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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR MARCH 1 TO MARCH 7


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: more flights to the nation's high-tech centers; our weekly review of America's other carriers; how Canada is surviving the Air Canada merger; a range of new international flights; a stylish new airport hotel in Rome; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Better Late Than Never
The technology-driven "new economy" boom may have gone bust, but don't tell that to frequent flyers who travel to high-tech havens like San Jose, Boston and Austin, Texas. Flights into and out of these cities are routinely packed and major airlines have been slow to add flights and frequencies. Better late than never, however, some help is on the way. Effective May 1, both Northwest and American are beefing up their so-called "nerd bird" schedules. Northwest will launch two daily nonstops between its Detroit hub and San Jose. Over at American, May 1 marks the initiation of a daily nonstop between Boston and Austin and the addition of a fourth daily nonstop between Austin and San Jose.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: Our Weekly Look at America's Other Carriers
Milwaukee-based Midwest Express continues to expand service out of Kansas City. Effective April 23, the carrier will offer two roundtrips daily to New Orleans on weekdays. American Trans Air is promoting a "Two-To-Go" fare sale for companion tickets. Companion fares are as low as $69 one-way with the purchase of a regular-priced ticket. Tickets must be purchased by March 12, but travel is valid until September 30. Canadian authorities have forced Air Canada to withdraw fares that matched or undercut CanJet on three of the new airline's routes. The unrestricted fares--as low as $89 one-way--were available from Halifax to Montreal, Ottawa and St. John's, Newfoundland. On similar routes where CanJet doesn't fly, Air Canada charges more than $350 one-way. Watch for fast-growing JetBlue Airways to add Denver and Seattle to its route mix later this year.

CYBERTRAVELER: Over the Poles and Around the World
Let's face it, frequent flyers, the sense of adventure disappeared from travel a long, long time ago. But if you're looking to recreate some of the long-lost magic, consider booking passage on the Polar Byrd II. It's a specially configured South African Airways Boeing 747-400 that will fly around the world and over the North and South Poles. The goal: attempt to break the old Pan Am speed record of 54 hours, 7 minutes and 12 seconds. Fascinating historic details--including the fact that only three commercial jets have ever crossed the entire continent of Antarctica--are now available at a special Polar Byrd II Web site (www.over-both-poles.com). Outfitted to accommodate 247 passengers, the plane will depart on November 17 from New York. Fares are $7,495 in coach (adjacent seats will be empty), $9.495 in business class, and $14,495 in first class. For more information and reservations, call South African at 866-722-3595.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Life After 'Mapleflot' In Canada
How are Canada's air travelers faring in the aftermath of the Air Canada-Canadian Airlines merger that left Air Canada with more than 80 percent of the domestic market? No one knows. That waffling conclusion on the state of life under "Mapleflot" comes from an interim report issued last week by Canada's transport ministry. "The only certainty seems to be that we are still in a period of flux" since the merger early last year, the report concluded. Business travelers are especially concerned with the value of the service they receive from Air Canada and frequent flyers in remote areas are annoyed by extremely high prices. Leisure travelers don't seem to understand Air Canada's "whimsical" pricing, the report added. The merger "seemed to exacerbate some long-standing concerns and brought others to prominence," the report concluded. A second report is due in August.

INTERNATIONAL AGENDA: More Flights to More Places This Spring
A slowdown in international travel apparently hasn't led the airlines to cut back on their expansion plans. The carriers' spring/summer schedules are loaded with new flights to new places. Delta Air Lines, for example, will begin Boston/Logan-London/Gatwick service on June 1. Effective April 28, Austrian Airlines will launch five weekly flights between Toronto/Pearson and its Vienna hub. LanChile begins nonstop Miami-Quito, Ecuador, flights on Monday. Introductory fares on the 767-300 service are as low as $299 roundtrip for the rest of March. TACA will launch a daily nonstop between New York/Kennedy and Guatemala City on July 1. Four days later, it will initiate three weekly nonstop flights between Kennedy and San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

JOE SENT ME: An Appealing New Hotel Option in Rome
It's been an eternity since there's been a newly built hotel in the Eternal City, so the Hilton Rome Airport is a welcome addition. The stylish, 517-room property has all the modern conveniences so often lacking in older Roman properties: air conditioning and double-glazed windows; work desks with convenient electrical connections; telephones with voice mail and dataports; ample meeting space and a business center; and a fitness center with tennis courts and an indoor pool. Yes, the hotel is at Fiumicino Airport, but that disadvantage is mitigated by the property's six daily complimentary shuttle buses to central Rome. Besides, covered walkways link the hotel to the Leonardo Express that connects the airport and Rome's Termini station with nonstop trains that operate every 30 minutes. Nightly rates are extremely reasonable by the inflated standards of Rome. I've found--and booked--prices as low as 315,000 lira (about $150) on the Hilton website. Don't forget to tell 'em "Joe Sent Me."

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.