The Tactical Traveler



This week: test-driving a 2001 vehicle from a car-rental firm; our weekly look at the nation's low-fare carriers; Osaka's $17 billion airport is sinking into the sea; a great hotel find in San Francisco; Air France considers moving short-haul flyers to high-speed railroads; and a trenchant observation about the cost of a club sandwich on the road.

It’s new-car season and if you’re thinking of buying or leasing a 2001 vehicle, don’t settle for those short and inconclusive test drives offered by your local dealer. Rent a 2001 model instead on your next business trip. New cars are arriving on rental-car lots all over the country, so plenty of 2001s will be available. You can’t reserve and guarantee a specific model when you call your rental company, but most rental stations will gladly allow you to choose from among the available inventory when you arrive. Two other tips: All the rental-car web sites have extensive, pictorial fleet guides. And consider renting for your test drive on the weekend from the rental station at your hometown airport. Prices will be cheaper then and new cars will be more plentiful.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: Our Weekly Look at the Low-Fare Carriers
Almost a year after it tumbled into bankruptcy and halted service, AccessAir is poised to resume service. Beginning November 15, the carrier hopes to operate three daily B-737 flights between its old hub in Des Moines and Chicago/Midway. … You've got until Saturday, November 4, to cash in on the "Election 2000" sale at Vanguard Airlines. One-way fares range from $39 (Atlanta to Myrtle Beach) to $139 (Atlanta to Los Angeles). The nonrefundable fares are valid for travel until January 31. … Sun Country Airlines has changed its rules for carry-on luggage. A bag no longer must fit inside an inflexible "sizer box" so long as it does not exceed 48 linear inches.

AIRPORT REPORT: Osaka is Sinking and Paris is in Training
Is Kansai International Airport in Japan sinking? Apparently so. The 6-year-old, $17 billion airport was built on a island in a bay off Osaka. Original estimates predicted the 1,300-acre island airport would sink 38 feet in 50 years. But the airport had already sunk that much by last December. "There's nothing we can do to stop the sinking," admits one Kansai executive. … Air France says it may drop flights between Paris/Charles de Gaulle and Brussels International next spring. The reason? The airline hopes redirect passengers to the Thalys high-speed rail service between the two cities. The so-called "red train" connects Air France's Paris hub with downtown Brussels, downtown Amsterdam and Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. … You can't tell the airlines at Santiago International Airport in Chile without a scorecard. Three major international carriers, British Airways, KLM and Alitalia, have recently departed. Continental dropped service last week. But Delta is due to launch flights from its Atlanta hub today, November 2.

IN THE LOBBY: A Hotel Find in San Francisco
San Francisco is one hell of a hotel town. The only problem: the city by the bay is perennially sold out these days. But a little shoe leather and web surfing brought me to the lovely Pacific Heights neighborhood and a turn-of-the-century gem called the El Drisco. The El Drisco offers 24 spacious, well-appointed rooms, 19 fabulous suites and a roster of wonderful perks: in-room VCRs, CD players and coffee makers; elaborate continental breakfasts; evening wine receptions; morning limo service to the downtown and financial districts; and even free passes to the nearby Presidio branch of the YMCA. Nightly room rates start at $220 and one-bedroom suites begin at $325, bargains by the current stratospheric standards of San Francisco. For more information and reservations, call the El Drisco (800-634-7277) direct or try San Francisco Reservations (800-677-1500), which occasionally offers rooms at the El Drisco for about $50 off the published rate.

VERBATIM: The Cost of a Club Sandwich on the Road
How much does a club sandwich on the road cost? A small fortune, if the road happens to be in the south of France. This report from the current issue of Entrée, the monthly luxury-travel newsletter. "The hands-down loser of our Club Sandwich Award is La Reserve in Beaulieu. The insouciant explanation for the $50 charge is that 'it is cooked by a Michelin-starred chef.' The runner-up is 40 miles along the coast in St Tropez at Residence de la Pinede, where 'Le Club' set us back a mere $44. Worse still, neither sandwich was particularly good." A subscription to Entrée is $75 a year.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The much-ballyhooed pact between two African airlines to launch service between New York/Kennedy and Lagos, Nigeria, seems to be unraveling. South African Airways and Nigeria Airways were due to launch flights this week, but an internal squabble has delayed the service indefinitely. … Lufthansa says it will begin nonstop flights next March between Washington/Dulles and Berlin/Tegel. … One-day strikes and other work stoppages have hobbled both Air France and Aer Lingus in recent days and the disruptions may continue through next week. … The Euro dropped below 83 U.S. cents before firming up around 85 cents this week. That's a 30 percent decline since the new pan-European currency was introduced in January, 1999, and hit a high of $1.18 in its first week of trading.

This column originally appeared at

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