The Tactical Traveler



This week: why you should never buy tickets on a weekend; Seinfeld and Superman pitch the American Express Card; a raft of new overseas flights are on tap this spring; a psychic convinces the TSA to cancel a flight; Westin offers a phone-Internet flat-rate package; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Never Buy Tickets on the Weekend (Part ∞)
Several mainline carriers tried--and failed--to raise fares by $10 roundtrip last weekend and the attempt is a reminder of one of the current golden rules of buying travel: Never purchase airline tickets over the weekend. For the fourth time this year--and the umpteenth time in recent years, several carriers raised their prices late on Friday evening and then watched to see if other airlines matched. In this case, Continental initiated the across-the-board fare increase and most carriers quickly fell in line. Northwest, however, refused to match the hike and, by Monday, all the other airlines had rescinded their increases. But if you bought tickets over the weekend, you won't get a refund. This implicit fare signaling by airlines is nasty business--and proof of their idiotic herd mentality. But all that pales in comparison to the hard-dollar costs to you: If you buy on the weekends, when the airlines are wrangling over fares, you're guaranteed to be the loser. And don't be surprised if the airlines try again over the Easter weekend beginning April 9. It's one of their favorite ploys: Raise prices on a holiday weekend, when they think no one is paying attention.

CYBERTRAVELER: The Mensch and the Man of Steel
Let's give credit where credit is due: American Express has just posted a hilarious Web site featuring a series of "Web movies" starring Jerry Seinfeld and Superman. Seinfeld, a longtime Superman fan and AmEx endorser, has teamed with the Man of Steel before for AmEx commercials. But the site is much more ambitious. It already features a 5-minute video directed by Barry Levinson, whose work includes the movies Diner; Good Morning, Vietnam; Rain Man; and the upcoming Envy. A second is on the way. I won't spoil it for you. Just surf over to the site and enjoy. The voice of Superman is handled by Kevin Warburton, who played David Putty on the Seinfeld television show. The animation of Superman is in the style of Curt Swan, one of the more elegant of the Man of Steel's artists. (I was a Wayne Boring fan myself, but that was another lifetime...)

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: The Overseas Routes Keep on Coming
The airlines' "summer" schedules kicked into high gear over the weekend and there are a surprising number of new long-haul flights coming in the next few months. Here are just some of the most notable routes: Cathay Pacific begins its long-delayed New York/Kennedy-Hong Kong nonstop on July 1. ... Emirates finally launches its first flights to the United States on June 1 when it begins Kennedy-Dubai service. ... Scotland gets its share of new service this spring, too. US Airways launches Philadelphia-Glasgow service on May 10 and Continental Airlines adds Newark-Edinburgh flights on June 10. US Airways is also resuming its Pittsburgh-London flights on May 1. Meanwhile, Continental adds Newark-Oslo service effective June 17. ... Northwest Airlines adds service between Tokyo and Portland, Oregon, on June 10. ... The South Pacific gets more service, too. Hawaiian Airlines begins Honolulu-Sydney flights on May 17. Qantas launches Brisbane-Los Angeles service on June 14. And Air New Zealand adds flights between San Francisco and Auckland on June 30.

SECURITY WATCH: The Psychic and the Cancelled Flight
Okay, fellow travelers, buckle up for this one: A "tip" from a psychic led to a flight cancellation for security reasons last week. According to wire-service reports, a psychic called the Transportation Security Administration at Southwest Florida Airport in Fort Myers and warned that a bomb might be on board American Airlines Flight 1304 to Dallas. The ever-vigilant TSA swung into action with bomb-sniffing dogs and, of course, found nothing. By the time the searches were completed, however, the flight crew's duty time had expired and the flight was cancelled. Searching a flight on the tip of psychic was "unusual," admitted a local TSA administrator. "But in these times, we can't ignore anything," he said. Well, anything but common sense...

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Westin Hotels says that its U.S. hotels now offer a package of unlimited local and domestic long-distance calls and unlimited high-speed Internet access. The price is $16 per day. ... Alaska Airlines says it will close its city ticket office in Seattle on April 30. ... Delta Air Lines and Air France now offer interline electronic ticketing. ... Northwest Airlines lost $565 million last year and that cost the airlines' top executives, Richard Anderson and Douglas Steenland, their $200,000 bonuses. Of course, each did receive restricted stock awards valued at $1.5 million or more. Both executives have been pressing employees for salary givebacks and contract concessions. ... Iberia says it will begin offering in-flight E-mail on the airline's fleet of long-haul A340 planes in the fall. ... The federal government has given permission to Alaska, America West, Frontier and United airlines to launch long-haul service from National airport in Washington. Alaska will fly to Seattle and Los Angeles. America West will launch flights to Phoenix. United will fly to Denver and Frontier will add additional flights to Denver.

This column originally appeared at

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