The Tactical Traveler

Seen in BA's New C: Laptop Drawers and Beverage Coolers
British Airways beat the rest of the airline world to market in 2000 with lie-flat beds in business class. Six years later, U.S. carriers have yet to match, but many international airlines have caught up with--and in some cases surpassed--the BA offering. So the British carrier this week unveiled its next-generation beds at a lavish event in London. When fully reclined, the new bed is 25 inches wide and 78 inches long. There is a larger (10-inch) at-seat monitor and an on-demand video system with 100 films and television programs. The at-seat power port will now accept a standard AC plug and a clever laptop drawer at the base of each seat permits travelers to stow a lcomputer, shoes or other items. BA's unique seat alignment--window seats face backward, aisle seats face forward--has been retained, but a new, electronically operated opaque plastic dividing wall replaces the old fabric privacy fan. BA's new C-class meal service includes a self-service snack bar called Club Kitchen that features a glass-doored beverage cooler accessible by flyers. The first of BA's long-haul Boeing 747s and Boeing 777s has already been equipped with the new Club World and the airline promises the systemwide rollout will be complete in 18 months. That's a brisk schedule, since it took BA almost six years to finish the initial business-class bed installation. The airline's Boeing 767s, which were the last to get the original beds, won't be upgraded. For a more detailed look at the new BA beds and other business-class amenities, click here.

The New Hotels--and Reflaggings--Keep on Coming
Break out the scorecard because there's another wave of newly built hotels and another slew of reflaggings in major business cities and leisure destinations around the world. In Boston, the 424-room InterContinental Boston has opened on the waterfront at the foot of the financial district. The 12-story property has an indoor pool, a spa and three restaurants, including a full-service, 24-hour dining room, a rarity in Boston. … Meanwhile, the long-rumored sale of the original Ritz-Carlton in Boston has been officially announced. Taj Hotels, the fast-growing luxury chain headed by American Raymond Bickson, reflags the property as the Taj Boston on January 11. Besides its dozens of hotels and palaces in India, Taj also manages the Pierre in New York, Blue in Sydney and 51 Buckingham Gate and the St. James in London. … In Hawaii, Hilton Hotels has once again hoisted its flag over the 350-room Kauai Beach Resort. … In Seattle, Pan Pacific has opened a 160-room property in the city's South Lake Union neighborhood. … In Las Vegas, Loews Hotels is taking over management of the 493-room hotel currently known as the Hyatt Lake Las Vegas. … In Montreal, Doubletree has put its flag on the former Crowne Plaza in Centre-ville. The 313-room hotel has just completed a renovation.

Frontier and AirTran Align Frequent Flyer Programs
The major alternate carriers have always been reluctant to launch frequent flyer programs. And they have been absolutely fanatic in their refusal to link their programs to those of other carriers. But the taboo ended last year when Southwest Airlines took an equity stake in ATA Airlines and then aligned frequency plans. This week two more alternate carriers tied the frequent flyer knot. Effective immediately, Frontier Airlines has linked its Early Returns program with the AirTran Airways A+ Rewards plan. Because Frontier uses miles as its currency and is an all-coach carrier and AirTran uses credits and is a two-class airline, the conversions are a little tricky. Consult each carrier for specifics. But flyers will be able to earn points in and claim rewards from each program. Although the two carriers will not be code-sharing, they will list each other's flights on their proprietary Web sites, too.

Do You Know the Way to Greenland…or Iraq?
Here's a route you don't hear about every day: Air Greenland is launching a weekly flight from Baltimore/Washington International to Kangerlussuaq Sonderstrom Airport in Greenland. The nonstop service begins on May 25. … Maybe the second time's the charm: Austrian Airlines, which unsuccessfully attempted to fly between its Vienna hub and Iraq just months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, is trying again. It has now scheduled a December 11 launch for twice-weekly flights to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish-controlled northern area of Iraq. The Iraq service is timed for easy connections with Austrian's flights from Vienna to New York, Washington and Toronto. … EVA Air is pioneering a modern Northwest Passage to India. Effective December 10, it will fly three times a week from its Taiwan hub to Mumbai (Bombay). That will allow U.S. travelers to connect over Taiwan from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle or New York. … American Airlines has resumed its seasonal nonstop service between Miami and Montevideo, Uruguay. Boeing 767 flights operate three times a week until April 10.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
You'll soon be able to use your video iPod through the in-flight entertainment system of several major carriers. Apple says three U.S. carriers--Delta, Continental and United--and Emirates will offer "seat connectors" that will allow travelers to power and charge iPods during flight time. The connectors will also permit iPod videos to be shown via seatback monitors. The first systems will roll out in mid-2007. But the Apple announcement this week took a weird turn when two other carriers--Air France and KLM--denied Apple's claim that they, too, would offer the iPod connectors on their flights. … The seemingly endless construction at New York/Kennedy takes a step forward today: A parking garage opened opposite American Airlines' Terminal 8. The garage has four levels and 1,600 spaces.

Random Thoughts About That Stupid Merger
US Airways' announcement that it will try to force a merger with bankrupt Delta Air Lines raises an interesting question: Why does everyone who gets control of an entity called US Airways try to merge it? Stephen Wolf renbranded the old US Air in 1996 and he promptly tried to merge the renamed US Airways into United. That never happened and Wolfman was succeeded as chief executive by David Siegel. He didn't last long enough to merge with anyone, but his successor, Bruce Lakefield, was able to dump the carrier into the willing arms of America West. Now Doug Parker, who became chief executive of US Airways just 14 months ago, wants to merge it into Delta and obliterate the US Airways name. … Meanwhile, what do you make of this? Just one day after US Airways publicly revealed its unwanted merger proposal, Delta announced it would launch a daily flight from its New York/Kennedy hub to US Airways' hometown of Phoenix. The flight begins on February 15, the same day Delta management's exclusive right to file a plan of reorganization with the bankruptcy court is scheduled to expire.

Copyright © 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.