The Tactical Traveler

FOR JUNE 24 TO JULY 8, 2004


This week: Continental and US Airways are forced to lower fares; JetBlue grows in New York and Boston; America West expands in Las Vegas; WestJet heads to the United States; Four Seasons hotels open in Budapest and the Whistler Resort; Hilton HHonors changes its Double Dip options; disruptive roadwork looms at Atlanta Hartsfield; more lies from the TSA on passenger records; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Lower Fares From the Big Six, Sort of...
It's clear that the Big Six carriers won't voluntarily fix its Byzantine, internecine fare structure. Any changes to the system that is strangling them and driving passengers to alternate airlines are only coming under intense competitive pressure and at the end of the barrel of a metaphoric gun. This week's changes? Continental says it has responded to ferocious competition on transcontinental routes by lowering fares between its Newark hub and Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Seven-day advance-purchase fares are now $399 each way in coach and $499 in first class. From its Houston and Cleveland hubs, fares have been similarly reduced to certain West Coast, Midwest and Florida cities. Most of the new fares are capacity controlled and nonrefundable, however. Meanwhile, US Airways has expanded its GoFares concept to the Washington market, where the airline faces competition from Independence Air, which launched last week. The prices, from $79 one-way to $254 walk-up, are available in 15 markets from Dulles and National airports.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: JetBlue, America West, WestJet All Grow
In case you hadn't noticed, North America's alternate carriers--you know, the ones with rational, understandable fares--are growing nonstop. Here's just some of what's been announced in the last few days. ... New York/Kennedy-based JetBlue Airways says it will launch its first flights from LaGuardia Airport on September 17. It will fly seven times a day between LGA and Fort Lauderdale. JetBlue will also expand from Boston/Logan. It will add a new route to Fort Myers beginning October 21; it will also add additional flights to Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale in the winter. ... America West is adding service to two new cities from its Las Vegas hub. Flights to New Orleans begin on September 9 and service to Houston begins on October 18. ... WestJet, the largest Canadian discount carrier, is expanding to the United States this fall. Beginning September 20, it will launch flights from its Toronto hub to Los Angeles. It will also fly south of the border from Calgary, with service to San Francisco (October 4), Phoenix (October 5), Orlando (October 6) and Fort Lauderdale (October 9). WestJet flies all-coach Boeing 737s.

IN THE LOBBY: Four Seasons Expands Again in Europe and Canada
The relentless expansion of chain luxury continues unabated. Four Seasons has opened a lavish hotel in Budapest on the banks of the Danube at the foot of the Chain bridge. The 179-room hotel is located in the 100-year-old Gresham Palace. Meanwhile, a Four Seasons resort is scheduled to open Monday at the Whistler Resort in British Columbia. ... Speaking of luxurious resorts, the 10-acre Estancia La Jolla is also due to open Monday. The $60 million, 210-room hotel, complete with spa and four restaurants, is located adjacent to the Torrey Pines Golf Center. ... Three more Adam's Mark hotels are about to bite the dust in July. The 410-room property in San Antonio will become a Crowne Plaza on July 9. And the downtown Indianapolis Adam's Mark and 600-room Antlers Adam's Mark in Colorado Springs will convert to the Hilton flag. And in case you've been keeping track of Adam's Mark's deterioration, remember that the 600-room Houston property has converted to Marriott. The huge Adam's Mark in Jacksonville, Florida, is also about to switch to the Marriott flag. The Adam's Mark properties in Kansas City and Tulsa will change names in the near future, too. A plan to convert the Adam's Mark in Mobile, Alabama, to a Crowne Plaza has fallen through, so the 377-room property has been renamed the Riverview Plaza. The Adam's Mark in Memphis has become a Hilton, and the 603-room Winston-Salem property will be divided into a Marriott and an Embassy Suites.

MILES & POINTS: Hilton HHonors Changes the Double Dip
Hilton HHonors members will now be allowed to choose their "double dip" option. Until now, HHonors members received ten HHonors point for every dollar spent and 500 miles in a selected frequent-flyer program. Effective July 1, however, members will earn ten points and one airline mile per dollar spent. If you wish to stay with the old program offering a flat 500 miles, you must change your preference at the My Way site. There is also a third option: 15 HHonors per dollar spent with no airline miles. The three-way program will continue through at least December 31. ... Delta SkyMiles says Medallion elite members will receive a new choice of threshold bonuses for 2005. Complete details are at the Medallion Threshold page.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The big dig is about to begin at Atlanta Hartsfield. The twice-delayed plan to build underground luggage-screening rooms begins in mid-July. Expect major delays on the airport roads. ... Amtrak says Wi-Fi access is now available in the following Northeast Corridor stations: Boston Route 128; Providence; New York/Penn; Philadelphia 30th Street; Wilmington; and Baltimore/Penn. ... A new aviation agreement between the United States and China means several new routes are up for grabs. Watch for most major carriers to announce new "service" in the next few days. But don't be fooled. All they're doing is lobbying. The Transportation Department will choose the routes and carriers later this year. ... Speaking of transpacific service, be warned: Delta Air Lines has added its code to China Air Lines flights between Seattle and Taipei. Many travelers avoid China Air because of its poor safety record. Delta already code-shares on several other CAL routes. ... Virgin Atlantic and South African Airways say they will begin code-sharing from London on October 31. Separately, Virgin says it will launch service on the "Kangaroo Route" (London-Sydney) on December 7. The flights will operate via Hong Kong using Airbus A340-600 aircraft.

SECURITY WATCH: More Lies About Privacy From the TSA
The Transportation Security Administration was caught in still another lie this week about the agency's use of our passenger records. After months of insisting that we knew all, acting TSA administrator David Stone told a Congressional hearing that the agency had collected passenger records from four additional airlines (America West, Continental, Delta and Frontier) and two computer-reservation systems (Sabre and Galileo). Previously, TSA had only admitted to collecting data from Northwest, American and JetBlue. All the data collection was done to further CAPPS II, the controversial system that will collect a wide variety of personal records about every passenger before they will be permitted to fly. Citizens who receive a "red" rating based on criteria that the TSA has refused to specify will be barred from flying.

This column originally appeared at

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