The Tactical Traveler


The Wi-Fi War at Boston/Logan Goes National
Massport, the agency that runs Boston's Logan Airport, has been trying to force Continental Airlines to turn off its free Wi-Fi at Logan's Presidents Club. Massport claims that Continental's service may interfere with critical wireless networks used by the airlines, the police and other emergency agencies. Of course, Massport didn't lodge a complaint until the summer of 2004, when it began selling its own airport-wide Wi-Fi service, which it sells to travelers for $8 a day. Continental has appealed to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and has drawn support from lobbying groups such as the Air Transport Assn., the airline trade group; the Consumer Electronics Assn., a manufacturer's lobbying group; and the CTIA, a wireless-industry trade organization. On the other hand, the FAA has received briefs supporting Massport from the Airports Council, an airline lobbying group, and four other airport operators. The FAA has been reviewing the case since last year, but hasn't said when it will rule. Meanwhile, Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport has turned on Wi-Fi service throughout the airport. The Phoenix service is free and available on both sides of the security checkpoints.

Picking the Bones of Independence Air
So what happens to the assets of Independence Air after the carrier shuts down tonight (January 5). Don't look for anyone to pick up iClub, the airline's frequent-flyer program. If you had miles there, they are probably lost. Some of the carrier's remaining planes will undoubtedly be dispersed around the industry. Independence's only real asset is its complex of more than 40 gates at Washington/Dulles Airport. United Airlines, which maintains a hub at Dulles, will surely be interested. (In its earlier incarnation as Atlantic Coast, Independence was United's commuter carrier at IAD.) So will fast-growing Mesa Airlines, which picked up some of United's commuter flying after the split with Atlantic Coast in the spring of 2004. AirTran may be in the market, too. And don't be shocked if long-delayed startup Virgin America, which now has some financing, tries to secure a few of Independence's gates. Southwest Airlines launched service from Denver this week and its initial schedule included nonstops to Chicago/Midway, Las Vegas and Phoenix. And Southwest wasted no time in announcing new service: Beginning March 4, the 800-pound gorilla of discounters will add a nonstop to Baltimore/Washington and four daily flights to Salt Lake City. Spirit Airlines launches a daily flight between Dallas/Fort Worth and Fort Lauderdale next Tuesday (January 10).

Hookers and Swingers and Soccer, Oh My!
Four Seasons has opened a 297-room hotel in Damascus, Syria. The hotel has a spa, three restaurants and an introductory rate of $155 a night. Say goodbye to The Mark, a little jewel of a Manhattan hotel most recently run by Mandarin Oriental. The property has been sold to developers and they'll probably return the hotel to its residential roots. Jumierah, the Dubai-based hotel chain, has picked up another international property. It has purchased the Lowndes Hotel in London and closed it for a $14 million refurbishment. The property is due to reopen in October. Jumeirah already operates the former Hyatt Carlton House in London and will take over at the Essex House in New York later this month. Noted: the Crowne Plaza hotel at Orlando Airport booked two big groups over the New Year's holiday: One consisted of families attending Disney's Soccer Showcase. The other group: Swingers who booked the ballroom for a New Year's Eve party that featured partial nudity, diamond-studded thongs and other sexual paraphernalia. Also noted: New York police raided and closed the Executive Motor Inn near Kennedy Airport. Cops said the hotel was used as a brothel and some of the prostitutes were as young as 13.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines is blaming faulty computers for the Tuesday evening chaos that delayed thousands of travelers and forced thousands more to miss their flights. The meltdown came on the same day that United chief operational officer Pete McDonald declared 2006 United's year of "executional excellence." Watch for US Airways to begin a serious effort to obliterate the America West name in the coming days. Airport signs, crew uniforms and oral references by flight crews and reservations agents will all be switched to US Airways. Painting the two fleets with the combined carrier's new livery will take months, however, and integration of the America West FlightFund program into Dividend Miles won't begin until March. Etihad, the flag carrier of Abu Dhabi, says it will launch flights to Newark in June. The airline began flying to Toronto in October. American Airlines now has E-ticket interlining capability with two more carriers, Korean Air and Turkish Airlines. The Berghoff, Chicago's 107-year-old Loop landmark, will close on February 28. The German restaurant's outlet at O'Hare Airport will remain open, however. Surprise! A report from the inspector general of the Transportation Department says that the Federal Aviation Administration and six U.S. carriers haven't properly overseen the work performed by third-party maintenance centers. He says that he found "significant shortcomings" in the training and oversight at the outside maintenance facilities. He did not list the offending airlines, however.

Winners, Losers, Dignity and On-Time Ratings
Since it hasn't had a fatality or been forced to rehire any of its striking mechanics, Northwest Airlines has been declared the "winner" of the strike that hit the carrier just before last Labor Day. But two small items are worth mentioning: The striking mechanics last week soundly rejected Northwest's latest "contract" offer, which offered four weeks of layoff pay, payment of accrued vacation time and the right to file for 26 weeks of unemployment. And according to the government's latest Air Travel Consumer Report, released this week, Northwest was next-to-last in on-time performance during November. It was dead last among 20 listed carriers during September, the first full month of the strike. In October, it rated 12th among 20. Over the 18-year history of the Air Travel Consumer Report, Northwest has rated second-best for on-time performance, trailing only Southwest Airlines.

Copyright 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.