The Tactical Traveler



This week: Delta digs itself a hole in the Los Angeles market; Raleigh-Durham adds a $3 passenger-facility charge and Australian airports impose security fees; The Outlaw Alliance of Northwest, Delta and Continental bends to government pressure; the Dorchester buys the Principe di Savoia in Milan; several airlines will permit travelers to change tickets due to war fears; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Delta Digs Itself a Hole in Los Angeles
Delta lost almost $1.3 billion last year and did it the old-fashioned way, with an idiotic fare structure, repellant consumer policies and the ruinous policy of harassing low-fare carriers by pouring more flights on routes that the alternate airlines choose to launch. But since Delta, like the rest of the Big, Stupid Six, never learns anything from its financial woes, the carrier is busily digging itself a new black hole in the Los Angeles market. Two weeks ago, JetBlue said it would launch three daily nonstop flights between its Long Beach hub and Delta's Atlanta hub on May 8. On Tuesday, AirTran announced it would begin two daily nonstop flights between its own Atlanta hub and Los Angeles International on June 4. Both carriers said introductory coach fares would start at $99 one-way; AirTran said its walk-up, business-class fare would be $399 one-way. Delta's response? Although it already operates at least 10 nonstops on the ATL-LAX route (walk-up coach fare: about $1,100 one-way), Delta announced today that it would add five more LAX flights beginning May 1 and a second daily flight to Ontario on June 1. "We just keep drinking the Kool-Aid, don't we?" one Delta station manager told me after the announcement.

AIRPORT REPORT: New Services--and New Fees
The AirTrain people mover at San Francisco International officially opened on Monday. The system connects all terminals, parking lots and the SFO rental-car facility. It will also connect to the BART rapid-transit system when the BART service is finally opened. ... Speaking of official openings, Terminal 7 at New York/Kennedy was declared complete this week. The five-year, $250 million redevelopment by British Airways houses British Airways, United Airlines and America West. Perhaps most notable: a new, close-in parking facility and a new roadway that directly connects to the Van Wyck Expressway, one of the airport's major access roads. ... Raleigh-Durham will begin collecting a $3 per segment passenger-facility charge beginning April 1. ... Australian airports are imposing a security charge effective April 1. The fee is A$4 for international roundtrip and A$2 for domestic flights. ... Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the gateway to the West African oil industry, now has a nonstop connection to Gatwick Airport in London. Virgin Atlantic operates the twice-weekly service with Airbus A340-300 aircraft.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Bully Boys Aren't So Tough After All
Remember how the Outlaw Alliance--Northwest, Delta and Continental--said they were going to implement their tri-partite code-share alliance without regard for the consumer-protection restrictions laid down by the Department of Transportation? Remember how the bully boys who run the three airlines said they'd eagerly and vigorously resist any legal actions taken by the DOT? Yeah, well, that was then, back in January, when the carriers thought they could bluff and bully the government into backing down. The alliance never started and, on Monday, the Outlaw Alliance officially backed down when the three carriers meekly submitted a revised code-share proposal to the Transportation Department. The new proposal accepts most of the DOT's January demands and offers major revisions on other disputed issues. The DOT said it would review the new proposal and rule in 30 days.

IN THE LOBBY: Hotel News You Need to Know
It's rare when a super-deluxe hotel changes hands, but it's happening in Milan: Starwood is selling the 404-room Principe di Savoia to the Dorchester Group, which manages the Dorchester in London; the Beverly Hills Hotel; and the Hotel Meurice and the Plaza Athenee in Paris. The Dorchester, which is paying $300 million for the former CIGA property, says it hopes to assume management in June. ... The 170-room McKinley Grand Hotel in Canton, Ohio, has become a Marriott. ... The 457-room Sheraton Centro Historico Hotel has opened on Avenida Juarez within the Historic Center district of Mexico City. The hotel has 53,000 square feet of meeting space, a business center, a fitness center, a wine bar and several full-service restaurants. ... The 532-room Crowne Plaza in downtown Phoenix will convert to a Wyndham hotel on May 15. ... Hilton will announce next week that it will install high-speed wireless access in 50 hotels in North America within the next 30 days.

SECURITY WATCH: Fearing War, Several Airlines Ease Rules
Give the airlines involved credit for this one: At least three domestic carriers have followed the lead of Virgin Atlantic and will allow travelers worried about a war with Iraq a chance to revise some itineraries. On Tuesday, US Airways announced a "Peace of Mind" policy. In the event of military action or the government's raising the domestic terrorism threat level to code red, US Airways will open a 90-day window and permit travelers to apply unused tickets to future travel. Several hours later, Delta Air Lines said transatlantic travelers holding tickets for flights between March 5 and March 31 would be allowed to change without penalty until May 31. Travelers can change their destination and travel dates and fly until December 31. On Wednesday, Continental Airlines essentially matched Delta's policy. Late today, both Aloha Airlines and United Airlines announced war-accommodation policies.

This column originally appeared at

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