The Tactical Traveler


Hertz Is First With the Worst--Again
Hertz almost seems to enjoy trying to make fools of its best customers--Remember the rental-car giant's short-lived attempt last year to saddle us with a $2.50 reservation fee--and the company's latest gambit is its most repulsive move yet. A new package of Terms & Conditions imposed on its best customers, members of the Hertz #1 Club, is guaranteed to make you angry. Didn't read the 30,000-word document when it arrived in your mailbox or was linked in an E-mail? Here are some of the highlights: 1) The one-hour grace period for returns has been slashed to 30 minutes. 2) If you return a car when a Hertz lot is closed, you pay the applicable rate until the location reopens. 3) Hertz will now put a "hold" on your credit card of up to $200 more than the estimated final charges. 4) You're responsible "for any or all loss or damage," including "acts of nature or God beyond your control." 5) If Hertz decides not to repair a badly damaged vehicle, Hertz may charge you the "buyback" or "fair market value" even if it exceeds the cost of repairs. The new terms went into effect on January 1 and you can read the entire offensive document here. But the bottom line is simple: Time to find yourself a new rental-car supplier.

Another Luxury Contender: The Waldorf-Astoria Brand
The Waldorf-Astoria in New York has more than 100 years of glamour in its past and now Hilton Hotels, which has owned the Park Avenue landmark since 1949, is using the name as a brand. Effective January 31, three independent hotels--the Grand Wailea on Maui, the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix and the LaQuinta Resort in California--will become part of what will be called "The Waldorf-Astoria Collection." Hilton says it will also add the Waldorf name to some of its current high-end Hilton and deluxe Conrad hotels and search for existing luxury properties to manage under the Waldorf moniker. Hilton wasn't exactly chomping at the proverbial bit to create the Waldorf-Astoria brand, however. It only created it as a way to win the management contracts from the new owner of the three resorts that will be part of the Waldorf Collection launch. ... Speaking of Hilton, it also opened a new property in San Francisco: a 549-room hotel in the financial district. The hotel, formerly a Holiday Inn, has undergone a $40 million renovation. ... InterContinental Hotels has taken over the management of the Harbor Court Hotel in Baltimore. The deluxe, 195-room property is located in the city's Inner Harbor waterfront complex.

Is This the Future of Frequent-Flyer Programs?
We're not used to seeing the future come from Hawaii, but the HawaiianMiles program of Hawaiian Airlines may be giving us a glimpse of what's coming. The airline announced this week that it was going to three tiers of mileage awards. Another Hawaiian innovation: one-way awards that will allow travelers to mix and match the tiers to come up with a roundtrip. An example: Hawaiian's unrestricted coach award for flights between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland will now cost 35,000 miles for a one-way ticket. There are now also two flavors of restricted coach awards: 17,500 or 25,000 miles one-way. The three-level, one-way awards won't make more seats available, of course, but it will allow Hawaiian and any airline that follows it to more closely match demand with supply. And, of course, travelers who want exactly the flights and times they want will pay more for the privilege. ... Priority Club Rewards is offering 3,000 points for every third night stayed at its participating hotels. The standard is usually 1,000 points a night. Up to 30,000 bonus points can be earned until April 30. Registration is required. ... Amtrak Guest Rewards and United Mileage Plus are offering double-miles deals. The Amtrak offer is valid on Acela Express and Metroliner travel until March 11. The United offer is valid for up to 25,000 bonus miles until March 31. Registration is required and restrictions apply to both offers, of course.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A consolidated rental car center is scheduled to open today (January 19) at Phoenix/Sky Harbor Airport. All 13 on-airport rental firms will use the 141-acre site, which is located near Interstates 10 and 17. Of course, the center doesn't come without some pain: All in-terminal airport counters are being closed and all passengers will be required to use the multi-brand "Rental Car Shuttle" buses. Individual rental firms will no longer be able to use their own buses to pick up and deliver customers. ... Connexion by Boeing, the in-flight Internet service offered by nine international airlines, has juggled its prices. Beginning January 31, fees are $9.95 for an hour; $14.95 for two hours; $17.95 for three hours and $26.95 for 24 hours of in-flight connectivity. ... Tuscany travelers take note: Florence Airport will be closed from February 2 until April 8. Scheduled flights to Florence will be re-routed to Pisa or Bologna. ... Continental Airlines has added flights from Miami to Bimini. That fills the gap created when Chalk's was grounded after its fatal crash off the coast of Miami last month.

Imagine What They'd Get If They Had Flights...
We've long ago given up hope that our tax dollars are spent on practical public-works projects. But this bit of pork is still worth noting: Gary-Chicago International Airport--which isn't in Chicago, isn't international and, in fact, has no scheduled flights at all--is getting almost $90 million in expansion funds. The money--almost $58 million from federal tax funds and the rest from local tax coffers--will help the Indiana airport extend its runway, reroute train tracks and build new passenger and other facilities. The problem with all this? As mentioned, Gary lost its last commercial flight earlier this month when public-charter carrier Hooters Air pulled service. And despite a decade of trying and the support of Chicago mayor Richard Daley, no one in Indiana has ever been able to convince passengers or airlines that Gary is a viable "third airport" for Chicago.

Copyright 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.