The California couple sat there half dozing in the sun like the experienced sun bathers they were. The only thing out of sync was that this was not California sunlight. It was London sun. Loads of it, in the merry, merry month of June.
The two Californians were ensconced on the deck of a Thames River excursion boat, soaking up the solar heat, obviously enjoying themselves as the boat went up and up through several canal locks that lifted us higher on the river. And the London houses, factories, and electric power plants began to give way to green fields, country estates, and bevies of birds, including blue herons, mallard ducks, Canada geese, and the Queen's swans.
After an hour and a half of conversational pleasantries with other passengers -- most of the talk about how great a place California is -- the husband volunteered sheepishly that actually this London sun was the first he had seen in about two months -- two months spent in California. No doubt he was exaggerating, just to make his point. But he added to his grudging admission this comment.
"Yeah, I'm staying out here in the sun so that later when someone asks me where I got this beautiful tan, even on my bald pate, I can say nonchalantly, 'Oh, I acquired this tan in London.' That'll hold them for a while."
The California couple was part of a group of passengers, writers, travel agents, and others who had come to London from Boston on an inaugural flight of World Airways, whose theme these days in nursery rhyme meter is that: London fares are falling down, falling down, falling down. London fares are falling down, My fair traveler.
That, at least, is the thrust of World Airways' penetration of the transatlantic passenger market, which began this summar on a new Boston-London route. The DC-10 flights originate in Washington-Baltimore, come through Newark and on to Boston, with prior connections available from Honolulu, Oakland, or Los Angeles.
Beginning Sept. 15 the off-season fare, Boston to London, one way, will be $ 249.99 unrestricted economy; $208, standby; $399 first-class. Children from 2 to 16 years of age may travel Boston to London for $150 one way, with a limit of two children per full-fare passenger. West Coast fares to London will be, one way: $2364, unrestricted economy; $283, standby; $777, first class. Honolulu to London, one way, is $538, unrestricted economy; $883, first class; $444, standby.
While these fares do not undersell some competitors' fares, World Airways makes a point of these being "unrestricted tickets." A World Airways spokesman says:
"On many cut-rate tickets, you must sign up 10 to 15 days ahead, or you must put something down on a ticket 30 days in advance. Or, you must spend so many days at the destination, etc. We have no restrictions or policies of that sort to which the client must adhere."
Onward flights to other cities from London-Gatwick must be arranged with other airlines, however. But otherwise, World Airways levies no restrictions on the passenger. In the United States, one can link up with any other World special low fares coast to coast or to Hawaii.
The planes travel from Boston to London. or vice versa, every day. On Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, World's flights to London originate at Newark International Airport, serving the metropolitan New York area. On the remaining three days, the flights originate at Baltimore/Washington International Airport.Service from London to the East Coast airports will follow the same daily pattern with a stop in Boston en route
London-bound flights are already filling up, after only a month or so of flying on the Boston-London route. And World Airways marketing personnel are quite aware that Britons this year are leading the way in the tourist invasion of the United States. Of some 3 million Western Europeans expected to visit the United States this year, 1,250,000, or 30 percent, will be Britons, according to the British Tourist Authority.
It's simply a matter of the strength of the pound and other European currencies, against the soft dollar, making it cheaper to travel to, and in, the United States than ever before.