The Tactical Traveler



This week: The airlines fly into the Twilight Zone; Laptop Lane lives again; Priority Pass adds 27 Continental clubs; Amtrak drops its service guarantee; the TSA moves into New Orleans, Orange County, Milwaukee and San Diego; CNN International launches a monthly business-travel program; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Your Next Stop, the Twilight Zone
You'll need some audio help for this week's item, so cue up The Twilight Zone theme. Ready? Good. Then, as Rod Serling used to say, "Submitted for your approval..." This verbiage appeared in a United Airlines advertisement in The New York Times on September 23: "Our fares from New York are always changing. You never know when you might find a great deal. Whether it's seven days in advance or seven weeks in advance, we have all sorts of fares for the places you need to go." ... On December 12, Continental says it will launch four Continental Express flights each business day between its Newark hub and White Plains, New York. Total flight miles: 35. Three-day advance purchase one-way fare: $311. ... Aviation Daily reported last week that Delta boosted its revenue by $12 million between May and July "thanks to staff efforts to enforce all fare rules and service fees." On Tuesday, Delta reported a quarterly net loss of $330 million, a result chief executive Leo Mullin called "disappointing."

AIRPORT REPORT: Laptop Lane Is Making a Comeback
Laptop Lane, the innovative airport service that offers by-the-minute rentals of fully equipped office cubicles, lives again. After nearly disappearing when the chain's parent company collapsed in the dot-com bust, the Laptop Lane network is being slowly revived by Wayport, the wireless-access provider. Wayport originally picked up just nine Laptop Lane locations, but recently has been returning to many of the airports once populated with the outlets. The latest reopenings: the Laptop Lane locations in Oakland. Wayport now operates 15 Laptop Lane facilities in eight airports. ... Priority Pass, the airport-club access program, has added 27 Continental Presidents Clubs to its network of more than 350 clubs worldwide. Priority Pass membership starts at $99 a year. ( members at $75 and above receive a 20 percent discount on Priority Pass membership.) ... The long-awaited rail-airport link at New York/Kennedy will be delayed indefinitely after last month's fatal crash of an AirTrain during a test run.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Amtrak is dropping its two-year-old "Satisfaction Guarantee" program effective November 1. Launched two years ago, the program offered unhappy passengers rebates or refunds for bad service. As any Amtrak customer can attest, service has been lousy on the railroad in recent months, so Amtrak apparently decided to eliminate the guarantee rather than improve service. ... Crushed by massive losses during the last 18 months, the major airlines are cutting back on everything--except lobbying and political contributions. Their spending on those items has totaled more than $27 million since January 1, 2001. "There is something a little bizarre about having their hand out for money on one hand and greasing palms with the other," noted Charles Lewis, director of the Center for Public Integrity. ... American Airlines has stopped calling its jets "Luxury Liners" and is pulling the branding off its planes.

SECURITY WATCH: The TSA Is in Place at 161 U.S. Airports
The Transportation Security Administration, which must federalize screening at all 429 U.S. commercial airports by November 19, is now in place at 161 airports. This week, the TSA took over at John Wayne/Orange County and New Orleans and it also federalized screening in Terminal 3 in San Diego and Concourse E in Milwaukee. ... The same law that federalized screening last year also stipulated that five airports could experiment with privatized screening under a two-year test administered by the TSA. The five facilities: San Francisco; Kansas City; Rochester, New York; Tupelo, Mississippi; and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. ... After the horrific terrorist bombings in Bali last weekend, the U.S. Department of State issued a new Travel Warning for Indonesia. It urges U.S. citizens to "defer travel" to Indonesia and ordered the evacuation of government employees working in non-emergency positions. ... The White House is blocking an independent investigation of the 9/11 attacks. Congressional Republicans and Democrats have agreed on the terms of an outside commission, but have been stalemated by objections from the Bush Administration.

THE PARTING SHOT: CNN International Starts a Business-Travel Show
CNN International, the worldwide version of CNN, has launched a half-hour show aimed at business travelers. Prosaically titled CNN Business Traveller, the monthly program premiered last weekend and is hosted by Richard Quest, the quirky, insightful and highly entertaining anchor of CNNi's London-based business-news programming. The first edition trod too-familiar ground--jet lag, airline food, etc.--and the program isn't really aimed at U.S. frequent flyers, but I thought it showed great promise and, most importantly, the right attitude toward the realities of life on the road. The bad news: CNNi is virtually invisible in the United States. If you receive CNNfn, however, check the channel after midnight Eastern time and on weekends and you'll find the irrepressible Quest and CNNi programming. In fact, you can catch a repeat of the first CNN Business Traveller on CNNfi this Saturday, October 19, at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time. New shows premiere on CNNfn on the second Sunday of each month at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. For more details and Web-based versions of the show's stories, surf to the CNN Business Traveller site.

This column originally appeared at

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