The Tactical Traveler

FOR MAY 12 TO MAY 26, 2005
Baltimore-Washington's New Concourse Opens Next Week
The house that Southwest Airlines helped build, Concourse A at Baltimore-Washington Airport, will open on Wednesday (May 18). The $264 million project will allow Southwest to consolidate all of its 164 daily flights to 34 destinations on a single concourse. There will also be 50 new ticket counters, a raft of new retail and dining options and the return of a BWI landmark: a 400-pound, five-foot-high, stained-glass sculpture of a blue crab. The sculpture was the signature of BWI, but it has been in a warehouse since last year. BWI officials promise it'll reappear on Concourse A, which will be otherwise totally dedicated to Southwest flights and passengers. The Baltimore Sun has produced a massive series of stories on the new concourse.

The (Political) Name Game at the Airport
The Governor of Maryland has signed a bill that renames the aforementioned BWI for civil-rights activist and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. The name change, to the implausible and unwieldy Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, goes into effect on October 1. For sanity's sake, JoeSentMe will continue to call the place BWI, just as we ignore the appendage "Reagan" at Washington/National, the excess "Jackson" in Atlanta/Hartsfield and the extraneous "Bush" in Houston/Intercontinental. Priority Pass, the worldwide airport-club network, has added lounges at the airports in Zurich; Hong Kong; and Ljubljana, Slovenia. It has also added the United Red Carpet Club in Terminal 7 at New York/Kennedy Airport. (And notice that when New York changed the airport's name to Kennedy Airport in the 1960s, they dropped the old name, Idlewild; they didn't tack JFK's name onto the old name.) Speaking of airports and names, Iran has once again opened the Iman Khomeini International Airport in Tehran. Some in the world aviation community are appalled--and not because the airport is named after the radical cleric who subverted the Iranian revolution against the Shah in 1979. British and Canadian authorities have warned their travelers away from the airport because they believe the runway is unsafe. The controversial airport was actually opened last May, but it was closed after one day by the Iranian military. The military claimed there were security concerns because the airport was operated by a Turkish company; the airport is now controlled by state-owned Iran Air.

The New and Notable From Coast-to-Coast
The all-suite Le Meridien Sunny Isles opened this week north of Miami. The beachfront property has 126 one-bedroom suites, 80 two-bedroom suites and four penthouses. It also houses a branch of the Bice restaurant chain. Opening rates start at $299 a night. Speaking of Le Meridien, Starwood Hotels and Lehman Brothers have combined to make an offer for the brand. Starwood, which operates the Westin, Sheraton, W and St. Regis, would get the Le Meridien name and manage 36 properties worldwide that Le Meridien owns or leases. The Kor Hotel Group, which operates boutique properties in Southern California and Miami's South Beach, has opened the 112-room Chamberlain hotel in West Hollywood. Guestrooms at the Chamberlain offer fireplaces, sofas, flat-panel televisions, CD-DVD and VCR players. Prices start at $169 a night. InterContinental Hotels says that 2,700 of its North American hotels now offer high-speed Internet access. It's free at Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn and Holiday Express. The service is available for a fee at Crowne Plaza and InterContinental hotels.

The TSA's Latest 'Ask, You Don't Have to Tell' Plan
You really have to wonder who's running the show at the Transportation Security Administration these days. After unsuccessfully attempting to cram the intrusive and offensive CAPPS II profiling system down our collective throat and spending millions on the equally nasty Secure Flight system that has yet to be implemented, the TSA bureaucrats have a new approach: Make airlines ask us for our full name and date of birth when we book a ticket and check in. But this simple request is not mandatory. If we refuse, we can't be required to give the information, although the TSA then reserves the right to conduct secondary screening. In other words, multi-billion dollar, incredibly invasive computerized profiling systems that don't work are non-negotiable and the TSA feels it can foist them on us without our objection. But when they want information as simple as our name and date of birth, they don't feel they have the right to compel us to disclose. Speaking of who's running the show, President Bush has nominated former Reagan administration official Edmund "Kip" Hawley to head the TSA. Hawley would be the fourth TSA administrator in three years. From the "What the President Didn't Know and When He Didn't Know It" Department: No one bothered to inform President Bush contemporaneously when a small plane strayed into off-limits Washington airspace yesterday. The plane's flight path alarmed security officials and fighter jets were scrambled to force the plane to land. The White House, Capitol and Supreme Court were all evacuated during the incident. And Vice President Cheney and his wife were taken to a secure location. Bush was bicycling in Maryland at the time and no one thought he should be told while the events were unfolding.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Continental Airlines has quietly launched a promotion that offers travelers 5 percent off most Continental tickets when they are booked on and paid for with a Chase Continental MasterCard credit or debit card. There seems to be few serious restrictions and the promotion lasts until the end of June, 2006. For more details, surf to the Chase Your Dreams page. The Big Six raised discount fares about $10 roundtrip last week. Japan Airlines this week began offering high-speed Internet access on its New York/Kennedy-Tokyo/Narita flights. TACA, the large Central American carrier, has raised checked-luggage fees. Coach passengers now pay $100 if the combined weight of their two checked bags exceeds 100 pounds. Business-class passengers can check three bags, but if the combined weight exceeds 100 pounds, the $100 charge applies. Each additional piece of checked luggage will cost another $100. Millennium & Copthorne hotels has joined the Delta SkyMiles program. M&C operates 88 hotels in 16 countries, including U.S. properties such as the Knickerbocker in Chicago and the Maxwell House in Nashville.

I'm Chuffed to Promote This Otherwise Knackered Idea
It's an old saw: the Brits speak their language (that would be English) differently than Americans or, for that matter, just about anyone else who speaks it. But it's also true. The British do speak in ways that confuse us and the differences go far beyond things like loo, lorry and lift. After all, did you know what chuffed (excited) or knackered (tired) meant? Did you know that squiz means "a glance"? I know that I always cringe when I read the word naff (tacky) in a British newspaper. So while a guide to British English seems like a knackered idea, British Airways has done a lovely job of the new interactive Brit-Speak Dictionary on the BA Web site. And I must admit: While I've never heard an ATM referred to as a hole in the wall, I'm pretty adept at ducking into an off license for a bottle of wine to go with the butty I picked up. Or is that a sarnie? I'm still so confused about what the Brits call a sandwich--and why they buy those despicable, machine-made ones wrapped in plastic.

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