The Tactical Traveler

FOR AUGUST 10, 1998


This week: Contingencies for the Northwest Airlines strike; news from home via the Web; watch out for lost miles when Sheraton and Westin merge programs; sauce for the airline ganders from the EC; bed, breakfast and art in London; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Strike Contingencies
A federally mandated 30-day cooling off period expires at Northwest Airlines on August 29 and the carrier's pilots will be free to strike. Will they? No one knows. Also unknown is whether the pilots would strike immediately or wait for the busy Labor Day weekend. Another issue: would President Clinton intervene to halt the strike and keep Northwest flying? Regardless of the uncertainties, however, make contingency plans to weather the possible shutdown of the nation's fourth largest carrier. For starters, book around Northwest for the period starting August 29. That is especially true of travel to or through Minneapolis, Detroit and Memphis, Northwest's domestic hubs. The nation's other carriers have insufficient service to handle the overflow in those cities if Northwest is struck. Also, be sure to insist on paper tickets for any Northwest flights after August 28. Airlines do not honor each other's "E tickets," so Northwest E-ticket holders would be further inconvenienced in a strike. Lastly, keep up with the news, since this acrimonious, two-year-old contract tussle is likely to go down to the wire. In addition, you might want to consult Northwest's web site. It has set up a section to give the airline's side of the negotiations and information about flight operations. But be warned: historically, airlines have rarely had accurate information about flight operations and schedule changes after a strike begins.

CYBERTRAVELER: Getting the News from Home
Most business travelers miss their local newspaper, hometown magazine, or favorite television or radio station. Surprising as it sounds, however, there is an almost all-inclusive place to find your favor local news sources on the web. The Media Info site ( operated by Editor & Publisher, a publishing trade magazine, has links to literally thousands of newspapers, broadcast outlets, and magazines around the world. And there's an added bonus: Media Info offers an impressive set of links to the Internet's growing number of on-line city guides. You can browse Media Info's database by geographic location and media type.

MILES & POINTS: Watch for Lost Miles
As airlines and hotels shuffle, merge, link and revise their frequent-travel plans, watch out that you don't get "deenrolled" from programs you don't use frequently. "Deenrolled"--and isn't that a hideous term?--is when a frequent-travel plan dumps you--and cancels all your accrued miles and points--when it makes changes. AT&T deenrolled thousands of AT&T True Rewards members earlier this year when it quietly switched to AT&T Rewards. Next up for deenrollment: "inactive" members of Westin Premier, whose points will be forfeited when the program ends on January 31, 1999. Westin Premier and the Sheraton Club International are being phased out in favor of a new frequent-guest plan that encompasses all the hotel brands operated by Starwood Hotels and Resorts. So-called inactive Westin Premier members can convert their accrued Premier points to the new program if they stay twice at a participating Westin during 1998. No members of Sheraton Club International are at risk of deenrollment, says Hoyt Harper, the executive in charge of Starwood's new, multi-brand program. We'll bring you more details of the as-yet unnamed program in future weeks.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Sauce for the Gander
The European Commission has issued a raft of recommendations concerning the American Airlines-British Airways and United-Lufthansa-SAS alliances. In general, the EC stance is that the deals are acceptable as long as the allied airlines shed enough take-off and landing slots at crucial airports such as London Heathrow and Frankfurt Main to ensure meaningful competition. But that isn't good enough for United, which apparently feels it should be unfettered by national and international law and aviation policy. Commenting on his carrier's frustration, United vice president Cyril Murphy complained that "We have not seen any evidence that the [European Commission] is listening to anyone on anything." Murphy may now understands how many business travelers feel when United and other carriers act without consulting their passengers or "listening to anyone on anything."

WEEKLY WONDER: Bed, Breakfast and Art
If you like your business travel with breakfast and a side order of culture, check out the art-oriented packages announced by two of the world's best hotels. At the Athenaeum Hotel in London (800-335-3300), a new deal includes admission to the Royal Academy of Art's 200-piece Picasso exhibit. The exhibition runs September 17-December 16; the hotel's package price is $365 a night and includes accommodations, breakfast, value-added tax and a pair of tickets to the exhibit. At the Ritz-Carlton Cancun (800-241-3333), the Food, Wine and Art Festival package from September 4-7 includes three nights accommodations, daily breakfast and tickets to more than a dozen on-site food, wine and art seminars. Among the artists represented are Pablo Alvarado, Geraldo Zuniga, Katrin Schikora, and Cuban native Israel Leon Viera. The all-inclusive price: $890 a couple.

This column originally appeared at

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