The Tactical Traveler

Things Go From Bad to Worse on the Road
Think that life on the road is getting worse? You're not imagining things. The nation's leading carriers are doing markedly poorer in on-time performance, lost baggage and cancelled flights, says the Air Travel Consumer Report released this week by the Department of Transportation. The report covers airline performance in October and the numbers were dreary: Nationwide, the 20 largest carriers registered an industry-wide on-time rating of just 72.9 percent. And once again Delta Air Lines and its two commuter carriers, Comair and ASA, were the worst in the nation. Dragged down by horrendous performance at its Atlanta and New York/Kennedy hubs, Delta operated just 65.9 percent on-time in October. Comair was on-schedule just 64.9 percent of the time and ASA racked up a dismal 55 percent on-time rating. The industry cancelled 1.9 percent of its scheduled flights in October and the worst offender was American Eagle, the American Airlines commuter operation, which dumped 3.9 percent of its schedule. Mishandled baggage also skyrocketed in October. The 20 carriers racked up 7.51 reports per 1,000 passengers compared to just 4.96 reports last year.

LAX Moves to Slow Down Hotel Shuttle Service
If you book hotels at Los Angeles International, get ready to cool your jets at the curb. The airport's operators have ordered 39 of the 46 hotels in the LAX area to reduce the number of shuttle runs they make to pick up and deliver travelers. By May, the number of trips the hotels can make must be reduced by 15 percent. By January, 2008, the number of trips must be reduced by 35 percent. The airport says the reduced shuttle schedules will reduce air pollution. … There are two new pay-per-visit lounges at Vancouver Airport. The facilities, at Arrivals Level 2 and Departures Level 3, are operated by Plaza Premium, a company that also sponsors lounges in several Asian airports. The entry fee is C$20 a head. … Newark Airport is now linked to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport. The service is operated by US Helicopter and costs $159 one-way for the 8-minute flights. … Birmingham International in England is now wired with Wi-Fi service.

It's Chaos Out There in the Airline World
International travel is getting complicated as several high-profile carriers battle a variety of ills. El Al, for example, is sparring with elements of Israel's ultra-orthodox community because the airline has been running emergency flights on Saturday. After a strike shut Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv for several days, El Al management tried to clear the backlog of passengers by flying on the Jewish Sabbath. Now more observant Jews are calling for a boycott of El Al unless the airline promises never to fly on Saturday again. … The Italian government is trying to dump almost all of its controlling stake in Alitalia, the hopelessly loss-making flag carrier. But the government's terms--maintaining existing workforce levels and schedules and keeping an Italian identity and logo--make it unlikely that any private enterprise will be interested. … BWIA, the Caribbean carrier based in the West Indies, disappears forever on December 31. It will rise again the next day as Caribbean Airlines with a fraction of the workforce and a reduced flight schedule. … Finally, Brazilian air-traffic controllers have apparently engaged in slowdowns and acts of sabotage that have slowed air travel in Brazil to a crawl. The controllers are furious at the Brazilian military, which runs the nation's air-traffic system. Despite official claims to the contrary, the system has dead zones and blackout areas, one of which apparently contributed to September's fatal mid-air collision between a Gol jet and a private aircraft flown by two U.S. pilots. The pilots have been held for two months while the Brazilian military investigated itself and Brazilian politicians attempted to deny the air-traffic-control problems.

Notable Hotel Comings and Goings Around the World
Wingate Inn, an economy-hotel chain that operates primarily in suburban areas, has opened a branch in Midtown Manhattan. The newly built 92-room hotel in the Herald Square area is charging rates as high as $400 a night in December. … Regent has opened a 500-room property in Beijing in the Wangfujing commercial district. … The Mauna Kea Beach hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii closed abruptly last weekend. Inspectors found serious structural damage from the earthquake that struck the island on October 15. The property will be closed indefinitely. … The former Wyndham hotel in Syracuse, New York, has been reflagged as the Doubletree Syracuse.

Everybody's a Potential Terrorist, Says Homeland Security Public outrage and Congressional pressure forced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to drop CAPPS II and Secure Flight, incredibly invasive, computerized passenger screening systems proposed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But did that stop DHS? Of course not. It turns out the department has been secretly spying on every flyer through a program called the Automated Targeting System (ATS). The program came to light last week after privacy activists discovered an obscure filing last month in the Federal Register. ATS assigns all of us a terrorism score based on our travel patterns, how we purchase tickets, the number of one-way tickets we buy, our motor-vehicle records and even what type of in-flight meals we order. The program has been exempted from many strictures of federal privacy laws. We're not permitted to examine the data about us and we're not allowed to challenge the terrorism score assigned to us. The DHS even plans to store the information for 40 years.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines has added Gulf Air to its AAdvantage frequent flyer program. AAdvantage members can now earn miles on Gulf Air flights and claim awards on Gulf Air flights from London to the Middle East. … El Al now permits online check-in for flights departing from its North American gateways. … Emirates is adding lie-flat beds to the business-class cabins of its Boeing 777 jets. The first of the B777s with beds should appear by year-end on at least one of Emirates' nonstop flights between New York/Kennedy and Dubai. … The Seminole Tribe of Florida is buying the 124 Hard Rock Café restaurants worldwide and the six Hard Rock hotels and casinos. The properties were sold to the Seminoles by a British-based firm for about $965 million. … Delta Air Lines says it will launch flights between its Salt Lake City hub and Pittsburgh in March. That's at least the third new route to a US Airways hub announced by Delta since US Airways went public with a hostile merger bid last month.

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