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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JULY 13, 1998


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Rethinking Hawaii travel; on the road intelligence; frequent flyer program alliances; a superlative airport club at O'Hare; a Shanghai hotel surprise; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Rethinking Hawaii Travel
The annual summer rush to cash in miles for flights to Hawaii is well underway. But frequent flyers accustomed to flying the family free to Honolulu and then hopping around Hawaii on cheap inter-island flights are in for an unpleasant surprise. Flights on the local carriers, Aloha and Hawaiian, are more crowded than usual. Many popular segments are regularly sold out, especially flights that share codes with mainland carriers. And cheap, walk-up fares on Aloha and Hawaiian have completely disappeared. All seats on all flights on all routes around the state are now $89 one way. To beat the crowds and avoid disappointment, make your inter-island flight reservations before you depart for Hawaii. To beat the apparently monolithic fare structure, do what the local frequent flyers do: buy "coupon books" from either Aloha or Hawaiian. Each booklet contains six bearer coupons, and every unrestricted, freely transferable coupon is valid for a one-way flight between any two points in the state. The cost: $309 a booklet, for an effective price of $51.50 a flight.

CYBERTRAVELER: On the Road Intelligence
The one thing every frequent flyers fears is being taken for a rube tourist in a town where he or she is doing business. But how do you sound like an informed local and keep up with the latest restaurant openings, entertainment options, and insider gossip? One way is to tap into the On The Road web site. A tightly edited, extremely time-sensitive collection of intelligence for business travelers, On the Road currently covers ten key American cities. You tap in the city and the date you're planning to visit, and up comes cheat sheets of the new and notable, the recently opened and closed, and all sorts of useful data that helps you eat, sleep, entertain and travel better. There are also fax and direct-to-Email options. A 60-day free trial is available; a 12-month subscription is $50.

MILES & POINTS: Frequent-Flyer Alliances
The timid, limited frequent-flyer reciprocity recently announced by United Mileage Plus and Delta SkyMiles will pale in comparison to the changes being planned by Northwest and Continental, two other carriers hoping to share codes and each other's frequent flyers. Although the concept of a totally new joint program has been discussed, it's unlikely that a single program with a single name will emerge. The more probably model: overhauled versions of Northwest WorldPerks and Continental OnePass that will make the programs virtual mirror images of each other. Besides reciprocal earning and uniform award levels, the major changes to the programs will be at the elite levels. Beginning in 1999, both WorldPerks and OnePass will have three premium levels: Silver at 25,000 miles, Gold at 50,000 miles, and Platinum at 75,000 miles.

AT THE AIRPORT: Destination O'Hare
Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is justifiably called its own city. In fact, it has become its own destination. I know dozens of frequent travelers who fly to O'Hare, book hotel rooms at the airport, take day-long meetings there, then fly home without having ever ventured into Chicago. But now you needn't even take an airport hotel room to take a meeting at O'Hare. I recently toured the O'Hare Executive Center operated by American Airlines and was hugely impressed. Tucked away between the H and K Concourses and above American's gargantuan Admirals Club, the O'Hare Executive Center has 19 well-equipped conference rooms. Outfitted for four to 12 people, prices are reasonable: from $55 a hour for a four-person room to $495 a day for a 12-person facility. For more information: 800-237-7971

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Shanghai Surprises
China's boomtown, Shanghai, is shockingly expensive for business travelers. However, some relief is in sight with the scheduled opening of the 612-room Pudong Shangri-La Hotel on August 27. Opening rates are $138 for a deluxe room until December 31. The nightly rate includes buffet breakfast, airport shuttle service, and triple miles in selected frequent-flyer programs. Meanwhile, the hotel Shangri-La formerly managed in Shanghai, the Portman, recently become the Portman Ritz-Carlton. Its "Business Basics" package rate of $199 a night is valid until December 31 and includes American breakfast and airport transfers.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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