The Tactical Traveler

FOR JULY 22, 1999


This week: The airlines blame everyone but themselves for delays; the after-effects of war in Europe are big discounts; corporate jets to replace the Big Seven; New York discounts on Sunday--and Saturday; and more.

AIRPORT REPORT: Delays? The Airlines Blame Everyone But Themselves
The mainstream media focused on the relatively insignificant increase in bumping that was revealed two weeks ago by the Transportation Department's Air Travel Consumer Report for May. The real news: complaints about airline service more than doubled in May compared to the number of complaints registered by passengers in May, 1998. This May's total was the highest number of complaints in almost 11 years.And how did the airlines react to the news that passengers are furious with their service? They shifted the blame. Several airline executives, including new United Airlines chairman James Goodwin, now claim the Federal Aviation Administration is to blame for on-time delays. The carriers' specious logic: the government's air-traffic-control system isn't keeping pace with the absurd number of new flights the carriers are shoehorning into their schedules. One example of the airlines' lunacy: Continental Airlines, which already flies five times daily between Cleveland and Boston, is adding three more roundtrips in September. Cleveland and Boston already are among the airports with the nation's worst on-time performance.

The after-effects of the war in Kosovo and the continuing weakness of the Euro against the U.S. dollar has generating unprecedented values for late summer and early fall travel to Europe. If you're expecting to travel to the continent any time soon, be sure to ask about any last-minute promotions or discounts being offered. Among the deals on tap: Alitalia has knocked 30 percent off the price of tickers for its Magnifica business class until August 31. Finnair is offering $399 roundtrip weekend fares between New York and Copenhagen, Helsinki or Stockholm. Effective September 16, you may leave on a Thursday or Friday and return on the following Monday. Swissair launches service between Miami and Zurich on September 15. The introductory fare: $305 roundtrip for tickets purchased by August 15. The Summer Nights promotion from Hilton hotels knocks as much as 60 percent off the rates of 50 properties in 37 European cities. Car-rental discounts, bonus miles and a camera promotion is also part of the deal, which is valid through September 15. AutoEurope has slashed 20 percent off the price of a Mercedes rental in Europe. Reservations must be made by August 31, but travel is allowed through December 31. Rentals include unlimited mileage, VAT, and a cell phone.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Fly Your Own to Beat the Big Seven
While the Big Seven airlines continue to raise fares and cut amenities for business travelers, fed-up frequent flyers are rushing to embrace the concept of "fractional ownership." That's the fancy new name for chartering private jets. The allure of private aircraft is obvious, of course. They're more comfortable and you needn't cope with the madding crowds at commercial-jet gates to reach your flight. Private planes usually depart and arrive from smaller, less congested airports that are closer to your business. And, of course, private jets travel on your schedule, without annoying plane changes in congested hub cities. Best of all, a fractional ownership plan--where companies and individuals buy blocks of flight time on planes maintained and flown by leasing firms--makes the whole process affordable. For many companies, in fact, flying executives in private planes is now cheaper than buying them seats on commercial flights. Fractional ownership--some wags call them "time shares in the sky"--is growing rapidly. If fractional ownership sounds appealing, you might want to check out the offerings of Flexjet (800-590-JETS), Raytheon Travel Air (888-TA-GO-FLY) or Executive Jet (800-821-2299).

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The third anniversary of the TWA 800 incident passed quietly last week. The National Transportation Safety Board, which allowed its investigation to be influenced by unprecedented FBI interference, has yet to issue its final report. Need to use an office or a conference room on the road? Short-term rentals of a day or a half-day was once an impossible dream. But Regus has launched Touchdown, a membership program targeted at frequent travelers who need a place to perch on the road. For about $75 a year--a fraction of the cost of a airport-club membership--Touchdown members can reserve fully equipped private offices and/or conference rooms at more than 200 locations in 41 countries. Rental fees vary, but, even in high-priced New York, a one-day office rental at the Regus facility on Park Avenue costs only $150. A one-day rental in Atlanta is $90. For more information on Touchdown, call 800-747-4934 or surf to

WEEKLY WONDER: New York on Sunday--and Saturday
If you've always wanted to be a tourist in the Big Apple, try the New York Explorer weekend package at the Michelangelo Hotel (800-237-0990) in Times Square. You get accommodations for two; Italian breakfast (the property is operated by Italy's Starhotels group); free parking (which costs about $45 in Times Square); the CityPass, which is valid for free admission to major New York museums and attractions; lunch cruises on the Hudson and East Rivers; the NBC studio tour, and a pair of T-shirts. Until Labor Day, the package is priced at $355 per night.

This column originally appeared at

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