The Tactical Traveler



This week: the silver lining in the US Airways-United code-share deal; the AirTrain at New York/Kennedy Airport suffers a fatal crash; Key West gets back on flight maps; drops Northwest flights; Hawaii's airlines get an antitrust exemption; two carriers expand their use-it-or-lose-it rules to international flights; and airline cutbacks don't affect their lobbying costs or political contributions.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: A Silver Lining in the US Airways-United Deal
The Transportation Department approved the US Airways-United code-share deal this week, and, with very few exceptions, the two carriers will begin slapping each other's names on flights during next year's first quarter. But there is a silver lining for travelers in what is otherwise bad news: Members of the United Red Carpet Club and the US Airways Club will have reciprocal lounge access beginning October 14. The two carriers also say they will eventually permit reciprocal earning and redemption in the airlines' frequent-flyer programs.

AIRPORT REPORT: Kennedy's AirTrain Suffers Fatal Crash
New York/Kennedy's much-delayed AirTrain suffered its most serious setback yet when a test run last week ended with a fatal derailment. The three-car train went off the track on a curve and destroyed 150 feet of retaining wall. Worst of all, the 23-year-old driver was killed when he was crushed by concrete blocks that were meant to simulate passengers. It was the second accident during testing of the $1.9 billion, light-rail system that was scheduled to open around the end of the year. Two trains grazed each other and injured a worker in July. ... Key West Airport is back on the flight map. For the first time in more than 40 years, the facility has flights from outside Florida. Delta's commuter carrier now flies twice-daily to Delta's Atlanta Hartsfield hub. ... Tel Aviv/Ben Gurion Airport has shut down international services from Terminal 2. The cause? A massive traffic decline caused by the continuing strife in the Middle East. ... Mexicana has opened a lounge in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. ... A $2.3 million grant from New York State will allow Albany International Airport to install twin loading bridges for Southwest Airlines flights. That will permit passengers to board and disembark from both aircraft doors, speeding up Southwest's already legendary flight turnaround time.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Why The Big Six Are Dying, Chapter 7,256
In case you need a refresher course on why the Big Six airlines are approaching the eve of destruction, consider this week's fare moves. Two of the Big Six, American and Continental, widened the hateful new "use-it-or-lose-it" rules to international flights. American will charge $100 to stand by on flights to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and other destinations in the Caribbean. However, you can't stand by on other American flights to international destinations. Over at Continental, the standby fee is $200, and appears to be applicable to any international flight. Confused yet? Meanwhile, US Airways, which started this madness six weeks or so ago, now says its $100 standby fee begins October 10. However, US Airways Shuttle customers can continue to stand by without a fee until December 31. And, believe it or not, US Airways is now selling standby coupons for $100 each. Of course, the standby coupons have their own rules: they are nonrefundable; have no value except for standby use; are only valid for one year; and have no replacement value if lost or stolen. Compare that collected madness to the simplified policies put into place this week by alternate carrier American Trans Air: No ATA fare is higher than $299 one-way; change fees have been reduced to $50; excess-baggage fees are now a flat $50; travelers can stand by for free; and unused tickets are valid for up to 12 months.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A squabble over fees has led to drop all Northwest Airlines flights from its search engine. ... The two local Hawaii airlines, Aloha and Hawaiian, have received a temporary antitrust exemption. Over Justice Department objections, the Transportation Department will allow the two carriers to coordinate flights and even reduce seat capacity until October, 2003. ... Effective November 1, American Airlines will drop its $5 charge for in-flight entertainment. ... Airlines are cutting flights, perks and employees, but--surprise!--they haven't cut back on their political spending. For the 2002 elections, according to USA Today, the largest carriers have contributed more than $4 million to Congressional candidates and the two major parties. They have also spent $3.5 million in the first half of the year on Congressional lobbying.

SECURITY WATCH: The TSA Now Operates at 142 Airports
The Transportation Security Administration, which must federalize security at more than 400 U.S. commercial airports by November 19, is now operating at security checkpoints in 142 airports. In this week's tranche of federalizations, the TSA took over all security-screening checkpoints at a dozen smaller airports and partially staffed nine more, including San Jose and Sacramento, California; Jacksonville and Miami, Florida; and Honolulu and Memphis. ... The TSA's partial takeover of San Jose led to protests on Monday when more than 100 employees of the private security firms that had been staffing security checkpoints were fired. Most of the private screeners were Filipino immigrants who did not meet the TSA's English-proficiency and English-literacy requirements.

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