The Tactical Traveler

FOR JULY 21 - AUGUST 4, 2005
Time to Book Away From Northwest Airlines
The National Mediation Board (NMB) gave Northwest Airlines and its mechanics union what they wanted and declared an impasse in the contract negotiations. That means a federally mandated 30-day cooling off period is now in effect and will expire at 12:01 a.m. on August 20. At that time, the mechanics are free to strike and Northwest is free to unilaterally impose new work rules or lock out employees. Northwest's management publicly claims that it is prepared and will maintain a full schedule of flights if the mechanics walk or are locked out. Don't believe it. Even with months of advance planning--and Northwest admits it has been preparing for months--there are likely to be substantial flight delays and cancellations. Bottom line: For your own sanity, book away from Northwest for any travel beginning August 20 until you hear that the labor dispute has been settled. And remember that many Continental, Delta and KLM flights are actually code-shares with Northwest Airlines and they will also be affected. For the record, negotiations have run aground over Northwest's demands for a pay cut of about 25 percent and the right to lay off about half of the mechanics.

American Won't Move on DFW Terminal D's Opening Day
With a Texas-sized dose of pomp and celebration, Terminal D at Dallas/Fort Worth International opens on Saturday (July 23). But the terminal's largest tenant, American Airlines, won't be moving in any time soon. In fact, American doesn't even have a timetable for a move and all of AA's international flights will continue to depart from Terminal A indefinitely. The new terminal, designed to consolidate all of DFW's international flights in one place, cost $1.2 billion and has been five years in the making. Is there a problem at Terminal D? According to DFW insiders, the automated baggage system doesn't operate properly, a problem that has hobbled Denver International since its opening a decade ago. International carriers scheduled to use Terminal D include Air Canada, British Airways, Lufthansa, Korean Air, Aeromexico and Mexicana. Priority Pass, the worldwide airport-club access program, has added new lounges in San Jose, Costa Rica; Jakarta; Nagoya; Birmingham, England; and Terminal 1 in Frankfurt. Northwest Airlines last week tried to raise fares on connecting flights by dropping its policy of absorbing airport passenger-facility charges on connecting itineraries. Northwest backed off the increase this week when no other carriers matched.

A Passage to India for Ex-US Airways Executives
India's booming domestic travel market has attracted at least a dozen new paper airlines that claim they will start flying on the subcontinent. But at least one of them, IndiGo, has a dubious management strategy: Hire former US Airways executives. IndiGo will be run by Rashesh Gangwal, one of Stephen Wolf's henchmen who helped pillage US Airways when Wolf ran the bankrupt carrier. And Gangwal has just hired Bruce Ashby as IndiGo's chief executive. Ashby had been with US Airways for almost a decade and was going to run DCAir, the Washington-based spin-off airline that would have been created as a result of the failed United-US Airways merger. Ashby was US Airways' executive vice president for marketing when he resigned earlier this month to take the IndiGo gig. The merger of US Airways and America West has been pitched as a profitable combination if oil prices remained around $50 a barrel. But now that oil has surged to the $60 mark, the airline still claims it can be profitable. Why? Because $60-a-barrel oil will drive other carriers out of business, claims America West chief executive Doug Parker. And if you think that logic is crazy, consider what America West admitted today (Thursday) when it reported a second-quarter profit of $13.9 million. The profit was credited to an improvement in revenue, but "these improvements are not enough to offset the ongoing high price of fuel," said Derek Kerr, America West's chief financial officer. Do you think Parker has had a conversation with his CFO lately? United Airlines has been in bankruptcy for more than 32 months, but now claims it will file a reorganization plan on August 1. It then wants a hearing on September 2 to get the plan approved. Needless to say, that timing has infuriated the airline's creditors, who claim a month is not long enough to consider the ramifications of a reorganization plan that has presumably been in the works for almost three years.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Remember the two America West pilots pulled off their planes in Miami in July, 2002, after a security screener suspected that they were drunk? The captain, Thomas Cloyd, was sentenced to five years in prison. The co-pilot, Christopher Hughes, got 2 years. The judge in the case pronounced the jail sentences today (July 21) and called the pilots' actions "outrageous." Air New Zealand has modified its transpacific fare structure and that has brought similar action from Qantas. But both moves are much ado about very little. Walk-up coach and premium-class fares have not been lowered in any substantial way and most discount fares remain heavily restricted and require roundtrip purchases. Eurostar, the train that uses the English Channel tunnel to connect London, Brussels and Paris, will change its service offerings on September 1. There will be three classes of service: Business Select, which includes access to terminal lounges; Leisure Select, which includes larger-than-coach seats; and a Standard coach class.

Buy Some New York Hotel Furniture in Chicago
Buying fittings, furniture and products used by your favorite hotel chain is all the rage just now. And you're in luck if your favorite chain happens to be St. Regis. Starting Sunday (July 24) in Chicago, Fort Pitt Furniture will be selling off furniture and accessories once used at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. Better yet, some pieces were never used and are still in their original crates. Fort Pitts says Stiffel lamps will be sold for $39-$99 and gold-trimmed armoires that usually retail for more than $3,000 will be selling for about $650. Rugs, pictures, draperies, chairs, sofas and other furniture will also be available. Fort Pitt Furniture is located at 1400 West 37th Street; telephone 773-247-3523.

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