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June 12, 1999

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The Mediterranean on Sale

Remember how Americans stopped traveling in í91 when the Gulf War hit? Itís happening again, though to a lesser extent because the conflict in Yugoslavia scared tourists away from countries such as Greece and Italy. Which means bargains for travelers who realize thereís little reason not to cruise the Greek Isles or drop in on Istanbul or the southern coast of Turkey.

Bookings are down, and so are prices. Crystal Cruises (www.cruisecrystal.com) says itís offering savings of more than 60 percent on September sailings to the French and Italian Riviera, Greek Isles, Spain, and Malta. A major tour operator called American Tourist (www.americantourist.com) says its two-week tour of Turkey including hotels, guides, and many meals works out to $200 per day, per couple. And that includes airfare! The point isnít which tour company or cruise line you shop; itís that now is the time to shop. Like Asia after the currency crisis hit almost two years ago, a whole part of the world is on sale. Call a travel agent or check the travel sections of major newspapers for offers. Consider mainly Greece, Turkey, the eastern coast of Italy, and Eastern European countries including Hungary and the Czech Republic. Go. Enjoy. And save.

The Mediterranean on sale--that's my Deal of the Week.

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The State of Aviation

It's been busy on the airline labor front. Luckily, Northwest seems to have avoided a strike. This week, it announced a tentative agreement with 11,000 flight attendants. And TWA employees extended their contract vote deadline. But TWA flights could be disrupted right on the Fourth of July weekend. You can act now to keep from getting slowed down though, by contacting your travel agent to determine what other airlines fly TWA routes. And the airlines post press releases on their Web sites, so you can check there to keep up on negotiations. I asked Steve Lott, Business Editor of Aviation Daily what else savvy travelers can do:

Lott: The other recommendation would be to look at a Web site of the newspaper where the airline is based. For example, TWA is based in St. Louis, so a consumer could look at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Web site because right now in St. Louis this is making front page news.

And since other airlines wont accept electronic tickets, you may want to convert that TWA e-ticket into the paper variety now. This will make it easier to switch to other carriers if TWA does strike, saving you time waiting in long lines for a paper ticket.

Summer Fare Wars
Just a week after raising fares, airlines began offering steep discounts for summer vacationers. United has dropped some domestic and international fares by as much as 25 percent, and the other big guys followed suit. This undercuts the 4 percent price hike they announced last week. Whats going on you ask? Seems the carriers added too many planes too quickly, leaving many seats empty despite strong bookings. Now to get the new discounts, you have to travel by the end of September and buy your tickets in the next week or so. Dates vary by airline.

Coffee Cleared for Take-off
That cup of coffee you grab before climbing on board? Mocha java has now been cleared for take-off. The FAA said Wednesday that passengers can keep their cups of coffee despite rules saying that carry-on items must be put away. It's all a trade-off; they balanced safety against your right to finish that $3.50 latte. And you can bet they're celebrating in Seattle.

The Early Bird Catches the Flight
Just make sure you and your coffee are on board ten minutes before the scheduled departure time. U.S. Airways announced this week it's now following the ten minute rule United Airlines started back in April, to try to improve on-time performance.

Drug Diplomacy
And here's proof the airlines treat everyone the same. Apparently looking for drugs, American Airlines searched the bags of Alberto Fujimori. In case the name doesnt ring a bell, he's the president of Peru. Mr. Fujimori took exception to the search on a flight to the U.S. and the airline apologized Thursday...but wait, theres more...Fujimori also complains he was bumped out of first class and flew with the rest of us rabble on a domestic flight last weekend.

Travel Advisory
by Cheryl Glaser

Air France Strike
Air France experienced a work stoppage this week. Flights from Paris' Orly airport, to points around France have been disrupted, but International flights and flights out of de Gaulle airport were not affected.

Cathay Airlines Strike Ends
More promising is the agreement reached at Cathay Airlines in Hong Kong. Hundreds of flights had been grounded, but this week, 24 hours before the company was going to fire all its pilots, Cathay struck a deal with them.


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