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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JUNE 1, 1999


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Virtual venting at the airlines; the dollar is semi-almighty in Euroland; hope (and new airlines) spring eternal; you're nuts for eating nuts in-flight; Lindbergh's Legacy; premium-class promotions; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Virtual Venting at the Airlines
Are you totally and completely fed up with your airline? Then why not try "virtual venting." In other words, build your own web site to tell the world what you think. Some folks have already done it. Jeremy Cooperstock, a frustrated United Airlines customer, has launched Untied.com (http://www.untied.com). Ronald J. Riley, angry at Northwest, has created Northworst (http://www.northworstair.org). And a disgruntled Tower Air employee maintains a Tower parody site (http://www.idemandloyalty.com).

DOLLAR WATCH: The Semi-Almighty Dollar
The U.S. dollar is surging against most European currencies. In January, 1998, for example, the dollar bought about 1,750 Italy lire; now the semi-Almighty Dollar commands 1,825 lire. In France, the dollar now buys 6.2 francs, compared to 5.4 francs. The Swedish crown trades at about 8.4 to the dollar now compared to 8 in January, 1998. The dollar has even crept up against the British and Irish pounds, two currencies that have been strong against the greenback for most of the decade. And then there's Turkey, Europe's basket case. The Turkish lira has slumped to 400,000 to the dollar; it sold at 200,000 to the U.S. dollar in January, 1998.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: Hope--And New Airlines--Springs Eternal
Access Air, which launched service this winter to New York and Los Angeles from the Midwest, is expanding. On June 1, the airline begins flights from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles and Des Moines. National Airlines, the casino-backed airline based in Las Vegas, has received Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly. It expected to launch service on May 27 to Chicago/Midway and Los Angeles. It hopes to launch flights to New York/Kennedy and San Francisco on June 14. Sun Country, a charter service, plans to begin scheduled flights on June 1 from Minneapolis and Detroit. New Air, a well-funded start-up carrier based at New York's Kennedy Airport, says it wants to begin flying in January. The carrier has already ordered a fleet of new Airbus planes. The small rail-freight company that now owns the Pan Am name says it will begin scheduled flights on June 8 from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The company, Guilford Transportation, has run Pan Am as a charter carrier for about a year. An Italian charter airline, Air Europe, has received Transportation Department approval to launch scheduled flights between New York/Kennedy and Venice and Pisa, Italy. Service is due to begin June 18.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Justice Department has created an E-mail address (American.atr@usdoj.gov) for people who'd like to comment on the antitrust lawsuit against American Airlines. Eight hundred and six people died in commercial airline crashes during 1998, according to the Avmark Aviation Economist. That's 28 percent higher than the number of fatalities in 1997. Berlin's Tegal Airport was shut for several hours last month when authorities found an unexploded World War II bomb at the end of the main runway. Markings on the 1,000-pound device showed it was of German origin. Several other vintage explosive devices were also discovered. United Airlines says passengers think the airline's in-flight service improved in the first quarter. According to an internal survey, 57 percent of United's frequent flyers gave the carrier's North American flight attendants a positive rating. International flight attendants received a 64 percent positive rating and United Shuttle flight attendants received a 46 percent positive rating.

HEALTH CHECK: Are You Nuts?
Worried about your waistline and how frequent flying warps your diet? Then consider using this simple weight-control exercise: skip the peanuts. One recent roundtrip proves exactly how damaging it is to consume the wrong snack. On the outbound leg, the airline served beverages and a half-ounce bag of peanuts. According to the label, the nuts contained 7 grams of fat, or 11.5 percent of an adult's daily suggested intake. On the return leg, the airline served beverages and a half-ounce bag of pretzels instead. The fat content of the pretzels: less than one gram.

VERBATIM: Lindbergh's Legacy
How has travel changed since Charles Lindbergh flew the "Spirit of St. Louis" to Paris in 1927? There are fewer inflight perks, according to FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington on May 22, Garvey analyzed Lindbergh's solo crossing of the Atlantic 72 years ago. "The only extras he had on the flight were four sandwiches and a bottle of water," she explained. "In that respect, not much has changed. Except you cannot count on the sandwiches."

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Premium Promotions Around the World
Business-class travel is slumping around the world, so many airlines are running a series of promotions targeted to premium-class passenger. Air France, for example, is offering upgrades to Concorde for passengers paying full business- or first-class fares. Cathay Pacific is giving a free companion ticket to premium-class passengers flying to Hong Kong or several other Asian destinations. And Sabena is tempting business-class travelers who pay with the American Express card with a 2-for-1 offer on certain flights to Brussels. There are restrictions, of course, so check with the airlines for complete details.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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