The Tactical Traveler
FOR DECEMBER 21, 2006 TO JANUARY 4, 2007
It's Winter Survival Time
- A Winter Travel Survival Primer (Sorry, Denver)
- The Dollar Gets Pounded in Overseas Markets
- Bah! Humbug! American Raises Fares for Christmas
- A Dickensian Fog Scrambles Schedules at Heathrow
- Hotel News From Here, There and Everywhere
- It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Laptop Sale Time
- What to Watch for on the Road in January
You'd be hard-pressed to convince storm-struck Seattle or Denver flyers, but winter doesn't even start until tomorrow (December 22). And that means it is time to adopt our winter travel protective armors. I never fly in winter without having a reservation at an airport hotel just in case a freak storm buries the runways and flights are abruptly cancelled. And I never book the last flight out during the winter. Last flights are all too often cancelled or diverted because of weather-related delays elsewhere during the flying day. I also avoid booking the first flight out of an airport in the winter because the oft-cancelled last flight on the previous night was also delivering the aircraft for the next morning's first flight. And no matter what seems intuitive--and notwithstanding this week's paralyzing blizzard in Denver--I always book my winter connecting flights through hub cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Cleveland. Those airports get lots of snow, of course, but they are prepared for the worst and usually deal with it efficiently. Book your flights through "good weather" hubs like Atlanta/Hartsfield or Dallas/Fort Worth and you're dealing with towns that freeze up at the first sign of winter weather.
Hotel News From Here, There and Everywhere
Hilton Garden Inn continues its international push. The chain's newest location: Rome's Fiumicino Airport. The 282-room hotel joins a full-service Hilton at the airport. Both are within walking distance of the airport passenger terminals.
Speaking of airports, Marriott has taken over the former Hilton hotel at Burbank Airport in California. The 488-room hotel is undergoing a $24 million renovation.
Speaking of conversions, Sheraton has taken over the former Radisson Cable Beach resort in Nassau, Bahamas. The 691-room hotel is getting a much-needed facelift.
Speaking of beach destinations, Westin has opened a 317-room resort on St. Maarten. The hotel on Dawn Beach has a spa, a casino and a pool and beachside cabanas. ... Speaking of resorts, Turnberry Isle, in Aventura, Florida, has reopened after a $100 million renovation. This time the 407-room property is flying the Fairmont flag. It has previously operated as a Mandarin Oriental and a Rafael hotel. Speaking of renovations, The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia closes for three months of restoration and upgrading on January 2. ... Finally, an Embassy Suites has opened in Honolulu as part of the Waikiki Beachwalk development that is remaking the area around Lewers Avenue between the beach and Kalakaua Avenue. Accommodations at the two-tower property start at $400 a night.
Assessing the Lure of the Cheap Laptop
If you're in the market for a laptop, you'll be stunned at how low prices will drop right after Christmas Day. But the sales won't be the outrageous bargains that the low prices suggest. Windows Vista, the newest version of the omnipresent Microsoft operating system, becomes publicly available at the end of January. That means retailers will want to quickly sell off their remaining stocks of laptops running Windows XP. And that raises the obvious question: Should you jump on the record-low prices for Windows XP portables or pay more for next-generation Vista-enabled machines? If you're running or working for a small business, Windows XP will run perfectly well for another year or two and a clearance-priced XP machine will be an incredible bargain. But if your on-the-road computing must synch up with desktops operated by large corporations, curb your enthusiasm. They may already be moving to Vista--it was released to large companies a few weeks ago--and you probably should pass on a new XP machine. One final thought: Many Windows XP laptops will be labeled "Vista compatible" or will offer a "free upgrade" to the new operating system. History has shown that migrating previous-generation machines to a new Windows operating system is time-consuming and fraught with unexpected difficulties. This hybrid approach is probably the least palatable of your laptop options.
The Dollar Can't Buy You Love--or Much of Anything Else
The U.S. dollar continues to get hammered in overseas currency markets. At the close of business today (December 21), it was down to $1.32 against the euro. Worse, the British pound was commanding a wallet-sapping $1.97.
The fare war in Hawaii between the four inter-island carriers reached another milestone last week. Island Air began offering a one-way return fare of $12 when you purchased a roundtrip ticket. The fare war began this spring when go! launched flights in competition with Hawaii's incumbent carriers.
Car-rental prices are rising fast, but the real rub is the hidden taxes and fees added after the quoted daily rate. A report created for Travelocity says that Kansas City has the worst gap between the base rate and the total paid by renters. Average daily rates in Kansas City were 63 percent higher than the base rate after the taxes and fees were added. Second on Travelocity's list were Seattle and Anchorage (54.4 percent higher than the quoted rate), followed by Atlanta (53.5 percent) and Dallas/Fort Worth (52.1 percent).
What's Happening on the Road in January
Bankrupt Delta Air Lines will continue to refine its route system. On January 8, it adds a new route from its Salt Lake City hub by introducing a daily flight to Winnipeg, Canada. On January 11, it will add a new route between Boston and Chicago's Midway airport; there will be three daily flights.
Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York, about 65 miles north of Manhattan, will get a lot of more attention. JetBlue Airways launched service from there this week and it adds another route on January 5 with daily flights to West Palm Beach, Florida. AirTran Airways arrives at Stewart on January 11 and it will launch four routes: two daily flights to its Atlanta hub and daily flights to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa, Florida.
The crowded skies between the United States and England get still another new player in January. A start-up carrier called Silverjet will offer all-business-class flights between Newark's Liberty Airport and London's Luton Airport beginning January 25. The airline will fly Boeing 767s configured with 100 seats that convert to flat beds. Introductory roundtrip fares start as low as $1,800.
Finally, never think that global politics doesn't affect business travel. Romania joins the European Union this month and that new political alliance has convinced low-fare Wizz Air to add air links. Effective January 15, it will fly from the Romanian capital of Bucharest to Barcelona, Spain; Dortmund, Germany; London/Luton; and Rome's Ciampino Airport.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines is the Big Six carrier playing the grinch this Christmas. American is trying to push through a $5-$20 one-way fare increase while travelers are distracted by the holidays. Delta Air Lines has matched the price hike, but we probably won't know if the increases will stick until the middle of next week.
It was hard to miss, but just in case you didn't hear: Bankrupt Delta Air Lines filed its plan of reorganization this week and officially rejected a hostile merger bid from US Airways. What might have not made your radar were the slashing comments from Delta chief executive Jerry Grinstein. "US Airways is the worst of all potential merger partners," he said. He also bashed US Airways management for making the Delta bid before completing its previous merger with America West.
Merging doesn't seem to be problematic in the hotel business, though. Lodgenet, the leading provider of pay-per-view, on-demand television to hotel guestrooms, is acquiring On Command, the second-largest player.
Air Madrid, a low-fare carrier with transatlantic ambitions, abruptly stopped flying this week after criticism from Spain's airline regulators. The shutdown caused a near riot at Madrid's Barajas Airport when Air Madrid passengers were told they'd be delayed for days without holiday flights.
And there won't be a lot of happy Christmases for British Airways flyers at London/Heathrow. A Dickensian fog has caused BA to cancel all of its domestic and some of its European flights this week.
Copyright © 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.