The Tactical Traveler

FOR JULY 29 TO AUGUST 12, 2004


This week: Tracking the Pittsburgh pullout at US Airways; the feds want more schedule cuts at O'Hare, but airlines keeps adding flights; a snapshot of frequent-flyer award availability; Northwest is closing WorldClubs; more Asia service from United and Delta; Amtrak adopts new security rules in the Washington-Boston corridor; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Tracking US Airways' Pittsburgh Pullout
As US Airways continues to shrink, travelers who use the carrier to, from or through its Pittsburgh hub will bear the next round of cuts. The airline and its commuter carriers will slash the number of cities served from Pittsburgh to 65, down from the current 102. The daily flight schedule will shrink to 240 flights from the current 373. What's out? Over the next few months, the airlines will drop service to Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Reading, Pennsylvania; Memphis; Toledo; Charleston, South Carolina; and three cities in both Indiana and West Virginia. Some carriers are already moving to fill the gap. Midwest Airlines' commuter carrier will add a daily flight to Midwest's Milwaukee hub and United says it will launch two daily nonstops to its Denver hub. Bottom line: check your schedules very carefully in the months ahead.

AIRPORT REPORT: Will More Cuts Come to O'Hare?
Remember those two rounds of cosmetic cuts the Federal Aviation Administration beat out of United and American airlines, the carriers that control 80 percent of the traffic at Chicago's flight-choked O'Hare Airport? Surprise! They didn't work. The FAA now says it will ask for more. As usual, United responded by announcing still more flights from O'Hare this fall and American said it's all the fault of the smaller carriers. ... After two delays, the New Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China is now scheduled to open on August 8. ... A day spa has opened at Terminal Six, the JetBlue Airways facility at New York/Kennedy airport. ... One of the nation's most repulsive airport charges, the $1 fee that Dallas/Fort Worth imposes for entering the airport, will continue. DFW officials claim the fee is needed to offset the cost of servicing people who drop off and pick up passengers. ... Washington/Dulles is sagging under the assault of new flights operated by United Express and Atlantic Coast, the former United Express carrier that now flies as Independence Air. But that isn't stopping Independence from adding new service. On August 1, it will launch flights to Savannah; Greensboro, North Carolina; Cleveland; and New York/Kennedy. ... Northwest Airlines will close its WorldClubs in San Francisco and Philadelphia.

CYBERTRAVELER: Perception, Reality and a Snapshot of Award Availability
Can you or can't you get a restricted frequent-flyer award? Depends, says a new survey by the folks at Randy Petersen's Inside Flyer magazine. The magazine tested award availability on key routes over several different time intervals ranging from one week to 11 months before departure. Continental fared worst because the magazine was able to book a coach award just 54 percent of the time. Top of the heap? Delta awards were available 85 percent of the time. For restricted business-class tickets, American did best, with a 92 percent rate of success. Northwest did worst there, making restricted business-class awards available just 15 percent of the time. What's the meaning of this snapshot of award availability? Nothing really, because the only award that most travelers care about is the award they are trying to claim. But it sure makes interesting reading.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: More Asia Service for United Airlines
A China route award from the U.S. government and a breakthrough with the Vietnamese government is giving United Airlines a chance to upgrade its Asian service. It will launch daily San Francisco-Hong Kong-Ho Chi Minh flights on December 10. If the route actually launches, United will be the first U.S. flag carrier to fly to Vietnam in almost 30 years. United was also awarded Chicago-Shanghai service and says it will launch nonstop flights on October 31. United won that route several years ago, too, but diverted the service elsewhere, so I'd wait until the planes are in the air to book a seat. ... Bmi (fka British Midland) will launch three weekly flights between Las Vegas and Manchester, England, beginning October 31. The airline, which already flies to Manchester from Chicago and Washington, uses Airbus A330s configured for business class, full-fare coach and economy cabins. ... Delta Air Lines is beefing up service on several international routes from its New York/Kennedy hub. Most notable: a second JFK-Frankfurt-Mumbai, India, flight beginning October 31 and operating until February 27. ... Jetsgo, the Canadian discount carrier, is adding transborder flights. Beginning October 2, it will add weekly service from Toronto to Sarasota and West Palm Beach, Florida.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Ghana Airways has been barred from flying to and from the United States. The Department of Transportation says the carrier has not been operating safely and it abruptly grounded the airline's flights from New York and Baltimore/Washington. ... Amtrak says travelers hoping to travel within the Washington-Boston corridor and to upstate New York during the Republican National Convention next month will be required to have reservations and photo IDs. The reservation-only policy extends from August 28 through September 2, except for two trains (the Keystone and the Clocker). Almost all of Amtrak's service flows through New York's Pennsylvania Station, which is below Madison Square Garden, the venue for the GOP convention. ... Aeromexico was supposed to launch a late-night flight between Mexico City and Salt Lake City this week, but the service was cancelled after the Customs Service said it wouldn't staff any Customs and Immigrations checkpoints after 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. ... Memo to all you folks who think that the Big Six are committed to serving small communities: A survey by USA Today reveals that 22 small-town airports have fallen off the Big Six route map since 9/11.

THE PARTING SHOT: The Shot You Can't Take at Palm Springs
The iconic putting green near the main concourse at Palm Springs Airport, virtually useless since post-9/11 rules barred travelers from carrying on golf clubs, will be removed.

This column originally appeared at

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