The Tactical Traveler

FOR MARCH 15 TO MARCH 29, 2007
Don't Double Your Pain By Buying Into the Big Six
It's one thing to have to fly the Big Six. It's quite another to double your pain and invest in them, too. Despite some crowing by a few investors who claimed huge gains from the run-up in Continental and American stock since 2003--most conveniently forget their flyers on Delta and Northwest, which went bankrupt--shares of the Big Six continue to be a bad bet. Take the last 60 days, for example. All four of the Big Six not in bankruptcy were at or near 52-week highs on January 16, but they've gone straight into the tank since then. When the market closed on March 15, the value of AMR, the parent of American Airlines, had dropped by 19 percent. United Airlines (UAUA) was off 24 percent. US Airways (LCC) was down 25 percent and Continental Airlines (CAL) was off 27 percent. In contrast, the Dow Jones Industrials Average declined just 3.3 percent over the same period.

Air Canada Expands Across Both Oceans and the Border
Air Canada is adding important new intercontinental flights and will also bulk up its transborder service to the United States, too. On April 1, the airline will go to daily flights on its new Edmonton-London/Heathrow route. On December 14, it will launch daily nonstops between Vancouver and Sydney. The route will be operated with a Boeing 777 configured with first-class and coach cabins. Across the border, Air Canada will add nonstops from Calgary to Seattle on June 1 and nonstops between Vancouver and Sacramento on June 15. … Zoom Airlines, the Canadian low-fare airline, plans seasonal flights from Halifax. On June 8, it will begin flying to Belfast, followed by flights to Paris on June 12. The service will continue until late October. … Tokyo flyers take note: Both Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines are moving to Terminal 1 North Wing of Tokyo/Narita Airport on April 1. The move means that Delta and Continental will join the other SkyTeam Alliance carriers in Terminal 1. … Aeromexico has increased its free baggage allowance to 70 pounds for each piece of checked luggage.

A New Burst of Service From the Other Guys
It's going to be a very busy spring for the alternate carriers as they fill in the gaps in their route networks. AirTran Airways, for example, will launch service to Portland, Maine, on June 7 with three daily flights to Baltimore/Washington. Two days later, it will add Portland-Orlando service. And from Orlando, it will add twice-weekly flights to San Diego on June 29. AirTran will also start flying from Charleston, South Carolina, on May 24. By mid-June, AirTran will fly four times daily between Charleston and its Atlanta hub. … JetBlue Airways will be busy, too. Beginning May 1, it will fly between Boston and Charlotte as well as between Washington/Dulles and Orlando. JetBlue will also resume service from its New York/Kennedy hub to Santo Domingo on May 24. The carrier will add seasonal service on the Boston-Bermuda route between May 1 and October 31. … Southwest Airlines continues to find new places to fly, too. Effective May 4, it will launch a Denver-Tampa flight. A month later, it will add service between Fort Lauderdale and Providence, Rhode Island, and nonstops between Houston/Hobby and San Diego. On June 17, it will add five daily flights between Denver and Oakland. And on August 4, it will begin a nonstop between Oklahoma City and Baltimore/Washington.

RegionsAir's Grounding Strands Small-Town Flyers
RegionsAir, a small commuter carrier that operated flights for both Continental and American airlines, abruptly stopped flying last week. The superficial cause--the Federal Aviation Administration found its manuals wanting--masks larger financial problems and the carrier may never fly again. That's bad news, at least temporarily, for travelers in five states. RegionsAir handled flying to Cleveland for Continental Express in three West Virginia cities (Clarksburg, Morgantown and Parkersburg) and to St. Louis from nine cities in the AmericanConnection network: Burlington, Iowa; Decatur, Marion, Springfield and Quincy, Illinois; Fort Leonard Wood and Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Owensboro, Kentucky; and Jackson, Tennessee. Many of these cities were served by RegionsAir under the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes carriers that fly to certain small communities. Colgan Air will step in on the Continental routes and two other commuters--Big Sky and Great Lakes--have been appointed to handle six of the American routes. But it may be June before any of that replacement service begins.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Clear, the only operating registered-traveler program, says the airport in Albany, the capital of New York State, should have Clear lanes by the beginning of summer. … US Airways, which is reducing the number of first-class seats on its long-haul aircraft, is nevertheless adding another transcontinental route. Flights between its Charlotte hub and Portland, Oregon, begin on May 28. … Meanwhile, the six Muslim imams that US Airways had removed from a flight in Minneapolis last year have sued the airline for discrimination. … Delta SkyMiles has added an award-availability calendar on the Web site. … If you're headed to Augusta for the Masters next month, take note: Doubletree has put its name on the 179-room hotel at 2651 Perimeter Parkway after a $7 million renovation. … Encounter, the restaurant at the top of the iconic Theme Building at Los Angeles International, has closed for renovation.

The Two-Hour Switch Became a Nine-Day Nightmare
Just to follow up on last week's column on the computer snafu that caused another meltdown at US Airways. The March 4 switch of reservation computers, which US Airways managers insisted would go seamlessly and take just two hours, caused nine days of long check-in lines and massive flight delays. US Airways didn't get back on schedule until Tuesday, March 13. Although some airport check-in kiosks continue to malfunction and the airline's on-line check-in system is still plagued by glitches, the airline now seems to be running normally. Well, normal for US Airways…

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