The Tactical Traveler

The Return of the $99 Transcon Fare
After a brief period of contraction on transcontinental routes, the siren call of coast-to-coast flights is beckoning to the airlines again. All of the new capacity is bringing back--at least for a promotional period--the $99 one-way transcon fare. The first announcement came last week from Alaska Airlines, which will begin nonstop flying on September 9 to Portland, Oregon, from both Orlando and Boston. The $99 one-way fare on the new routes, both flown with Boeing 737-700s, must be purchased by February 8 and the price is valid for travel by December 14. On Tuesday (January 9), JetBlue Airways announced that it was expanding on the transcons, too. Beginning May 3, it will fly nonstop to San Francisco from both its New York/Kennedy hub and Boston. JetBlue already flies to Oakland, of course, but the Airbus A320 flights to SFO will cater to Bay Area residents who don't wish to battle bridge traffic. They are also a pre-emptive shot across the bow of San Francisco-based Virgin America, which is still hoping to get approval to fly and had already announced it would operate between SFO and New York. To promote its San Francisco launch, JetBlue also posted a $99 one-way introductory fare for travelers who book by January 22 and travel between May 3 and June 13. Finally, Delta Air Lines yesterday (January 10) announced another new transcon route: JFK-Portland. The daily Boeing 737-800 Delta flight launches April 17. Delta didn't announce a $99 fare, however.

Delta Bites the Bullet in Boston
The 21-month old Terminal A at Boston/Logan will no longer be the exclusive playground of Delta Air Lines. The $500 million, 22-gate facility will be available to other airlines after an agreement last month between bankrupt Delta and Massport, the agency that runs Logan. The deal calls for Delta to give up more than a third of the 287,000 square feet that it leases at Terminal A; Delta currently uses just 14 of the 22 available gates for its 100 daily flights. But Delta didn't give up the space without a price: The carrier is now absolved of the responsibility to pay for the $500 million in bonds that Massport issued to fund the facility's construction. … Alabama flyers take note: Flying through Atlanta/Hartsfield is no longer your only viable option. Effective April 10, American Airlines is launching commuter service to its Chicago/O'Hare hub from both Mobile and Birmingham. … Baltimore/Washington is slowly getting Wi-Fi service. Internet access is now available at Concourses A and B and in the Observation Gallery. The airport's other three concourses should have Wi-Fi by March. … Wyndham has taken over airport hotels in El Paso and Mc Allen, Texas. The 272-room El Paso property is the former Hilton and the 147-room McAllen property is the former Four Points.

The Brave New World of Offensive Baggage Fees
International airlines have been hiking checked-baggage fees with abandon. Some carriers, like Ryanair, charge for all checked baggage. But British Airways is forging an appalling new chapter in baggage fees. Beginning February 13, BA says its new fee structure includes charges as high as US$235 a bag. Although the fees do not apply to BA customers flying to or from the United States and Canada--we'll still be permitted to check two 50-pound bags free--they are frightening for flyers from elsewhere in the world. For starters, the checked baggage allowance for coach flights has been cut to one bag. A second bag will cost £30 on U.K. domestic routes; £60 on short-haul international flights; and a startling £120 on long-haul itineraries. The only silver lining: business- and first-class customers will be able to check three bags without charge. One former BA executive who currently runs a competitive international carrier says he was surprised by the high price of the BA fees, but not the concept. "We make more money on baggage fees on many flights than we do on fares," he told me. "It's become a real revenue center."

Secrecy, Thy Name Is TSA
The Supreme Court has refused to hear a case that challenged the federal government's right to require passengers to show identification before boarding flights. The ID requirement is part of a secret directive imposed by the TSA and the plantiff in the case had hoped to force the TSA to divulge details of its clandestine rules. … Airports in Marathon and Key West, Florida, will use private screeners rather than employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). That will allow scheduled flights to begin at Marathon. The TSA has refused to supply screeners to Marathon even though airport officials used $750,000 in federal funds to subsidize commuter flights from both Delta Connection and Continental Express. Continental has now bailed, but Delta flights should launch from Marathon on February 15. … Clear, which operates the Registered Traveler program in Orlando, missed still another self-imposed deadline last week for launching service at other airports. But it did sign up another partner: Air France says it will use Clear lanes at its facilities in Terminal 1 at New York/Kennedy.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Avis Rent A Car says it will offer in-car Wi-Fi access in the next few months. The Internet service will be available in 10 U.S. cities for a cost of $10.95 a day. … American AAdvantage has a new partner: Malev Hungarian. Flyers can earn miles on Malev flights immediately. Award flights on Malev will come later; a code-share deal begins on March 25. … United Airlines won the heated competition for a new route to China. Its bid for Washington/Dulles-Beijing flights was approved by the Transportation Department this week. United plans daily three-class Boeing 747 service on the route; flights on the capital-to-capital run must launch by March 25. … Priority Club Rewards is offering 3,000 bonus points after every third night at participating hotels between January 15 and April 30. Up to 30,000 bonus points can be earned; advance registration is required.

Scorpions on a Plane
I think you can add your own jokes, jibes, comments and snarky remarks to these items. So, submitted for your approval… On January 3, while flying on United Airlines from San Francisco to Burlington, Vermont, via Chicago/O'Hare, a passenger was stung twice by a scorpion. When informed of the incident, a United spokeswoman said: "We'll probably never know where the scorpion came from. People come through Chicago from all over the world." … Four days later, a passenger on an American Airlines flight from Costa Rica to Toronto via Miami was also stung by a scorpion. An American spokesman said that it was the first time a scorpion was found on an American Airlines aircraft.

Copyright © 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.