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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR FEBRUARY 3, 2000


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: The dollar is almighty again in Europe; Alaska Airlines does a great job communicating in the Flight 261 crash; British Airways introduces a fourth class across the Atlantic; a Valentine's Day present from SAS; and a special fare Down Under.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Dollar Looks Almighty Again In Europe
The U.S. dollar is surging again against the nascent Euro and that means more bargains for travelers purchasing goods and services in local currency throughout most of Western Europe. On Wednesday morning, the value of the Euro had fallen to 97 cents, a decline of more than 20 cents since the 13-month-old currency hit its historic high about this time last year. And since the value of 11 major European currencies are pegged to the Euro, travelers in places such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain are reaping a windfall. A dollar is now buying two German marks, almost 2,000 Italian lire, about 6.7 French francs, and more than 170 Spanish peseta. Not totally coincidentally, the dollar has also reached a four-month high against the Japanese yen (it's now buying about 107 yen) and continued its rise against the hapless Canadian dollar. One looney was buying less than 70 U.S. cents on Wednesday.

CYBERTRAVELER: Brilliance Amidst Tragedy
The tragic crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 off the coast of California on Monday did not send the Seattle-based carrier into a communications shell. In stark contrast to how most airlines handle their affairs during the period immediately following a crash, Alaska did a brilliant job communicating with the public. Surf to the Alaska Airlines website for an example. The site's usual home page has been replaced by a message from chairman and chief executive John F. Kelly. Also appearing on the "Flight 261 Special Report page" is a direct link to the latest information released by the airline, including passenger lists and press releases issued to the news media. One click off the special-report page is list of useful links: to the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and even to Boeing (manufacturers of the MD-80 plane that crashed) and Pratt-Whitney (which manufactured the plane's engine).

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A Matter of Class(es)
British Airways shook the business-travel world on Monday with two inflight-service announcements, one anticipated for several months and one overdue by about a decade. The expected announcement was BA's decision to add seats that recline into flat beds in business class. British Airways pioneered beds in first class five years ago and other carriers are still scrambling to catch up, so it will be intriguing to watch how quickly other airlines respond to BA's business-class initiative. More stunning was BA's other announcement: the creation of a fourth cabin on long-haul flights. The new service, World Traveller Plus, is aimed at full-fare coach flyers. Premiering this summer, World Traveller Plus Class will offer 38 inches of seat pitch, at-seat phones and laptop power ports, and an array of perks and privileges not available to travelers who pay discounted fares. The idea of a separate cabin for full-fare coach customers is logical: discount flyers pay as little as $99 to London, last-minute travelers pay as much as $1,329. And the concept is not new. Airlines have tinkered with the idea for at least ten years and two carriers--United Airlines on some domestic flights, Virgin Atlantic on its international routes--have already endorsed the concept.

JOE SENT ME: A Valentine's Day Present from SAS
Looking for something special to give that special someone for Valentine's Day? SAS Scandinavian Airlines (800-437-5804) has the answer: a "Valentine's Day in Europe" package that cuts the cost of a weekend on the continent to as little as $558 roundtrip for three travelers. Here's how it works: three flyers--two adults and a child under the age of 12-- fly from Newark, Chicago or Seattle for the Valentine's Day weekend to any of nine destinations: Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Brussels, Geneva, or Helsinki. Outbound travel is permit February 7-11 with a return from February 14-17. The three-person price: $558 roundtrip from Newark, $638 from Chicago and $770 from Seattle. Tell 'em "Joe Sent Me"--and don't forget to bring back a nice box of chocolates!

WEEKLY WONDER: Underpricing The Land Down Under
David Rowell of Anzac Travel (425-861-4500) alerted us to the extraordinary "Southern Cross" fare sale now underway for flights to the South Pacific. From Los Angeles, roundtrip fares start at $599 (to Fiji), $699 (to Auckland, New Zealand) and $799 (to Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, Australia). Travel from other U.S. cities are available at a higher price, with a special $300 add-on fare available from New York. Travel is permitted between April 17 and August 23, but tickets must be purchased by the end of February. Anzac is also offering a ground package--5 nights of accommodations and airport transfers--for as little as $200 a person.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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