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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR OCTOBER 7, 1999


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Double miles and double the freebies; are you Y2Kurious?; Delta and South African will share codes; who's getting the corporate airfare discounts; sex with the proper stranger in flight; Sabena's capital-to-capital bargain; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Double Miles and Double Freebies
The world's airlines are desperate for your full-fare coach and premium-class bookings. They aren't going so far as cutting the price, of course, but the short-term perks and inducements are extraordinary. Through October 31, for example, US Airways is offering double frequent flyer miles on any unrestricted coach, business or first class ticket. The only catch: travelers must be members of the Dividend Miles program and register for the promotion by calling 800-872-4738. Although no U.S. carrier publicly matched US Airways' across-the-board offer, most are quietly giving double miles on a route-by-route basis. "We're not going public with it, but we'll give double miles rather than lose a frequent flyer," one airline marketing executive told me earlier this week. "If one of our frequent flyers calls and demands double miles or they'll book US Airways instead, you bet I'll match." Meanwhile, most U.S. and European carriers have now cloned British Airways' Business Class promotion, which offers two free domestic coach seats for every transatlantic Club World ticket purchased. The latest to match the BA deal: Delta Air Lines, which is giving SkyMiles members two domestic coach seats for every BusinessElite ticket to Europe purchased by January 31. Cashing in on these promotions also require registration, so get on the phone if you're planning business-class travel to Europe within the next 120 days.

CYBERTRAVELER: Are You Y2Kurious?
The Department of Transportation has quietly launched a website warning travelers about the Y2K readiness of international airlines and foreign airports. Unfortunately, Y2Kurious travelers will find the clumsily-named International Civil Aviation Y2K Information Review site [http://www.fly2k.dot.gov] woefully lacking in useful details. Dozens of airports and airlines are listed, but far too many entries offer only a blanket disclaimer such as "there is insufficient information available to estimate the overall status of Y2K preparations." And the site frequently warns travelers to "be prepared to cope with disruptions and delays in service" without providing any concrete details.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
One of Britain's first discount carriers, low-frills Debonair Airways abruptly stopped flying last week after the airline was placed in the British equivalent of bankruptcy. Delta Air Lines, which has been losing code-share partners in droves, has managed to steal South African Airways away from SAA's current partner, American Airlines. Delta and South African will share codes on SAA's New York-Johannesburg service. South African is also launching Atlanta-Johannesburg flights to code-share with Delta, Atlanta's dominant carrier. To accommodate the Atlanta service, SAA is expected to drop its Miami-Johannesburg service. The Federal Aviation Administration has banned in-flight entertainment system that was on Swissair Flight 111, which crashed last year near Halifax. The FAA believes wiring problems related to the entertainment apparatus may have contributed to the Swissair crash.

DOLLAR WATCH: Who's Getting the Discounts?
Ninety-four percent of companies contacted by a major travel consulting firm report they have successfully negotiated discounted corporate fares. The average discount off normal coach fares is 23 percent, says Runzheimer International, the Wisconsin-based travel researchers. According to a Runzheimer survey, 72 percent of the 36 companies it canvassed have negotiated discounted corporate rates off all fares. Forty four percent of the firms got a deal on the price of travel on a specific city pair. More than 80 percent of the firms say they also received "soft benefits" such as upgrades to first or business class and premier frequent-flyer status for its flyers. About half the companies told Runzheimer they negotiated with airlines to give travelers free membership in airport club networks.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A New Kind of Air Rage
It was front-page news this week in all the London newspapers: Two strangers boarded an American Airlines flight in Dallas, sat next to each other in business class, got friendly, drank too much wine and then were caught having sex under a blanket at their seats. When the overnight transatlantic flight touched down in Manchester, England, the impromptu couple were arrested and charged with outraging public decency, being drunk on board an aircraft and conduct causing harassment, alarm or distress under the new British air-rage law. David Machin, a 40-year-old father of three, was immediately suspended from him job. Amanda Holt, a 37-year-old married executive, was dubbed "Randy Mandy" by the British press. The two strangers are due to meet again--this time in a British court--on November 1.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Capital to Capital For Less Cash
Sabena (877-359-7223) is scheduled to launch nonstops service on October 31 between Washington's Dulles Airport and Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the European Union. The roundtrip introductory fare on the five weekly flights is $330 for travel completed by December 31. The restrictions: tickets must be purchased by December 1; a Saturday-night stay is required; and travel is not permitted December 12 to 24.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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