The Tactical Traveler

FOR APRIL 14 TO APRIL 28, 2005
India's Far Pavilions Will Get Closer This Year
The orgy of international flights being launched this year has so far not included new service to India, one of the few overseas markets that is poorly served. But thanks to a new aviation agreement signed today between India and the United States, there will be many new flights beginning as early as next month. On May 9, for example, Delta Air Lines will add daily New York/Kennedy-Paris-Chennai (Madras) flights to supplement its JFK-Paris-Mumbai service. Continental Airlines will begin daily nonstop flights between its Newark hub and New Delhi on October 31. And Northwest Airlines says it hopes to begin Minneapolis-Amsterdam-Bangalore service this fall. India and Great Britain also signed a new aviation agreement this week and that will mean more service to India via London, too. On May 14, for example, bmi will launch four weekly flights from Heathrow to Mumbai. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are also hoping to increase their existing Indian flight schedule before the end of the year.

Good News? You Were Expecting Good News?
Almost all the news on the bankruptcy front continues to be dreadfully bad. We might as well start with US Airways. It now admits that it has no chance to emerge from bankruptcy on June 30 as it has been promising since last fall when it declared Chapter 11 for a second time. It has also delayed for the umpteenth time the filing of its Plan of Reorganization. This time, however, its primary creditor, GE Engine Services, has put US Airways on a very short leash. The plan was supposed to be filed tomorrow (April 15), but GE has agreed to wait only until the end of the month. United Airlines is fighting with its flight attendants. They are threatening a strike and United says it will ask the bankruptcy court to make more cuts in rank-and-file salaries. Meanwhile, after more than two years of bankruptcy, management has yet to present a reorganization plan to the court and has just gotten around to forming a committee to find management-level inefficiencies and cost cuts. Independence Air, which is not yet in bankruptcy, has been told by its auditors that they question the Washington/Dulles-based carrier's ability to continue as a going concern. And this week Independence said it will drop flights to Norfolk and slash frequencies on some other routes to compensate for planes it has returned to lenders. Hawaiian Airlines has delayed its plans to exit bankruptcy after its pilots rejected a tentative contract agreement. But there was some good news. Bankrupt Aloha Airlines has secured $65 million in financing and has paid off its federally guaranteed loans.

An Endless Flow of New Chain Hotels Around the World
Got your scorecard out? Excellent. Here goes. A 185-room Park Hyatt has opened in Seoul. Rooms are extraordinarily large at 560 square feet and equipped with DVD and CD players. Hyatt has also taken over the 966-room Adam's Mark in Jacksonville, Florida. The riverfront property was headquarters for this year's Super Bowl. A $10 million refurbishment of the guestrooms is underway. A 616-room Marriott has opened in Louisville, Kentucky. The property is connected to the Kentucky Convention Center by a covered skywalk. Marriott has also opened a 187-room Courtyard in Fiumicino, Italy. The property is halfway between the seaside village of Fiumicino and Rome's Leonardo DaVinci Airport. Marriott is marketing the property, about 4 kilometers from DaVinci, as an airport hotel. The 291-room Hilton Virginia Beach has opened on the oceanfront in the 31 Ocean entertainment and shopping complex. Le Meridien has re-opened its 233-room hotel in Barcelona. Guestrooms have 42-inch flat-panel TVs and bathrooms have 15-inch LCD TVs. A dozen former Wyndham hotels that have recently operated under the Prime name will be rebranded again. Four will become Radisson hotels, three will switch to the Park Place brand and five will become Country Inn & Suites properties.

Southwest Dumps Its Double-Bonus Promotion
Say so long to the double-credit promotion for the Southwest Rapid Rewards program. For years, Southwest flyers received one bonus credit for every roundtrip booked at Lately, the bonus was reduced to half a credit. Now there's no bonus at all for online bookings. With absurd fanfare, United Mileage Plus and American AAdvantage announced new programs that permit some or all members to use miles for car-rentals and hotel awards. Some of us are old enough to remember when car and lodging awards were free with our air-travel rewards. Delta SkyMiles and Continental OnePass are once again permitting members to transfer miles to other accounts for a huge fee. Both programs are charging a penny a mile for the transfers and Delta even adds a $25 transaction fee. Air Canada has slightly improved its earnings ratios for Aeroplan. Tango Plus fares now receive mile-for-mile Status Miles, up from 50 percent. These fares also earn one mile for every $2 spent online, up from one mile for every $3 spent. Latitude Plus fares now receive one mile for every dollar spent online, up from one mile for every $3 spent.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines is launching more than two dozen new routes this spring with regional jets (RJ) flown by its American Eagle subsidiary or its American Connection affiliate. And since American is gradually turning itself into a commuter carrier anyway--more than half its flights are now operated with RJs--it has decided to begin selling snacks on American Eagle flights. Two varieties of snack boxes are now available for $3 each. Beginning in 2008, U.S. citizens will be required to show passports when re-entering the country from Canada, Mexico, Panama and Bermuda. Continental Airlines says it won't be launching flights to Lagos, Nigeria, after all. It recently cancelled plans to launch flights to Moscow, too.

Meanwhile, Back in RichardBransonLand...
Richard Branson lost control of his low-fare Australian airline, Virgin Blue, last month. Before that he had sold 49 percent of his flagship carrier, Virgin Atlantic, to Singapore Airlines. Now another of his creations, Brussels-based Virgin Express, is headed for oblivion. The airline is now owned by a holding company controlled by SN Brussels, the Belgian carrier launched after Sabena folded. Still think Branson has what it takes to start a low-fare U.S. airline? If you do, he'll happily sell you the Brooklyn Bridge as a way to raise financing for Virgin America.

Copyright 1993-2005 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.