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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR MARCH 16, 2000


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: the US Airways negotiations go down to the wire; Virgin Atlantic raises the ante on airport lounges; the Promus brands join Hilton HHonors next month; the BBC won't be allowed to broadcast the Lockerbie trial; hot hotel deals in Hong Kong; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Down to the Wire at US Airways
US Airways and its disaffected flight attendants are scheduled to return to the bargaining table tomorrow, but insiders say a deal is unlikely before the March 25 deadline. If no agreement in the 3-year-old dispute is reached by that date, flight attendants are legally free to strike. They say they will initiate job actions on certain routes along the USAirways network and have posted their targets on a special website. But USAirways executives say they will shut the airline down on March 25 without a deal and have posted management's position at a dedicated portion of the airline's website. What happens if you have tickets to travel on USAirways, MetroJet, the USAirways Shuttle or USAirways Express or after March 25? The airline's policy on ticket refunds and exchanges is available at Terry Trippler's Airline News.

CYBERTRAVELER: Your Ideas for Luggage and Aircraft Design
Back in January, a product-design firm called Sundberg-Ferar asked travelers to comment on the state of luggage. Hundreds of you flooded the company with opinions and the survey results have now been posted at the Shape Tomorrow site. Not surprisingly, you found bags were too heavy, but not particularly durable; awkward to store at home and difficult to fit in overhead bins; and prone to wrinkling your clothes. Encouraged by the response to its luggage survey, Sundberg-Ferar is taking on travel again this month. You're offered the chance to complete a questionnaire about aircraft comfort. It solicits your opinions about the type of aircraft you fly most frequently and whether you find the planes comfortable. Sundberg-Ferar also asks about the "perfect" air-travel experience, which should give us all a chance to vent.

AIRPORT REPORT: Virgin Raises the Ante on Lounges
If you're lucky enough to fly overseas in a premium class, then you know that the airlines are fighting a ground war for your business. They are seducing you with extravagant new departure lounges, elaborate new arrivals facilities and all manner of other airport-based perks. But Virgin Atlantic's new "Revivals" arrivals lounge at Terminal Three in London's Heathrow Airport raises the ante in the lounge game. Designed to accommodate the airline's arriving business-class passengers, the 5,000-square-foot lounge cost $3 million to build and is a bright and cheery oasis in the otherwise dreary landscape at Terminal Three. The lounge houses 18 huge shower rooms, each with heated floors, CD/radio systems, and a full spread of personal-hygiene products. A cupboard integrated into each shower room permits arriving passengers to place clothes and shoes inside for speedy cleaning and pressing. The lounge also has a beauty salon offering shaves and make-up treatments; a business center equipped with phones, faxes and computers; and a gigantic dining room/bar area offering a wide range of cooked-to-order food and beverages.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Hilton HHonors frequent-stay program gets a big boost on April 3 when it expands to more than 2,000 hotels worldwide. That's the day the Promus hotel brands Hilton acquired last year--Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites--join the plan. Effective May 2, British Midland is launching flights from London/Heathrow to Rome, Milan and Madrid. At the same time, the airline will drop service to Warsaw and Prague. TWA finished first in on-time performance in January, according to figures released last week by the Department of Transportation. It is the sixth consecutive month, and ninth month in the last 12, that TWA has topped the industry on-time rating charts. Continental tried again last Friday to raise airfares. It increased prices by as much as $40 roundtrip across the board. Although most other carriers matched, the increase was rescinded when Northwest failed to raise its fares. WestJet, the discount carrier based in Western Canada, has launched flights from Hamilton, Ontario. The airline is planning to make the industrial city near Toronto its hub in Eastern Canada. A Scottish court has rejected the British Broadcasting Corp.'s bid to televise the trial of two Libyans charged with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The trial is scheduled to begin May 3.

WEEKLY WONDER: Hot Deals in Hong Kong
Hong Kong's Excelsior Hotel, which is managed by the Mandarin Oriental group (800-526-6566), has renovated its executive floors and is offering rooms as low as US$195 a night until May 31. The rate includes access to the hotel's Executive Lounge; complimentary breakfast, snack and cocktail services; pressing of a suit or dress; and discounts at the hotel's restaurants. And over at the swank and serene Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong (800-241-3333), the "Springtime Warm Welcome" rate of US$220 a night is in effective until June 1. The price includes deluxe accommodations, buffet breakfast and in-room tea and fruit.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.