The Tactical Traveler

FOR MAY 25, 1998


This week: Summer relief from steamy hotel prices; United gets pushed; ugly numbers at fortress hubs; the right book on travel rights; a London hotel rarity; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Summer Relief from Steamy Hotel Prices
Big-city business hotels slash their summer rates beginning around Memorial Day and keep prices low until about Labor Day. But you won't get the special room rates unless you ask for them--and often you must know the specific name of the promotion. Here are some details: Westin's "Good Buy Getaways" require a 14-day advance reservation. Samples: $89 a night at the Westin William Penn in Pittsburgh; $99 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport; and $229-$279 at the Westin Central Park South in New York. Pay with a Visa card and get a $100 certificate for a future stay. Mandarin Oriental's "Summer Choices Value Package" include daily breakfast. Samples: $149 in Manila, $124 in Singapore, $169 in Bangkok, and $259 in San Francisco. Inter-Continental's "Summer Options" offer a choice of room upgrade, free parking or daily breakfast. Samples: $130 in the Castellana in Madrid and $179 in Chicago. Other chains with summer specials include Hyatt International, Sofitel and Ritz-Carlton.

CYBERTRAVELER: United Gets Pushed
One way to judge the major American carriers is to test their IWFQ (Internet Weekend Fare Quotient). The airline with the lowest IWFQ--and thus the dumbest--is Delta. It offers no Internet Weekend Fare program at all. In the middle ground of IWFQ ratings are: Alaska, American West, Canadian, Northwest, and Southwest. Give them credit for offering deep-discount Internet weekend fares. But deduct IWFQ points because: 1) they're not smart enough to send E-mail alerts of the fares direct to our mailboxes; 2) they're not bright enough to realize that getting our E-mail addresses gives them an incredibly inexpensive way to market products and services. At the top of the IWFQ ratings are: Air Canada, American, Continental, TWA, and US Airways. They "push" Internet weekend fares into our mailboxes, which is convenient for us and a marketing plus for them. And add United to the top of the IWFQ chart. It recently launched a subscriber list to push weekend fares direct to our mailboxes.

AT THE AIRPORT: Ugly Numbers at Fortress Hubs
The latest edition of the eternally fascinating American Express Airfare Index covers travel in March and characterizes the business-travel pricing landscape as "calm." A closer look at the numbers reveal a different story, however. At Delta's fortress hubs in Atlanta and Cincinnati, full coach fares increased 12 and 15 percent, respectively, compared to March 1997. The "typical business" fare, an Amex calculation of the lowest fare available to frequent flyers, increased 14 percent in Atlanta and 11 percent in Cincinnati. In Dallas, where American reigns, full coach fares jumped 10 percent. At Miami and San Juan, two other American hubs, the typical business fares skyrocketed 23 and 17 percent, respectively. In Detroit, where Northwest has a death grip, full coach fares increased 19 percent. Typical business fares also increased dramatically in Phoenix (13 percent), Orlando (32 percent), Milwaukee (20 percent), and Tampa (16 percent).

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Right Book on Travel Rights
Even hardened road warriors will learn a new trick or two from "Travel Rights," the excellent primer from Charles Leocha. This 192-page paperback quickly and conveniently covers all the common ground: airline rules, tax considerations, fare issues, credit-card facts, and the other annoying minutia of life on the road. The first edition has been a standard text on my reference shelf for years and I think you'll find the just released second edition a bargain at $9.95. You can buy it in many major bookshops or order it direct from World Leisure Corporation (800-444-2524).

A hundred years ago, John Galsworthy complained in the "Forsyte Saga" that a man could spend more on a London hotel room than anything else on earth. Nothing much has changed in the last hundred years, but the five Millennium Hotels (800-465-6486) in London are offering a measure of financial relief from July 6 through September 6. The prices: $250 a night at the Millennum Britannia Mayfair; $230 at the Millennium Chelsea Knightsbridge; $225 at Bailey's or the Millennium Gloucester; and $199 at the Copthorne Tara. The nightly rates are guaranteed in U.S. dollars, valid for single or double occupancy, and include the VAT and artery-clogging English breakfast. One extra kicker: if you can bear the damp and cool London summer for five days, the hotels won't charge you for the fifth night of lodging.

This column originally appeared at

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