The column that gives the global picture

Destination of the week: America's East Coast, in comfort

As the flight advertisements in this edition make clear, it is a buyer's market for transatlantic travel at present. The baseline London-New York return flight is widely available at below £200 for the next few months, with the exception of Easter. But what is less well-known is the range of cheap and comfortable seats on offer to the main US East Coast cities.

Both British Airways (0870 850 9 850, and Virgin Atlantic (0870 380 2007, offer an enhanced economy-class cabin - called World Traveller Plus by BA, Premium Economy on Virgin - with bigger seats, extra legroom and easier check-in.

There is little to choose between the two in terms of quality (though Virgin's inflight entertainment system is superior) and virtually nothing between them in price. For the early part of this year, both airlines are selling flights from London Heathrow to New York JFK for £548 return, and to Boston or Washington for £567.

Fares in enhanced economy to West Coast destinations are at least twice as high, reflecting the premium that passengers will pay on especially long flights: Los Angeles is typically 11 hours from London, compared with a flying time of seven hours to New York.

If you prefer real business class, you can fly on Air India to both New York and Chicago for £1,149 return through discount agents such as Quest Travel (0870 444 5552,

Warning of the week: strikes around Europe

Travelling to Italy and France in the next few days could be tricky. On Monday, employees of Italy's national airline, Alitalia, plan to strike. The airline says some flights will be cancelled or rescheduled.

By Tuesday, it is the turn of Italy's air-traffic controllers. The Foreign Office reports that they intend to walk out between 11am and 3pm, GMT. This could disrupt flights, with cancellations possible on Alitalia, British Airways and Ryanair, the main airlines flying between the UK and Italy - though the airlines yesterday said they had not been told of any action. If it goes ahead, flight schedules to other destinations in Europe will be affected by the controllers' action if aircraft and crews are delayed or out of position as a result.

Even if you get to Italy, the Foreign Office warns of the "risk of unannounced wildcat strikes by municipal transport workers in cities across Italy".

In France, the Foreign Office warns of a possible 24-hour strike by ferry workers at Calais from 7.30pm on Monday. And employees of the national railway, SNCF, plan to strike for 36 hours from 8pm on Tuesday to 8am on Thursday.

Not all the railway unions are in favour of a strike, so a skeleton service is likely to remain in operation. Eurostar services from London Waterloo to Paris and Lille are unlikely to be affected by the dispute.