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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR SEPTEMBER 20 TO SEPTEMBER 26, 2002


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Aer Lingus tries a new way to sell cheap fares; prices are rising on the Heathrow Express; major carriers shift international routes; hotel chains settle a class-action suit on energy surcharges; Northwest is leaving the US Airways frequent-flyer program; Magellan's opens a retail store; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Aer Lingus Tries a New Tack on Cheap Fares
Surf to the Steals & Deals page and check the blockbuster Aer Lingus promotion that sells fares to Ireland for as little as $99 one-way. The deals aren't available for just a day or two, but throughout much of the fall and the winter--and can be purchased for almost a month. This is a major strategy shift, since most international carriers traditionally sell rock-bottom fares only during the dead of winter and only for a few days. But times have changed, says Jack Foley, Aer Lingus' executive vice president for North America. He helped invent the short-term sale when he was at British Airways, but he's "convinced that's not the way to go anymore. It's in the best interest for Aer Lingus to sell seats early, get people to book early and know we have good load factors." Foley says that he can make money at the low prices because the fares are only available at the Aer Lingus Web site, thus minimizing the airline's distribution costs, and because "I don't have to spend a half a million dollars in advertising every time I launch a short-term fare sale." One other thing: Twinned with Aer Lingus' low fares from Dublin to Britain and major continental cities, the Irish carrier now offers the cheapest fares across the pond this winter.

AIRPORT REPORT: Upgrades at St. Louis and New York/Kennedy
Officials at St. Louis/Lambert and American Airlines say they will spend a total of $21.7 million for terminal upgrades. A major amenities upgrade: passenger-loading bridges for regional jets operated by the American Connection commuter operation. ... After years of delays, the $1.9 billion AirTrain at New York/Kennedy is expected to open late this fall. The 8.1-mile loop will connect JFK's eight passenger terminals to New York City's train system at the end-of-the-line Howard Beach station. But beware: Construction at Kennedy continues and the on-airport traffic lanes are nearing gridlock. ... Fares on the Heathrow Express will rise on September 30. The high-speed train links terminals at London/Heathrow with London's Paddington Station in about 20 minutes. Roundtrip coach fares will rise to 25 pounds, or about $35.

CYBERTRAVELER: Site Seeing on the Web
If you've been losing or misplacing your identification documents or other important papers at security checkpoints, then check out EasyTravelAir.com. The site sells a nylon security pouch that hangs around your neck. It sells for $14.99 and features a transparent window so your ID shows through. ... Accessible Journeys, a tour company that operates travel for slow walkers, wheelchair users and other mobility-challenged travelers, has an intriguing site at DisabilityTravel.com. ... If you're obsessed with where you sit on the plane, try SeatGuru.com, a good, one-stop shop for seat maps for five of the Big Six carriers. It offers running commentary about the pluses and minuses of seats in each row.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: The Worldwide Shuffle Continues
Delta Air Lines is bailing on some of its South American service from its Atlanta hub. It will drop flights to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro at the end of November. ... British Airways is axing Charlotte from its route map on October 27. ... American Airlines says it will launch flights from its hub in Miami to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on November 1. ... A new West African airline, Afrinat International, is scheduled to launch flights to Banjul, the Gambia, from New York/Kennedy on September 29.

IN THE LOBBY: You'll Get an (Electrical) Charge From This One
Several hotel chains that imposed an energy surcharge on room rates in recent years have entered into a class-action settlement. If you stayed at a Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott or Starwood hotel and paid an energy surcharge, then you may be eligible for a $10 discount on a future stay. For more details, see the Hotel Energy Charge Settlement Web site. ... Thirty Marriott properties in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area will offer a $9.95 daily package that includes unlimited long-distance phone calls and high-speed Internet access. ... "Wired for Business" begins September 23 at the chain's Marriott, Courtyard, Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites properties. ... The Hilton San Diego hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter now offers meals packaged to carry aboard planes. The bagged sandwiches, salads and desserts cost $12.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The proposed code-share arrangement between United and US Airways and the tri-partite scheme that would link Continental, Northwest and Delta are obviously in regulatory trouble. The Transportation Department has once again extended its "review" period, a bureaucratic delaying tactic that often precedes outright government opposition. ... Northwest Airlines is dropping out of the US Airways Dividend Miles program. You have until July 31 to earn miles or complete award travel. ... Magellan's, the top-flight travel-gear catalog firm, is now a storefront retailer, too. Its first shop opened this week in Santa Monica (1006 Wilshire Boulevard) and company officials say it is looking to open retail shops in major cities around the country.

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

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