The Tactical Traveler

Everyone's Headed to Florida This Fall
Unlike their Big Six brethren, the nation's alternate airlines don't usually move in lockstep. But it's hard to ignore the lemming-like behavior that the other guys are exhibiting when it comes to Florida. Despite recent indications that there are too many flights into the Sunshine State, the alternate airlines are all rushing to bulk up their schedules this fall. JetBlue Airways, for example, adds a daily nonstop between Washington/Dulles and West Palm Beach on October 3. Sun Country Airlines launches daily flights between Minneapolis and St. Petersburg-Clearwater on November 20. Spirit Airlines is building up in Atlanta for reasons known only to its wacky management and two of its three new routes are into Florida. Beginning December 14, there will be a daily flight to Tampa. A daily Atlanta-Orlando flight begins January 11. (The third new route--Atlanta-Las Vegas--launches November 15.) But the biggest expansion to Florida is actually coming from AirTran Airways. It's launching about a dozen new year-round and seasonal routes in the coming months. Among the additions: Flights from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and Tampa; service from Tampa to both Dayton and Milwaukee; flights from Boston to Fort Lauderdale, Ft. Myers and Orlando; Akron-Fort Myers; and Newport News-Fort Lauderdale.

Delta's Left Coast-Right Coast 'Strategy'
Delta Air Lines has spent most of the last eight months pouring new flights into New York's Kennedy Airport. There have been dozens of new international routes and even more commuter flights to connect to the overseas service. The problem: Delta's facilities at Kennedy, already threadbare, have been overwhelmed. Terminals 2 and 3 are overflowing with checked bags and passengers, causing long delays for everything from check-in to baggage claim. The airline's typically too-little-too-late response: a $20 million "refreshment" of lounges, customs facilities and check-in desks and kiosks. Meanwhile, Delta has finally decided to do something about its nearly empty terminal at Los Angeles International. The solution: The 'Hispanic' strategy aimed at bulking up flights to Latin America and tapping into the burgeoning Latino market in Southern California. Beginning in December, Delta will add 16 routes from LAX, including new flights to nine Mexican destinations; Liberia, Costa Rica; and Guatemala City. There will also be onward connecting service from LAX to five U.S. cities with large Hispanic populations. Nigeria has closed Port Harcourt, the international airport that served the country's oil-rich Niger Delta. Renovation work, which is expected to last at least four months, is due to begin in October, after the region's rainy season.

More Flights to Britain and Latin America This Fall
Too much is apparently never enough when it comes to flights between North America and Great Britain. There'll be another raft of new routes launched in the coming months. Air Canada, for example, is planning to add three weekly nonstops between Edmonton and London/Heathrow on October 31. Maxjet Airways, the all-business-class carrier that flies to London/Stansted from New York/Kennedy and Washington/Dulles, adds twice-weekly nonstops from Las Vegas on November 2. And Flyglobespan, a British discounter, is planning two more new routes: weekly Belfast-Orlando/Sanford flights launch in November and daily Boston-Glasgow service begins next May. Also getting a boost this fall is Latin America service. Besides Delta's big growth from Los Angeles (see the Airports Report), Frontier Airlines begins four weekly flights between its Denver hub and Guadalajara, Mexico, on December 22. Aeromexico will begin daily nonstops between Fort Lauderdale and Mexico City on October 6. And Continental will launch a weekly flight between its Newark hub and Roatan, Honduras, on December 16. Lufthansa has already resumed flights from Frankfurt to Beirut. But SkyTeam flyers take note: KLM is cutting your link to many parts of the Middle East. The carrier has decided not to resume its Beirut flights and will drop two other destinations (Amman, Jordan, and Damascus, Syria) in October.

The Hotel Land Rush Continues Unabated
The boom-and-bust cycle that has dominated the hotel business in recent decades continues to be stuck on the "boom" setting. There seems to be no end to new hotel openings and reflagging. Holiday Inn Express, for example, has opened new outlets in Mexico City (near the World Trade Center) and Brooklyn, New York (on Union Street). Marriott has opened a 449-room facility in downtown Austin, Texas, that combines two of the chain's brands. One part of the property is operated as a Courtyard, the other part as a Residence Inn. Marriott has also reflagged the Doral Forrestal Conference Center in Princeton, New Jersey, as the Princeton Marriott. .. The boom is most pronounced in China, where Western brand names continue to expand. In the past 60 days, there have been openings by Crowne Plaza (in Shanghai and Changshu); Holiday Inn (in Suzhou and Qinhuangdo); and Millennium (in Shanghai).

A Failed Fare Hike and a Phony Fare War
United Airlines tried to raise business fares two weekends ago, but the effort failed when other carriers didn't match the $5-$10 increases. Tri-State Airport in Huntington, West Virginia, is offering fare rebates to business travelers between September 18 and October 31. Rebates range from $50-$200 roundtrip and are based on the cost of tickets from Tri-State. Registration is required. The arrival of JetBlue on the New York/Kennedy-Washington/Dulles route two weeks ago has led to a phony fare war from Delta and US Airways on their traditional New York/LGA-Washington/National-Boston/Logan Shuttle routes. The carriers matched JetBlue's 14-day advance fares, which are as low as $50 one-way, but they simultaneously raised walk-up fares to an almost inconceivable $314 one-way. That's $1.46 a mile on the 214-mile route between New York and Washington and 78 cents a mile between New York and Boston. JetBlue charges $155 walk-up on the Boston and Dulles routes.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Midwest Airlines (fka Midwest Express) now charges $25 for its so-called "confirmed standby" option. Air New Zealand has increased the number of "premium economy" seats on its Boeing 747s. The so-called fourth cabin will now have 31 seats, up from 23. The eight additional premium economy chairs replace 15 traditional coach seats. The airline's Boeing 777s have 18 premium economy seats. An Oklahoma company is paying $181 million to drill for natural gas beneath Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Origin Pacific, a discount carrier in New Zealand, has folded.

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