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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR MAY 4, 2000


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Beating the Silicon Valley travel blues; sleeping on The Street in New York; Tower Air folds and strands customers around the world; United Airlines scrimps on fuel on its Australia flights; Sabena offers $62 companion fares in business class; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Beating the Silicon Valley Blues
It's okay to admit it: You hate traveling to the Silicon Valley. Flights are packed, hotel rooms are always scarce and usually sub-standard, and the car-rental process is dreary. The roaring high-tech economy has so totally overwhelmed the area's skimpy travel infrastructure that a trip to the Valley is now a punishing experience. But some help is on the way. A Candlewood Suites opened in Santa Clara late last month. Not far from San Jose International, the hotel has 98 studio suites and 24 one-bedroom suites. Through May 31, rates start at $99 a night. Meanwhile, in Palo Alto, a 184-room Westin officially opened on Monday; rates there start at $299 a night. And American Airlines is pouring flights into San Jose. Daily service to Honolulu began Monday and American will begin flying to Phoenix (three daily roundtrips) and Denver (four daily roundtrips) on July 2. The carrier will also add additional daily flights from San Jose to its hubs at New York/Kennedy, Chicago/O'Hare and Dallas/Fort Worth.

CYBERTRAVELER: Read on the Web
One of the best features of the Internet is its ability to give surfers access to great airline stories they otherwise would never see or read. Take, for example, a special report in last week's Sunday Telegraph of Australia. Surf there and you'll find a story about an unnamed airline that government regulators claim is using a loophole in Australian law to carry less fuel than required on flights to Melbourne from the United States. (By the way, by process of elimination and by scanning a route map, you'll realize the unnamed carrier scrimping on fuel is United Airlines.) Meanwhile, the International Herald Tribune last Friday offered an interesting, if somewhat subjective, review of the business-class service offered by major international carriers. And Time last week spun an interesting tale on the birth and initial flights of Legend Airlines from Dallas/Love Field.

IN THE LOBBY: Sleeping on The Street in New York
New York's financial district is woefully short of conveniently located hotel rooms, but the first of a new wave of close-to-your-money properties opened December 15 in the historic building at 55 Wall Street. The aptly-named Regent Wall Street (212-845-8600) has been carved out of the 1848 structure that once housed the First National City Bank, the New York Merchants Exchange and the U.S. Customs House. The result? An astonishing function room called The Vault, formerly the bank's safe, which incorporates the massive steel locking door. An awe-inspiring "Grand Ballroom," with 80-foot ceilings, marble walls, Corinthian columns, arched windows, and an elliptical dome with gigantic Wedgewood panels, and seating for 2,000. And 144 guest rooms that are extremely spacious (especially by New York standards) and elegantly appointed. Each room also offers a big-screen television, fax machine and a high-speed data/Internet access ports. Sleeping on The Street isn't cheap, however. Room rates start at $545 on weeknights. On weekends, when Wall Street is almost eerily serene, the nightly rate is $295.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
To make room for those aforementioned new flights into and out of San Jose, American Airlines is reducing service at Reno and Las Vegas. Tower Air abruptly ended scheduled service Monday night, stranding passengers with flights to Paris, Tel Aviv, Los Angeles and Miami. The airline, based at New York/Kennedy, has been operating in bankruptcy since February. The Lockerbie trial was scheduled to start Wednesday in the Netherlands. Two Libyans are charged with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, killing all 298 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground near Lockerbie, Scotland. The court rejected a last-minute plea from prosecutors for a delay and also refused a request to allow television coverage of the proceedings. Looking to avoid the interminable delays affecting intra-Europe flights? Here's an option: a new high-speed rail link between Geneva and Brussels. Beginning May 28, some trains will cover the route in about five hours. Another benefit: the train will make an en route stop at Paris/Charles deGaulle Airport.

WEEKLY WONDER: A Buck an Inch in Business-Class
To promote the launch of its new business-class seats with 62 inches of legroom, Sabena (877-722-3621) is offering a companion fare of $62 for every full-fare business-class ticket purchased. The promotion is valid until August 31 for flights to Brussels from Boston, Chicago/O'Hare, Newark, New York/JFK and Washington/Dulles. It is also valid from Atlanta through August 5 and from Dallas between August 6 and August 31. But you have to hurry: Tickets must be purchased by May 8 to qualify for the companion fare.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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