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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR FEBRUARY 22 TO FEBRUARY 28, 2001


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Several of your favorite hotels may have just changed names; Roots Air gears up for its launch in Canada; business centers open at two Florida airports; a new arrivals lounge opens at Heathrow; nonstop flights between the United States and Nigeria resume; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: You Can't Tell the Hotels Without a Scorecard
Hotels calls it "reflagging." Business travelers just call it annoying when a familiar property changes names. But here's your February scorecard on recent changes in the lodging lineup. Marriott has purchased the aging Hawaiian Regent and renamed it the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort. The twin-towered beachfront property was once one of Honolulu's best hotels and Marriott plans a multimillion dollar renovation. In Dallas, the 75-year-old property most recently known as the Paramount has been renamed the Hotel Lawrence. Old-timers will remember the 118-room property at the corner of Jackson and Houston streets was called the Lawrence until 1981, when it was renamed the Bradford. Canadian Pacific Hotels has purchased the all-suite Kea Lani on Maui for $250 million. The property will be reflagged as a Fairmont, CP's luxury brand name, in the spring. And then there is Pittsburgh's historic William Penn. It has been run as a Westin for years, but it became the Omni William Penn last week. Meanwhile, the Westin flag now flies over the Westin Convention Center, a property known until recently as the Doubletree.

ALTERNATE ITINERARY: Roots Air to Launch, CanJet Stalls
Canadian frequent flyers looking for alternatives to Air Canada's near-monopoly are getting mixed signals this week. The good news: Roots Air, the partnership between the trendy Canadian retailer and an established charter carrier, now says it will launch scheduled service on March 26. The airline is promising three daily flights between Calgary and Toronto configured with three classes of service. The carrier has already created a Web site that bears an uncanny resemblance to advertising for Roots clothing. The bad news: CanJet, based in Halifax, is deferring further expansion. "We are under attack from Air Canada" and its predatory pricing practices, claims Mark Winders, CanJet's chief operating officer. One example: on CanJet's Halifax-Ottawa route, Air Canada has introduced an unrestricted one-way fare of C$99. On flights from Halifax to St. John, where CanJet doesn't fly, Air Canada charges a minimum of C$359. This pricing disparity, Winders says, "is unprecedented in Canada. Not even against WestJet did Air Canada do anything like this."

CYBERTRAVELER: Following a Dream to Italy
The odds are probably against Rosario Rositani, but that isn't stopping him from trying to get Ciao International off the ground. The former flight attendant hopes to launch nonstop flights in September from New York's Kennedy Airport to both Naples and Pisa, Italy. For the details on Ciao's embryonic plans and Rositani's dream, surf to the airline's unprepossessing Web site. Ciao may never fly, but you have to admire the passion and commitment that's going into the effort.

CONNECTIONS: The Airport Update
The Laptop Lane chain of airport business centers has opened two branches in Florida. One is located at Orlando International and the other is at Jacksonville International. Each Laptop Lane private cubicle is equipped with a personal computer, T-1 Internet access, a printer/fax machine and a multi-line phone. All-inclusive prices for cubicle rentals are $5 for the first five minutes and 65 cents for each additional minute. An arrivals lounge called The Island has opened at Terminal Three in London's Heathrow Airport. It features 29 shower suites, a dry cleaning and shoe-shine service, workstations, and snack and lounge areas. Admission is about $35 a passenger. The opening date of the new airport in Athens has been pushed back to March 28. The Greek government was hoping to open the facility at Spata on March 1, but airlines had agitated for delay.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Two Eastern European airlines--Malev of Hungary and Balkan Bulgarian--have been grounded for the last week due to labor strife and financial difficulties. If you just can't get enough Starbucks, check out most any Hyatt hotel in North America. The chain will serve Starbucks coffee at restaurants in its Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency restaurants, from room service and at Hyatt-branded lobby stores. After months of delay, South African Airways was scheduled to launch nonstop flights today (February 22) between New York/Kennedy and Lagos, Nigeria. The three weekly flights will be the first direct connection between the United States and the Nigerian capital in almost a decade. Marriott and Bulgari, the chi-chi Italian jewelry concern, say they will open a chain of super-deluxe hotels. The Bulgari brand name will be put on about a half-dozen newly built properties around the world during the next few years, Marriott says.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: The Wednesday Bargain From Miami
Lauda Air, soon to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Austrian Airlines, has one route in the United States: Miami to Munich, with onward travel to its Vienna home. It's also got a unique promotion: $329 roundtrip if you fly on Wednesdays between March 28 and May 30. Better yet, another $20 gets you connecting travel to Germany. For $399, you can fly Wednesdays to Italy, Spain or France. The catch: You've got to buy your tickets by March 15. For more information, call Lauda at 800-588-8399.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.