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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR FEBRUARY 26 TO MARCH 11, 2004


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: American offers free upgrades to super-elite flyers; America West expands night service at its Las Vegas hub; airport clubs add Wi-Fi; Hawaii gets more mainland flights--and fewer Starwood hotels; Cendant combines all its hotel frequent-travel programs into a single plan; Northwest closes its U.S. city ticket offices; and much more.

MILES & POINTS: American Enhances Its Upgrade Policy
Effective March 18, Executive Platinum level members of the American AAdvantage program will receive free upgrades on flights within and between the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Bermuda and Central America. Executive Platinum members can request the upgrades when they make reservations at any published fare. American says it will confirm the capacity-controlled upgrades beginning 100 hours before departure. At the same time, American says it has reduced the price of its 500-mile upgrades. Beginning March 18, the upgrades will cost $25-$30 per 500 miles. All AAdvantage members continue to receive free upgrades when traveling on Y or B fares. ... Cendant has combined the frequent-guest programs of its disparate hotel brands--including Super 8, Days Inn, Ramada, Howard Johnson and Wingate Inn--into the a single plan called TripRewards. The program has also launched its own Web site. ... Here's an absolutely miserable idea: Delta SkyMiles is now selling gift cards. A 1,000-mile gift card costs $54.56, which means that you're paying an astonishing 5.4 cents a mile.

AIRPORT REPORT: New Clubs and New Services
Wi-Fi is becoming a must-have amenity at airport clubs. British Airways says it will install wireless Internet access at 80 of its clubs worldwide. The BA clubs at New York/Kennedy, San Francisco, London/Heathrow and London/Gatwick will be wired by April. Meanwhile, US Airways will install T-Mobile HotSpots at US Airways Clubs. The San Francisco and Washington/National clubs will be ready this month. ... Virgin Atlantic, which recently moved to Terminal Four at New York/Kennedy, has now opened a 7,000-square-foot Virgin Clubhouse there. The club features a waterfall and a 90-foot reflecting pool. ... American Airlines has completed the consolidation at its downsized hub at St. Louis. All American flights and American Eagle regional-jet flights now depart from C Concourse. AmericanConnection turboprop flights depart from B Concourse. ... The airport in Lima, Peru, continues to be upgraded. All international flights are now operating from a temporary terminal; domestic flights have been using a temporary facility since last summer.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: The Other Guys Keep Growing
America West, which has revived its fortune with a simplified coach fare structure and a new collection of advance-purchase first-class fares, is also expanding its hub at Las Vegas. Effective Monday, it will add night flights to Austin, San Antonio and El Paso, Texas; Cleveland; and Edmonton and Vancouver, Canada. The Cleveland flights will be operated with Airbus A319 jets. The other routes will be flown with 80-seat regional jets that offer six first-class and 74 coach seats. ... On March 3, JetBlue Airways launches a daily flight between New York/Kennedy and Sacramento, California. It is the first nonstop ever between those two cities. ... Southwest Airlines continues to build its service in St. Louis. Beginning March 7, it adds daily flights to Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale.

COCONUT WIRELESS: More Flights--and Less Starwood--in Hawaii
Starwood Hotels is a big player on the Hawaii lodging scene, but it has just been booted off two of the state's islands. On Molokai, the Kaupoa Beach Village and the Molokai Lodge have shed Starwood's Sheraton flag. Both are now independently managed. Separately, the Manele Bay Hotel and the Lodge at Koele, the two luxury resorts on Lanai, are splitting with Starwood. Both properties will leave the Luxury Collection and become Four Seasons hotels. ... United Airlines will resume nonstop service between its Chicago/O'Hare hub and Honolulu. The daily flight resumes June 3 using Boeing 777s configured with 36 first-class seats and 312 coach seats. ... ATA Airlines last week launched a daily flight between Seattle and Honolulu.

CYBERTRAVELER: Another Wi-Fi Finder
High-speed access on the road is increasingly crucial for business travelers, but finding out where you can connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot continues to be problematic. There are already dozens of so-called Wi-Fi Finders available on the Web, but few are comprehensive and none are authoritative. But a site called JiWire.com at least adds another good option to the mix. It claims to list more than 28,000 hotspots around the world.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Northwest Airlines says it will close all of its U.S. city ticket offices by the end of next month. ... US Airlines and Delta Air Lines now offer interlining capacity for electronic tickets. ... Brazil has made permanent its practice of photographing and fingerprinting U.S. citizens entering the country. The policy is in retaliation for a similar restriction placed on Brazilians entering the United States. ... Speaking of entry requirements, Barbados now requires U.S. and Canadian passengers to produce a passport when entering the country. ... Doubletree Hotels says it will offer high-speed Internet access in every guestroom and meeting room by the end of the year. ... The curse of the regional-jet continues. United Express has launched two new routes from Austin using 64-seat RJs. The flights connect Austin with San Francisco and Washington/Dulles. The Austin-San Francisco segment is 1,499 miles long. ... And here's a creepy note: There's now an InterContinental hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. The property is on the site of the old Hotel Diplomat, the place where extremists met more than a decade ago to plot the massacre of ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutu during Rwanda's civil war.

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

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