The Tactical Traveler

FOR JANUARY 18, 1999


This week: Malpensa is a lousy place to change planes; the mystery of the discharging laptops; paying Delta's $2 and being insulted; Super Bowl Sunday deals; and more.

Add this to the list of what's wrong with Milan's newest airport: Malpensa's new terminal is a miserable place to change planes. Three months after it opened, Malpensa is still sorting out the bugs: balky escalators, delayed flights, nearly non-existent ground transportation and parking, and runways that mysterious melt without notice. Worse, however, Malpensa doesn't have what it takes to function smoothly for connecting passengers looking to fly onward to Africa, Asia or elsewhere in Europe. What's wrong? Many international flights are exiled to bus gates. Travelers must exit flights via portable stairs, then pile on a bus for transportation to a gate--only to find that their connecting flight also departs from a bus gate. Going gate to gate is also a trial: passengers must negotiate a gauntlet of levels and, since escalators are often out of order, that means a slew of up and down staircases. The Italians also have placed a security checkpoint inside the "sterile" transfer area. That means arriving passengers must clear security again even though they are simply changing planes and are already inside a secure area. Lastly, boarding a flight from a Malpensa bus gate is awful: as they wait for a bus, dozens of passengers and their carry-on bags are crushed into a miniscule space between the podium and the exit door. Bottom line: Give Malpensa a miss for any itinerary that requires a change of planes.

CYBERTRAVELER: Sound Off on Airports
Have a favorite airport restaurant? A great shop tucked away at a terminal somewhere? Mad about the business center in a tiny airport in an underdeveloped corner of the United States or Canada? Get your opinion on the record by pointing your web browser to the Armbrust Aviation Group ( The company's World Airport Retail News newsletter is conducting its first airport-services poll. You can sound off on your favorite sundry shops, dining options, business-services facilities, and even on the quality of service you receive at airports. The results will be available on the web site during the last week of February.

IN THE LOBBY: The Mystery of the Discharging Laptop Battery
Beware! This could happen to you and your laptop. You get to your hotel room and it's one of those hotels where you're required to insert your card key into a power-management receptacle just inside the door. You slip your card into the slot, flip on the lights and think no more about it. Then you put your laptop on the desk, plug it in, turn it on, and start recharging the battery. Later, as you leave your room, you take your card key from the power receptacle and go on your way. Mysteriously, when you return, your laptop battery has discharged rather than charged. What happened? When you took your card key out of the power slot and departed, you not only shut off the lights, you cut the power supply to the room, too. As a result, your laptop switched to its battery power and discharged while you were gone. "We've been getting complaints about this," admits the general manager of one hotel in Asia, where power-management receptacles are most often used. "We put in the system so we can save power. Guests are notorious for leaving the lights on in their room. I guess people don't understand that they're shutting off the electricity, not just extinguishing the lights. I've had more than one irate travelers leave for a 20-hour flight with a discharged battery." How to avoid the foul-up? Make sure you shut off your laptop before you leave your room. That will ensure your battery won't discharge. And remember: you can't charge your laptop while you're out of your room and there is no key in the power-management receptacle. Request a second key from the hotel and keep it in the power receptacle or be sure your battery is charging while you're in your room.

VERBATIM: Paying the $2--and Being Insulted
We'll have a lot more in the January 21 edition of The Brancatelli File on Delta's stunning decision to slap a $2 roundtrip surcharge on any ticket not booked on its website. Meanwhile, here are some interesting comments from a Delta spokeswoman. The source: a story by Frank Swoboda and Judith Evans in the January 14 issue of The Washington Post. On the fact that 98 percent of Delta's 105 million travelers do not use the Delta website to book tickets and will be charged the $2 fee: "We didn't think $2 was that big a deal," said the spokeswoman. On the fact that Delta never announced the surcharge to the traveling public: "We don't normally announce surcharges to the public," she said. Also worth noting, a comment The Post said was made by "one airline official who did not want to be identified." When asked what consumers who didn't have computers or Internet access should do to avoid the fee: "Go to the library and use their computers," he said.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Super Sunday Specials
Welcome to two weeks of overkill surrounding the Super Bowl in Miami on January 31. If you still don't have your tickets, check in with Spectacular Sports Specials (800-451-5772), a company that specializes in packaging travel and hot sports seats. The company has several 4-day/3-night land deals and even a cruise-and-game offer. Prices, which include game tickets, start at $2,175 a person.

This column originally appeared at

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