The Tactical Traveler

Small Cities, Big News at United, Delta and Northwest
The Big Six continue to search for places they can fly that won't put them in head-to-head competition with low-fare carriers. So it should come as no surprise that Delta Air Lines announced this week that it would be expanding at overlooked Trenton, the capital of New Jersey. Beginning on December 18, Delta and its commuter carriers will fly from Trenton to Boston and Atlanta. Delta is not alone with its new focus on small cities. Effective November 1, Northwest Airlines and its regional partners will expand at Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a daily flight to New York's LaGuardia Airport. But small-city flying is not a panacea, as hapless United Airlines is finding out. Its plan to build a mini-hub at San Antonio has collapsed after just a few months. The carrier had launched service to 12 cities from San Antonio this spring, but now almost all those flights are disappearing. Service to Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Kansas City has already ended. The nonstops to Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, New Orleans and Omaha end on September 20. All that remains from United's spring offensive in San Antonio are "spoke" flights to the airline's hubs.

For Us, By Us, About Us
Dr. Keith Mason runs the Business Travel Research Centre at Cranfield University in England. He's also one of the very few academic types who understand that business travel is about frequent flyers, not airlines. Mason is now looking for a little help with his latest survey, which is attempting to compile statistics on how we live our lives on the road. And he's looking for your input. If you can spare him a few minutes, surf to the survey and give him the input he needs.

So Long, CanJet and Other International Changes
Mark CanJet down as another failed attempt to establish a discount carrier in Canada. The Halifax-based airline will shut down on Sunday and concentrate instead on charter flights. But here's a breath of fresh air: The airline says it will automatically refund the money of all travelers who were scheduled to fly on CanJet after September 10. The demise of CanJet will hit Atlantic Canada hardest since it has been operating scheduled flights to destinations such as Moncton, Deer Lake and St. John's as well as service to Calgary, Montreal, New York and Florida cities. Air Madrid will launch its first service to the United States on October 29 when it begins four weekly flights between Miami and Madrid. Air Tahiti Nui is killing its much-publicized, but lightly used, nonstop flights between New York/Kennedy and Paris. Also going: Icelandair flights to Reykjavik from Baltimore/Washington and Minneapolis. The airline, which once specialized in cheap transatlantic flights, will retain its flights from New York/Kennedy and Boston. American Airlines is combining its flights to Ireland. Beginning October 28, it will fly a daily Chicago-Shannon-Dublin route, replacing its existing Chicago-Dublin and Boston-Shannon flights.

No Strike in Chicago and a Classic Hilton Turns Indigo
Travelers to Chicago can rest easy. Both Hilton and Hyatt have reached an agreement with the hotel worker's union. That should eliminate the chance of a city-wide strike. Speaking of Hilton, the first hotel built by Conrad Hilton, a hotel at 1933 Main Street in Dallas, has become a Hotel Indigo. Hilton built the 14-story hotel in 1925. Hotel Indigo is the lower-priced boutique brand of InterContinental. Here's a conversion you rarely hear about even in this topsy-turvy era: The Embassy Suites at 1881 Curtis Street in Denver will become a Ritz-Carlton next spring. The hotel tax has increased by a penny in Orange County, home to many of the major hotels in Orlando, Florida. The tax is now 6 percent.

The Northwest Update: Paging Judge Marrero
Bankrupt Northwest Airlines and its flight attendants remain in legal limbo. Judge Victor Marrerro temporarily blocked a flight attendants strike on August 25, but he hasn't been heard from since. The two sides aren't talking, either. But that doesn't mean nothing is happening. Officials at Northwest claim flight attendants are calling in sick in record numbers. And the airline this week recalled all 1,131 flight attendants it had furloughed in recent years. You're allowed to think that Northwest is hoping that the furloughed flight attendants will take jobs that may be empty if the existing workers are allowed to strike. The bankruptcy judge in the Delta Air Lines case has allowed the carrier to dump its pilot's pension plan. Of course, that's dependent on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., the quasi-public agency, agreeing to take on the liability, which is estimated at $2.5 billion.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Korean Air has followed Qantas and banned in-flight use of battery-powered Dell or Apple laptops. Both computer firms have had massive recalls in recent weeks because some batteries spontaneously combust. A strike at Alitalia caused massive cancellations today. Another strike is scheduled for September 18. Go!, the inter-Hawaii carrier launched three months ago by Mesa Airlines, may not be doing all that well. Despite fares as low as $29 each way and planes that only have 50 seats, go! filled just 64.5 percent of its capacity in August. That in a market desperate for low-fare service. Air marshals are now permitted to dress casually. Previously, the undercover agents were required to wear suits and ties, a dress code that many air marshals equated with a blown cover.

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