The Tactical Traveler



This week: National Airlines craps out in Vegas; The TSA expands federal security screening to 300 airports; Air Canada launches a 3-hour regional-jet flight to Atlanta; HBO says you can't watch The Sopranos in bars on the road; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: National Airlines Craps Out
National Airlines, mired in bankruptcy for most of its three-year existence, abruptly grounded all its flights and closed its doors on Wednesday after a financing deal fell apart. The two-class airline, which maintained its hub in Las Vegas, was a major carrier into the Nevada city. A half-dozen carriers--including America West, Frontier and Alaska Airlines--immediately said they would honor National tickets on a standby basis. Most are charging a $25 processing fee and insisting travelers fly on the day of their scheduled National flight. Flying standby on the days surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's might be dicey, however, since there may not be many empty seats available. Travelers stuck with National Airlines tickets should request a chargeback from their credit-card company. Under the terms of the federal Fair Credit Billing Act, credit-card issuers cannot charge you for services that are not delivered. One final note: JetBlue Airways, which had previously announced it would begin twice-daily service between New York/Kennedy and Las Vegas on January 7, is moving up its launch date. One of its daily flights will now begin November 15.

AIRPORT REPORT: Pay the $2--Or, $1 Each
A 56-year-old French woman who bared her breasts at a security screening station at Evansville Airport in Indiana was fined $2 last week. It was unclear whether the incident was the result of miscommunication or the woman's protest at being asked to undergo a security "wanding." Either way, she pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts--resisting law enforcement and public indecency--and paid the $2. ... The Transportation Security Administration says it has deployed screeners at 27 more airports this week. That brings the number of airports with at least some federal screeners to 302. The TSA has until November 19 to federalize screening at 429 U.S. airports. ... Borders has opened a 1,950-square-foot bookshop/cafe in Terminal A of Newark Liberty Airport. The chain says it will open a 3,400-square-foot outlet in Terminal C in January.

IN THE LOBBY: Openings, Closings and Reflaggings
Just in case you live the lush life: The Hotel Martinez in Cannes on the French Riviera has closed for renovations. It is scheduled to reopen in mid-January. ... Despite the dot-com bust, Silicon Valley still has localized shortages of hotel rooms. To the rescue in Los Gatos comes the 72-room Hotel Los Gatos, which is scheduled to open on November 18. The property offers a Preston Wynne spa and an outlet of Kuleto's restaurant. It is operated by Joie de Vivre, which operates 20 boutique hotels in San Francisco. ... Marriott has slapped the Renaissance name on the 224-room Hotel Savery in Des Moines, Iowa.

Delsey Airlines, nee VG Air, closed its doors this week after declaring bankruptcy in Belgium. The carrier had launched low-fare service to Brussels earlier this year from New York/Kennedy, Boston and Los Angeles. ... bmi British Midland is shutting down its route between Manchester and Washington/Dulles for the winter. It has been flying the route six times a week. Low passenger loads have led the carrier to eliminate flights beginning in December. Service will resume in June. ... Here's a depressing sign of the times: Air Canada has launched thrice-daily service between Atlanta and Montreal. The flights, which are almost three hours in length, are operated with 50-seat regional jets. ... Singapore Airlines is now flying its San Francisco-Seoul-Singapore flights with new Boeing 777s outfitted with lie-flat beds in business class.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
On the road on Sundays and looking for a hotel bar or other watering hole to catch the latest episode of The Sopranos? HBO, the pay-cable channel that airs the program, is making your life more difficult. HBO lawyers are sending letters to barkeepers telling them that it's allegedly illegal to show HBO programming in a public place. Not to worry, however. HBO seems to show reruns of the original Sunday episode several times a week. Of course, you could react to HBO's being as stupid as the airlines by not watching The Sopranos and disconnecting your HBO service at home. ... The case of 56 people claiming damages against 28 airlines over economy-class syndrome or DVT opened in Britain's High Court on Tuesday. The case was adjourned the next day after the presiding judge revealed that he owned 1,450 shares of British Airways stock. No resumption date has been set. ... The Consumer Reports Travel Letter is folding. January's issue will be the last edition. ... Europe's highest court ruled Tuesday that bilateral aviation agreements between the United States and individual nations within the 15-state European Community were illegal. It's too early to say what effect the ruling will have on transatlantic service. Bilateral air treaties between nations have been the standard method of approving international air travel since... well... since the Wright Brothers.

This column originally appeared at

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