The Tactical Traveler

FOR JULY 24 TO JULY 31, 2003


This week: America West profits from its lower, simpler fares; a bad week for BA in London and Northwest in Memphis; long lines and delayed flights at Chicago/Midway; more U.S.-Canada flights are on the way; Austrian Airlines makes Vienna an Eastern European hub; more airlines interline E-tix; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Curative Power of Simple Fares
The pompous men who run the Big, Sick Six continue to insist that their outrageous fares and Byzantine pricing structures are not hurting their cash-bleeding operations. But here's practical proof that simple fares save airlines: America West this week reported its first profit in almost three years. Excluding the proceeds of the latest taxpayer-funded bailout, America West reported a $12.9 million second-quarter profit. Moreover, second-quarter revenue rose 5.8 percent compared to America West's performance last year. Why is all this relevant? America West broke from its major-carrier brethren last year and simplified its fare structure. Prices dropped as much as 40 percent, there were fewer restrictions and the carrier created affordable, walk-up fares for both first and coach-class service. And despite immediate, ferocious punitive action by the Big Six--Continental dropped its code-share with America West and the others launched a vicious fare war--America West has now emerged as a stronger and profitable carrier. Meanwhile, the four Big Six carriers that have reported second-quarter results so far continued their unbroken string of gigantic operational losses.

AIRPORT REPORT: The Chaos in London, Memphis and Chicago
It's been a bad week to be a business traveler. A one-day job action by British Airways ground staff at London/Heathrow last weekend led to the unexpected cancellation of hundreds of flights around the world. Tens of thousands of passengers were stranded, including thousands heading to and from U.S. cities served by BA. The situation has slowly improved during the week, but Heathrow is still not back to normal. ... Meanwhile, a storm earlier this week led Northwest Airlines to cancel hundreds of flights at its Memphis hub. Many in Memphis were still without power in Memphis as late as Wednesday, but Northwest has restored its daily schedule. ... Finally, heavy passenger loads and insufficient security facilities have created long screening lines and flight delays at Chicago/Midway, which is served primarily by American Trans Air and Southwest. The airport plans to add two passenger screening lanes and two pedestrian bridges, but that will take time: The first of the improvements won't even be ready before mid-August. Heavy passenger traffic at Midway through Labor Day seems sure to cause extremely lengthy delays. Plan accordingly.

AS I WAS SAYING: No Good Business-Travel Deed Goes Unpunished
Proof positive that nothing good lasts forever: British Airways says it will close its remote check-in counters at Paddington Station, the terminus of London's Heathrow Express rail link. The facility, which allows BA passengers to check bags and obtain boarding passes before boarding the train for Heathrow, will close on July 31. I praised this link--and the Hilton hotel adjacent to Paddington Station--in a column posted only two months ago. About a dozen other carriers will continue to maintain their Paddington check-in operations.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: More U.S.-Canadian Flights Coming
It's getting a little easier to travel between the United States and Canada. Delta Connection, Delta's commuter operation, is scheduled to launch two daily flights between Boston and Fredericton, New Brunswick, on August 15. Thirty-two seat turbo-props will be used on the route. ... Effective October 4, Jetsgo, a Canadian discount carrier, will launch weekly nonstop flights between Toronto and Orlando/Sanford airport. ... And America West Express, America West's commuter operation, will launch service between its Phoenix hub and Edmonton, Alberta, beginning October 20. The daily nonstop will be served with 64-seat regional jets. ... US Airways is once again dropping its nonstop Pittsburgh-London/Gatwick service. The service ends on October 26. ... Austrian Airlines continues to position its Vienna home as a solid hub for travel from the United States to Central and Eastern Europe. The latest option: three weekly flights from Vienna to the oil city of Baku, Azerbaijan. Austrian says it is now the only carrier in the world flying to all three of the Caucasian republics; it also flies from Vienna to Tbilisi, Georgia, and Yerevan (Erevan), Armenia.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
National Car Rental now charges a 50-cent daily surcharge if you choose to receive frequent-flyer miles for your rentals. ... Canadian regulators concluded Tuesday that Air Canada has engaged in anti-competitive activity against discount carriers such as WestJet. The Competition Tribunal ruled that Air Canada "operated or increased capacity at fares that did not cover the avoidable costs of providing the service." ... Shangri-La hotels has opened a 301-room hotel in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The property houses nine food and beverage outlets, a 24-hour business center, a health club and tennis and squash courts. In October, Shangri-La expects to open a branch of its Traders Hotel chain in Dubai. ... Airlines continue to pick up the pace of E-ticket interlining: American Airlines now interlines with its Oneworld alliance partner LanChile. And US Airways and Northwest Airlines now offer interline privileges on E-tix.

This column originally appeared at

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