The Tactical Traveler


Money for Nothing and Your Rooms for Free
Back in April, Priority Club Rewards, the frequent-guest plan of InterContinental, Holiday Inn and several other brands, introduced its Any Hotel, Anywhere award. The prepaid lodging card allows Priority Club members to exchange points for free nights at any of 500,000 hotels worldwide that accept the American Express card. But Priority Club hasn't done much promotion of the novel award. That will change next Tuesday (August 30) when Priority Club will give away $250,000 worth of cards on what the program is calling Free Stay Day. How do you get one of the freebies, which are valued between $100 and $250 each? You'll have to be in one of five cities (Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles) and then be lucky enough to stumble across someone handing out the cards. Steve Sickel, vice president of Priority Club Rewards, assured me this week that the cards will not be given out at airports or even at hotels affiliated with Priority Club. "Look for us in public, high-traffic areas," Sickel teased. "I'm not ruling out the possibility that we may be handing them out near some of our competitors' hotels. But we're trying to generate a lot of spontaneous excitement, so I'm not saying where we'll be on Tuesday."

Yeah, That Was the Problem. The Paint Job.
With oil surging past $65 a barrel and lots of potentially ugly integration work ahead, you'd think the folks running the America West-US Airways merger would be worried about more than the cosmetic stuff. But I guess it's always more fun to repaint planes than run an airline, so the two carriers chose this week to unveil the new logo and livery. The planes will not look that much different than the existing US Airways paint job. Even that rigid, monochromatic U.S. flag on the tail survives. The company is also adding a symbol to each plane that incorporates the logos of some airlines that have been folded into the new US Airways. That includes Piedmont, PSA, Allegheny and, of course, America West. Apparently, however there wasn't room on the symbol for airlines such as Mohawk and Empire that also make up part of US Airways' heritage. In other totally meaningless US Airways/America West news, the combined carriers want to use LCC as their stock-ticker symbol. LCC is the airline-industry acronym for low-cost carrier. United Airlines claims that it earned a $113 million operating profit and a net profit of $76 million in July. But that excludes an array of bankruptcy-related costs and charges. The actual bottom line was a loss of $274 million. That's for July, not for an entire fiscal quarter.

Hyatt Revives Faster Free Nights Promotion--Again
Hyatt Gold Passport is again reviving its Faster Free Night promotion, one of the richest frequency deals ever offered. This year's version runs from September 1 through November 30. Stay two nights at Hyatt and pay with your MasterCard and you earn a free night's stay at any Hyatt worldwide between September 15 and January 31. Travelers can earn an unlimited amount of free nights, too. Gold Passport members must register for the deal, however. The Dollar and Thrifty rental-car companies are offering triple airline miles for rentals until December 15. Mid-size cars or larger are eligible for the promotion and a two-day minimum rental is required. American Express Rewards points can now be used for credit toward private-jet rentals from Bombardier Skyjet and Flexjet. During the introductory offer, valid until December 31, Amex allows members to claim a $5,000 jet credit for 195,000 points.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Pan Am Clipper Connection, the latest distant progeny of Pan Am, has suspended most of its flights again. This is at least the third time since 9/11 that it has stopped flying. American Airlines has opened the new Admirals Club in its still-evolving terminal facilities at New York/Kennedy Airport. The 11,300-square-foot club is across from Gate 42 on Concourse C. JetBlue Airways has raised its business-travel fares. Three-day advance purchase prices are up $5-$10 each way. One-day advance purchase fares are up $30 each way. And walk-up prices are up as much as $50 one-way. Alitalia is due for another flight attendants strike on August 30 and 31. That invariably leads to hundreds of cancellations, including a few U.S.-Italy flights.

So Much for the Pay-the-Two-Dollars Route
United Airlines is going national with a plan to charge travelers $2 for curbside check-in and use of skycaps. One Chicago-based JoeSentMe member will not accept the pay-the-two-dollars philosophy. "I booked seven flights between September 14 and December 1, all on American Airlines," he told me by E-mail. "I was a loyal flyer on United (Chicago's 'hometown' airline). But no longer. Because United imposed the $2 charge. Even though most of my trips are carry-on, I was offended to the point of abandoning my loyalty."

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