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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR APRIL 5, 1999


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Securing seats for the Sydney Olympics; the future of airline alliances; frequent flyer program hobbyists; Asian discounts from Korean Air; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Securing Seats for Sydney
The Summer Olympics in Sydney are scheduled for September 15-October 1, 2000, but tickets orders are now being taken. Prices range from a modest US$8 for events in the preliminary rounds to an eye-popping (and eye-gouging) $1,054 for the opening and closing ceremonies. The official U.S. seat sales mechanism is being handled by Cartan Tours (800-841-1994). The company estimates about 249,000 tickets will be available to U.S. consumers. Once you obtain the official order form, submit your ticket requests and payment. Cartan says ticket orders will be fulfilled by using a combination of a lottery and a first-come, first-served policy. Ticket requests received by April 30 will be weighed equally and given first priority. Later orders will be prioritized by month of receipt. After September 15, remaining tickets are sold as available. Cartan is also selling Australia air-land travel packages for the games, but, with prices starting at $4,990, they are appallingly bad values.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Future of Airline Alliances
Confused by the concept of airline alliances like Star and Oneworld? So am I For insight, I talked to Jack Foley, executive vice president of North America for Aer Lingus, the Irish airline which has not yet joined an alliance. "The future of Aer Lingus is very much tied to choosing an alliance," he explains. "It could be as early as the summer that we join one. But a lot of our decision depends on what an 'alliance' is. Is it a blended product where all the partner airlines do things the same way? Or is it more like a 1980s style marketing partnership with frequent-flyer links and traffic feed. Even within the airline industry, I don't think that has been decided yet. Speaking for myself, I don't think airlines in an alliance will be willing to give up their identity or their personalized way of doing business. Personally, I think airlines in an alliance won't be homogenized. And I think every airline has to go into an alliance with an exit strategy. But being part of an alliance will be crucial for all airlines because travelers will begin to see alliances as an endorsement of an airline's quality and service level. An alliance will increasingly be seen as a brand you can trust."

CYBERTRAVELER: Hobbyists with an Obsession
I assume you love frequent-travel miles and points and that you're computer literate. Want to know what two other guys did with that same set of facts? Point your browser to the Frequent Traveler site (http://www.frequenttraveler.com), a volunteer effort of Fred Stefany and Keith Phillips. "We're doing this just for fun," says Stefany, a San Francisco-based frequent flyer. "It doesn't cost much to do and it's fun to have a site." Phillips, a web wizard, is based in Philadelphia and does most of the programming. The site is good looking, easy to navigate, and offers some interesting tidbits about frequent-travel plans.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Delta Air Lines finally got around to offering travelers a weekly Email of Internet weekend fares. You can sign up for the mailing if you have a SkyMiles membership; go to the E-Mail Service Center. ... The Federal Aviation Administration grounded tiny Kiwi International last week just hours after it declared bankruptcy for the second time. A court-appointed trustee has been appointed to assess Kiwi's future. ... Swisotel (800-63-SWISS) properties now offer the SwissConnection, an airport transfer service. Guests are met at the airport, driven to the hotel and registered enroute. The fare is billed to the guest's bill. .. If you hate to eat alone, but can't abide the thought of another room-service meal, you're a prime candidate for Solo Dining Savvy, a bi-monthly newsletter dedicated to dining alone. The editor, Marya Charles Alexander, focuses on restaurants that cater to solo diners or offer "communal" tables where unaccompanied travelers can feel at home. The newsletter (800-299-1079) costs $29 a year. Alexander has also produced a special report on the nation's top 100 restaurants for solo dining. That's available in loose-leaf format for $9.95. Both are worthy investments for frequent travelers. After all, how many more club sandwiches and Caesar's salads can you eat from those room-service carts?

WEEKLY WONDER: More Asia Deals
Korean Airlines (http://www.koreanair.com) has introduced discounted Spring fares to several Asian destinations, but you've got to hurry to get them. Tickets must be purchased no later than April 15 and outbound travel must begin by April 30. Sample roundtrip fares: Los Angeles to Singapore for $548; San Francisco to Seoul for $598; and Chicago to Bangkok for $548. Other restrictions apply, of course, and some of Korean's competitors have matched the fares.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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