The Tactical Traveler



This week: Prices plummet in the Caribbean off-season; beating the airlines in court; guessing at business-travel costs in 2000; a first-class fare sale from National Airlines; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Prices Plummet in the Caribbean
October 1 marks the start of the last big discount period of the year for travel to the Caribbean. With the summer vacation rush over and the "high season" for winter travel not due to begin until the Christmas/Passover holidays, Caribbean hotels, resorts and travel packagers are slashing rates to induce you to travel now. What kind of discounts should you expect? At least 30 percent, and often as much as 50 percent, off the high-season rates at hotels and resorts around the region. The hurricanes that blew threw several of the islands earlier this month also has hoteliers motivated to deal. Be sure to bargain hard: Caribbean resorts had a relatively slow summer season and many are desperate for some off-season business. Best of all, there'll be new air service coming to the region on November 1. TWA is mounting a modest challenge to American Airlines, the 800-pound gorilla of Caribbean flying. TWA is adding 12 daily flights into San Juan, which it named a "focus" city. Among the additional flights is new service to the Puerto Rican capital from Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Santo Domingo and Aruba. TWA has also cut a code-share deal with Gulfstream to provide commuter flights to other Caribbean destinations. Roundtrip introductory fares on the new flights are as low $178 (to San Juan) and $228 (to Santo Domingo).

CYBERTRAVELER: Beating a Carrier in Court
Durant Imboden, who produces's "Europe for Visitors" section, had a horrid experience with Northwest and KLM on flights to Venice earlier this year. The carriers involuntarily bumped him and his family and refused to give him his legally-mandated compensation. Imboden sued in small-claims court--and won! Read about his experience--and how a Northwest paralegal tried to use essentially phony documents as "evidence" against him--in a fascinating and well-written report appropriately titled "Suing Northwest Airlines"

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Guessing At Business-Travel Costs in 2000

American Express and Runzheimer International, the two firms that most closely track business-travel prices, are out with their guesses on what it's going to cost us to travel next year. The news is comparatively good--but only if you think being gouged slightly less than this year is a positive sign. American Express says typical business airfares in 2000 will rise 2-3 percent; Runzheimer sees a 3 percent bump. Both firms believe the anticipated growth of seat capacity next year and renewed efforts by corporations to slash their air costs will keep fare rises around the nation's general inflation rate. On the lodging front, Runzheimer predicts a 5 percent rise; American Express sees a 5-7 percent increase. Runzheimer says companies are encouraging more one-day trips to eliminate hotel stays entirely. Amex says downtown business hotel rates will continue soar, but will be "offset by a new crop of mid-priced, full-service hotels in secondary and tertiary markets." In the car-rental arena, Runzheimer sees costs rising 5 percent in 2000; Amex sees a 2-3 percent increase. In its meal and entertainment category, American Express is predicting a 2-3 percent increase. Runzheimer sees a more hefty 5 percent price bump in the cost of meals next year.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The current round of domestic fare sales for fall travel is scheduled to end October 1. Expect another sale to be announced as early as next week. Meanwhile, there's a mini fare war in Asia. One sample: Japan Airlines is selling Los Angeles-Taipei for $528 roundtrip and Boston-Seoul for $858. Buy by October 5 for these and similar fares. There's very little room at the inn during October in the nation's leading cities. New York, Chicago, Las Vegas and Philadelphia are essentially sold out all month and many other leading business cities are above 75 percent average nightly occupancy. British Airways launched a loyalty program, "Venture Club," targeted at small- and medium-sized businesses. More details are available at the Venture Club site. Air Europe, a Swiss-backed Italian carrier, has posted roundtrip fares below $400 for flights on its New York-Pisa-Venice route.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: First-Class Fare Sale
National Airlines (888-757-JETS), the start-up carrier backed by Las Vegas casinos, has slashed the price of flying first class to the gaming and convention capital. Sample fares: first-class seats from Chicago or Dallas/Fort Worth are now $369 one-day and $449 from Philadelphia. But hurry: fares must be purchased by October 8. Other restrictions: a seven-day advance purchase and all travel must be complete by December 23.

This column originally appeared at

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