The Tactical Traveler

FOR MAY 25, 2000


This week: Tracking the traveler's favorite airports worldwide; Philadelphia gets more hotel options ahead of the Republican Convention; the safety of Qantas, the "never crashes" airline, is questioned; a free-stay-on-the-way program from Austrian Airlines; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: What's Your Favorite Airport?
IATA, the international airline cartel that spends most of its time making sure the world's existing carriers maintain a monopolistic stranglehold on fares and services, has actually gotten around to doing something worthwhile. It recently interviewed 60,000 travelers at 57 airports worldwide and calculated a list of passengers' favorite airports. Released last week, the survey named compact, convenient Copenhagen as the world's best airport. Number 2 on the list was Singapore's Changi, followed by Vantaa in Helsinki; the newly restyled facility in Vancouver, Canada; and the lightly used airport in Manchester, England. Sixth on the list was the new airport in Kuala Lumpur. The only U.S. airport in the top ten was Cincinnati, which ranked No. 7, followed by Perth, Australia; Schiphol in Amsterdam; and the still-controversial new airport in Hong Kong. In one key area--the availability and efficiency of ground transportation between the airport and the city--European airlines captured four of the top five positions. Copenhagen was first, Kloten in Zurich was second, followed by Hong Kong, Schiphol and the new airport in Oslo, Norway.

IN THE LOBBY: Conventional (Republican) Wisdom in Philadelphia
Republican Party loyalists will descend on Philadelphia for the GOP's quadrennial convention from July 31 to August 3. Besides officially nominating George W. Bush for president, Republicans will be filling hotels all over the City of Brotherly Love. That's actually good news for frequent flyers because Philadelphia is getting a few new and renovated hotels out of the deal. In anticipation of the crush of Republicans, the venerable 568-room Warwick Hotel at 17th and Locust streets has been renovated and restored by a new management team that includes former key executives of the Rosewood and Regent chains. A new 300-room Sofitel opened May 1 at 17th Street and Sansom. On May 15, a 279-room Hilton Garden Inn opened at the intersection of 11th and Arch streets. And a new 330-room Ritz-Carlton is scheduled to open on June 29. But wait, you ask, isn't there already a Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia? Well, er, no. The building at Liberty Place that housed the old Ritz-Carlton converted to the St. Regis name last year. Then it changed again, this time to the Westin Philadelphia, in February. Meanwhile, if you want more details about what the Republicans will be doing in Philadelphia, surf over to the web page maintained by the city's host committee.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Revenge of the Rainman
Remember Rainman? That's the 1988 flick that includes a scene where Dustin Hoffman, playing the idiot savant title character, lauds Qantas as the only airline in the world that "never crashes." That bit sealed the Australian airline's reputation as the world's safest international carrier. But now hard questions are being raised about safety practices and maintenance at Qantas after a recent series of embarrassing mishaps in Hong Kong, Rome and Bangkok. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority has withdrawn approval for Qantas to repair some parts on American aircraft and the Austrian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is investigating the carrier's practices. And CASA last week advanced a scheduled, annual review of some of Qantas's maintenance work. "I have no doubt we're operating safely," one Qantas executive in Sydney said last week. "But this isn't the kind of publicity we're used to receiving. It's a blow to the corporate mentality, a rather swift kick in the institutional head."

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
USA Today now prints copies of its international edition in Milan and that means readers in southern Europe should receive the newspaper earlier in the day. The paper should also have more timely U.S. news and sports than the edition that is currently air-shipped from a printing plant in Frankfurt. . Attention, Wal-Mart vendors: a Hilton Garden Inn has opened in Bentonville, home of the nation's largest retailer. The Arkansas town, often derided by business travelers as "Vendorville," has suffered a chronic shortage of lodging options as Wal-Mart has extended it empire. British Airways is vehemently denying reports that it will buy a stake in KLM, just as it is denying stories that it will exit the Oneworld alliance. But take note: BA and KLM tried to arrange an alliance in the late 1980s. US Airways is offering a 20,000-mile bonus to travelers who fly three full-fare roundtrips that include a connection before July 31. Dividend Miles members must pre-register for the promotion.

WEEKLY WONDER: Stay on the Way--for Free--in Vienna
U.S. business-class travelers who book Austrian Airlines (800-843-0002) for itineraries beyond Austria can receive a free overnight stay in Vienna. The promotion, "Vienna on Us," is valid on all Austrian flights originating in the United States and connecting in Vienna to many of the airline's onward destinations. Flyers receive overnight accommodations in a five-star hotel, dinner, breakfast the next morning and transfers to and from Vienna International Airport. The offer requires the purchase of a full-fare business-class ticket, but is valid through the end of the year with no blackout periods.

This column originally appeared at

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