The Tactical Traveler



This week: Phony full-fare offers; airline safety in Cyberspace; a new generation of airline travel-pass programs; picture-taking for business travelers; Renaissance Hotels cuts its nightly rates; and more.

Been tempted to try the "free" ticket promotions offered lately by carriers such as Northwest and Southwest? Don't bother. Playing the airlines' games is usually fiscal folly. Consider, for example, Southwest's "Friends Fly Free" program. It sounds terrific: buy a ticket and a companion can fly with you for free. The catch? The ticket you're required to purchase is full-fare coach and it's cheaper to buy two discounted seats instead. On the Baltimore-Nashville route, for example, you'll pay $210 for a full-fare roundtrip and get the second free. But two seats purchased at Southwest's lowest-available fare cost only $196. The price differential on Northwest's "1-2-Free" promotion is even more dramatic. The plan requires you to register with the airline (800-508-2000, ext. 3733), then buy two full-fare roundtrips to any Northwest destination. Your reward is a free ticket anywhere Northwest flies in North America. The numbers just don't add up, however. One example: buying two full-fare coach roundtrips between Detroit and Minneapolis will cost you a whopping $1,864. Now assume the free ticket you claim is a seat to Fort Lauderdale. If you plan ahead, you can buy two DTW-MSP roundtrips for $398 and a DTW-FLL roundtrip for $232. That's a total of just $630.

CYBERTRAVELER: Safety in Cyberspace
Even if we don't admit it, we're all concerned with aviation safety, so point your browser to ( Besides the grisly details--there are lists of the last 10 fatal accidents in the United States and the last 33 in the world--the site offers practical personal safety tips, excellent answers to FAQs, good commentary and even a rundown of fatal events by aircraft model. There's no light reading at, just facts that may save your life--or at least give you a better perspective on the life we live on the road.

Travel to and around the Pacific Rim continues to be depressed by the collapse of Asia's once-robust economies, so "pass" programs to encourage flying in the region continue to abound. For example, Cathay Pacific (800-617-9470) has announced the latest version of the "All Asia Pass," the plan that has been at the top of everyone's best-buy list for two years running. The 1999 edition isn't quite as lavish as previous models, but it remains a tremendous bargain. For $999, passholders get 21 days of roundtrip coach travel to Hong Kong (from New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco) and any of 15 other Asian cities. Passengers who book the pass via the Cathay website ( pay $999 and get 31 days of travel. The pass is valid during two long periods (January 15-May 7 and August 22-November 16) and permits transpacific departures on Mondays through Thursdays. There are a raft of customized options available for a reasonable surcharge, including business- and first-class upgrades. Meanwhile, the 1999 "AirPass" from Pleasant Hawaiian (800-2HAWAII) permits unlimited travel between Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and Maui. Priced at $1,299, the plan relies on scheduled service provided by American Trans Air. The restrictions: limited seat availability on weekend and summer flights and blackouts during seven major holiday periods. Passholders get priority standby status during the blackout dates.

One of the fault lines of frequent flying is photography. Some business travelers, fearing they'd be marked as tourists, wouldn't be caught dead with a camera. Other business travelers can't resist throwing their equipment in a carry-on bag and snapping everything from planes on the tarmac to the passing scene in the hotel lobby. If you fall on the take-the-gear side of the photo fault line, call Magellan's (800-962-4943) and get a free copy of Magellan's Passport to Travel Photography. The 16-page guide does a terrific job of walking you through the basics and even has well-conceived sections such as "Escaping the Postcard View." There's even a tretise on making great travel videos. The brochure is put together with the same care and passion Magellan's use to assemble its invaluable catalog of essential travel gear and gadgets.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Off-Season Offering
The Renaissance Rendezvous promotion at Renaissance Hotels and Resorts (800-HOTELS-1) cuts the nightly rates at the chain's U.S. and Canadian properties through February 14. Sample prices: $79 at the Renaissance Nashville or the Waverly in Atlanta; $105 at the Mayflower in Washington; and $119 at the Renaissance Chicago. The rates are available at most hotels on Thursdays through Sundays and seven days a week at some properties.

This column originally appeared at

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