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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JUNE 1, 1998


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Breaking the frequent flyer stranglehold; travel 'hot spots' on the Web; a cell-phone price war; a workhorse hotel in Frankfurt; an All-Star Game bundle; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Breaking the Frequent-Flyer Stranglehold
Everybody hates their airline sometime and often your anger rises to the level where you'll actually consider shifting carriers. Then you remember: change airlines and you lose your elite status, your hard-earned upgrade privileges, and all the other little perks you get for being loyal to the carrier you now despise. But you may be able to break the stranglehold. Call a competing airline's frequent-flyer program service center and ask to speak to a supervisor. Or call the competing carrier's station manager at your home-town airport. Explain the situation and your dissatisfaction with your current airline. Tell the supervisor or station manager you'd be willing to switch airlines if they grant you on-the-spot elite status in their frequent-flyer program. Make sure you have several recent statements to prove your status and travel patterns on your current. You'll be surprised how often you'll get your perks and privileges matched by a competing carrier eager to win your business.

CYBERTRAVELER: Keeping Track of the Hot Spots
If you haven't checked out the "Travel Alerts" section of BizTravel.com, pay a visit soon. The daily update of events in the world's hot spots is superlative. And that's not a transparent plug for my friends here at BizTravel.com because the alerts are provided by Air Security International (www.airsecurity.com), which operates its own web site. ASI will even E-mail you a customized daily "hot spots" update free if you register at the site. I found ASI's coverage of the recent events in Indonesia extraordinarily good--they sent E-mails several times daily--and more concise than any television coverage or wire-service reports. No frequent flyer who travels internationally should be without the service.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Cell-Phone Price War
Business travelers increasingly rely on cellular telephones and, if you're one of the growing horde, pay attention to the new pricing plan from AT&T Wireless (800-IMAGINE). Introduced last week, the AT&T Digital One Rate program is startling in its simplicity and unbelievably cheap for heavy users. All calls in the United States are billed at one rate with no roaming, long-distance, or landline charges. The rate: 10.7 cents per minute if you buy 1400 minutes for $149.99; 11.9 cents if you buy 1000 minutes for $119.99; or 14.9 cents if you buy 600 minutes for $89.99. All those prices are cheaper than the 25 cents per minute AT&T charges for calling-card calls and less than most people pay for their residential calls. The downside: the One Rate program requires a special phone and the phones are not cheap ($99 to $199). Major national competitors will be forced to respond to AT&T's initiative, so we could be in for a summer of good, old-fashioned telephone price wars.

JOE SENT ME: A Workhorse in Frankfurt
There are newer and swankier hotels in Frankfurt, but I notice that frequent-flying global business travelers still prefer the Hotel Frankfurt Inter-Continental (800-327-0200). One reason is the hotel's peerless location (Wilhelm-Leuschner-Strasse, 43), just a few steps from the heart of Frankfurt's financial district and an easy walk to the Hauptbahnhof, the place to catch express trains to Frankfurt Airport and cities throughout Germany and Europe. The meeting and conference facilities are superb, there's a good fitness center, and Frankfurt's largest pool. The hotel's more-than-serviceable bars and restaurants are always crowded with savvy world travelers and a $50 million renovation has freshened the guest rooms and public areas. Lufthansa and SAS even maintain check-in desks at the hotel. Best of all, the staff is unflappable and multi-lingual.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: The All-Star Game Bundle
This year's baseball All-Star Game will be held July 7 at Coors Field in Denver. If you need seats and can't find them through your normal sources, try booking the three- or four-night All-Star packages from Spectacular Sports Specials (800-451-5772). The bundles include run-of-house game tickets; accommodations at either the Holiday Inn North or the Adams Mark Hotel; round-trip transfers from Denver International; daily American breakfast; and all taxes. Prices start at $935 a person and All-Star Game tickets can be upgraded to field-level seats for an additional charge.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.