The Tactical Traveler

Will Delta's Strike Watch Become a Death Watch?
Delta Air Lines and its unionized pilots are involved in a nasty fight that might lead to a strike--and the quick death of Delta. After a round of temporary pilot wage concessions late last year, Delta and the pilot's union agreed to submit their dispute--bankrupt Delta wants to void the contract and impose more than $300 million in permanent givebacks--to an arbitration panel. Since further negotiations have failed, the panel must rule by Saturday, April 15. If the panel says yes, Delta can resume its quest to abrogate the pilot's contract in bankruptcy court. The pilots say they will strike if that happens and they have empowered the union's chairman to call a strike unilaterally any time after April 17. Will a pilot strike or other type of job action ground Delta? Absolutely. Will a grounding kill Delta? Probably. Delta has told the Securities and Exchange Commission that a shutdown that lasts longer than two days would violate the terms of the airline's bankruptcy financing. "As a result, we could be required to cease operations permanently," Delta said last week in an SEC filing.

Guess Who's Coming to Dulles?
Southwest Airlines is asking for gates at Washington/Dulles airport and the 800-pound gorilla of low-cost airlines says it will launch IAD flights in the fall. Southwest already has a huge hub at Baltimore/Washington. … Delta has opened a new Crown Room Club on Concourse C at Atlanta. The 6,800-square-foot lounge is located across from Gate C26. … A helicopter shuttle from downtown Manhattan to New York/Kennedy Airport has launched. The 8-minute ride on US Helicopter costs $145 and it operates between New York City's Downtown Heliport and the American Airlines terminal at JFK. … Westin hotels has taken over management of the Harvey DFW Hotel at Dallas/Fort Worth. The 506-room property, 1.5 miles from DFW, has undergone a $25 million renovation. … Boingo, the network of Wi-Fi hot spots, has added coverage at seven more U.S. and Canadian airports and four airports in Southeast Asia. The service now offers Wi-Fi connections at more than 225 airports around the world.

Hilton Boosts the Miles Needed for Free Rooms
Hilton HHonors has raised the number of miles you need to claim free nights at hundreds of hotels and resorts around the world. Effective June 1, HHonors has reclassified hundreds of Hilton, Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn properties and almost all of the hotels were raised by one category. The one-category jump is a hike of 5,000 HHonors points for each free night claimed. ... American AAdvantage members take note: American has resumed nonstop flights to Rome from both New York/Kennedy and Chicago/O'Hare. If you are searching for a free seat to Italy, the daily flights will operate until October 27. … American Express Membership Rewards is offering double points on virtually all spending above $1,000 a month from April through September. Amex claims only members with an "invitation" qualify, but give the registration form a shot. … And you'll want to jump on this: Aeroflot, the Russian carrier, has joined Delta SkyMiles.

Follow the Bouncing Fares--If You Can
Since last we met in this space, there have been two separate attempts to raise walk-up coach prices by $50. The first, launched last weekend by United Airlines, failed. The second, attempted yesterday (April 5) by Delta, also includes some first-class fares. Delta won't even say what routes are affected and it is unclear whether any or all of the price hike will stick. … The residue of the United attempt is a $5 increase on the lowest fares in markets where the Big Six doesn't compete with low-fare airlines. … Another fare hike was pushed through last week. The Big Six carriers will no longer absorb passenger facilities charges on connecting itineraries through their hubs. That move means that the connecting flights are now more costly as well as more time-consuming than competitive nonstops. … The U.S. dollar is in free fall against the euro again. It briefly dropped to as low as $1.23 earlier this week and is now selling for about $1.22.

Reflags and Renovations and New Properties, Oh My!
It continues to be nearly impossible to keep up with the dizzying pace of change in the hotel business. But here's my best shot. … What's new: A 23-story, 241-room Conrad hotel has opened in Indianapolis; Doubletree has opened an all-suite hotel adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center; Steigenberger has opened an 185-room property on the site of the original Hotel de Saxe in Dresden, Germany; and InterContinental has opened a 503-room beachfront resort in Taba Heights, Egypt. … What's reflagged: Marriott has put its flag on the Buttes Resort in Tempe, Arizona; Doubletree has taken over the Hilton called Cleveland South, located halfway between the city and Hopkins Airport; Radisson takes over at the former InterContinental in Dubai; and the Denarau Island Resort in Fiji has switched to Westin from Sheraton. … What's changed: Kimpton, the big boutique-hotel operator, has purchased the 189-room Nine Zero on Tremont Street in Boston. And Hilton has added its name to two Princess hotels in Central America: the 104-room Princess in Managua, Nicaragua, and the 120-room Princess in San Pedro Sula in Honduras.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Delta Air Lines is beginning the final windup of Song, its failed low-fare carrier created to fight JetBlue Airways. Although some of Song's amenities will be retained and added to Delta's long-haul fleet, Delta is returning to a two-class service. The first routes to get first-class back: flights from New York/JFK, Boston and Hartford to Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. … Speaking of JetBlue, it now offers a spa pack--Bliss brand lip balm and skin cream, earplugs and eyeshades--on red-eye flights to the East Coast. The amenity kit is free. … Two federal air marshals pleaded guilty on Monday to plotting to smuggle cocaine. They face life in prison. … Speaking of mile-high crime, Swiss prosecutors have charged 19 executives of Swissair with mismanagement. Two former Swissair chief executives are included in the group charged with misleading stockholders and other financial crimes. Swissair folded late in 2001.

Bet You Didn't Know We Had an Obituary Department…
It's been a very bad few weeks to be a small airline. Hooters Air, the charter carrier owned by the founder of Hooters restaurants, is getting out of scheduled flying and dumping its public-charter service. The big losers? Myrtle Beach, where the airline was based, and Lehigh Valley Airport, which Hooters has stiffed for $1 million in fuel bills. Also going to the scrap heap: Cardiff-based Air Wales, which will close on April 23. An Austrian carrier, Styrian Spirit, folded two weeks ago. And AeroCalifornia, a regional Mexican carrier, has been grounded by Mexican regulators.

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