The Tactical Traveler



This week: Unfair fares on code-share carriers; AirTran continues to expand; international airlines add flights while U.S. majors contract; Canada warns some of its nationals about travel to the United States; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Unfair Fares on Code Shares
You'd think that airlines sharing codes would charge the same price for seats on their code-shared flights. Even in this era of wacky fares, you'd think that the same planes with the same service and the same seats would cost the same regardless of which carrier's name you've chosen to put on the ticket. Well, think again. Illogical as it sounds, each airline in a code-share arrangement sets its own fares. The inevitable result? Unfair fares and pricing chaos. One example: Book a roundtrip flight in business class between New York/Kennedy and Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Air France and you'll pay $4,687 roundtrip. But call Delta Air Lines, which puts its "DL" code on Air France's Abidjan flights, and Delta will charge you $5,623 for a roundtrip ticket. Same planes, same flights, same service, but a price difference of more than $900. The lesson: Check the fares of both carriers before booking any code-shared flight.

The Big Six carriers continue to bleed cash, but Atlanta-based AirTran turned a slim profit in the third quarter and it continues to pursue a pattern of slow, but consistent, growth. On January 7, it adds more service at Orlando, launching daily, two-class Boeing 717 flights to Pittsburgh and Flint, Michigan. On February 4, it bulks up in Fort Myers, Florida, adding daily, two-class flights to both Philadelphia and Baltimore-Washington. The airline also announced ticketed passengers may now check-in online at the AirTran Web site as early as 24 hours before departure. ... Denver-based Frontier is installing in-flight television on its fleet of Airbus A319s. The in-seat service will offer DirecTV satellite coverage, which includes CNN Headline News, ESPN, CNBC, MSNBC and Bloomberg Television as well as arts and children's channels.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: International Carriers Continue to Expand
While U.S. carriers contract their international networks, international airlines continue to expand. United Airlines, for example, has announced it will drop flights to Caracas, Santiago, Dusseldorf, and Milan. ... Lufthansa says it will launch nonstop flights between Frankfurt and Portland, Oregon, on March 31. ... Aer Lingus says it will resume its nonstop flights between Baltimore-Washington and Shannon and Dublin on March 30. ... Mexicana says it will begin service between Mexico City and Vancouver on December 14. The five weekly flights will be flown with two-class Airbus A319s. ... Shanghai travelers take note: All "foreign" flights, including service from Macau and Hong Kong, are now routed to Pudong International Airport, about an hour outside of the city's central business district. The close-in Hongqiao airport is now reserved for "domestic" flights.

SECURITY WATCH: 269 Airports Down, 160 to Go
Racing a November 19 deadline to federalize security screening at the nation's 429 commercial airports, the Transportation Security Administration says it is now in place at 269 facilities. This past week's crop of federalization includes mostly smaller airports. ... Although the federal screeners have been winning raves from passengers and airport executives, the first glitch occurred at Chicago/O'Hare last week. Two federal screeners were fired for turning their backs on their post while a passenger passed through security. ...The State Department has closed the U.S. embassy in Bangui, Central African Republic, and urged travelers to defer travel to the region. Rebels have been attempting to unseat the current government and fighting has reached the capital in recent weeks. ... Speaking of travel warnings, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs this week warned Canadians of Middle Eastern origin to avoid travel to the United States. The reason? Middle Eastern visitors are likely to "attract special attention from American immigration and security authorities." U.S. authorities last month detained a man holding joint Canadian-Syrian citizenship while he was changing planes at New York/Kennedy Airport. He was then deported to Syria even though he had been living in Canada and was a contract employee of a Massachusetts software firm.

THE PARTING SHOT: Travel Writing That Hums
I picked up this tip from Joe Sharkey, the savvy business-travel columnist of The New York Times, when I asked him if there were any leisure-travel Web sites he liked. "I read," he said. So off I went to Worldhum. And so should you. The site offers terrific, offbeat travel stories, links to even more good travel writing elsewhere on the Web and exactly the kind of unique, personal expression the Internet was supposed to encourage. You just gotta love a site that publishes stories about Syrian hotels where James Brown tunes seep through the walls.

This column originally appeared at

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