The Tactical Traveler



This week: American eliminates legroom while JetBlue enlarges its seat pitch; traffic disruptions at Atlanta and Newark airports; the fall frequent-stay promotions have arrived; words of "wisdom" from two airline chief executives; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Irony of the Space Race
American Airlines rolled back its More Room in Coach initiative on Monday and began adding back seats to its fleet of Airbus A-300 planes. American will squeeze 16 more seats into each cabin, returning the coach configuration to the knee-crunching 31-inch industry standard from its current 34 inches of legroom. All 34 Airbus planes will be stripped of the extra space by the middle of November. More than 120 American Boeing B-757s are also being sheared. The first of the down-spaced 757s will begin flying in early January and the entire 757 fleet will be stripped of more room by mid-February. What's ironic about all that? Even as American began its space rollback, JetBlue Airways started removing a row of seats from each plane in its all-Airbus fleet. JetBlue planes will now carry six fewer seats (156 instead of the current 162) and will offer American's old standard of 34 inches of legroom at two-thirds of its seats. The first of JetBlue's more spacious planes began flying this week. All will be reconfigured by mid-November. Like
I said, ironic...

AIRPORT REPORT: Disruptions in Atlanta and Newark
Watch for construction to disrupt traffic in front of the North and South terminals of Atlanta/Hartsfield airport. A series of underground rooms to house bomb-detection equipment is being built; construction will take about a year. ... A runway has closed at Newark International and flights are already being delayed up to four hours. Most delays are in the 60-90-minute range, however. The runway is expected to reopen at the end of the month. ... Edinburgh, Scotland, will get its first nonstop service from the United States next spring. Continental says it will launch a daily flight from Newark on June 10. ... Wi-Fi access is now available at Delta Crown Rooms in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Tampa and Salt Lake City. The service is provided by T-Mobile. ... The former Sheraton hotel at New York/Kennedy airport has been reflagged as the Crowne Plaza JFK. The hotel originally opened several years ago as a Four Points after being converted with much fanfare from a single-room occupancy hotel.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Handicapping the Fall Hotel Promotions
If you're the type of traveler who chooses hotels based on frequent-guest program promotions, here's a quick look at what's been announced so far. Hilton HHonors: Until December 31, you can choose a 50 percent bonus on HHonors points instead of Hilton's usual offer of 10 points per dollar and 500 miles. That means 15 HHonors points per dollar spent and no miles per stay. Registration is required. ... Marriott Rewards: From September 15 to January 31, you receive double points when you pay with a Visa card. The bonus kicks in after the second stay. Registration (888-MARRIOTT) is required. ... Priority Club Rewards: Until December 12, double points or double airline miles for qualifying stays. The bonus begins after the second stay. Registration is required. ... Radisson Gold Rewards: From September 15 to January 15, travelers receive a 1,000-point bonus per night beginning with the second stay. The bonus grows to 4,000 points after the fifth stay. Registration is required. ... Starwood Preferred Guest: Charge $100 or more at Starwood hotels using the Starwood American Express card and receive a 500-point bonus. Spend $1,000 or more and receive a 5,000-point bonus. The promotion lasts until November 15. ... I don't have to tell you to check the rules, regulations and restrictions, right?

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Travelers in St. Louis wondering about life after American slashes its hub at Lambert International can rest a little easier. Another carrier is jumping in: Comair, a commuter carrier owned by Delta Air Lines, will begin twice-daily roundtrip service between Lambert and Delta's Salt Lake City hub. The flights begin November 1 using 70-seat Canadair regional jets. ... The U.S. State Department has delayed new passport rules for at least a year. Beginning October 1, visitors from countries where visas are not needed would have been required to carry machine-readable passports for entry into the United States. The postponement was ordered when it was discovered that some of the 27 countries involved do not issue the new-style passports. Only Belgian citizens will be required to have machine-readable passports because Belgium already issues such passports exclusively. ... Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines now interline electronic tickets. ... The JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta that was bombed last month has reopened. Twelve people died and more than 150 were injured when a suicide bomber drove a car into the lobby and blew it up.

VERBATIM: Just Another Day With the Two Stooges
Several major newspapers did their requisite "the airline world after 9/11" stories today and several were notable for the absurdly revisionist comments from two of our favorite airline chief executives. Keith Alexander of The Washington Post caught up with Continental chatterbox in chief Gordon Bethune, who brashly predicted his airline would return to profit in the second quarter of last year and has been alibing Continental's performance ever since. "We thought we would be back to normal by now," the suddenly credulous Bethune told Alexander. "We were wrong." Meanwhile, Cincinnati Enquirer reporter James Pilcher interviewed terminally clueless Delta CEO Leo Mullin. How's Delta doing, Pilcher inquired. "We're still in a three-year period of recovery that is quickly turning into a five-year period," said Mullin.

This column originally appeared at

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