The Tactical Traveler

FOR JUNE 19 TO JUNE 26, 2003


This week: SFO finally gets its BART mass-transit link; America West puts first class on sale and Southwest discounts Florida flights; Dilbert goes on a business trip; going shoeless at security; Skywest is the nation's best commuter carrier; Naples, Florida, loses its air service; London gets another Edwardian hotel; and much more.

It's taken $1.5 billion dollars and more years than most Bay Area travelers can remember, but San Francisco International is finally getting its rail link. The airport's new BART station opens on Sunday (June 22) with a direct connection to downtown San Francisco. BART's SFO extension actually goes one stop further, to Millbrae, where travelers can walk across the platform and catch Caltrain commuter service. That means Silicon Valley travelers in Palo Alto, Santa Clara and San Jose will also be able to train it to SFO. With the SFO station on line, travelers will even be able to take BART to East Bay destinations such as Berkeley, Oakland and Oakland Airport. In fact, with the shuttle-bus service that connects Caltrain to San Jose Airport, travelers can now use public transportation to, from or between all three Bay Area airports. Service to SFO costs $4.70 one-way from downtown San Francisco, $4.95 from Oakland and $5.15 from Berkeley. For more details, check the respective airport Web sites or read San Francisco Chronicle travel columnist John Flinn's detailed account of his test ride.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: Better Deals From the Other Guys
Pay attention to this one: America West has announced a short, sharp first-class fare sale. You must purchase tickets by June 24, but you can travel until September 30. Prices look to be at least 40 percent off on nonstop flights and as much as 70 percent off connecting itineraries. In many cases, America West's first-class fare sales are lower than major carriers' walk-up coach prices. There are some restrictions, so check the rules at the America West sale page. ... Southwest Airlines has lowered walk-up fares between many of its New England and Florida destinations. It has also reduced walk-up prices between Islip, New York, and Florida. Sample prices: $149 one-way from Hartford to Orlando, down from $199; $129 from Islip to West Palm Beach, down from $172; $149 from Providence to Tampa, down from $199. Prices
are valid until October 24.

CYBERTRAVELER: Dilbert Takes a Business Trip
Dilbert creator Scott Adams has frequently lampooned the airlines--most notably when the black-hearted Dogbert character created Dogbert Airways--but this week he satirized business travelers. On assignment for his pointy-haired boss and with the encouragement of the incorrigible Dogbert, Dilbert dresses up to make an international sales call on the Vatican. Needless to say, sartorial hilarity ensues and the not-so-invisible hand of god makes an in-flight appearance. Catch up with the three days of strips starting with Monday's installment at the Dilbert Daily Archive.

AIRPORT REPORT: Stocking Feet at Security
The Transportation Security Administration, which has trouble with public disclosure, has apparently decided everyone will remove their shoes at all airport security checkpoints around the nation. Sources at the TSA say more sensitive settings on the walk-through metal detectors mean more shoes will be flagged, thus making it simpler and faster to require everyone to run their footwear through the carry-on X-ray machines. The policy apparently went into effect around Memorial Day. ... Naples, Florida. has become the latest airport to lose all commercial service now that US Airways Express has dropped its flights there. That raises to about two dozen the number of airports that have been wiped off the major-carrier route maps since September 11. ... Changi Airport in Singapore is on sale. Well, at least the shops there are all running sales. Some luxury tax-free and duty-free items are being discounted by as much as 30 percent and all airport shops are promoting special offers. Restaurants and cafes have lowered prices by 20 percent. The promotion, meant to revive traffic after the SARS scare, runs until July 13.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Skywest Flies Right
The Department of Transportation recently began tracking the performance of commuter carriers and the latest Air Travel Consumer Report offers some interesting results. Skywest ranks best for on-time performance out of all of the 17 rated jet and commuter carriers. It flew 92.1 percent of its service on time in April, the latest month ranked. But the nation's three worst carriers for on-time performance were other commuter carriers. American Eagle ranked 15th (83.3 percent on time), Atlantic Coast ranked 16th (78.9 percent on time) and Atlantic Southeast ranked last with a 78.5 percent on time rate. Another commuter, ExpressJet, ranked ninth with 86.5 percent, just under the industry average of 86.9 percent. Skywest also excelled by canceling just 7 of its 30,251 flights in April, a "completion rate" of 99.98 percent. At the bottom of the completion chart were two commuters: American Eagle ranked last (it canceled 1,395 flights, or 3.96 percent of its schedule) and Atlantic Coast ranked 16th, canceling 3.31 percent of its flights. Skywest flies as the Delta Connection into and out of Salt Lake City and Dallas/Fort Worth and as United Express into and out of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle/Tacoma and Denver.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Radisson hotel at the marina in Berkeley, California, has been reflagged as the Doubletree Berkeley Marina. ... Air France is expected to resume flying to Algeria next week. There'll be two daily flights from Paris and Marseilles to Algiers. ... The Radisson Edwardian Sussex is scheduled to open next week near London's Marble Arch. The 101-room hotel, formerly known as the Savoy Court, is offering an introductory rate of 105 pounds until September 11. VAT and breakfast are not included in the rate. ... Continental Airlines and TAP Air Portugal will begin code-sharing and offer reciprocal frequent-flyer benefits in September. ... Bankrupt ANC Rental Corporation has agreed to sell its two car-rental firms, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent a Car. The price: $230 million in cash and the assumption of a staggering $2 billion in debt.

THE PARTING SHOT: Rain, Rain Go Away--or At Least Get Warmer
Last winter was the fourth coldest on record and this spring has been cold and relentlessly rainy in most of the United States. But leave it to the Irish to come up with a hilariously morose summer forecast. The Irish Times newsletter attributes this quip to Dublin cabaret performer Hal Roach: "You know it is summer in Ireland when the rain gets warmer."

This column originally appeared at

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