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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JULY 20, 2000


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: tracking flight delays on the web; news about important new routes; Air Canada avoids a strike; two new New York hotels open; the political sell out in Philadelphia; and Finnair deals on European travel via Helsinki.

CYBERTRAVELER: Track Your Delays on the Net
It's hard to be a tactical traveler when it takes 24.5 hours to fly between Cincinnati and Philadelphia--honest, it happened to me earlier this week!--but it sure does illustrate the delay problem business flyers face this summer. Solutions are few and far between--fly as early in the morning as possible, keep your laptop and mobile-phone batteries charged and your club memberships current--but there is also value in having current information. Two websites will be of assistance in that area. Tap into the Air Traffic Control System Command Center and you'll find real-time delay information on 40 major airports. And don't ignore the Air Travel Consumer Report. It offers hour-by-hour ratings for arrivals and departures at 29 large airports. It also covers more than 150 additional airports with overall ratings for arrival and departure punctuality.

NEW YORK STORY: More Rooms Available (for Now, at Least)
There are eight million hotel rooms in the Naked City--or so it sometimes seems--but never any empty ones. The good news, however, is that hotels keep opening. This week's hottest addition: The 398-room Sofitel New York (800-763-4835), the latest outpost of the upscale French chain. Located in Midtown, on West 44 Street, just a few steps from Grand Central Terminal, the hotel is offering an introductory special of $239 a night through September 5. Regular rates start at $369. Meanwhile, the Red Roof Inn Manhattan (800-567-7720), carved out of a converted office building, has also opened it doors. The 171-room property is located on West 32 Street, just a few steps from Penn Station. Rates start as low as $89 a night, but expect to pay at least $150, including continental breakfast, on most weekday summer nights.

PHILADELPHIA STORY: The City Sells Out to the Republicans
The Republican Party Convention is scheduled for July 31-August 3 and the host city of Philadelphia is already feeling the strain. In-town hotels are essentially sold out for most of the next three weeks. Philadelphia International Airport is bursting at the seams and Amtrak says most Metroliner trains from New York and Washington are sold out. The best restaurants in town are booked solid. Best advice? Avoid Philadelphia until at least mid-August. If you must visit during the GOP festivities and don't know George W. Bush, expect to stay in the surrounding suburbs or as far away as Wilmington, Delaware. Be prepared for gridlocked streets in the city center. One tip: the Restaurant Reservations Hotline (215-636-1672) will operate during the convention period and serve up information on restaurants with empty tables.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Air Canada and its disgruntled pilots have pulled back from the brink of a strike and accepted an offer of a special mediator appointed by Canada's minister of labor. British Airways will shift its Tel Aviv flights to London/Gatwick from London/Heathrow on October 29. After weeks of denying a luggage-handling problem at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, code-share partners Northwest Airlines and KLM have moved to fix the situation. About a hundred staffers have been shifted to Schiphol to handle the baggage load, which is running about 25 percent above capacity. Travelers who have had a problem at Schiphol can call a new toll-free number (888-421-6681) for assistance. Watch for delays at Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong-based carrier. Unhappy with duty schedules, pilots have begun a campaign of strict compliance to contract terms. A work action by Cathay pilots last year resulted in more than 1,000 flight cancellations. ... Pittsburgh flyers have nonstop service to London again. A year after British Airways dropped the service, US Airways launched daily Pittsburgh-London/Gatwick flights on Monday. Virgin Blue, the new low-fare Australian airline created by Virgin Atlantic entrepreneur Richard Branson, begins flying on August 3. The first route will be Sydney-Brisbane. Desperately seeking a profitable niche, TWA says it will add flights at Los Angeles International. It already added a fourth daily LAX-New York/Kennedy flight and will launch LAX-Washington/National nonstops on September 10. Emirates begins nonstop flights between its Dubai hub and Madras, India on September 1. Low-fare Spirit Airlines will expand to 20 daily flights between Florida destinations and New York/LaGuardia on September 5.

WEEKLY WONDER: Save on the Helsinki Connection
Finnair (800-950-5000) has slashed prices on connecting flights through its Helsinki hub to destinations in northern and central Europe. Fares are as low as $418 roundtrip to Prague; other destinations include Budapest and Warsaw ($428 each); Oslo and Stockholm ($470 each); and Moscow and St. Petersburg ($498 each). Travel is valid from September 1 through December 10. You must purchase tickets by July 31 and itineraries must include a Saturday stay.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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