The Tactical Traveler

FOR APRIL 22-29, 2004


This week: A modest revival of the dollar's fortune in Europe; watch for schedule changes in Miami and Chicago; more transcon service from America West; more Hawaii flights from American; Siegel takes the money and runs from US Airways; United's overbooking problem in Florida and Europe; Northwest raises fares; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Signs of Life for the Greenback in Europe
Want the good news or the bad news on the state of the dollar in Europe? The good news is that it has recovered in recent days to $1.19 against the euro and $1.78 against the British pound. The bad news? The dollar remains at outrageously low levels and business and leisure travel to Europe continues to be incredibly pricey. The modest rebound in recent weeks has brought the dollar back to about where it was last October. Which isn't great, but it's a lot better than a few weeks ago when the dollar had slumped to an historic low of $1.30 against the Euro and $1.90 against the pound. Currency experts--who did accurately predict a second-quarter rebound for the greenback--expect the dollar to continue picking up strength. "I think travelers might see the dollar at $1.10 in the summer. That would be a reasonable target."

AIRPORT REPORT: Watch for Schedule Changes in Miami and Chicago
United and American's reckless regional-jet expansion at Chicago/O'Hare continues to wreak havoc with the airport's on-time operation. The government ordered the carriers to reduce schedules by 5 percent in January, but that hasn't had much of an effect, so both carriers have been told to cut flights by another 2.5 percent in peak hours. The second schedule reduction is effective on June 10. ... Separately, American is "de-peaking" its Miami hub on May 1. It will spread out flights over the course of the day rather than group arrivals and departures at the same times. American says the change will result in 13 waves of flights daily, up from the current concentration of seven banks. ... A new international terminal has opened at Moscow's Vnukovo airport. ... Dollar Rent A Car has opened an in-terminal location at Greensboro, North Carolina.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: More Transcon Service From America West
America West said it was committed to expanding its transcontinental service and the airline seems to be as good as its word. Effective June 1, it will add two roundtrips between Los Angeles and Washington/Dulles. In recent months, it has launched service between Los Angeles and San Francisco and New York/Kennedy and Boston. As a result, coach and first-class fares have plummeted. ... Speaking of promises kept, AirTran Airways moved to larger quarters at Dallas/Fort Worth several months ago and it, too, promised an expansion. So beginning July 1, the low-fare carrier adds flights to Los Angeles. The carrier already flies between Dallas/Forth Worth and Atlanta, Baltimore, Orlando and Las Vegas. ... Jetsgo, a fast-growing Canadian low-fare airline, started a Toronto-Montreal shuttle this week and announced that it would come south of the border. Effective July 30, it will add three weekly flights from Toronto to Los Angeles. ... Air One, an Italian discount carrier, will break Alitalia's pricey monopoly on service to Trieste. Beginning June 1, Air One will fly three times daily to both Rome and Naples. Alitalia has been charging about $600 roundtrip on the one-hour Rome-Trieste flights.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Another Lesson Learned at US Airways' Expense
Regardless of whether he jumped or was pushed--it seems a bit of both--David Siegel took the money and ran this week after resigning as chief executive of US Airways. The lesson learned: Airlines bosses won't make the same sacrifices they bellicosely demand of their own hard-pressed rank and filers. As you'll recall, Siegel conducted a disastrous Webcast a few weeks back and called for a third round of huge concessions from US Airways employees. He said he was "willing" to take a pay cut himself and walk away from a buyout worth about $5 million. But as I noted in a column at the time, Siegel didn't need union approval to cut his own pay. Any CEO committed to staying would have acted before going to his workforce again. But Siegel's unique contract option--his buyout was good only if he left in the month of April--was conveniently still in force on Monday and he cashed out. Keep this lesson in mind as you hear the bosses at Northwest, Delta and other Big Six carriers insist that their employees have to open their veins again and again.

MILES & POINTS: More Hawaii From American, More Credit From Southwest
Having trouble booking an award seat to Hawaii this summer? Try American AAdvantage. The airline is adding new Hawaii service in June. It will add a second daily flight to Honolulu from Los Angeles on June 12. Two days earlier, it will launch nonstops between San Francisco and Maui. Both flights will operate until Labor Day. ... Air Tahiti Nui, which offers terrific service to Tahiti and Paris from Los Angeles, has joined Northwest WorldPerks. ... Southwest Rapid Rewards members take note: The airline has extended its popular bonus credit program for travelers who book at Fliers will receive one bonus credit per roundtrip until December 31. ... American Advantage has dropped the $100 fee on date and time changes on tickets claimed with its restricted-mile awards.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Been bumped by United Airlines on a flight to Florida or Europe lately? You're not alone. Insiders say United's forecasting computers have been overbooking passengers in extraordinary numbers leading to a huge spike in involuntary denied bookings. Book accordingly. ... Led by Continental, several major carriers tried for the sixth time in recent months to increase fuel surcharges on fares. Continental's attempt this week was between $10 and $15 dollars each way. The fare boost failed again--but fares did rise when Northwest increased prices about 3 percent. All the other Big Six carriers promptly matched wherever they compete with Northwest.

This column originally appeared at

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