The Tactical Traveler



This week: The Big Six gambles on more international flights; new service for Washington/National; US Airways apparently doesn't learn from the past, so it will relive it; Mineta keeps his post at the Transportation Department; the U.S. dollar hits record lows against the euro, British pound and Swiss franc; complaints against the TSA skyrocket; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Big Six Expansion Overseas Continues
The Big Six is convinced that the road to salvation is paved with more international flights. Their thinking is as convoluted as the preceding metaphor, but, hey, this is the Big Six we're talking about. American Airlines, for example, has announced daily nonstop service between its Chicago/O'Hare hub and Nagoya (April 3) and Dublin (May 1). It will also launch Boston-Shannon flights on May 1 and service from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub to Osaka beginning November 1. And since we no longer expect anything like consistent service from a Big Six carrier, this won't surprise you: The Japanese routes will be flown with three-class Boeing 777s; the Dublin service will be operated with two-class Boeing 767s while the Shannon flights will be served with all-coach Boeing 757s. ... United Airlines says it will launch flights to Nagoya, too. It will operate three-class Boeing 777s nonstop from San Francisco beginning on June 1. ... Meanwhile, if you believe that US Airways will still be around next spring, take note: The carrier says it will resume daily seasonal service from its Philadelphia hub to Dublin, Glasgow and Shannon and begin flights to Venice and Barcelona. The flights will begin in May and operate through October. ... And Continental Airlines says it will launch nonstop daily service from its Newark hub to Stockholm on June 2 with two-class Boeing 757s. But as if to punctuate all this international giddiness with a dose of reality, Continental admitted this week that it would not launch its daily service to Moscow next year as it originally planned.

AIRPORT REPORT: New Flights for Washington/National
The good news: Washington/National gets nonstop links to two new cities. The bad news: The flights will be operated with regional jets (RJ). The Transportation Department has approved new flights between National and Jackson, Mississippi. Delta Air Lines begins RJ service on February 1. Meanwhile, Northwest Airlines RJ service to Des Moines begins on March 1. ... Speaking of National, the US Airways Shuttle ticket counter will move to the upper level beginning on December 14. ... America West now offers free wireless Internet in the America West Clubs at its Phoenix hub. ... Minneapolis/St. Paul now has a light-rail link from downtown. The Metro Rail Hiawatha line now connects to the Lindbergh and Humphrey terminals and then continues on to the Mall of America in Bloomington. Inter-terminal travel is free; fares from downtown are $1.25 with a 50-cent surcharge during rush hours. ... The Central Japan International Airport in a suburb of Nagoya is now due to open on February 17. The price: US$6.8 billion. No wonder all those U.S. carriers are adding Nagoya service.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paging George Santayana! Mr. Santayana to the White Courtesy Phone!
Spanish-born poet and philosopher George Santayana wrote in 1905 that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Apparently, however, no one at US Airways has read any Santayana. One of the requirements of a new $140 million aircraft-leasing and financing deal with GE Capital is that the mortally wounded airline exit bankruptcy by June 30. That would mean the carrier's second stay in the courts would last about nine months, exactly the same length as its first landing in Chapter 11. US Airways exited bankruptcy in 2003 for the same reason, too: Terms of a financing deal required it. ... While we check George's grave for evidence of spinning, consider this nugget: About 200 former top-level US Airways bosses, including several former chief executives, have been stripped of the ultimate parting gift: free first-class travel. The former bigwigs, almost all of whom contributed to US Airways' downfall yet escaped with huge payouts, will still be entitled to free, space-available coach seats. ... Finally, this item from testimony in front of Bankruptcy Judge Steven Mitchell: US Airways has no chance of profitability until at least 2007 even if Mitchell allows management to abrogate the airline's union contracts and dump the employees' pension plans. The assessment from former chief financial officer David Davis was not contested by current US Airways management.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The U.S. dollar hit record lows against the 5-year-old euro this week and now trades at about $1.35. It also hit a 9-year low against the Swiss franc and a 13-year low against the British pound. ... Surprising most Washington insiders and aviation watchers, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta will continue in his post during the second Bush Administration. ... Watch for security at Canadian airports to be tightened and checkpoint lines to lengthen now that it's been revealed that more than 1,100 pieces of clothing and identification have been stolen from airport security staffers.

THE PARTING SHOT: Don't Say 'Shot' at an Airport Checkpoint
Complaints about rudeness and mistreatment by Transportation Security Administration staffers are skyrocketing. More than twice as many travelers lodged official complaints in October than complained in the previous three months combined.

This column originally appeared at

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