The Tactical Traveler



This week: America West bulks up in Las Vegas; Aloha and American airlines are adding flights to Hawaii; Delta's 'Song' is a derivative old tune; hubs and spokes don't help small towns; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Las Vegas Gets Its Flight Groove Back
Any fears that Las Vegas wouldn't have enough flights after the collapse of Las Vegas-based National Airlines last year were unfounded. JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and American Trans Air have all recently added, or will soon begin, new flights to "Sin City," and now America West is planning to bulk up its Las Vegas hub. Beginning March 1, America West's commuter operation will add nonstop, regional-jet service between Las Vegas and Eugene, Oregon. On the same day, America West itself will add additional flights from Las Vegas to Denver and Phoenix and to San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose, California. It will also resume seasonal flights to Mexico City. That will bring Phoenix-based America West to 91 daily Las Vegas departures to 38 destinations.

CYBERTRAVELER: It's the Same Old 'Song' from Delta
When I reported last month that Delta had named its latest venture "Song," some readers thought I was kidding. Sadly, when Delta officially unveiled Song this week, we learned the entire airline is on the same level: a derivative joke masquerading as original thinking. Start with the name itself, a swipe from the Air Canada practice of giving its offshoots musical names (Jazz, Tango). Then there's Song's plan to go with one class (all coach) and one plane type (recycled B-757s), both ideas lifted from Southwest. Song's extra seat pitch (33 inches) is a nod to American's roomier coach cabins. Song's plans to offer in-flight television is swiped from JetBlue, the carrier Song will fight for supremacy in the East. The cap on fares at $299 one-way is also derived from JetBlue and Southwest. Song will sell food in flight. Well, who isn't? And, of course, the entire airline-within-an-airline idea has already been tried (and abandoned) by Continental (Continental Lite), US Airways (MetroJet) and even Delta itself (Song will replace the disgraced Delta Express). So what is unique at Song? The logo and livery, which the usually reserved New York Times described as "a squiggly white object resembling a spermatozoid on a green background."

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Hubs and Spokes Don't Save Small Towns
US Airways commuter carrier Allegheny Airlines dumps service between US Airways' Philadelphia hub and Worcester on February 9 and that leaves the Massachusetts airport without commercial flights. Why is that important? Because it's another tangible nail in the hoary coffin of excuses that apologists use to prop up the theory that hub-and-spokes are somehow a consumer benefit. With the deletion of Worcester from the commercial route map, at least a dozen smaller communities have now lost all airline service since the September 11 terrorist attacks. In fact, as major carriers have cut back, experts estimate the nation's smallest 200 airports have lost flights twice as fast as the nation's largest 200 airports. Traffic at Worcester had been growing, but Allegheny was losing money on the route, even with a federal Essential Air Service subsidy. So, the next time someone tells you hub-and-spokes should be defended because they are good for small-town service--or that major carriers would somehow keep unprofitable spoke flights operating to smaller communities--tell them about Worcester. Or Youngstown, Ohio. Or Ottumwa, Iowa. Or Hickory, North Carolina.

HAWAII WATCH: More Service to the Islands, Where It's Warm
It's cold everywhere on the U.S. mainland, so there's no better time to talk about increased flights to Hawaii. Aloha Airlines, which has been rapidly expanding its 3-year-old mainland service, continues to add destinations. Beginning February 14, Aloha will launch service between Burbank and Kahului, Maui. There will be four weekly flights until March 13, then the service will begin operating daily. Effective April 18, the Burbank flights will then continue on to Sacramento. On June 19, Aloha will add more service from its Oakland gateway. That's the day it launches four weekly flights to Lihue, Kauai, and expands its Oakland-Kona, Big Island, route to daily service. The airline already operates daily from Oakland to both Honolulu and Maui. Separately, on April 6, Aloha will juggle its service to Vancouver. There will be three weekly flights to Honolulu, three to Maui and a Saturday flight to Kona. ... United Airlines, the 800-pound gorilla on flights to Hawaii, has inexplicably eliminated nonstop service from its Chicago/O'Hare hub. But that has encouraged American Airlines to bulk up from O'Hare. In addition to its existing O'Hare-Honolulu daily nonstop, American is adding nonstop 767-300 flights from Chicago to Kahului, Maui. There will be five weekly flights beginning April 6, then daily service beginning June 14.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines has joined several other carriers in reducing the free checked-baggage allowance. On Sunday, it began charging a $25 fee for bags that weigh more than 50 pounds. ... Peak morning and evening traffic at Helsinki's efficient Vantaa Airport should flow even more smoothly now that a new, $112 million runway has opened. ... Leading Hotels of the World will start a guest-loyalty/frequent-stay program in March. ... The Laptop Lane chain of airport office centers was nearly toast after its parent company went belly up almost two years ago. But Wayport, the high-tech company that bought a few of the original locations, has been slowly rebuilding the chain. With the reopening of two original Laptop Lane locations in Oakland last month, Wayport, which rents fully equipped office cubicles by the minute, is now running 15 outlets in eight airports.

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