The Tactical Traveler

FOR JANUARY 23 TO 30, 2003


This week: Continental, Delta and Northwest defy the Transportation Department on their tri-partite code share; Boston's 'Big Dig' completes the Logan connection; Wyndham Hotels is offering free calls again; America West changes its boarding process; two more carriers drop MCI from their frequent-flyer programs; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Introducing the Tri-Partite Outlaw Alliance
We already have the Chapter 22 Alliance with bankrupt US Airways and United Airlines sharing codes. Now we have the Outlaw Alliance, which is the combination of Delta, Continental and Northwest defying Transportation Department rulings and planning a raft of anti-competitive code-sharing regimens. In case you missed it, the Transportation Department approved the tri-partite arrangement last Friday with some reasonable and rational conditions: the carriers may not coordinate fares, routes or capacity; the carriers must surrender underused gates at their respective hub airports; and no more than two codes could appear on any flight. But that wasn't good enough for the airline bully boys. They announced on Tuesday that they would defy the DOT restrictions and do whatever they pleased. DOT officials promptly responded that it "will not abandon our statutory responsibility to consumers nor ignore the clear intent of Congress, which has specifically directed the DOT to review such matters for anti-competitive effects." Watch for a long, costly legal wrangle that will further tarnish the reputation of the carriers.

AIRPORT REPORT: Boston's 'Big Dig' Is Dug (Sorta)
Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel Project, universally known as The Big Dig, is done--at least so far as the Boston/Logan Airport link is concerned. The downtown-to-airport commute, which had been taking up to 45 minutes, has now been cut to about 25 minutes. ... The news isn't nearly as good across the continent at San Francisco International. The $430 million Air Train people-mover system that will link the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system with the airport has been delayed again. Originally scheduled to open last September, the nine-stop train was then supposed to open in late January. Now officials are saying it will be March before all the software and safety glitches are eliminated. ... If you absolutely must eat inflight and you're flying from Washington/National Airport, you can surf to Carry-On Cuisine. The firm is apparently building a vast Internet infrastructure just so you can order food in advance on the Web and pick it up before departure from a restaurant at Washington/National. And you thought the Internet was becoming the 21st Century's vast wasteland...

CYBERTRAVELER: Waiting for an Airline Discount? Here It Is...
This one would be funny if it weren't so damned sad. Elite members of the US Airways Dividend Miles program--and possibly some other travelers, too--are getting taped apologies for the long hold times on the telephone. Then they are directed to a special page at the US Airways Web site. The page offers an immediate, and apparently no questions asked, 5 percent discount. I don't think anyone should look a gift discount in the mouth, but you have to wonder if it wouldn't be cheaper if US Airways just answered the damned telephone...

IN THE LOBBY: Hipster Hangout Huntington Beach Gets a Hyatt
Huntington Beach, California, the so-called Orange County Riviera, has a new hotel: the 517-room Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach. The area, which is a haven for surfers and young hipsters, also has a 12-year-old Hilton. All the rooms at the new beachfront property offer ocean views and are outfitted with two-line phones, high-speed Internet access and CD/clock radios. The property has three restaurants and a 20,000-square-foot spa. ... Wyndham Hotels is once again offering free, unlimited local and long-distance calls, free high-speed Internet access and free photocopying and faxing. To get the perks, you need to sign up for the chain's ByRequest guest-recognition program and stay at a Wyndham or Summerfield Suites property by June 30.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
America West has adopted a new boarding process that it says will be in place for all flights within the next month. Passengers still get assigned seats, but will be boarded by a "group number" printed on the boarding pass. American Airlines already uses the system. ... Two more airlines, US Airways and America West, have dumped bankrupt MCI WorldCom as a long-distance calling partner in their respective frequent-flyer programs. Both have switched to Sprint. ... It's been a bad couple of days for Northwest Airlines at New York/LaGuardia Airport. On Tuesday, a Northwest pilot scheduled to work a Detroit-bound flight was arrested after a loaded gun was found in his carry-on bag. A few days earlier, six ground workers were injured when a Northwest Airbus smashed its wing into a passenger bridge. ... Air New Zealand passengers take note: Flight attendants are planning a series of work stoppages in February. A 24-hour strike is scheduled for February 5. Three 48-hour strikes are due to begin February 7.

SECURITY WATCH: Denver Joins the TSA 'Selectee' Party
Denver International is now participating in the Transportation Security Administration's Selectee Checkpoint program. The process, in place at 84 airports, concentrates all security procedures at the initial security checkpoint. That eliminates the much-hated random at-gate secondary screenings. The tradeoff? At-the-gate boarding passes are no longer available. All boarding passes must be secured before the initial security checkpoint. ... If you're freaking out about not locking your checked bags, the new Magellan's catalog has a cheap alternative. Plastic PrivaSeals are disposable plastic loops that open with a twist of a hasp. They sell for $4.85 a dozen.

This column originally appeared at

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