 airports. It federalized its tenth airport this week. Eight airports are now under complete federal control: Baltimore-Washington; Louisville, Kentucky; Mobile, Alabama; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Bedford, Massachusetts; Columbus, Ohio; Hartford, Connecticut; and Athens, Georgia. Two others--Orlando and New York/Kennedy--have federal screeners in some terminals. ... A new terminal opened at John Lennon Airport in Liverpool, England. The $48 million facility was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth. ... It isn't named after a musical legend, but a new arrivals terminal has opened at Norfolk International Airport in Virginia.

ALTERNATE ARRANGEMENTS: Vanguard Folds Its Flying Circus
The flying circus that is Vanguard Airlines ground to a halt this week. The 7-year-old carrier suspended all flights and was headed for a bankruptcy filing. Vanguard was a victim of its own muddled business strategies, but it was also a victim of circumstances. It got driven out of several markets by American Airlines. American used "brutal" and "bare-knuckle" tactics against Vanguard, a federal district judge said last year, but he nevertheless dismissed a Justice Department antitrust suit against the nation's largest carrier. Vanguard was twice rejected for a federally guaranteed loan under the terms of the post-September 11 bail-out law. And it chose to try to build its hub in Kansas City, which has bankrupted every other carrier that tried to hub there. If you're holding a Vanguard ticket, try to rebook with the help of several carriers or call your credit-card firm and request a "chargeback."

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Absurdities and Lies from the Major Carriers
In an interview with The New York Times on the eve of her departure this week as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Jane Garvey stated the obvious. Airlines have stuffed so many flights into overloaded airports such as New York/LaGuardia that she has urged Congress to ration service to those facilities. "There is no other option" but to restrict flights at LaGuardia, Garvey told Times reporter Matthew L. Wald. That suggestion raised the ire of Michael Wascom, the spokesman for the Air Transport Association, the lobbying group of the nation's major carriers. "There is no current or looming congestion-related delay problem of any consequence," he claimed. "The Transportation Department and the FAA should focus on...pouring more concrete for new runways." Of course, Wascom's response is both a flat-out lie and patently absurd. One in four flights arrived late at LaGuardia in June, according to figures released today in the Transportation Department's Air Travel Consumer Report. As for pouring concrete, LaGuardia is hemmed in on all sides by major New York City roads, Interstate highways and Flushing Bay.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
More troubles in the car-rental segment. Budget Rent-a-Car filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday. The company says rentals and business will continue as usual. The parent company of Alamo and National car rental is also operating under bankruptcy protection. ... Matching a price hike initiated by American Airlines, United Airlines says it will now charge $20 for a paper ticket on any itinerary where an electronic ticket is available. ... Separately, United and Delta Air Lines will allow passengers with Etix to fly on either carrier without obtaining a paper ticket. The program takes effect on August 14. ... A pilot for Delta regional carrier Atlantic Southeast failed a breathalyzer test on Sunday before boarding the regional jet he was due to pilot. He was barred from boarding the plane by a Transportation Security Administration officer. ... More than 130 passengers aboard an EasyJet flight due to depart from Nice, France, staged a sit-in protest on Sunday. The airline tried to force the passengers off the plane to use the equipment for another flight. When passengers refused to leave, Easyjet decided to fly the plane to its London/Luton destination after all.

This column originally appeared at

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