The Tactical Traveler

FOR JUNE 8, 1998


This week: Not believing what you read about business travel; the Kai Tak countdown; World Cup Chaos in France; a paranoid book about business travel; Sunday driver's special; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Don't Believe What You Read
Ever wonder why your travel experiences rarely match what you read, see, and hear in the mainstream media? Here's one reason. On June 2, the Associated Press released a story that claimed the standoff over the Anglo-American bilateral aviation treaty was artificially inflating airfares between the United States and London. To prove this assertion, the story compared fares from O'Hare Airport to Honolulu and to London. The AP story claimed Chicago-Honolulu cost $750 while the Chicago-London/Heathrow route "could easily cost $1,100, even though that's 300 miles closer." The truth is dramatically different, of course. The Anglo-American air market is the world's most competitive, and one-way fares to London dropped as low as $99 earlier this year. The AP story also got the current fare quotes wrong. The lowest fare between O'Hare and Heathrow is $418 roundtrip, more than $250 cheaper than the least expensive Honolulu roundtrip fare of $692. And the one-way walkup fare to Heathrow is $813 compared to the $924 fare to Honolulu. Finally, no fares in the United States (or most of the world) are mileage based, making the 300-mile difference between routes a non sequitur. When I contacted the reporter, a contrite AP Washington staffer, he admitted to the story's errors in fact and of judgment. But the AP will release no corrections or retractions, so the original story will be widely circulated, reprinted, and rebroadcast by news outlets around the nation. Thanks to the AP's dominant position--and to mainstream editors' unwillingness to question wire-service reporting--these horrific inaccuracies will go largely unchallenged. Which is why you can't believe much of what you read when it comes to travel.

AIRPORT REPORT: The Kai Tak Countdown
Chek Lap Kok, the long-awaited and hugely controversial new Hong Kong Airport, is scheduled to scheduled to open July 6 and immediately replace aging, overcrowded Kai Tak International. As travelers count down Kai Tak's final days, the new airport has built a snazzy website ( which previews many of Chek Lap Kok's features. Besides a blizzard of facts and figures (and page after page of propaganda), the site offers some interesting tidbits; news about a pay-per-visit lounge outfitted with hot showers, massage chairs, and premium music systems; information about an airport business lounge; and data about Chek Lap Kok's transportation, retail, and dining options.

Business travelers should consider delaying travel to France until mid-July. Soccer's World Cup starts June 10 and runs through July 12 and it is creating chaos in France, the host country. Despite government attempts to avoid hotel rate gouging, a French consumer magazine says room prices have increased an average of 41 percent for the World Cup period. Some hotels have jacked up their rates by as much as 200 percent. Meanwhile, on-again/off-again work stoppages have plagued Air France and devastated its schedule and pilots and mechanics are threatening to strike during the World Cup period. Adding to the confusion is French Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement, who suggested that the "Air Force could replace Air France" if the pilots strike. Later, he suggested he was being "ironic" and asked the pilots to "have a sense of civic responsibility."

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paranoia Is My Friend
Maybe it is the revelation that two historic enemies, Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, now have state-of-the-art weapons of destruction, but I'm feeling a bit paranoid about travel again. If you're similarly spooked, check out the second edition of "Travel Can Be Murder," a practical, easy-to-follow guide to on-the-road safety. Written by psychologist Terry Riley, the paperback offers more than 600 useful and thought-provoking tips. You've read most of the information before, but consider this a $17.95 refresher course on paranoia, the traveler's best friend. Copies can be purchased from Applied Psychology Press at 800-492-5050.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Sunday Driver's Special
It's impossible to figure out what anyone should be paying for a rental car. There are so many corporate rates, special deals, and nasty geographic variations that reliable comparative pricing is extremely difficult. That said, the "Five Day Summer Weekend Rate" from Hertz (800-654-3131) looks like a good bargain. Through August 31, prices for a compact start at $119 for five days when cars are picked up at participating airport locations by noon on Thursday and returned by 10am on Tuesday. Advance reservations are required and the rate code is "Day 5."

This column originally appeared at

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