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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR SEPTEMBER 21, 2000


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Australia will slash prices to court post-Olympic visitors; our weekly look at America’s discount carriers; the Almighty Dollar gets even stronger in Europe; airlines make a raft of international flight changes; and British Midland announces introductory fares on its new trans-Atlantic flights.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Here Come the Deals from Down Under
The Summer Olympics is generating heaps of good will for the Land Down Under, but Australia has a problem that begins the moment the Olympic torch is extinguished during next week’s closing ceremonies. Where, Australian tourist authorities are wondering, will the next crop of visitors come from? Thousands of new hotel rooms and other facilities were opened specifically to cater to the Olympic crowds and Australia faces a significant post-games shortfall of visitors. The solution? Massive discounting on airfares, tours, hotel rooms and travel packages. Watch for all sorts of deals Down Under in the coming weeks. One of the most attractive will be from Qantas (800-96-KOALA), which will offer a two-week Australian vacation for prices as low as $1,499 a person. The bundle includes: roundtrip airfare to Sydney from Los Angeles; 4 nights of lodgings in each of three cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef); and intra-Australian flights. The package must be purchased by December 8; travel may begin as early as November 1 and prices are valid through August 31 next year. The same package from New York, Qantas’ other U.S. gateway, starts at $1,799 a person.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: Our Weekly Look at Discount Airlines
Citing safety concerns discovered during an inspection three months ago, the Federal Aviation Administration abruptly grounded three-year-old ProAir on Monday evening. The struggling discount carrier, based at Detroit/City airport, had reduced schedules in recent months and was losing money. ProAir says it will fight the FAA’s decision and hopes to resume service. … Southwest Airlines has cut prices to $99 or less for any destination it serves. However, the one-way fares are available only via the Southwest website and require a seven-day advance purchase. Tickets must be purchased by September 28, but travel is valid through January 7. … Fast-growing Canadian discount carrier WestJet is back under the day-to-day control of founder Clive Beddoe. Chief executive Steve Smith was forced to resign after just 18 months on the job. A former Air Canada executive, Smith was dismissed because "the board had lost confidence in his ability to run the company," Beddoe said.

DOLLAR WATCH: How Almighty Can the Dollar Get in Europe?
The Euro, the ailing proto-currency that controls the value of 11 major continental currencies, has declined 10 percent against the U.S. dollar since late June. It’s now worth only about 85 cents, compared to its all-time high of about $1.17, a plateau it reached shortly after its introduction in January, 1999. The precipitous decline of the Euro means the dollar continues to gain buying power for U.S. travelers on the continent. On Wednesday, for example, the Almighty Dollar was buying about 7.6 French francs, 2.25 German marks, 2,250 Italian lire and 195 Spanish pesetas. The plunge in the value of the Euro may not end anytime soon, either. Danish voters go to the polls on September 28 to decide whether to officially embrace the Euro. A no vote--experts say the contest is too close to call--could further erode the value of the Euro in October.

INTERNATIONAL INTINERARY: Flight Changes from American Gateways
Air Canada will begin daily nonstop Boeing 767 flights between Vancouver and Shanghai on November 21. … Lufthansa will launch daily nonstop service to its Frankfurt hub from both Denver and Phoenix on March 25, 2001. Both services will use Airbus A340 aircraft. … Delta Air Lines will juggle its Japanese service on April 1, 2001. Out are daily flights to Tokyo and Nagoya from Portland, Oregon. In is a daily New York/JFK-Toyko flight and a daily service between Los Angeles and Nagoya. Separately, Delta says it hopes to launch a daily nonstop from Boston to London/Gatwick on June 1, 2001. Delta will use MD-11s on the Japanese flights and Boeing 767s on the London service. … USAirways will begin daily Boeing 767 flights from its Philadelphia hub to Brussels beginning May 9, 2001.

WEEKLY WONDER: British Midland Comes Across the Pond
Speaking of new international flights, British Midland Airways says it will launch transatlantic service from its hub in Manchester, England. Until now, British Midland has concentrated solely on British and European flights, but it will come across the pond with two daily nonstop flights next year. Flights to Washington/Dulles begin on April 30 and service to Chicago/O’Hare begins on May 21. (The service is timed to mesh with the O’Hare and Dulles hubs operated by United Airlines, BM’s partner in the Star Alliance.) BM has also announced introductory fares for tickets purchased by October 31. Prices start at $399 roundtrip Mondays through Thursdays and $449 on Fridays through Sundays. For more details, contact British Midland at 800-788-0555.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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