The Tactical Traveler

FOR MARCH 15 TO 21, 2001


This week: Midway Airport gets a new passenger terminal; Ryanair plans a European hub in Brussels; a Web site devoted to a closed airport; the dollar surges in value around the world; President Bush delays, but can't stop, a strike at Northwest; the $99 deals to London are back; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Midway Gets a New Passenger Terminal
A new passenger terminal, the long-awaited second facet of a planned $800 million renovation of tatty old Chicago/Midway Airport, finally opened last week. The new terminal is currently used only for passenger check-in and baggage claim; flight departures and arrivals are still handled at Midway's aged original terminal. A 900-foot indoor pedestrian bridge connects the two facilities. The old terminal will eventually be demolished and the entire Midway project is scheduled for completion in 2004. A new, 55,000-square-foot retail/concession area is due to open this summer and a Customs and Immigration facility is expected by the end of the year. The first visible part of Midway's rejuvenation, a six-story parking garage, opened in 1999.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: The Continent Calls to Ryanair
Airlines all over continental Europe are near the financial precipice. That includes Brussels-based Sabena, which is partially owned by Swissair, which itself is fiscally challenged these days. But none of this seems to bother Ryanair, the rapidly-expanding discount carrier based in Ireland. Beginning April 28, Ryanair will open a continental European hub at Brussels Charleroi South Airport and it will immediately offer flights to six cities: London; Glasgow; Shannon; Pisa and Venice, Italy; and Carcassonne, France. Ryanair already flies from Charleroi to Dublin. The airline's plan? "Our goal would be to put Sabena out of business," said Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary. Sabena flies from Zaventem, which is much closer to central Brussels than Charleroi, but Ryanair has prospered by serving secondary airports such as Stansted in London and Vasteras in Stockholm.

CYBERTRAVELER: There Used to Be an Airport Right Here
Stapleton Airport was shuttered when Denver International opened in 1995, but one crucial question remained: What do you do with a 4,700-acre former airport located just a few minutes from downtown Denver? You can now find a few of the answers at the Stapleton Denver Web site ( Forest City Enterprises, a well-known developer whose portfolio includes a handful of hotels, is sketching out a $4 billion plan to redevelop the airport site as a mixed-use community. There will be 12,000 homes, 3 million square feet of retail space, 10 million square feet of office/industrial space and 1,100 acres of parks and open space. Two major retailers--Wal-Mart and Home Depot--have already signed on as anchor tenants of Quebec Square, a 740,000-square-foot mall.

DOLLAR WATCH: The Greenback That Devoured the World
The Dow and the NASDAQ may be dancing with bears, but the U.S. economy looks absolutely peachy compared to the markets in other countries and that is startlingly good news for the value of the dollar. In fact, the greenback is devouring the world. It reached a record high against the Australian dollar this week and now buys about 1.9 Aussie dollars. It is surging again against the euro, meaning one U.S. dollar is currently buying about 2,100 Italian lira, 7 French francs, and about 2.1 German marks. The dollar also jumped to around 69 cents against the English pound. The parlous state of the Japanese economy has pushed the value of the dollar up to around 120 yen. And then there are Turkey and Indonesia, the world's weakest major economies. The financial upheavals in Indonesia have pushed the dollar past the 10,000-rupiah mark and Turkey's political crisis has all but rendered the lira valueless. One U.S. dollar now buys about 960,000 Turkish lira.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
In case you were wondering: President Bush's decision to impose a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) in the contract dispute between Northwest Airlines and mechanics does not end the chance of a strike. At the expiration of the PEB's 60-day term on May 11, mechanics would be free to strike if there is no contract settlement. London flyers take note: resurfacing of the runways at Heathrow Airport is due to begin at the end of April. Expect delays on late-night and early-morning flights. A 276-room Hilton hotel is scheduled to open at Melbourne International Airport on Monday, March 19. An introductory rate of about US$80 is available. The hotel is connected via covered walkways to both the domestic and international terminals. LodgeNet, one of the companies that supply on-demand video programming to hotels, has added a music-video category.

WEEKLY WONDER: The $99 to London Deal is Back
Excess capacity and weak traffic is the magic elixir for travelers looking for a cheap ride to London. The $99 deals, a staple for February travel, have been extended through March. At British Airways (800-AIRWAYS), for example, you can fly to London for $99 one-way from New York or Newark; $104 from Philadelphia; $109 from Boston; $129 from BA's South and Midwest gateways, and $154-$184 from the West Coast. BA is even throwing in a one-day Hertz car rental. The fine print is available at a special BA website. Tickets must be purchased by Monday, March 19, for travel through March 31.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.