The Tactical Traveler

Danger, US Airways Flyers! Danger!
For an airline that has a miserable post-merger record with its technology, US Airways management just doesn't seem to give a damn. After bungling the merger of the old US Airways and America West frequent flyer programs and infuriating customers and then punting the launch of the combined Web site and infuriating customers, the airline is about to switch computer systems this weekend. Out will be the two systems used before the merger. In will be a revised version of the old America West computer platform. The switch will affect almost everything at the airline, including scheduling, ticketing and boarding passes. In other words, the possibility for glitches and massive foul-ups, especially given US Airways' track record, is immense. But has US Airways warned any of its customers? Of course not. It's all supposed to be a secret. So if you're flying on the airline in the next few days, you'd better hope that US Airways management has learned a trick or three from the debacle of the Web site and the frequent flyer program. (But they probably haven't…)

Midwest and AirTran Battle Across the Route Map
The increasingly nasty battle between AirTran Airways and Midwest Airlines may come to a head this month. AirTran's current bid for Midwest expires on March 8. Midwest has been fighting AirTran with a series of hostile pronouncements about AirTran management--and a flurry of new routes. New service includes flights to Seattle from its hubs in Kansas City (May 1) and Milwaukee (June 18). It is also adding nonstops between Omaha and Los Angeles on May 1. That, of course, has led AirTran to throw new flights at Midwest. On May 8, it will launch Baltimore/Washington-Milwaukee flights and service to Orlando from both Kansas City and Milwaukee. … Speaking of route wars, the decision of Frontier Airlines to begin flying from Northwest Airlines' Memphis hub has provoked a response from Northwest. Frontier previously announced that it would begin flying from Memphis on May 12 with service to its Denver hub as well as Orlando and Las Vegas. In response, Northwest says that it will increase its own flights from Memphis to Orlando and Las Vegas and bulk up its Memphis-Denver service. And just for good luck, Northwest is launching Denver-Indianapolis flights on June 7.

You Might Want to Avoid Borat's Elevator in This Hotel…
Radisson has opened a 181-room hotel in Astana. In case you don't know, Astana is the capital of the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. And Kazakhstan is, well, you know… … Sheraton is putting its flag on two well-known Japanese hotels. Beginning next month, the 492-room Miyako Tokyo and the 575-room Miyako Osaka hotels will be part of the chain. … Marriott says it will upgrade the electronics in its Marriott, JW Marriott and Renaissance properties in North America. All hotels will get 32-inch flat-panel televisions, 25-watt speakers and a "digital connectivity panel" that will allow guests to connect laptops, iPods and other devices. About 25 percent of the hotels will have the new equipment by the end of the year.

Anybody Really Know What (Daylight Saving) Time It Is?
March is always a humbling month for those of us who take perverse pride in knowing airline schedules better than the airlines themselves. Why? March is when carriers around the world launch their so-called summer schedules. The new timetables often include wholesale changes in routes and flight frequencies, not to mention aircraft shuffles and changes in departure times. In the past, so-called summer schedules went into effect during the last weekend of March, which coincided with the beginning of Daylight Saving Time (DST). But this year will be doubly troubling for business travelers because the United States is deviating from worldwide conventions. In the good old US of A, Daylight Saving Time this year begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 11. But the European Union and most of the rest of the world have stuck to tradition: Daylight Saving Time there begins at 1 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on Sunday, March 25. So a word to the wise this month: Check your scheduled flights--and the departure times of both your originating and connecting flights--carefully before leaving for the airport.

What to Expect on the Road in March
United Airlines on March 25 begins daily nonstop service from its Washington/Dulles hub to Beijing. … Frontier Airlines expands from its Denver hub on Friday (March 2) with a new nonstop flight to Hartford, Connecticut. … Pittsburgh gets more flights this month: Delta Air Lines adds service from its Salt Lake City hub today (March 1) and Southwest Airlines adds flights from Baltimore/Washington on March 11. … Frequent flyers who live to golf will be interested in these new South Carolina routes: Delta launches three daily flights to Hilton Head from its Atlanta hub on March 17 and US Airways begins a daily flight from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Myrtle Beach on March 4. … Also notable: The merger of SN Brussels and Virgin Express will be completed on March 31 and the carrier will be renamed Brussels Airlines. And British Airways finishes an astonishing retreat in its home market by selling off most of its domestic service to Flybe. After the sale is completed on March 25, BA will only serve seven airports in Great Britain. … Finally, this is for you West Coast wine enthusiasts: On March 20, Horizon Air begins flights to Sonoma County Airport from both LAX and Seattle.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The capital of Oregon, Salem, gets its first commercial service in more than a decade this spring. Delta Air Lines commuter carrier Skywest will launch two daily flights to Delta's Salt Lake City hub on June 7. … Hong Kong travelers take note: The airport is adopting the liquids-and-gels policy used by U.S., Canadian and European Union security officials. So if you're flying from Chek Lap Kok, make sure your toiletry containers are no larger than three ounces and that they are packed in a one-quart zip-top bag. … American Airlines has added a new tool for American AAdvantage members: a four-week availability chart for awards. Located on the Web site, the chart allows travelers to enter exact dates or a "dates flexible" option for all awards and routes.

Meanwhile, Back in the Real World…
If you thought that the airlines learned their lesson from the American Airlines meltdown in Austin and the JetBlue Airways fiasco in New York, better think again. Last Saturday (February 24), United Airlines held a Boeing 757 on the runway at Chicago/O'Hare for eight hours before canceling the flight. That incident follows four American and United commuter flights that were diverted from Denver to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. The passengers on all four flights were stranded at the airports when the aircraft flew away empty.

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