The Tactical Traveler

FOR MAY 1 TO MAY 8, 2003


This week: AirTran and JetBlue invade Delta's Atlanta-Los Angeles turf with low fares; Song still hasn't gotten any compliments; Marriott expands its flat-price program for high-speed Internet access and guest-room calls; airlines are adding and restoring international flights; Toronto's off the SARS no-fly list; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Do You Want Miles or Low Fares?
Two profitable, low-fare carriers--AirTran Airways, which hubs in Atlanta, and JetBlue Airways, which maintains a West Coast hub at Long Beach, California--are gearing up to compete with Delta Air Lines in the Atlanta-Los Angeles market. Their angle: walk-up fares that top out at $299 one-way and advance-purchase fares as low as $119 one-way. Money-losing Delta Air Lines, which currently has a monopoly on the Atlanta-LAX route and has been charging a one-way, walk-up fare of about $1,000, has responded with a triple-miles offer. The promotion is valid until August 31 on flights between Atlanta and LAX, Ontario and Orange County. JetBlue begins its Atlanta-Long Beach service on May 8 with three daily all-coach flights. AirTran's twice-daily nonstops between Atlanta and LAX, which will offer coach and business-class cabins, begin June 4.

CYBERTRAVELER: Really, Doesn't Anyone Like Song?
I don't want to make that big a deal about this, but Delta's new low-fare carrier, Song, is now into its third week of flying and still there are no passenger kudos posted on the Compliments page at the Song Web site. You'd have thought that Delta would have gotten at least one compliment on Song by now, wouldn't you?

IN THE LOBBY: Marriott Expands Its Wired for Business Plan
Marriott Hotels says its program that bundles in-room high-speed Internet access and unlimited local and long-distance calls into one flat-rate option has expanded to 150 Marriott and Renaissance hotels. The Wired for Business plan, which costs $9.95 a night at most properties, will be added at 30 more hotels in the next two months. ... Hyatt Hotels is taking over management of the 500-room Swissotel Boston on June 26. It will be renamed the Hyatt Regency Boston Financial District. ... Orient-Express Hotels has purchased a 50 percent interest in the 167-room Hotel Ritz in Madrid and will manage the hotel, which is generally considered the top property in the Spanish capital. ... The 205-room San Clemente Palace has opened in Venice. It is located on the 17-acre island of San Clemente; room rates start at about $350 a night. ... A hotel room in New York is still a pricey proposition, but the average daily rate has plummeted since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A new report says the average daily rate in New York is now $193, down from $237 a night in 2000.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: Surprisingly, Airlines Add Flights
International traffic continues to limp along at near-record recent lows, but carriers continue to explore niches where they expect to find passengers. For example, LanChile's Ecuadorian subsidiary has launched daily service between New York/Kennedy and Miami and Quito and Guayaquil. ... Air Tahiti Nui this summer is adding more Airbus A340 flights from Los Angeles to both Paris and Papeete, Tahiti. Between June 30 and August 27, there will be 14 Papeete flights and 6 to Paris each week. ... On June 1, America West says it will launch a daily Airbus A319 flight between its hub in Phoenix and Cancun. ... Continental Airlines says it will begin flying between its hub in Houston and Aruba on June 12. There will be three weekly flights using Boeing 737-700s. ... Delta Air Lines says it will restore most of its international flights from New York/Kennedy in June. Returning to the schedule will be service to Athens, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Madrid, Nice, Rome and Venice. It will also restore its Atlanta-Madrid service.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Continental Airlines says it will close 12 city ticket offices in the coming weeks. ... Alaska Airlines and United Airlines now offer interlining on electronic tickets. .... After nearly 18 years of delays, two men are on trial in Canada for the bombing of an Air India flight that was traveling between Montreal and London. More than 300 people died on the 1985 flight, which exploded and crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of Ireland. ... Bus and train fares in New York rise to $2 a ride on Sunday (May 4). The city is also phasing out the token on that day. Commuter-rail fares from suburban New York and Connecticut destinations rose about 25 percent today (May 1). ... AirTran Airways has upgraded its A-Plus Rewards frequent-flyer program, adding an elite level and automating the flight-tracking system. ... Speaking of frequency plans, Hilton Hotels says it will no longer award HHonors points for hotel rooms booked online with discount sites.

SARS WATCH: Toronto's Off the List, SIA Keeps Shrinking After intense pressure from the Canadian government, the World Health Organization (WHO) this week lifted its travel warning for Toronto. ... Singapore Airlines has continued to slash service in response to the SARS epidemic. The airline is now flying about 29 percent fewer seats than it was before the virus started its march across Asia. Among the latest cuts: the permanent end to flights from Chicago and Las Vegas. ... The best way to keep up with breaking news on SARS? The Google News Search function. ... Both the WHO and the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control continue to regularly update their Web pages on the SARS outbreak.

This column originally appeared at

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