The Tactical Traveler



This week: Tel Aviv finally gets its international terminal; Southwest makes its move at Midway; Delta's "big bang" in Atlanta; the Hotel Indigo chain debuts; hotels at O'Hare switch allegiance; Iberia pulls a bizarre in-flight announcement; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Terminal Three Finally Arrives in Tel Aviv
It's four years late and it cost a billion dollars, but Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv now has its new international terminal. The first flights began operating from the newly dedicated Terminal Three on Tuesday and that spells the end of overworked, aging Terminal One. All international service is now located at the new facility. Once named Ben Gurion 2000, the long-delayed Terminal Three is winning raves for its spaciousness, comfort and, by Israeli standards, luxury. A new train service already offers a direct link between the terminal and downtown Tel Aviv, Haifa and Nahariya. The three-level, 2.9-million-square-foot terminal also has "one of the largest shopping centers in Israel," says Nira Dror, who runs El Al's North American operations. Shopping is available both before and after security, too. El Al has a dedicated elite-passenger lounge in Terminal Three; all the other carriers serving Tel Aviv share a common lounge. The 30 gates are spread out over three concourses. But all is not perfect: There are only 24 boarding bridges and some critics say as many as 30 percent of flights will not have access to them.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: Southwest Makes Its Move at Midway
With ATA Airlines in bankruptcy and planning to transfer most of its Chicago/Midway gates to AirTran, the 800-pound gorilla of alternate carriers, Southwest Airlines, is planning to bulk up its service there. Southwest will add 16 flights from Midway--more than a 10 percent increase from its 145 daily flights--during the first quarter next year. All the additional flights will be in existing markets. ... Speaking of wounded ATA, Northwest Airlines is going after the carrier's Indianapolis home base. After launching a raft of new flights at Indianapolis this week, Northwest said it will add five more flights in February. That will include new seasonal nonstops to Phoenix using Airbus A319s. ... AirTran says it will launch new service to Sarasota from its Atlanta hub and Baltimore/Washington on December 17.

AIRPORT REPORT: Follow the Changing Hotel Flags at O'Hare
If you spend a lot of time at hotels at Chicago/O'Hare, take note of two shifts in names and management. The Holiday Inn at O'Hare Airport in Chicago is undergoing a facelift and has been renamed the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare. Meanwhile, the 417-room Radisson O'Hare has been renamed the Wyndham O'Hare. It is about to undergo a $6 million renovation. ... Hertz says it will add wireless high-speed Internet access at 50 airport locations nationwide during the first quarter next year. Access will be provided by Wayport inside Hertz airport offices and at the #1 Club Gold rental areas. ... Delta Air Lines says January 31 is the "big bang" day at its Atlanta/Hartsfield hub. It will be "de-peaked" and grow to about 1,050 daily flights. Flights will arrive and depart throughout the day rather than be grouped in "banks." ... Mirabel Airport, the white elephant of a public works project built by Montreal in 1975, served its last passenger flight on October 31. The airport was built to handle 50 million passengers annually, but never served as many as 3 million. ... The federal government says it will close the airport on Midway Atoll on November 20. Don't think it matters? If the airport closes, two-engine planes crossing the Pacific will be required to change flight plans to stick closer to Alaska and the Russian Far East. That diversion will mean long detours and additional flight time.

IN THE LOBBY: It's a Blue World (With Wood Floors) at Hotel Indigo
InterContinental Hotels, which also controls the Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and other brands, opened its first Hotel Indigo in Atlanta this week. The brand is aimed at the boutique segment of the market, but it's also a concept that InterContinental created for existing hotels that are faring badly in their current niches. Among Hotel Indigo's standard offerings: hardwood floors, big pillows, painted furniture, Adirondack chairs--and, of course, plenty of blues, purples and indigos. The chain-in-the-making has its own Web site. ...A 99-room Homewood Suites has opened in Orlando. The property, on Alafaya Trail, is closer to Orlando-area businesses than the city's theme parks. .... It isn't all hearts-and-flowers for the hotel set in Florida, however. The Punta Gorda Holiday Inn will be demolished after damage from Hurricane Charley was deemed to be too extensive. And the 37-year-old Radisson on Okaloosa Island has closed and will be converted to condominiums.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Southwest Airlines says it will continue awarding 1.5 credits for each flight booked at through April 1. ... United Express, the commuter division of United Airlines, is now flying the Embraer 170 regional jet. The 70-seat plane offers six first-class seats, 16 seats in Economy Plus and 48 seats in coach. US Airways Express launched service with the plane a few months ago. United Express offers the Embraer 170 on flights from Washington/Dulles to Houston and from Chicago/O'Hare to Houston/Intercontinental. ... Hertz has opened a rental location at Alamagordo Regional Airport in New Mexico. ... Japan Airlines says it will offer Boeing's Connexion high-speed Internet access on flights between Tokyo and London starting on December 9. ... Taiwan is now the home of the world's tallest building. The Taipei 101 building in the Taiwanese capital is 1,679 feet tall, 184 feet higher than the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. ... A group of airline pilots and other industry employees has created the Resource Advantage Group that hopes to buy US Airways.

THE PARTING SHOT: Gee, Can't Anyone Take a Joke Anymore?
Iberia Airlines has hastily withdrawn an audio message from its flights to Quito and Guayaquil after drawing complaints from outraged Ecuadorians. They thought it was somehow politically incorrect for the message to refer to Ecuador's population as mostly Indians who "speak only Quechua and hardly know Spanish." The message also told travelers that mulatto women in Guayaquil are "sexually promiscuous." As for Ecuadorians of European origin, they try to "imitate" the speech and behavior patterns of Spanish people, the message claimed.

This column originally appeared at

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