The Tactical Traveler

Northwest Begins to Bail on Coach Choice
Northwest Airlines' attempt to charge flyers for seat assignments for some less-heinous seats in coach is unraveling. Northwest launched the Coach Choice program about a month ago and insisted that anyone wanting certain exit-row or aisle chairs pay a $15 fee beginning 24 hours before departure. But on Tuesday (April 18) Northwest made its first concession: WorldPerks Elite customers are now exempt from the fee. Northwest claimed "customer feedback" led to the elite rollback, but to accept that absurd line you'd have to believe that some executive idiot at Northwest actually thought that elite flyers would accept the fee.

Hilton's and Hyatt's Boarding-Pass Play
Airlines are desperately trying to drive us to the Internet to print out our boarding passes. But there's always been a rather large wrench in the mechanism: Business travelers don't have easy access to printers on the road. Two major hotel chains, Hilton and Hyatt, are stepping in to fill the gap. Hyatt says its check-out kiosks now have the capability of printing out airline boarding passes. The hotel chain says boarding-pass-capable kiosks will be installed in the lobby of all of its domestic properties by June 1. And Hilton says that the check-in/check-out kiosks in the lobby of 37 of its hotels now permit guests to print out boarding passes.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Crazy
Eos Airlines, the six-month-old airline that flies all-first-class-style service between New York and London, has introduced what may be the ultimate perk in these troubled times. Eos employees will meet passengers curbside at Kennedy or Stansted and escort them to flight check-in and through a fast-track security line. The airline says the escort program will allow passengers to arrive just 45 minutes before departure. … Venezuela travelers take note: The aviation and political dispute between the United States and Venezuela hits another crisis point on Tuesday (April 25). That's when Venezuela now says it may curtail nonstop flights between Caracas and the United States. … Brussels flyers take note: The airport has imposed a 32-kilogram (about 70-pound) limit on bags. Any bag weighing more will be refused regardless of the carrier or the class of service you're flying. … India says it will merge the two state-owned carriers, Air India and Indian Airlines. … The Greek government says financially moribund state-owned carrier Olympic Airlines will survive at least through the summer. … Beginning on Tuesday, British Airways says all passengers within the United Kingdom and travelers headed to the United States from a U.K. airport will be required to use an airport kiosk to check in. That includes U.S. travelers on the return leg of a trip.

Double Credits, Double Closures and a Notable Flag Shift
AirTran Airways flyers get double A+ Reward credits through June 15 when they fly to or from eight airports: Chicago/Midway; Westchester and Rochester, New York; Richmond and Newport News, Virginia; Bloomington and Moline, Illinois; and Akron/Canton. … Marriott Rewards members have a new outlet in the City by the Bay: The Pan Pacific Hotel San Francisco has become a JW Marriott. … Two warm-weather favorites of travelers using frequent-stay points are no more. The Kapalua Bay Hotel on Maui, most recently run as a JW Marriott, closed earlier this month. And the Hyatt Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico closes its doors on May 31.

Follow the Bouncing Fare Increases
Crude oil bounced back over $70 a barrel to record highs this week and that's caused many airlines to unleash a slew of fare increases and higher fuel surcharges. Here's some of what has occurred: Air Canada raised domestic and U.S. transborder fares from C$5-C$10 each way. … American Airlines raised fares $10 roundtrip across the board this week and the other Big Six carriers matched. That follows a $10-$50 increase in walk-up coach and first-class fares started by Delta Air Lines and matched by the other Big Six airlines 13 days ago. … Spirit Airlines raised its fares by $5-$20 each way. … International fuel-surcharge hikes include: $20 roundtrip by American on transatlantic and transpacific flights; $20-$38 roundtrip by Delta on transatlantic, India and Israel flights; €5 across the board by KLM; and US$10 per segment by British Airways on North American-originating flights.

An Airport by Any Other Name…
Does anyone except bureaucrats and publicity-seeking family members really care about what an airport is called? Of course not, but the airport name game is generating a lot of political heat lately. In New England, for example, the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, has chosen to rename itself Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. After initially opposing the name change, officials at Massport, which operates Boston/Logan, have decided not to complain. In fact, they are thinking of adding "Boston" to Worchester Regional airport. But Boston mayor Thomas Menino is up in arms, claiming the moves besmirch Boston's good name. Meanwhile, in New York's Hudson Valley north of Manhattan, plans to rename Stewart/Newburgh are on hold. The airport operators expected to rename the facility Hudson Valley International on May 1. But intense political pressure, brought to bear by the family of Archie Stewart, who donated the airport land to the state of New York more than 75 years ago, has scuttled the plan for now. What's ludicrous about the name games is that all three airports--Manchester, Stewart and Worcester--are losing passengers and flights.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Continental Airlines has added a so-called "confirmed standby" option, the fancy name for charging you $25 to stand by for an alternate flight. Details of Continental's standby plan are here. … Northwest Airlink flyers take note: Bankrupt Mesaba, a large Airlink carrier, is asking its bankruptcy-court judge for the right to dump its pilots contract. The pilots say they'll strike if Mesaba does it. The court has scheduled a hearing on the matter on Tuesday (April 25). … The new airport in Bangkok will not open in July as most recently planned. The facility is about 20 years in the making, so don't hold your breath for a reliable official opening date. … The very credulous folks who thought US Airways chief executive Doug Parker was a hero for passing up a $700,000 bonus last month should now know that his 2005 compensation quadrupled last year. The information was buried in a government filing earlier this month. … There are going to be a lot of delays at airports around the country this summer, but Chicago/O'Hare won't be the worst offender. The U.S. government has extended flight restrictions at the nation's busiest airport through the last weekend in October. The restrictions, first imposed in August, 2004, have curtailed flight operations and reduced delays.

He Just Flew in From Frankfurt. Boy, Is His Voice Tired! From the footnotes of history file: Travel-book author and Today show contributor Peter Greenberg will be broadcasting what is believed to be the first-ever live radio show from an aircraft on Saturday, April 22. Greenberg's weekly travel-talk show will originate from Lufthansa Flight 406 traveling Frankfurt to New York/Kennedy. The technical feat will be possible because the plane is equipped with FlyNet, Lufthansa's version of Boeing's Connexion Internet service. If you'd like to listen to the show from the ground--or from another Connexion-equipped plane, surf to Travel Today Radio. There's a live link for the program, which airs between 10 a.m. and noon Eastern time. Greenberg's scheduled guests include New York Times business-travel columnist Joe Sharkey; Rudy Maxa, the host of PBS' Smart Travels show; and a bald, bespectacled scribe of your acquaintance.

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