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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR SEPTEMBER 4 TO SEPTEMBER 11, 2003


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Major changes at airports around the world; Hampton Inn opens in Manhattan; United offers full-fare upgrades to Mileage Plus elite flyers; Hilton HHonors and Priority Club kick off the fall promotion season; Midwest Express exits the city it was created to serve; the dollar is on a rampage against the euro; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: They've Been Working on the Airports
Just in time for the seasonal uptick in business travel, major changes are appearing at airports around the world. Two airports, for example, have switched to centralized car-rental plans. At Bush International in Houston, the Consolidated Rental Car Facility has opened, replacing the separate facilities formerly operated by nine on-airport rental firms. The $135 million facility is located on Kennedy Boulevard, about eight minutes from the terminal areas. One common shuttle-bus system will serve the facility. Oakland has opened a temporary consolidated facility, too. That's bad news, however. On-site rental firms had been operating just across the street from Oakland's terminals. Now the common-shuttle bus ride to the centralized lot will take up to 15 minutes. ... Philadelphia will finally open its new ticketing area for Terminal A-West on September 15. The facility will be used primarily by US Airways for international flights. ... And in Zurich, the new $245 million Dock E Terminal Building has opened. It is connected to existing facilities by an underground train.

IN THE LOBBY: Hampton Inn Arrives in Manhattan
Consider it a coming-of-age kind of thing: Hampton Inn has opened its first hotel in Manhattan. The limited-service chain's Manhattan premier is in a new, 19-story building in the mostly residential Chelsea neighborhood. The 144-room property offers high-speed Internet access in all guestrooms. Opening rates are $149 a night. Hersha Hotels, the hotel's management company, plans to open two other Hampton Inn hotels in Manhattan. ... A 364-room Westin has opened in Kuala Lumpur on the Jalan Bukit Bintang in the Malaysian capital's primary business and shopping district. ... Doubletree has added two airport properties via the conversion route. It has reflagged the 160-room former Richmond Airport Hilton in Richmond, Virginia, and it has put its name on the 433-room International Plaza Hotel at Toronto Airport.

MILES & POINTS: United Offers Full-Fare Upgrades to Elite Flyers
More than three years after the operational meltdown of 2000 began infuriating its most frequent flyers, United Airlines is finally taking a baby step to win back loyalty. Mileage Plus elite travelers who purchase full-fare coach electronic tickets now qualify for an upgrade to first or business class on flights within the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America. 1K elites can reserve upgrades 100 hours before departure; Premier Executive travelers can reserve 72 hours in advance; and Premier Mileage Plus members can reserve available seats 48 hours before flight time. ... Hilton HHonors and Priority Club are the first hotel programs to announce their fall promotions. Until December 31, HHonors members can choose to earn a 50 percent points bonus instead of a mileage bonus. Travelers who register will receive 15 points per dollar spent instead of 10 points and 500 miles. Meanwhile, Priority Club is offering double points on the second and all subsequent stays at participating hotels between September 8 and December 12. Expect the other major chains to launch their fall promotions on or about September 15. ... Continental is out of Hilton's Reward Exchange program. That means OnePass members cannot exchange miles for Hilton HHonors points. ... Quikbook.com, the best of the hotel consolidators, is offering $15 L.L. Bean gift certificates for every three stays completed by December 31. Quikbook customers must enroll to qualify. ... Marriott and Choice brand hotels have joined the America West Flight Fund program.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines (aka Midwest Express) is dropping flights from its Milwaukee hub to three cities on Sunday: Madison and Appleton, Wisconsin, and Raleigh-Durham. The Wisconsin flights will be replaced by Skywest commuter service and the RDU service is gone entirely. The irony here: Midwest Express was launched in 1984 by Kimberly-Clark specifically to fly its travelers from Appleton to Milwaukee and points beyond. ... The long-delayed code-share deal between American Airlines and British Airways is slated to begin on September 17. AA will put its code on many BA flights beyond London. BA will add its code to many domestic AA flights. The two carriers cannot code-share on each other's flights to London, however. ... The judge handling the Midway Airlines bankruptcy case says he may liquidate the carrier because it won't be able to emerge from bankruptcy on October 29. As you'll recall, Midway folded immediately after 9/11, then revived itself specifically to collect its share of the first taxpayer-funded bailout. It then folded again, abandoned its Raleigh hub and has recently been trying to operate as a US Airways Express commuter carrier.

DOLLAR WATCH: Not Almighty, But Stronger Against the Euro
The once-Almighty, lately Humbled Dollar took a little hit against the Euro on Thursday: The euro closed at $1.09, up about a penny from its Wednesday close. But the one-day setback ran against the summer trend: After an 18-month plummet that nudged the euro near the $1.20 mark earlier this year, the dollar has been on a three-month rampage. In fact, some wags think the dollar will drive the euro down to the $1.05 level by the end of September. That's good news for Americans headed to the continent, where the weak dollar has played havoc with the T&E budgets of business travelers and vacation patterns of holiday travelers. "We may never get back to the salad days of 2001 when the euro was worth just 85 or 90 cents," one currency trader told me over the weekend, "but I think the euro at $1.05 is something most travelers can live with. It means Europe isn't cheap, but it also means Europe isn't so expensive that you stay home."

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

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