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Where Are the Bargains?

.... Pacific Overtures

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Pacific Overtures
L.A. hotels are slashing rates to woo reluctant travelers west. Rooms at Shutters on the Beach (800-334-9000) start at $225 -- its lowest price since 1994. There are similar bargains at Hotel Casa Del Mar (800-898-6999; pictured), Hotel Oceana (800-777-0758), the Peninsula (800-462-7899), and the Loews Santa Monica (310-458-6700). fast track The current travel crisis has not affected plans to relaunch the Concorde. British Airways grounded its supersonic planes after the 2000 accident in Paris, but it plans to reintroduce daily New York-London service by early November (800-247-9297). rail life For obvious reasons, there's a buzz lately about the return of luxury train travel. American Orient Express is jumping onboard with a new $15 million train featuring mahogany-and-polished-brass cars, and a new seven-day Boston-Quebec route, debuting in 2002 (starting at $2,890; 800-320-4206).

Deal of the Week
The five-star Dorchester, one of many top London hotels seeking Americans right now, is offering 20 percent off a Superior Room -- plus daily breakfasts, one free dinner, and airport limos -- when you stay at least three nights and mention New York Magazine. Offer good through December; 800-727-9820.

Where Are the Bargains?
With the exception of a few small airlines like Southwest, America West, and National (whose "Get America Flying" sale offered cheap fares within days of the World Trade Center attack), airlines have maintained surprisingly stable ticket prices. Bargains can be found here and there -- mostly along the same routes flown by National and Southwest -- but the big price drops anticipated by intrepid travelers have not materialized. (A round-trip ticket to Paris in November, for example, is still more than $400.) "The airlines were initially focused on getting help from the government and looking elsewhere to cut costs," explains Travelocity spokesman Al Comeaux. Indeed, major carriers cut routes, eliminated meals, and laid off employees to improve their bottom lines -- everything but cut prices. Travel agents say price drops are around the corner, however. "We still expect to see considerable fare-reducing actions," says Comeaux. The question is, When?

Last Resorts
It might seem that everyone is canceling vacation plans, but some travelers are still booking trips for the coming months -- many of them to the Caribbean. "We have experienced an unexpected positive impact since September 11 on our primary destination, St. Barts," says Jan Gordon of wimco Villas & Hotels (800-932-3222; pictured, St. Barts). "People who had planned to travel abroad this fall are coming to the Caribbean instead." Peter Island Resort (800-346-4451) also reports a shift from overseas travel to the Caribbean. (It received 75 bookings in the two weeks following the tragedy.) Other Caribbean resorts, from Jamaica's Half Moon (800-626-0592) and Round Hill (800-972-2159) to Paradise Island's Ocean Club (800-321-3000) and Atlantis (888-528-7155), as well as Curtain Bluff on Antigua (212-289-9898), insist their Christmas bookings have been as high, if not higher, than normal.

Ultimate Platinum Card
Short of owning your own Gulfstream III or spending millions for a "fractional" share of one, there are not many ways to score your own private plane, though many security-conscious travelers have been fantasizing about one these days. New York-based Blue Star Jets (866-jet-time) has a solution, and the four-month-old company has seen a serious spike in its business since September 11. With as little as six hours' notice, customers anywhere in the world can select from a fleet of 1,400 different aircraft. For a flight to London, reserve Madonna's plane of choice, a Falcon 900; for a short hop to Martha's Vineyard, a less expensive turbo-prop will do. Well-heeled customers can pay by the hour (the average rate for a light jet is $1,650) or purchase the Blue Star version of a MetroCard, known as a Sky Card, in increments of $50,000 to $500,000 and deduct the cost of each flight from the balance.
SARAH BERNARD


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