The Tactical Traveler

The High Cost You Pay for Airline Outsourcing
If you've ever wondered whether airline outsourcing of jobs and basic tasks takes a toll on you, consider recent developments in Seattle and Chicago. In Seattle, police have arrested two baggage handlers and accused them of stealing from the checked bags of Alaska Airlines passengers. The baggage handlers work for Menzies, a subcontractor for Alaska. Menzies is the same company that dinged two Alaska Airlines jets in 2005 and the employer of six workers accused of stealing from passenger luggage at Houston Intercontinental in December. Alaska Airlines management hired Menzies after it fired hundreds of its own workers when they refused brutal wage and work-rules concessions. Meanwhile, United Airlines operations in Chicago slowed to a crawl on some sub-zero days this month because United wasn't able to fuel its jets. Aircraft fueling is one of the jobs that United farmed out in 2005 to a subcontractor, Penauille Servisair. The subcontractor pays fuelers about half of what United was paying its workers. But many Penauille employees simply didn't show up for work this month during the cold weather and thousands of United passengers were delayed.

Famous Hotels Ain't What They Used to Be
The House of Blues hotel in Chicago will soon be no more. The 353-room property has been sold and the new owners are starting a $17 million renovation. When completed in May, the name will change to the Hotel Sax. There's a music joke in there somewhere. … The Eden Roc Hotel in Miami is closing again. Currently operating as a Renaissance Hotel, the once-glittering 349-room property will close for still another renovation in April. The $110 million project will take at least six months. … Shangri-La has opened a 260-room property in Guangzhou, China.

New Routes Worth Noting
Some interesting new international routes are on tap this spring. Air France, for example, launches a daily nonstop between Seattle and Paris on June 11. The Airbus A330 on the route will be configured with 40 business-class seats and 179 seats in steerage. … Iberia, which currently flies to its Madrid hub from New York, Chicago and Miami, is adding another East Coast dot. Effective May 6, there'll be five weekly flights from Boston. … Continental Airlines will launch another Mexico route (Loreto) with a regional jet from its Houston/Intercontinental hub. The twice-weekly flights begin June 7. … On June 1, Virgin Atlantic will begin daily nonstops between London/Heathrow and Nairobi, Kenya. The flights will depart in the evening, which will permit U.S. travelers to make connections in London for Nairobi.

Delta Is On Another Expansion Spree. Sort Of…
Delta Air Lines slashed its route network by about 20 percent in the weeks after it declared bankruptcy in September, 2005. Then it launched a breakneck international expansion last year from New York's Kennedy Airport and its Atlanta hub. Now that it has successfully fended off the hostile merger offer of US Airways, it's on another expansion spree. Sort of. Most of the new flights announced in the last few weeks will actually be flown by Delta's commuter carriers, which rank at the bottom of the Transportation Department's ratings for on-time operation and baggage-handing efficiency. Among the new small-plane routes: a resumption of daily flights between Atlanta and Stewart/Newburgh, New York (May 7); Fort Smith, Arkansas (June 7); and State College, Pennsylvania (June 7). Also new: regional-jet flights from Los Angeles to Seattle (June 7) and Los Mochis, Mexico (June 2). There'll be some new intra-Florida (Orlando-Fort Walton and Tampa-Key West) and intra-New York (JFK-Binghampton) commuter service beginning in May. In fairness, Delta itself has announced two new routes: Kennedy-Montego Bay, Jamaica (June 9) and Atlanta-Lagos, Nigeria (December 3).

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Southwest Airlines hiked fares by $2-$10 each way last week and the Big Six matched wherever they compete with the 800-pound gorilla of discount carriers. … Clear, the only currently working registered-traveler program, says it has signed up Terminal Four at Kennedy Airport in New York. … Avis has launched a program to send renters an E-mail receipt for rentals. Avis needs your E-mail address, of course, so make sure it's in your rental profile. … An American Airlines flight between Tokyo and Dallas was diverted to Honolulu last week. The reason? A stowaway squirrel. In the last year, American flights have also been plagued by spiders, mice and insects. … It didn't get much publicity, but you should know: A suicide bomber attacked Islamabad Airport in Pakistan earlier this month. No passengers were killed. The incident followed a suicide bomber's attack on the Marriott hotel in Islamabad. A guard was killed.

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