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 The Tactical Traveler

joe JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR MAY 26 TO JUNE 9, 2005
Is the Dollar About to Surge Against the Euro?
The dollar has been on a three-year slide against the euro, but it's mounting this spring. It hit a seven-month high today (May 26) as the euro dropped back around US$1.25. That's still way too high considering the euro was trading around 85 cents in early 2002, but U.S. travelers heading to Europe in the next few months have new hope. France votes on the proposed European Union Constitution on Sunday and it is now expected to lose. If France votes down the constitution, the euro is expected to plunge next week because France and Germany have been the leading proponents of a unified Europe during the last five decades. Coupled with the economic disarray in Italy and Greece and even in Germany, the French no vote could also mean a long-term slide for the euro. How low can it go? How does parity (US$1=€1) by next spring sound? Some contrarian currency observers think it's possible. Meanwhile, the dollar has also firmed up against the British pound in recent weeks. On Thursday it was trading at about US$1.83, down from a high of around US$1.95 earlier this year.

Dallas-Fort Worth Gets Its People Mover
It's a Texas thing: Everything has to be the "biggest," which explains the "larger-than-thou" nature of the announcement that the Skylink is now running at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The automated system has a capacity of 5,000 passengers per hour along 4.8 miles of guideway. But the good news is actually the Skylink's location: inside the security checkpoints at each terminal, which means passengers can move freely between Terminals A, B, C and E. Terminal D is expected to open in the summer. The TrAAin, which previously linked DFW terminals, has been closed. Watch out for this one: Cincinnati Airport officials say that as many as one in five bags will miss their flights at peak times this summer. Cincinnati is a large hub for Delta Air Lines, of course. Thrifty Car Rental, which has been winning back frequent travelers with startlingly low daily rates, has opened an in-terminal location at Orlando Sanford Airport. Houston/Intercontinental now has Wi-Fi access. The service is provided by Sprint, which charges $9.95 for 24 hours.

Pittsburgh Takes Another Hit as US Airways Cuts Again
The powers-that-be behind the proposed America West-US Airways merger claim that Pittsburgh will be a secondary hub for the combined new airline, but you can hardly tell that by how US Airways is running it. After another series of flight cuts in August, Pittsburgh will be down to 221 daily flights from its peak of 512 during the summer of 2001. The new cuts are particularly tough on long-haul Pittsburgh flyers. Effective August 21, the nonstop flights to San Diego and Seattle will be dropped. Also lopped off the schedule: US Airways Express flights to Altoona, Pennsylvania; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Greensboro, North Carolina. Speaking of the merger, one of the unnamed suppliers who might be contributing funds to work with the combined carrier is Juniper Bank. It wants to issue the combined carrier's affinity credit card. Juniper was founded by Richard Vague, the credit card wizard, and it's owned by Barclays, the huge British bank. Juniper already issues the AirTran, Midwest and Frontier airlines credit cards. The credit cards from America West and US Airways currently come from Bank of America. A possible strike at United Airlines could happen as early as next week. The bankruptcy court judge says he'll rule May 31 on the airline's request to impose a new contract with lower pay and benefits on United's machinists' union. The machinists say that they'll strike if their current contract is terminated by the judge.

Hilton's New Clock Has MP3 Connection and Music Presets
Hilton has opened a 220-room hotel and conference center adjacent to the airport in Villahermosa, Mexico. The hotel is four miles from downtown Villahermosa, the capital of the state of Tabasco. Speaking of Hilton, the company says it has completed the rollout of its new in-room alarm clocks. They have a simple-to-set alarm mechanism; a large time display; a connection for MP3 players and CD players; and large, clearly marked buttons preset to radio stations broadcasting news, jazz and other popular music genres. The clocks will also appear by late July at all other Hilton brands except Hampton Inn. Wyndham has taken over the LAX Plaza hotel and will reflag it as the Wyndham Los Angeles Airport next month.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Here's an affinity credit card you can live without: The Delta SkyPoints card from American Express. You get one point for every dollar charged and the points can be used for discounts on Delta Air Lines tickets. But the discounts only apply to the first $500 of your ticket price. Alternately, you can trade SkyPoints for Delta SkyMiles. Of course, there's already a SkyMiles American Express card, so what's the point of the SkyPoints Card exercise in the first place? Other than American Express trying to figure out how to recoup some of the $500 million it advanced Delta a few months back, of course. Verizon is desperately trying to encourage usage of the remaining Airfone systems in place on United, Continental, Delta and US Airways planes. It announced this week that Verizon Wireless customers can make and receive Airfone calls for as little as 10 cents a minute if they buy a $10 monthly subscription. Otherwise, Verizon Wireless customers can make and receive Airfone calls for 69 cents a minute. An Airfone call usually costs $8 for the first minute and $3.99 for additional minutes. For complete details of the offer, surf to the Airfone Service for Verizon Wireless page. Bmi, the second-largest airline at London's Heathrow Airport, says it will drop business-class cabins on 16 of its 20 routes to Europe. The only exceptions to the switch to all-coach: routes to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast and Brussels.

Copyright 1993-2005 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.