The Tactical Traveler



This week: Continental, Northwest and Delta plan a massive code-share alliance; Midwest Express expands in Kansas City; American and United back away from an O'Hare expansion; Alaska plans more transcontinental flying; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Big Bluff on Airline Code Shares
Watch for Delta, Continental and Northwest to announce a three-way code-share deal in the next few days. Ostensibly, all three carriers will offer reciprocal frequent-flyer and airport-club privileges and place their codes on each other's flights. Continental and Northwest are also supposedly defecting from the Wings Alliance (anchored in Europe by KLM) to join the Delta-Air France SkyTeam Alliance. So what's wrong with this picture? Pretty much everything. The Transportation Department isn't likely to permit a code-share deal between the nation's third, fourth and fifth largest airlines, and that may be the ultimate point. The three carriers, who all oppose the proposed United-US Airways code-share, may be hoping that the DOT will use the threat of such a massive code-share consolidation as an excuse for scuttling the United-US Airways deal. The chances of a United-US Airways code-share deal being approved? Fifty-fifty at best. The chances of the tri-partite Delta-Continental-Northwest deal getting approval? Virtually nil.

AIRPORT REPORT: Airlines Back Away From an O'Hare Expansion
United and American have been bitching for years that the city of Chicago needs to expand O'Hare Airport. But now they've changed their minds and told Chicago mayor Richard Daley that they can live without most of his grandiose plans for the so-called "World Gateway" project. United and American say they still support a controversial plan to build more runways at ORD, but now can't afford to build new terminals. The Transportation Security Administration has taken over security screening at five more airports, boosting the number of facilities under partial or complete federal control to 37. The TSA is supposed to federalize all 400-plus U.S. airports by November 19. Independently, the TSA has liberalized its rules on beverages at security-screening checkpoints. Travelers can carry paper or foam cups into walk-through security points. However, bottles and cans must still be run through the X-ray machines and must be resealable. Express-train service is now running at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The 30-minute trip between the airport and KL's Central Station costs about US$10.

ALTERNATE ARRANGEMENTS: Midwest Express Expands in Kansas City
Now that Kansas City-based Vanguard has stopped flying, Midwest Express will beef up its service. The superb one-class deluxe carrier already flies nonstop to 10 cities from Kansas City, but expects to add three more destinations this fall. On November 10, it will begin offering daily nonstop service to New York/Newark and Austin. And, on December 18, it will add seasonal flights between Kansas City and Fort Myers, Florida. Denver-based Frontier Airlines will drop service to Boston on October 22.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: Overseas Carriers Resume Expansion
U.S. carriers may be scrambling to cut back, but international airlines are expanding flights and rebuilding the schedules they slashed in the weeks after September 11. Most notable: British Airways restores its late-night flights between New York/Kennedy and London/Heathrow on October 27. The JFK-Heathrow run will depart at 11:15 p.m. The Heathrow-JFK late flight will depart at 8 p.m. Air China is expected to launch nonstop flights between Beijing and New York on September 27. The thrice-weekly flights will be operated with Boeing 747-400 aircraft. Lufthansa is beefing up its Africa service. Beginning October 28, it will fly six weekly nonstops between Frankfurt and Lagos, Nigeria. Two of the flights will then continue on to Abuja. VG Airlines, a new Belgian discount carrier that flies from Brussels to Boston, New York/Kennedy and Los Angeles, is changing its name to Delsey Airlines. If that sounds familiar, think luggage. The controlling shareholder of the airline also owns Delsey Luggage.

IN THE LOBBY: Hilton Shuts a Tower at the Hawaiian Village
The year-old Kalia Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu has been closed because of mold. The tower and its 453 rooms are closed indefinitely, but the remainder of the sprawling oceanfront resort is operating normally. The Radisson Hotel at Houston's Hobby Airport has received a $4 million renovation and is now being managed as the Houston Hobby Marriott. Speaking of Marriott, it is being sued by the owner of three of its California hotels: the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, the Renaissance Beverly Hills and the Marriott Rancho Las Palmas. The owner, Strategic Hotel Capital (SHC), claims Marriott has been hiding profits that belong to SHC. Marriott recently settled a similar suit out-of-court. The plaintiff: Host Marriott, a sister company that is the largest owner of Marriott-branded properties.

ON THE FLY: Alaska Expands Its Transcon Flying
Alaska Airlines, the smallest and most nimble of the nation's major full-fare carriers, is expanding its transcontinental service this fall. The Seattle-based carrier already flies nonstop to Boston and Washington, but will add one daily nonstop to Newark on October 28 and a daily nonstop to Miami on November 21. The airline will use Boeing 737s on the new routes. Hertz has extended its "Prestige Collection" to Europe. The program, which allows customers to reserve specific makes and models of luxury cars, currently operates at 31 U.S. locations. Now Hertz has expanded the plan to London; Paris; Nice; Frankfurt; Munich and Dusseldorf. Northwest is raising its paper-ticket surcharge to $25. It won't be long before other greedy carriers do the same. The price of acquiring or renewing a U.S. Passport has increased. First-time adult passports now cost $85, up from $60. The price of adult renewals has risen to $55, up from $40.

This column originally appeared at

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