The Tactical Traveler



This week: Are fuel surcharges on airfares in the offing?; British Airways doubles its carry-on allowances; KLM launches a discount carrier called buzz; the world's most dangerous places for business travel; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: An Early Warning on Fuel Surcharges
Three of the nation's largest carriers, United, American and Northwest, have announced fuel surcharges on cargo shipments and that historically signals that similar fees on passenger tickets may not be too far behind. On the surface, at least, airlines have some justification for the assessment. According to analysts, spot prices for jet fuel at the end of the year were 141 percent higher than in December, 1998. A closer look yields a different conclusion, however. Even at recent high levels--crude oil was selling for about $25 a barrel on spot markets last week--oil prices remain far below the highs reached at the beginning of the 1990s. For most of the decade, in fact, jet fuel and other oil prices were at or near historic lows. Heating-oil suppliers and gasoline stations steadily lowered their prices as crude-oil prices plummeted. But airlines never reduced ticket prices to reflect their gigantic savings on jet fuel. That means any "fuel surcharges" imposed on fares now would be piled atop record-high prices, which jumped as much as 20 percent during the 1999 calendar year.

CYBERTRAVELER: Sound Off About Carry-Ons
Got comments about carry-on bags, luggage design, and a whole mess of other baggage issues? Then point your browser to the website of Sundberg-Ferar, a product development firm that helps manufacturers create and improve consumer products. There's a special questionnaire and survey form on baggage issues at a dedicated page just begging for your input. And if you think you'll be wasting your time, think again. Sundberg-Ferar gets things done: It designed the interior of the much-loved L-1011 jet, created the refreshment carts used on many airlines and designed many railroad cars, major appliances and other consumer products.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The World's Most Dangerous Places
Where are the world's most dangerous places to do business? According to Air Security International [], the folks who produce the wonderful daily "Hot Spots" newsletter, half of the 10 most dangerous places are in Africa. Three more are in Latin America. ASI ranks the dangerous places in alphabetical order. That means Algeria tops the list, where "visitors to the capital city of Algiers are urged to avoid walking anywhere." Next is Central Africa, a region that includes the two Congos, Angola, Rwanda and Burundi. Colombia, according to ASI, is the site of "45 percent of all abductions in the world." Then there are the Pakistani cities of Islamabad and Karachi, where ASI notes an "increase in carjackings, robberies, residential invasions and drug trafficking." The high crime rates in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, are especially notable because "foreigners have increasingly been targeted, especially in the vicinity of hotels." Nigeria also makes the list, with the capital of Lagos being dubbed "one of the most violent cities in the world." Rounding out the list of the 10 most dangerous places are Maputo, Mozambique ("poor economic conditions have fueled a growing criminal industry"); Mexico City ("visitors are automatically perceived as affluent and immediately become targets"); Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea ("victims are often attacked by large groups of people"); and Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro, where "economic recession and high unemployment have exacerbated criminal activity."

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
British Airways has doubled the amount of hand baggage business-class passengers are permitted to carry on flights. The new limit--18 kilograms, or about 40 pounds--can be split between two carry-on bags. … San Francisco International Airport is likely to remain at the bottom on the nation's on-time performance lists for eight or nine more years, according to airport officials. A runway extension designed to alleviate delays may not even be out of the planning stage and permit process until the end of next year, SFO officials admit. … KLM launched its new intra-Europe discount airline this week. Named buzz, the carrier is based at London's Stansted Airport and flies to seven destinations: Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Milan, Lyon, Paris and Vienna. … Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, is now cleared for direct flights from the United States. The U.S. Transportation Department banned U.S.-originating flights to Lagos in 1993, claiming the airport did not meet minimum safety requirements.

This column originally appeared at

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