It may be the ultimate party. An estimated 2 billion people worldwide plan to welcome the new millennium with a celebration. Many of them will be traveling to a destination to ring in the new year, says Joe Galloway, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). In fact, British Airways has had a quarter million requests for seats on New Year’s Eve Concorde flights. But the Concorde, like many other travel services, has been booked for some time. “The popular destinations are going to be impossible to book now and travelers should expect to spend more than normal. Hotels and airfares during this holiday period typically cost twice more than usual, especially at resort destinations. Because of the millennium, prices should be even higher,” says Galloway. “But you can avoid the travel crunch.”
The key is in the creativity. Instead of a popular Disney World hotel property, stay at a nearby one. The Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin (800-227-1500) has availability. Also, think about a bed and breakfast, which could be considerably less. Several black-owned B&Bs, such as Twin Oaks Inn (508-693-8633) on Martha’s Vineyard and New Orleans’ La Maison (504-522-1785), still have rooms. And some black travel agents offer Afrocentric millennium tours. Henderson Travel (800-327-2309) books West African tours; MindArtz (212-725-2019) offers an “Afro-Brazil” tour; and Rodgers Travel (800-825-1775) features ventures to Senegal and Israel.
In any event, use the same travel sense during the millennium as you would any other time of year. Find out if a travel agency has had complaints against it through the local better Business Bureau and check ASTA membership by calling 703-739-2782.
Airlines join forces
In February, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Canadian Airlines and Qantas formed Oneworld, an alliance that connects routes and ties frequent flier programs. Iberia and Finnair have since joined but have not yet implemented their program. Under the Oneworld alliance, routes and schedules of the member airlines now complement one another. Also, since frequent flier programs are limited, travelers can redeem miles earned on any of the carriers. According to American Airlines spokesperson Mark Flitt, the alliance makes for “smoother transfers between Oneworld member airlines, more destination choices to redeem frequent flier miles and provides more access to [airline airport] lounges.”
According to Hal Salfen, the International Passengers Association consumer affairs spokesperson, “For business travelers the alliance is helpful because there are more flight choices, miles add up faster and they earn free tickets quicker.” But, notes Salfen, for the infrequent flier the changes can be confusing. “You may book on one airline and fly another. We had a report from a flier going to Europe recently who failed to board because it wasn’t the carrier he booked. There was no indication to travelers that this was the same flight but on a partner carrier.” When booking ask what carrier you’ll fly. If you’re making a connection, check if the next leg is on a partner airline. “You may not know if you don’t ask,” says Salfen.