The Tactical Traveler


Big Changes at Some Big Florida Hotels
The rococo, 876-room Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami has closed for a two-year renovation. The former Hilton property in Miami will reopen as an independent hotel. Another Miami-area landmark, the Sheraton Bal Harbour, isn't far behind. But when the 645-room Sheraton shuts down later this year, it will be demolished to make way for a condo complex and a small hotel. Also changing: The former Fort Lauderdale Marina Marriott at the edge of the Intercoastal Waterway. It has been rebranded as the Fort Lauderdale Grande. A $50 million renovation of the 580-room property and its 33-slip marina is planned. In the meantime, room rates have dropped to as low as $109 a night.

JetBlue Loses a Battle in Newark
The war between Continental Airlines and JetBlue Airways at Continental's Newark hub has claimed its first casualty: JetBlue is dumping its two daily flights to Tampa. The service ends on May 3. Elsewhere, however, JetBlue continues to expand. The two newest cities on the carrier's route map are Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, Florida. Effective June 15, JetBlue adds three daily flights from its New York/Kennedy hub to Jacksonville using Airbus A320 jets. On June 30, it launches service from Pittsburgh with four daily flights to Kennedy and two daily flights to Boston. The 100-seat Embraer-190 will be used on those routes. And one more addition: three daily Boston-Buffalo flights with Embraer-190s begin on June 30. Hooters Air, the public-charter carrier launched by the owner of the restaurant chain of the same name, is almost history. Myrtle Beach-based Hooters has dropped most of its service in recent weeks and the owner, Robert Brooks, admits that he's ready to fold the airline.

Honest, It's Not as Bad as You've Heard
Newspapers and broadcast media carried screaming headlines this week claiming that the airlines lose 30 million bags a year. Thankfully, it's not that bad. The study cited by the media, from an airline-services supplier named SITA, actually reported that the world's airlines mishandled 30 million bags annually. "Mishandled" is airline-industry jargon for any problem that separates passengers from their bags for any period of time. The mishandled statistic includes misplaced and misdirected bags and any piece of luggage that is, in fact, lost or stolen. According to SITA, however, only 204,000 of those 30 million bags are actually lost forever. All the rest are reunited with their owners in an average of about 31 hours. The overwhelming cause of lost and mishandled luggage? SITA says 61 percent of misplaced bags go wrong during the transfer between flights. Another 15 percent go awry because they are never actually loaded on their intended flights.

Beware of Strikes Next Week in Britain and France
Tuesday (March 28) could be a very bad day for travelers in Britain and France. The largest job action since the 1926 General Strike in Britain could seriously disrupt rail and airline traffic at London/Heathrow, London's rail stations and elsewhere in the country. In France, a nationwide strike has been called, part of the general French unhappiness with new youth-job laws imposed by the government. Air France's trade unions have told its members to strike. A terminal specially designed for low-cost carriers opened at Kuala Lumpur International today (March 23). Low-cost carriers will also get their own terminal on Sunday (March 26) at Changi Airport in Singapore. Golden Tulip has taken over management of the Quality Inn hotel at Munich Airport. Le Meridien, the hotel chain that operates mostly overseas, is now part of Starwood Preferred Guest. Starwood is offering a 700-point per stay bonus at Le Meridien properties until April 30. Why 700? Le Meridien is the 7th hotel chain in the frequency program.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
US Airways says it will begin a new transcontinental route, from its Philadelphia hub to Portland, Oregon, on June 1. Two-class Airbus 320s operated by America West will be used. Here's another fee we can live without: Hertz says it will impose a no-show charge on British travelers who don't cancel their reservations. The fee will be £25 in the United Kingdom, €35 in European Union countries and US$50 in the United States. How long do you think it'll be before Hertz tries this one on U.S.-based renters? Delta Air Lines raised fares by $5 last weekend and the other Big Six carriers matched. The increase was on routes not covered by the $2-$10 increases initiated by Southwest Airlines last week. A Muslim father and son claim they were removed from a flight in January based solely on their appearance. A lawyer for the passengers says they were seated on a United Express flight from Oakland but were then removed "because the flight attendant was uncomfortable" with their wardrobe of skullcaps, tunics and loose trousers.

He's Ba-a-a-a-a-a-ck!
Guess who's back? Gordon Bethune, the former chief executive of Continental Airlines. Bethune retired under pressure from Continental in December, 2004, but he's been named chairman of the parent company of and several other travel-distribution systems. As you'll recall, Bethune spent his last years at Continental insulting the intelligence of his passengers and attacking corporate travel managers for trying to control costs. He also blamed everyone but himself for Continental's huge losses after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. If nothing else, he's extremely quotable. And now that he has to do business with them, we can't wait for Gordo to explain to us what's wrong with the legacy carriers and their Byzantine fare structure.

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