THE COLUMN THAT GIVES THE GLOBAL PICTURE
Bargain of the week: anywhere Swissair flies
You might remember Swissair; it used to be the Swiss national airline. After its difficulties the week before last, the carrier has launched an offer called "Now or Never", which offers a flat-fare deal in what appears to be a desperate effort to fill seats during the last three weeks of the airline's existence in its present form; from Sunday 28 October, Swissair becomes a different entity. There is no truth in the suggestion that you "pay now and fly never".
For return flights completed before that date, departing from Switzerland, you pay a flat SFr300 (£126) plus tax within Europe. Two catches: you must book by telephone on 00 41 848 800 700, and buy the ticket at the airport with cash; this removes the refund rights you would have when paying by credit card.
To long-haul destinations, a better deal is the £285 fare from London via Zurich as far as Beijing, Buenos Aires or Johannesburg, through a discount agency such as Bridge The World (020-7911 0900). Possibly even better value is the business-class deal, a flat £825 return to worldwide destinations.
Other airlines have been tardy in offering the kind of deals that are likely to fill aircraft, but Iberia (0845 601 2854, www.iberia.com) is offering sub-£100 deals for travel from Heathrow. Best of the bunch, because there is no low-cost competition, is Valencia at £95; Palma de Mallorca goes for the same fare. Madrid and Barcelona are £92 each; Bilbao is £94.
Air France (0845 0845 111, www.airfrance.com) has interesting fares from provincial airports: Glasgow to Nice for £180, Manchester to Lyon for £137, and Southampton to Madrid for £160.
Warning of the week: Foreign Office alerts worldwide
The Travel Advice Unit of the Foreign Office says you should avoid Afghanistan, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Macedonia, Pakistan, Somalia, Tajikistan and Yemen entirely; steer clear of all of Indonesia, with the sole exception of the island of Bali.
In neighbouring Malaysia, you are advised not to visit the islands off Sabah. The north and east of Sri Lanka is off-limits, as is the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Israel's border areas. But looking west, says the FO, "There is no indication at this time of any increased risk to travellers in Florida."
Destination of the week: Lisbon, but beware
In the contest for the southernmost capital in Europe, Athens narrowly beats Lisbon. But for anyone in search of some autumn warmth and culture, the Portuguese capital is cheaper and easier to reach.
TAP Air Portugal is packaging its flights to Lisbon together with two nights bed-and-breakfast accommodation in a four-star hotel in the city at very low prices: from Gatwick, £159; from Heathrow, £179, with a weekend supplement of £15. These are per person, based on two sharing.
The packages are sold through the airline's tour-operating subsidiary, Caravela (020-7630 9223, www.caravela.co.uk), which means passengers are covered in the event of an airline failure.
The deal is available for travel from 1 November until 15 December, but you may wish to avoid the weekend of 2-5 November, when the Association of British Travel Agents' annual convention is to take place in Lisbon. About 1,500 delegates will be in town, and past experience suggests that not all will be sober throughout the event.