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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR FEBRUARY 16, 2000


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Airfare sales keep on coming; airlines upgrade their Web sites with some impressive results; Northwest Airlines adds BizFlex fares; Sun Country Airlines offers OneFare flat-rate discounts; the London Eye "observation" wheel will open in March; and more.

COST CUTTERS: THE FARE SALES KEEP ON COMING
The traditionally weak winter travel season is turning out to be even slower than the airlines expected, so fare sales keep on coming. The current domestic offers generally expire Friday night and are valid for travel between February 21 and May 24. Sample prices: $222 roundtrip between Boston and Orlando; $318 between New York and Salt Lake City; and $208 between Chicago and Denver. The international fare sales are available for purchase until February 21; depending on destination, travel must be completed as soon as March 29 or as late as May 24. Sample prices: $259 roundtrip between Philadelphia and London; $268 between New York and Paris; and $878 between Los Angeles and Auckland, New Zealand.

But be warned: This fare sale isn't an across-the-board fare "war," but a series of smaller initiatives independently instituted by a number of carriers. So check carefully before you buy because rules vary by carrier. Some airlines, for example, are not imposing the $20 roundtrip fuel charge on domestic sale prices. Others are offering an additional 5 percent discount for tickets purchased on the airline's website. Advance-purchase and stay restrictions vary, too.

BEST OF THE WEB: AIRLINES RUSH TO REVISE THEIR SITES
Airlines around the world are scrambling to upgrade their websites and the results are generally impressive. United Airlines [http://www.ual.com] replaced its icon-drive site with a clean and simple design that relies on easy-to-read text menus. Delta Air Lines [http://www.delta-air.com] rolled out its redesigned site last week. Out are bold, but essentially useless, graphics and cumbersome, drop-down menus. In is a home page featuring one-click access buttons for major features. The home page also has a unique feature: a box to check the arrival and departure information for specific flights. The new home page of America West [http://www.americawest.com] is easy to navigate, offering one-click buttons for features, a trip and fare planner, and a short text menu of news and special deals. The new Aeromexico [http://www.aeromexico.com] site is less successful, however. The U.S. home page takes almost two minutes to load the mind-numbing graphics and logos. Worse, the drop-down menu for key features is impossible to read.. Meanwhile, the English-language site for Alitalia [http://www.alitaliausa.com] has added a ticket-booking capability.

ON THE FLY: Fare News You Need to Know
Northwest Airlines [http://www.nwa.com] has created a new fare for business flyers. BizFlex [http://www.nwa.com/features/bizflex.shtml] prices are about 40 percent below unrestricted coach prices and restrictions are less onerous than on the cheapest seats. The roundtrip fares require a 10-day advance purchase, are nonrefundable, and require an overnight--but not a Saturday night--stay. Sun Country Airlines [http://www.suncountry.com] has launched its own fare plan. Onefare [http://www.suncountry.com/onefare/oneindex.htm] is for travelers who commit to buy at least 20 roundtrips over a 12-month period. It permits the flyer to book Sun Country flights to any destination the airline serves for a flat rate of $130 one-way or $260 roundtrip. No advance purchase or Saturday stay is required, but tickets must be booked through the Sun Country website.

VACATION STATION: An Update on London's Millennium Projects
No city paid as much attention to the Millennium as London [http://www.londonmillenniumcity.com], where several gigantic projects were tied to the New Year's celebration. The London Eye [http://www.ba-londoneye.com] (011-44-0870-5000-600) didn't open as planned on January 1. But the 443-foot-high "observation" wheel--it is not technically a Ferris Wheel--is now operating and accepting reservations for rides beginning March 1. Forty-minute trips in the enclosed passenger "capsules" cost about $12 a person. The Millennium Dome [http://www.dome2000.co.uk] in Greenwich did open on time--to scathing notices from the British media, but good reviews from visitors. The Dome offers two movies and more than a dozen interactive exhibitions. Visiting the Dome requires about five hours and costs about $32 a person. Tickets can now be purchased at the door.

This column originally appeared at skymalltravel.com.

Copyright 1999-2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.