The Tactical Traveler

The 'Lost Continent' Is Finally Being Rediscovered
After spending almost 20 years ignoring Africa, U.S. carriers may actually be realizing that there's money to be made on what has become the frequent flyer's "Lost Continent." On December 11, for example, Delta Air Lines plans to launch four weekly flights between New York/Kennedy and Accra, Ghana. Delta previously announced that it will begin daily flights on December 4 on the Atlanta-Dakar, Senegal-Johannesburg, South Africa, route. No major U.S. carrier has flown its own planes to Africa since TWA's flights to Cairo were cancelled shortly after American Airlines bought the carrier six years ago. And no major U.S. carrier has flown regularly to sub-Saharan Africa since Pan Am dumped its African routes in the 1980s. But wait, there's more. North American Airlines, a niche carrier that flies the JFK-Accra and Baltimore/Washington-Banjul, Gambia, routes several times a week, is also expanding. Beginning July 17, it will launch three weekly flights from Kennedy to Lagos, Nigeria.

Northwest Refines Its Cattle-Car Boarding Process
A couple of weeks after it abandoned traditional row-by-row boarding, Northwest Airlines says it will begin offering special boarding lanes at the gate for elite customers. Beginning next week, there will be "premium boarding lanes" that will segregate the airline's best customers from the rest of the madding airport crowd. The special lanes, designated by signs, stanchions and carpeting at the gates, will be open to WorldPerks Elite flyers, first-class passengers and Elite members of other SkyTeam carriers. The new lanes will be available first at Northwest's Detroit/Metro hub and four other airports: Bismarck; Fargo; Phoenix; and Portland, Oregon. WestJet is opening airport lounges around Canada. The pay-per-visit clubs are already open in Ottawa and Winnipeg and should by ready by September in Calgary and Vancouver. The lounges offer snacks and beverages, fax machines, wireless Internet and bars. Prices for a visit range from C$14-$20.

Another Burst of Expansion From JetBlue
After recording its first two losing quarters, JetBlue Airways slowed down rather than stopped its expansion plans. It also refocused its growth away from transcontinental service and routes to the Atlantic coast of Florida. As a result, the carrier is pouring service elsewhere starting in September. From its New York/Kennedy hub, JetBlue will be adding three daily flights to Houston/Hobby beginning September 7. There will be a new JFK-Aruba flight beginning September 15, a new JFK-Sarasota/Bradenton flight on September 21 and a new JFK-Tucson route starting on September 28. AirTran Airways is resuming service at Gulfport/Biloxi, which was ravaged last year by Hurricane Katrina. Beginning next Thursday (July 6), it restarts a daily flight to Tampa. Then, on August 29, it will add a daily flight to Fort Lauderdale.

New Flights to Some of the Oddest Places
As airlines fill up with passengers this summer, they are looking for new places to fly and you'd be surprised at some of the new international routes that are popping up. TACV Cabo Verde, for example, has already launched two weekly flights from Boston to Praia, Cape Verde Islands. United Airlines says it will be flying from its Washington/Dulles hub to Kuwait beginning on October 28. On August 15, LAN Argentina, a new subsidiary of LAN Chile, will add nonstop daily flights between Miami and Buenos Aires. Korean Air will start three weekly flights from Las Vegas to Seoul on September 22. And Delta Air Lines will be adding daily nonstop flights to Mumbai (Bombay) from its New York/Kennedy hub on November 1; the flights will replace its existing JFK-Paris-Mumbai service. And All Nippon Airways says it will resume its Chicago-Tokyo service in the fall. On the flip side, however, American Airlines will be dumping its San Jose-Tokyo flights on October 28. American has flown the route since 1991.

The Politics of Transatlantic Fuel Surcharges
Anyone who has booked an international flight lately knows that the fuel surcharge has skyrocketed. Some of the charges are a legitimate response to rising oil prices, of course, but some of the fees may be a result of price-fixing and collusion. At least that's what the British Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and two enraged American passengers think. The OFT launched a probe into surcharge-based price-fixing last week and the target seems to be British Airways. BA's arch-rival, Virgin Atlantic, apparently instigated the probe by claiming that BA officials contacted Virgin before BA lifted its surcharge. Separately, two travelers filed suit in a federal court last week over the surcharge. The flyers, one from Massachusetts and one from Illinois, say the four carriers flying from the United States and London/Heathrow--BA, Virgin, United and American--conspired to fix fares using the fuel surcharge. As best as anyone can tell, the fuel fee has risen six times since 2004 and can cost from $20 to $75 each way.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Iberia travelers take note: The Spanish carrier's pilots are planning a six-day strike beginning Monday, July 10. Minimum service on U.S.-Spain routes would probably be maintained, but connecting flights within Spain will be chaotic. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has resigned, effective next Friday (July 7). A Democrat, Mineta is one of the three remaining original members of the Bush Cabinet. Miserable on-time performance in recent months has cost United Airlines its contract to fly domestic mail for the U.S. Postal Service. United has had a mail contract for 75 years. Park Hyatt has opened an outpost in Buenos Aires. The 165-room/38-suite property is located in the Recoleta district. Bankrupt Varig continues to be in limbo. A deal to sell the Brazilian carrier to employees has fallen through, but last-minute government approval to sell Varig's cargo unit has kept the carrier afloat. Aerocalifornia, grounded in April by Mexican regulators because of safety irregularities, may soon fly again. Mexican authorities have approved a plan to allow Aerocalifornia to resume flying with six aircraft. Before the grounding, Aerocalifornia also had been flying to Los Angeles and Tucson.

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