The Tactical Traveler



This week: U.S. carriers renege on security requirements; Detroit/Metro changes parking fees; US Airways backs off its draconian elite-status rules; United matches the use-it-or-lose-it rules; the TSA now says it will launch a 'trusted traveler' program; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Airlines Renege on Security Responsibilities
When Congress voted last year to federalize airline security, travelers were immediately hit with a $2.50 per flight security fee. But to help cover the cost of the new Transportation Security Administration, the airlines were legally required to contribute about $750 million a year. The figure was based on what the airlines claimed they had been spending annually on security. So does it surprise you to learn that the airlines have only paid about $300 million of the amount and have refused to pay the rest? The Transportation Department has now gone back to Congress to make the airlines pay up. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration has been forced to pressure airlines to begin meeting their commitment to fortify cockpit doors. The FAA has told the carriers that they must meet an April 9 deadline or their planes with unsecured cockpits will be grounded. Only about half of the U.S. carriers' fleets currently have FAA-certified designs for secure cockpit doors.

AIRPORT REPORT: Detroit/Metro Shuffles Parking Fees
Nothing is ever easy at Detroit/Metro Airport. Six months after it opened a new midfield terminal--the one dominated by Northwest Airlines--DTW has shuffled the price of parking at the midfield parking garage. Now all 8,000 spaces will cost $10 a day. Previously, prices ranged from $8 to $13 a day. Long-term parking at the airport's other garage, in front of the Smith Terminal, remains $13 a day. However, you can print a certificate at the airport Website that will reduce the daily price to $7 a day. ... Oakland International has moved its pick-up area for hotel, car-rental, off-airport parking and door-to-door shuttles into the lane farthest from the terminals.

MEDIA WATCH: Dreaming of Italy? Then Read the Newsletter
Business travelers can be roughly divided into two categories: those who want to escape to France and those who want to escape to Italy. I fit comfortably into the latter group, so I was intrigued with Dream of Italy, a new bi-monthly newsletter edited and published by Kathy McCabe, a travel editor and columnist for USA Today. The first issue of the 12-page newsletter offers a useful guide to Rome's DaVinci Airport; an interesting piece on 2 Amys, one of the five "certified" Neapolitan pizza makers in the United States; and many other reports. You can download a free sample of the first issue at the Dream of Italy site. One-year subscriptions will cost $45 by mail and $35 via the Internet.

MILES & POINTS: US Airways Relents on Elite Credit
US Airways has backed off its suicidal attempt to eliminate low-fare tickets from elite-status qualification for the Dividend Miles program. All flown miles, regardless of fare paid, once again qualify toward elite status. ... The Concorde and Omni hotel chains have joined the Delta SkyMiles program. ... Speaking of SkyMiles, Singapore Airlines is offering 15,000 bonus SkyMiles for business-class trips and 25,000 miles for first-class travel. The bonus is available for roundtrips to selected European and Asian destinations between September 15 and December 15. For rules, restrictions and details, call 800-558-3358. Pre-registration is required.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines has joined the other Big Six carriers and, effective October 1, most of the carrier's nonrefundable fares will be use-them-or-lose-them tickets. Same-day standbys will be allowed for a $100 fee. ... Hawaiian Airlines is cutting its mainland service by reducing schedules on virtually all routes. Aloha Airlines is maintaining its complete mainland schedule, however. ... A British judge has sentenced a traveler to four months in jail. The traveler's offense? He used his mobile phone in flight and refused three requests from the flight crew to turn it off. The judge said using wireless phones in flight was so disruptive to flight-navigation systems that airlines should consider confiscating the devices from passengers prior to boarding.

SECURITY CHECK: TSA Will Launch a 'Trusted Traveler' Program
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reversed itself and will now create a "trusted traveler" program to speed frequent flyers through security checkpoints. The original TSA administrator opposed the plan and it was one of the reasons he was fired. The new administrator, James Loy, told a Senate hearing this week that a "registered traveler" plan will be launched as soon as possible. He gave no details or timetable, however. ... At the same hearing, Loy said about 10 percent of the nation's commercial airports will miss the December 31 deadline for screening checked luggage for explosives. Loy refused to consider extending the deadline, however. "I do not support a wholesale delay," he said. "We must deploy explosive-detection systems at all of our airports as soon as possible." ... Prosecutors have dropped charges against a woman who was arrested after Philadelphia security screeners found a loaded gun in her bag. A screener who missed the weapon when the woman originally checked in at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport was fired.

This column originally appeared at

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