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 The Tactical Traveler

joe JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL
BRIEFING FOR SEPTEMBER 29 - OCTOBER 13, 2005


Merged Carriers Without a Merged Frequent-Flyer Plan
US Airways and America West officially cinched their merger on Tuesday, but the Dividend Miles and FlightFund programs were not combined. They will, eventually, but in the meantime the carriers are aligning their award levels and benefits. That means America West customers pay a little more for the basic domestic restricted award (25,000 miles) and get a little break on flights to the Caribbean. The endlessly complicated upgrade benefits on both carriers seem to be a little less generous, too. And the online booking bonus has been reduced to 500 miles. But one clear bit of good news: Customers of either airline can earn miles or redeem awards on either carrier effective next Wednesday (October 5). … The chains in Priority Club Rewards--InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and Staybridge and Candlewood Suites--are now partners in the Southwest Rapid Rewards program. Hotel stays earn .5 credits. … British Airways Executive Club members can earn two free domestic tickets on American or Alaska airlines for every transatlantic roundtrip in BA business class or first class. The promotion lasts until December 31 with advance registration. … Points.com, which launders your frequent-stay miles for a huge fee, now allows travelers to turn miles and points into Amazon.com gift certificates.

United Changes Boarding Procedures Nationwide
No reason for United Airlines to make a public announcement or anything, but the carrier will change its boarding procedures nationwide effective October 1 (Saturday). Travelers will now board by seat position (window, middle or aisle) rather than row. The airline has been testing the procedure in Denver for several months and it used a version of the system on the now-defunct United Shuttle. … American Airlines will finally move its international flights to Terminal D at Dallas-Fort Worth on October 29. The move has been delayed until American was satisfied with baggage-handling procedures at the $1.7 terminal, which opened in July. … The bankruptcy of Northwest Airlines has brought officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul to their senses. The $1 billion airport expansion that Northwest had been demanding for several years has now been shelved. … A 108-room Homewood Suites has opened five miles from Toronto/Pearson airport. The Homewood Toronto-Mississauga is located inside the Mississauga Entertainment Centrum. … Thrifty Car Rental has opened a counter in the new terminal at Southwest Florida International airport in Fort Myers.

Get Out That Hotel Scorecard Again
It continues to be completely impossible to keep track of which hotel building flies what hotel flag. So get that scorecard out again and try to keep up with the changes. … Radisson is out at the controversial hotel adjacent to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The taxpayer-funded property has been hemorrhaging cash since it opened two years ago. The new management will operate the 402-room property as a Sheraton. … New York's historic Algonquin Hotel has changed owners and management again. It is now owned by HEI Hospitality, a hotel-investment firm, and will be managed as an independent property by an HEI subsidiary. Until recently, it was run by Destination Hotels. … InterContinental Hotels has sold the 438-room InterContinental Paris to an investment arm of the government of Singapore. As a result, the property on the rue de Castiglione will become the Westin Paris on October 10. The hotel received an extensive renovation in 1998 and will now get a €12 million facelift. … The 264-room Pan Pacific Glenmarie in Kuala Lumpur becomes a Holiday Inn on Saturday (October 1). … Starwood is launching a new brand, Aloft, to compete with Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard by Marriott. The first Aloft hotels, which Starwood claims will offer loft-like accommodations, are expected to open in 2007.

The State Department Bars Passport 'Do Overs'
Another annoying "security enhancement" has been announced by the U.S. State Department: It will no longer amend valid passports for name changes or printing errors. Travelers who need passport changes must now reapply for a new one using Form DS-5504. … KLM is jumping into the business-class-only niche on October 30 with flights between its Amsterdam hub and Houston/Intercontinental. A Boeing 737-700 configured with 44 World Business Class seats is being operated for KLM by the Swiss firm that provides a similar service to Lufthansa. … TAM, the Brazilian carrier, launches three weekly flights between New York/Kennedy and São Paulo on November 11. The airline will use three-class Airbus A330s on the route.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Amtrak has now reinstated the fare increase that it announced earlier this month, then delayed last week after Congressional pressure. The increases, about 5-7 percent on most trains, are effective on Tuesday (October 4). The controversial 40-50 percent increases on travel passes are being implemented in phases, however. … It turns out that the riveting and nationally televised emergency landing of a JetBlue Airways Airbus A320 last week isn't as uncommon as it seemed. It is at least the seventh time that an Airbus operated by JetBlue, United or other carriers has had the landing-gear wheels stuck at a 90-degree angle. … Effective October 1 (Saturday), the state of Connecticut will require motorists to use hands-free devices to talk on wireless phones while driving.

Oh, Shut Up…
I'm not much of a moviegoer, but I'm sure I'll catch up with Flightplan when it hits the hotel pay-per-view circuit in a couple of months. I say hotel circuit because it's pretty sure that the Jodie Foster flick, which was No. 1 at the box office last weekend, won't be playing on an airplane anytime soon. Why? The film apparently portrays a flight attendant and a U.S. air marshal as terrorists. And the overall depiction of flight attendants has raised the ire of the flight attendants union. They're calling for a boycott of the film. "The depiction of flight attendants is an outrage," says Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. I'm sure all the hard-working flight attendants out there are wondering why Friend is in such a frothy fantod over a movie when she should be spending every waking moment trying to figure out how to minimize the brutal pay, benefit and working-condition concessions her members are taking.

Copyright © 1993-2005 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.