Seat 2B By Joe Brancatelli
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Brexit Bonanza: Why You Should Travel Now
June 30, 2016 -- Maybe the issue isn't how the Brexit will change international travel, but how travel has already influenced the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union.
I mention this because the Financial Times believes that David Cameron, the now-outgoing British prime minister, cooked up last Thursday's stay-or-go referendum in 2012 at a pizza joint in Chicago's O'Hare Airport. And despite skepticism and claims to the contrary, the Chicago Tribune concludes reliable witnesses contemporaneously spied Cameron chowing down at ORD before an American Airlines flight to London.
In other words, there are a million questions and precious few answers about Brexit, but we are once again reminded that very little good happens at O'Hare Airport. Now we can add globe-shaking, market-rattling political instability to O'Hare's perennially late flights, its interminable walks between terminals and its infuriating security queues.
But Brexit's impact on travel? No one knows. There are lots of guessers, of course. Plus plenty of instant experts on a matter that has never happened before. And, as you'd expect, familiar bobble-headed TV talkers adapting existing talking points for this post-vote world.
I refuse to tell you stuff I don't know. But here are five things I believe about Brexit and how travel might change because a British PM committed political malpractice while wolfing mediocre pizza between flights.
1. Visit Great Britain right now
But those numbers — representing an instant 10+ percent discount for U.S. travelers when they pay for things in pounds — are dry statistics. Let me offer a real-world example.
When I arrive at London's Heathrow Airport, usually around daybreak, I hop on the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station. (That costs 22 pounds with a modest advance purchase.) I then take the escalator into the lobby of the Hilton Paddington hotel. (It has rooms tonight, June 30, for 175 pounds). I check in, shower, shave, read my email, make a few calls and then take a nap. About 1 p.m., I walk across the street to a little curry house I favor and spend 20 pounds for lunch. That's a total of 217 pounds. In 2008, at $2 to the pound, that cost U.S. $434. Last Thursday, while the Brits voted on Brexit, it would have been about $323. At the current exchange rate, it costs about $293 — a savings of $30 from last week and more than $140 compared to 2008.
In other words, go to the United Kingdom right now, while the going is cheap. Whether you're squeezing in an extra holiday or an additional business trip, it's a fabulous time to work or play in Britain on the cheap.
2. Go to Europe this summer and fall
But you know what? Europe is empty and cheap now. It's empty because terrorists attacks in Paris, Brussels and, on Tuesday, at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, have frightened away skittish tourists. And it's cheap because the euro has slumped to $1.11 and that makes everything — lodging, dining, ground transportation, museum entrances — notably less expensive than in recent summers. Plus carriers plying transatlantic routes are frantically discounting to fill seats. Coach class flights are suddenly as low as $650 roundtrip on some routes and business class seats can be secured for as little as $1,600 roundtrip. However, prices are bouncing around erratically, so shop wisely. Try Google subsidiary ITA Software and choose the "see calendar of lowest fares" radio button. That'll display a day-by-day look at a month's worth of fares.
3. Some American cities will be cheaper
4. London will be less important
5. Brexit may never happen
My best advice: Wait until September 9. That's the day a Tory leader is announced. With Cameron's departure, the Conservative chief immediately becomes the prime minister. We'll then have a better sense of what could happen next: a new general election, a time frame for starting the two-year Brexit withdrawal clock called Article 50 or perhaps a let's-rethink-this-whole-thing compromise.Meanwhile, do yourself and the world a favor: Don't take a meeting with anyone suggesting you grab a pizza before a flight at O'Hare. Life on the road is tough enough already.
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