The Tactical Traveler

FOR MARCH 22, 2000


This week: Why you should never buy airline tickets on the weekends; how to find Internet fare bargains; prepare for a USAirways strike; jetBlue launches flights to Tampa; TWA and America West link frequent flyer plans; skyrocketing gas prices won’t deter spring travel; Hertz European SuperValue rates; and more.

COST-CUTTERS: Don't Buy Tickets on Weekends
The nation's major airlines pushed through a large fare increase last weekend and that re-enforced one of the cardinal rules of savvy travel shopping: Never purchase airline tickets on the weekend.

The price boost was initiated by Northwest Airlines [] on Friday, then matched independently, one at a time, by the other major full-service carriers. The price hike ranges from $20-$40 roundtrip on every route in the nation. But the real news here is that last weekend's increase was the fourth time this year the airlines tried to increase fares. The other three attempts--each launched by one carrier on a Thursday or Friday--were withdrawn whenever a single major competitor refused to match by the time the following business week began. If you were unlucky enough to buy tickets over any of those weekends, however, you paid a higher fare every time. Why? Because when airlines roll back a price increase, they don't refund the money of travelers who purchased seats at the higher prices.

BEST OF THE WEB: Finding Internet Fare Bargains
Last week's fare increase makes it more imperative than ever that smart travelers know where all the low-priced Internet fares are located. At least three sites track net fares on an on-going basis. The newest contender is from, where the Internet Special page [] lists domestic web fares by destination city. The entry is easy to use, but a shadow of the existing service from The site's Deal Watch page [] offers both domestic and international fare breaks organized by departure city. It also lists Internet-only hotel and car-rental deals. The third resource, the Cyberfares ( function of the Airlines of the Web, offers links to web deals organized by airline. It also features Internet-only cruise deals.

EARLY WARNINGS: Smart Preparation for a USAirways Strike
USAirways [] and its flight attendants went back to the bargaining table last Friday in an attempt to beat a contract deadline of 12:01 a.m. Saturday (March 25). Flight attendants have posted a list [] of 49 routes where they will mount impromptu strikes or other work actions. But USAirways management says it will shut down the entire airline if no deal is reached by the deadline. If you must book a USAirways flight in the next several weeks, insist on a paper ticket. Electronic tickets are not transferable to another carrier in the event of a strike or shutdown. Already have an E-ticket for a USAirways flight in coming weeks? Contact the airline immediately and arrange for a traditional paper document.

ON THE FLY: News You Need to Know
JetBlue [], the well-funded new discount airline based at New York's Kennedy Airport, has launched three daily flights to Tampa. Fares range from $79 to $159 one-way. … The first company with a hand-held global satellite phone, Iridium [], has stopped service. Analysts estimate Motorola and its Iridium partners lost $5 billion on the venture. … TWA [] and America West [] have linked frequent-flyer plans. Travelers can choose miles in either carrier's program whenever they fly TWA or America West.

VACATION STATION: Gas Prices Won't Stall Spring Travel
Will skyrocketing gasoline prices put the crimp in spring travel? Not according to the Travel Industry Association []. It says vacation travel will increase 3.1 percent in April, May and June compared to last year's spring period. … Athens, the site of the 2004 Summer Olympics [], may change the dates of the activities. Currently planned for August 13-29, 2004, the games may be moved forward two weeks to allow professional soccer players to participate. A decision is expected in mid-May. … The latest edition of Hostelling North America is now available. The 400-page booklet covers 212 hotels in 33 states and 9 Canadian provinces. Nightly rates range from $12-$25 a night for members of Hostelling International [], slightly more for non-members. The guide is free for HI members or $3 for non-members from 202-783-6171. … Avis [] is offering 25 percent discounts on European SuperValue rates booked before March 31. The rate code is AWD#N917201. The company has also created four "Personally Yours" itineraries for Avis renters headed to the Scottish Highlands; Bath &The Cotswolds; Normandy & Brittany; and the Côte d'Azur. The 8-panel brochures, complete with Michelin maps, can be ordered at 800-331-1084 at least 21 days before departure.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright © 1999-2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.