The Tactical Traveler

FOR AUGUST 17, 2000


This week: the plummeting Euro means bargains for U.S. travelers; our weekly report on low-fare carriers; British Airways unveils its new fourth class on the web; how the 'Southwest Effect' works; Australia's fare war; and business-travel tidbits of note.

Assuming you can afford the airfare, Europe is a bargain again for U.S. travelers. The beleaguered Euro briefly dropped below 90 cents late last week before firming up around the 91-cent mark at the close of business on Tuesday. That represents a drop of about 22 percent since the proto-currency was introduced on January 1, 1999. And when the Euro drops, so does the exchange rate of the German mark, French franc, Italian lira, Irish pound and the seven other currencies tied to the new European standard. Sample values of one U.S. dollar this week: 2,100 lira, 7.24 francs, 2.15 marks, and 2.4 Dutch gilders.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: New Flights Worth Noting
This is our new, weekly update on alternate and low-fare airlines. Frontier Airlines will launch a daily nonstop flight on September 7 between its Denver hub and Washington/Reagan National airport. AirTran Airways will begin three daily flights on October 3 between its Atlanta hub and Toledo. Fares start at $79 one-way for 14-day advance-purchase tickets. Southwest expands its network of nonstop service on December 10. It will add flights from Nashville to San Diego and Manchester, New Hampshire. From Baltimore/Washington, there will be added nonstops to Raleigh/Durham and Albuquerque. From Las Vegas, Southwest adds flights to Oakland and Birmingham, Alabama. Effective August 19, Pan Am will fly from MidAmerica airport near St. Louis to Pittsburgh. Prices for the one-stop flights begin at $146 one-way.

CYBERTRAVELER: Surfing BA's New Fourth Class
British Airways rolls out its new fourth class, "World Traveller Plus," on October 29 between New York and London, but you can get a sneak peek at the BA website. Literally and emotionally located between BA's new business class and its coach cabin, World Traveller Plus offers chairs with 38 inches of legroom configured 2x4x2. The seats have adjustable lumbar support and footrests and are also about an inch wider than coach chairs. Each traveler also has a laptop power point, a satellite telephone, and an at-seat entertainment system with 12 video and 12 audio channels. Meal service is identical to coach, but World Traveller Plus flyers receive increased carry-on allowances and frequent-flyer bonuses. The price? A walk-up, capacity controlled price of $979 one-way (W1US) is available and the unrestricted fare of $1,329 (WUS) is exactly the same as the full coach (Y) price.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The 'Southwest Effect' Reaches Raleigh/Durham
When Southwest Airlines enters a market, fares plummet and traffic skyrockets. This unique "Southwest Effect" has been proven again in Raleigh/Durham. According to recently released Transportation Department figures, Southwest's arrival in June, 1999, overwhelmed higher-priced Metrojet and Delta Express. Fares from Raleigh/Durham to Baltimore dropped 66 percent and passenger traffic soared 273 percent. Nashville fares declined 52 percent and traffic rose 140 percent. In the crucial Chicago market, fares declined 49 percent while traffic jumped 60 percent. A similar pattern was seen between Raleigh and Boston, Orlando, Tampa and Washington, DC. The DOT statistics compare prices and traffic during the fourth quarters of 1999 and 1998.

FARE PLAY: The Price War Down Under
As Southwest proved at Raleigh/Durham, there's nothing like new players to stimulate the pricing landscape. Down under, in Australia, the launch of Impulse Airlines in June has created a frenzy of price cutting. One-way fares on the 530-mile Sydney to Brisbane route has dropped to A$33 (about US$20), which is less than the cost of a cab ride from Sydney airport to downtown Sydney. Impulse has also offered an A$66 fare between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's busiest route. And this may be just the beginning of the price war down under: Virgin Blue, backed by Virgin Atlantic entrepreneur Richard Branson, is hoping to launch low-fare domestic Australian service sometime this year.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Continental Airlines says it will launch daily nonstop B-777 flights between its Newark hub and Hong Kong next March. It would be the first nonstop service ever between Hong Kong and the U.S. East Coast and one of the longest hauls in the world. Marriott has opened a 497-room JW Marriott in Seoul, South Korea. The 33-story property is located in Kangnam, on Seoul's south side. More than half of all corporate business travelers now carry a wireless phone, according to American Express. A group of outside investigators convinced a missile downed TWA Flight 800 in 1996 has filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the government seeking details of the official inquiry into the tragedy. Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board will meet next week to discuss the incident. It is now expected to release a report that does not pinpoint a specific cause of the disaster. USAirways says it will resume Philadelphia-Amsterdam service next April; it suspended the route in June, 1999. American Airlines launches Los Angeles-Toronto nonstops on November 1.

This column originally appeared at

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