The Tactical Traveler

FOR JULY 8, 1999


This week: The death of duty free; airline nostalgia Web sites; how we lose in the code-share shell game; Austin's new airport works--and it's got good barbecue; how safe will Y2K flights be; and more.

Duty-free shopping at Europe's major airports took a big hit last week when European Union nations officially eliminated tax-free commerce for EU citizens traveling between member countries. American and other non-European Union passengers will continue to be able to buy duty-free goods, but the upshot of the intra-EU ban will be higher prices for all. Stripped of European customers and much of their sales volume, most duty-free shops have sharply increased the price of cigarettes and liquor, the two dominant categories of duty-free sales. Many duty-free retailers are trying to hold the line on other items they sell, but their price advantage over standard retail channels has narrowed dramatically.

CYBERTRAVELER: Thanks for the Memories
Two sites found while surfing idly are worth visiting when you get nostalgic for aviation's "good old days." focuses on the DC-3, one of the most-loved passenger planes of the post-war era. There's also an aviation "art gallery" and a "shrine to aviation." If all that is too much treacle for you, hurry on over to, the virtual museum of, well, barf bags. What seems like hundreds of current and vintage bags (displayed for their design and graphics) are scattered throughout the pages. The site is maintained by Steven J. Silverberg, a collector who's intent on owning every type of barf bag ever slipped into a seat back pocket.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Truth About Code-Sharing in a Nutshell
The next time you wonder if all the airline alliances and code-share deals are anti-competitive and bad for consumers, consider this one event. Austrian Airlines launches flights between Atlanta and Vienna on October 1. Normally, that would be good news, since it would mean that Austrian would be competing with Delta Air Lines, which already flies the Atlanta-Vienna run. But since Austrian and Delta are code-share partners and wouldn't think of competing with each other, Delta is dropping its Atlanta-Vienna flights. Effective October 1, Delta will then code-share with Austrian. In a nutshell, that means two airlines have turned a competitive situation into a monopoly thanks to a code-share dodge. It's win-win for the two carriers and lose-lose for business travelers.

MILLENNIUM MADNESS: Staying Home on New Year's
Business travelers tend not to travel much between mid-December and early January, but at least a half-dozen companies have made it official. Concerned about the possible effect of the Y2K bug on airlines and airports, these firms have officially banned business trips from just after Christmas until about a week into the year 2000. "It just isn't worth the risk and trouble," one corporate travel manager told me. "Besides, the amount of travel our people do during the holidays is minuscule. So why not just ask them to defer the trips. This way we know they're safe and we also duck any potential liability issues, too."

AIRPORT REPORT: Austin's New Old Airport--With BBQ
Bergstrom Air Force Base, now retrofitted for commercial use, is up and running in Austin, replacing aging Robert Mueller Municipal. The facility is far from complete--some contractors are running at least six weeks late--but initial reviews have been positive. "It promises to be a great place," says Marc-David Seidel, a local who created the Airlines of the Web site. After using Bergstrom shortly after it opened on May 22, Seidel said he thought it "seems to have enough parking for everyone," a significant change from the crowded conditions at Mueller. "There also are some very good restaurant options," added Seidel. "The famous local barbecue, The Salt Lick, is right there."

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News Worth Noting
British Midland and American Airlines have ended their code-sharing arrangement. Watch for BM to jump to the Star Alliance, one of whose partners, SAS, owns 40 percent of the British carrier. Mexicana also announced it would join Star, which includes United, Lufthansa, and Air Canada. Speaking of Air Canada, the carrier is facing another strike this week. This time, it's the flight attendants. Air Canada suffered a 13-day pilot's strike last September. Two of the world's most poorly managed carriers--Olympic Airlines of Greece and Philippine Airlines--are calling in the pros. A division of Lufthansa will take over management of PAL, while a subsidiary of British Airways will control operations at the Greek carrier. Olympic employees promptly began striking to protest the move. And speaking of strikes, watch for chaos in Italy during the next few weeks. Alitalia flight attendants and pilots canceled strikes on Monday, but other labor troubles loom at Italy's leading carrier. Meanwhile, Merediana, which flies shorter-haul routes, has canceled scores of intra-Italy flights due to a pilot's sickout.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Cutting Lines in Italy
The slump in travel to Europe this summer has not affected Italy, where Americans, Aussies, Brits, Germans and Japanese continue to visit en masse. The result is long, long lines at Italy's museums. One way to avoid the wait is to pick up a museum pass from Select Italy (847-853-1661). The company offers a dozen separate plans. The most inclusive, the Select Italy Museum Pass, costs US$79 and includes advance reservations for Rome's Galleria Borghese and Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia, and 14 historic churches in Venice. Other pass products range from US$10-US$39.

This column originally appeared at

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