The Tactical Traveler

FOR OCTOBER 28, 1999


This week: Who's really to blame for delays; ski-season deals from car-rental firms; the Y2K bug is bugging travel managers; 20 Italian hotels convert to Holiday Inn; JetBlue Airways wants to launch in January; a Mandarin Oriental sale; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Who's Really to Blame for Delays?
The mouthpiece for the nation's major airlines, the Air Transport Association, has told Congress that the government is to blame to for the massive increase in flight delays. The Federal Aviation Administration's air-traffic control "system is broken" whined ATA president Carol Hallett. The government "use[s] weather as an excuse for poor performance." But a more reasonable assessment of blame comes from Randy Schwitz, executive vice president of the air-traffic controller's union. He told Congress that "the inefficient hub-and-spoke system used by airlines to schedule flights is a major source of delays. To maximize profits, airlines are intentionally overloading the system. Delays from airline scheduling occur at every major airport." To illustrate his point, Schwitz pointed to a 10-minute period around the 6 p.m. rush hour at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Airlines operating out of DFW have scheduled 57 arrivals and departures in that 10-minute time frame. But DFW's top capacity, given perfect weather and no equipment problems, is 35 operations. In other words, even in a perfect world, 22 flights will always be delayed. The airlines are "trying to cram 10 pounds of sand into a five-pound bag," Schwitz noted.

AIRPORT REPORT: Ski-Season Deals from Car-Rental Firms
If you're looking to sneak in some skiing on an upcoming business trip, then you should know that several car-rental firms are more than happy to make you a special deal on specially equipped vehicles. Hertz (800-645-SKII), for example, is offering "Sno Rates" at 30 locations near U.S. and Canadian ski resorts. The rates include cars equipped with a free ski rack, a one-day lift ticket valid at a nearby resort, unlimited mileage, and the collision-damage waiver. A 24-hour advance reservation is required. The "SuperValue Ski Package" from Avis (888-SKI-1212) is available at selected airport locations in the western United States and Canada. The deal includes a car with a ski rack, a one-day lift ticket, a one-year subscription to a ski magazine, and discounts on ski-equipment rentals. Rates are valid beginning November 30. And if you rent a full-size or larger vehicle from 19 Alamo (800-362-2725) locations in ski country, Alamo will arrange free roundtrip shipment of your skis. A seven-day advance reservation is required. The offers from all three rental firms are valid until April 30.

CYBERTRAVELER: The Y2K Bug is Bugging Corporate Travel Managers
The Y2K bug is on the minds of corporate travel managers, according to a survey conducted by the Business Travel Coalition. Nearly three quarters said they will track the whereabouts of employees who travel around the first of the year. One in six said they are developing contingency plans for the extrication of travelers from locations that may be problematic. America West and Continental Airlines have become the first airlines to allow "interlining" on electronic tickets. That means travelers switching carriers do not need to have Etix translated to paper first.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: How Do You Say 'Holiday Inn' in Italian?
Holiday Inn has added 20 hotels in Italy to its portfolio. The properties were all former Clarine or Agip hotels. The conversions began last month. United Airlines says it will begin daily nonstop service between Los Angeles International and Paris/Charles de Gaulle on April 4. United will use Boeing 777s on the flights. Emirates begins four-times-weekly service between Dubai and Sydney on March 26. The flights will operate via Singapore with Airbus A330 jets.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
JetBlue Airways, the new carrier based at New York/Kennedy, will begin operation in January with flights to Buffalo and Fort Lauderdale. The start-up airline, which has raised $130 million in capital, is acquiring a fleet of Airbus A320s. Aloha Airlines will launch daily service between Oakland and Honolulu and Maui in February. Each daily nonstop will be flown with B-737s and they represent the first time the inter-Island carrier will fly to the mainland. Le Parker Meridien hotel in New York has dumped its "Do Not Disturb" doorknob hang tags. The hotel now uses guest-room tags that say "Fuggettaboutit!" Considering that most guests at the hotel are not New Yorkers and most hotel service employees do not speak English as a first language, the opportunity for confusion seems high.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Pacific Bargains
Twelve Pacific hotels in the Mandarin Oriental chain (800-526-6566) are offering "Winter Choices" rates that include breakfast and 6 p.m. checkout. Prices range from $69 for a standard room in Kuala Lumpur to $349 for a deluxe room at the Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco. Rates are valid from November 1 to March 31. Meanwhile, the Westin Hawaii Prince in Honolulu and the Westin Maui Prince (800-WESTIN-1) have posted corporate rates of $180 a night through November 30.

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