The Tactical Traveler

FOR JUNE 8, 2000


This week: Hotels are dealing on the Fourth of July; Australia's wacky new tax-back deal; more depressing facts about a potential United-US Airways merger; Hilton opens two new hotels in room-starved New York; Continental adds flights from Cleveland to Dallas/Love; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Deals on the Fourth of July
Can't bring yourself to stay home and barbecue in the backyard on the Fourth of July? Then consider these Yankee Doodle Dandy Deals from around the world: $898 a couple at Turnberry Isle (800-327-7028) north of Miami for three nights of lodging, daily breakfast, three dinners, a July 4th concert and fireworks display, his-and-hers massages, and unlimited golf and tennis; $999 a couple (VAT included) at the Athenaeum (800-335-3300) in London for three nights accommodations, daily breakfast, and dinner for two at Bulloch's, the hotel's restaurant; and $398 at the RIHGA Royal (800-937-5454) in New York for a two-room suite.

CYBERTRAVELER: Australia's Wacky Tax-Back Scheme
Australia is overhauling its tax structure and will launch a "Tourist Refund Scheme" on July 1. The incredibly convoluted program will allow travelers to reclaim some of the country's GST (goods and services tax) and WET (wine-equalization tax) levies. As explained at the Australian Customs Service website, the GST is about 9 percent and the wine tax is 14.5 percent. Travelers can reclaim the taxes under certain circumstances: a minimum of A$300 (about US$175) must be bought from any store; travelers must have a tax invoice from the retailer; refunds must be claimed at the TRS booths at eight Australian airports; and goods must be taken out of the country as carry-on luggage. What if the goods are too large to qualify as carry-on luggage? The answer to this compelling question (hint: no carry on, no refund), a hilarious FAQ sheet, and the TRS logo with requisite boomerang are all featured at the Customs website.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Depressing Facts About a United-US Airways Merger
The mainstream media's coverage of United's proposed purchase of US Airways has been fairly predictable: lots of talk about size, speculation about counter-punches from other carriers, and too little focus on hard-core facts. So here are three facts worth considering. Fact No. 1: The only guaranteed winners in the transaction would seem to be US Airways chairman Stephen Wolf and chief executive Rakesh Gangwal. Assuming the deal goes through and Wolf activates the change-of-control clauses of his contract, exercises his options and leaves the company, he will walk away with $71 million. Gangwal would walk with $49 million. Both joined the company in 1996. Fact No. 2: The guaranteed losers in the transaction would seem to be Philadelphia-area frequent flyers. That's because the combined carriers would have 100 percent of the service on routes from Philadelphia to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver. Fact No. 3: United is attempting to take over an airline while its own performance is deteriorating. According to Transportation Department figures released last week, United in April had the worst on-time performance (65.6 percent) among the nation's ten major carriers. It also recorded an industry-worst rating of 5.87 misplaced bags per 1,000 passengers. United also racked up a higher ratio of passenger complaints and canceled a higher percentage of its daily flights than US Airways.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Hilton opened two new hotels on Tuesday in room-starved New York. The 444-room Hilton Times Square is located atop a mixed-used development that includes a movie theater, a music superstore and a new restaurant by super-chef Larry Forgione. Meanwhile, the 463-suite Embassy Suites New York is located in Battery Park City, within walking distance of Wall Street and the corporate headquarters of American Express and Dow Jones. Continental Express has launched three daily commuter flights between Cleveland and controversial Love Field in downtown Dallas. Staples, the office-supplies retailer, says it will open a branch inside Pittsburgh International Airport next month. Air Canada and its new subsidiary, Canadian Airlines, have consolidated operations at Pearson Airport in Toronto. All domestic and U.S. flights now operate from Terminal 2. All international flights now operate from Terminal 1.

WEEKLY WONDER: A Sybaritic Night in the English Countryside
If you've got a free night before or after a business trip to London, then consider a splurge on an overnight getaway at Le Manior aux Quat'Saisons, the 15th century Oxfordshire manor house that rates two Michelin stars. The "Luxury Business Break" package at the Cotswolds landmark includes a chauffeur-driven limousine to and/or from Heathrow Airport, accommodations, a seven-course dinner at the Manoir's restaurant, continental breakfast, and the value-added tax. The price for this sybaritic night in the country? About $460 a person with one-way Heathrow transportation and $595 roundtrip. For couples, prices are about $750 one-way or $885 roundtrip. Call 800-845-4276 for more information.

This column originally appeared at

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