The Tactical Traveler

FOR APRIL 13, 1998


This week: Warsaw's the way to lower fares; get your 'stuff' from Magellan's; all in the (hotel) family; dim sum at the departure gate; Paris, when the prices sizzle; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Warsaw's the Way to Lower Fares
If you're getting clobbered by the high cost of business-class airfares to Europe, rewrite your route map. Fly through Warsaw with LOT Polish (800-223-0593) and you'll slash thousands of dollars off your business-fares. From New York (LOT also serves Chicago and Toronto), LOT charges $2,550 roundtrip in business class to a dozen destinations, including Prague, Rome, and Moscow. In exchange for the quick, painless plane change at Warsaw, you'll save as much as $2,500 compared to nonstops to Rome, Prague and Moscow. LOT's beyond-Warsaw fares will also save you similar amounts on flights where you currently connect through Frankfurt or Vienna. How's the business class on LOT? There are no at-seat videos on the immaculately maintained Boeing 767s, but the food is fine and the wines excellent, the seats are comfy and the leg room terrific, and the flight crews are omnipresent and extraordinarily solicitous.

CYBERTRAVELER: Get Your 'Stuff' Right Here
Like most business travelers, I'm into "stuff." If there's a new piece of luggage, a new gadget for my laptop, or a nifty little gimmick to make my life on the road easier, I'm buying it. And I buy most of my stuff from Magellan's (800-962-4943), the travel-supplies company staffed by people who really know (and care) about travel. Now the complete Magellan's catalog is on the Web ( And as is the practice of John McManus, the wonderfully obsessed guy who runs Magellan's, the goods are surrounded with helpful tips, logical suggestions, and an endless amount of customer service.

MILES AND POINTS: All in the (Hotel) Family
When Marriott introduced the Marriott Rewards frequent-stay program last year, too many supposedly knowledgeable wags missed the big point. The breakthrough is the "all in the family" approach to earning points. So long as you stay in a Marriott property (Marriott itself, Courtyard, Renaissance, Residence Inn, Fairfield, etc.), Marriott gives you points. Marriott Rewards isn't so much about "brand loyalty," but "company loyalty." Regardless of the type of lodging you prefer and can afford, Marriott wants you to choose their properties. Watch for this all-in-the-hotel-family approach to be adopted by Starwood in the next 60 days. Who's Starwood? The rampaging REIT that recently purchased Westin, Sheraton, Four Points, CIGA, The Luxury Collection, and hundreds of other independent hotels. Starwood will scrap Westin Premier and Sheraton Club International in favor of a company-wide frequent-stay plan that will reward you for choosing any Starwood brand from a $50-a-night Four Points in Rome, Georgia, to a $500-a-night CIGA in Rome, Italy. And speaking of brands, Starwood is also introducing the "W" chain. It is Starwood's attempt to make lemonade from some of the lemons it picked up along the way. At least 15 down-at-the-heels Starwood properties will be spiffed up, rebranded as "W," and positioned as hip, edgy "boutique" hotels.

AT THE AIRPORT: Dim Sum at the Departure Gate
I spent a couple of days prowling around the new international terminal in Vancouver and couldn't believe my eyes: a bright, friendly space with soaring ceilings, good check-in counters and departure gates, intriguing local art, and cute shops. I regret buying that bottle of Canadian sauvignon blanc at duty-free--What was I thinking?--but I don't regret lunch at the Oriental Tea Garden (604-303-3238). This refined and understated dim sum restaurant isn't just a good place to catch a meal before a flight, it's worth visiting from downtown Vancouver. The dumplings were delicious and the buns juicy. There are also a dozen specialty teas available by the pot. Oriental Tea Garden is located right before the barrier where you pay your departure tax and head for the flight gates. Drop by for some startling shu mai.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Paris, When the Price Sizzles
U.S. and French negotiators took a long and winding road to a new bilateral aviation treaty, but last week's deal prompted Air France (800-AF-PARIS) to announce daily flights to Paris from Atlanta and Boston. The service launches June 19 and the usually deal-averse tariff-makers at Air France have announced two honest-to-goodness great bargain fares. From June 19 to June 29, non-refundable roundtrip coach fares are $299 roundtrip weekdays or $324 weekends with no minimum-stay restrictions. That's a hefty reduction from the normal roundtrip coach fare of $1,448 from Boston and $1,548 from Atlanta. Business-class travelers also get a break: From June 19 to August 30, two travelers can fly for the price of one. That's two in business for $4,660 roundtrip from Boston and $6,176 from Atlanta.

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