The Tactical Traveler

Paying to Park in Boston; Paying to Check-in at O'Hare
Even in this era of pay-to-play for virtually everything on the road, Boston/Logan is breaking new ground. The airport's new PASSport Gold program will guarantee you access to a parking spot in designated areas of the Central Parking and Terminal B lots. But you'll pay ferociously for the privilege: a one-time enrollment fee of $200, a $100 annual membership fee and about $5 more a day to park. Meanwhile, Chicago/O'Hare has opened a remote check-in and baggage handling location in Economy Parking Lot E. For a $5 fee, travelers on domestic flights can receive a seat assignment, a boarding pass and check their bags. The service, operated by a third-party company, is available for flights operated by Alaska, American, Continental, Delta and United airlines.

Do You Want to Sleep With Microsoft?
Closely held Four Seasons Hotels wants to go private. The $3.7 billion bid, which would leave day-to-day control of the company in the hands of founder Isadore Sharp and pay him $288 million, is partially funded by Cascade Investments. Don't recognize the name Cascade? It's owned by Bill Gates, the Microsoft baron. … Hilton Hotels has lost its four all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic. The properties, called Coral Hotels, have severed their ties with Hilton. … InterContinental Hotels will pick up 13 hotels in Japan thanks to a deal with ANA Hotels. Over the next few months, the properties will be rebranded as either InterContinental, Crowne Plaza or Holiday Inn hotels.

Continental (and Flyers) Wins the Wi-Fi War at Logan
The long battle between Continental Airlines and the managers of Boston/Logan over free Wi-Fi service in the Continental Presidents Club has ended with a victory for travelers. The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that Continental's policy of free Wi-Fi for club members cannot be stopped by Logan. The airport tried to torpedo the service by demanding that Continental pay to use the airport's proprietary Wi-Fi system. … Plans for a mass-transit connection to Seattle-Tacoma airport are moving along. Ground has been broken on a 1.7-mile extension to the Seattle light-rail system. The $240 million project, which will connect the airport to downtown Seattle, is scheduled for completion in late 2009. … Gary/Chicago International Airport, the high-falutin' name for the abandoned airport in Gary, Indiana, is coming back to life…sort of. After losing its only carrier, the defunct Hooters Air, last year, Gary Airport officials say another public-charter airline will fly from there beginning next month. A start-up called SkyValue says it will fly to five sun destinations.

Down to the Nines: British Airways Gets Less British
British Airways is selling its commuter division, called BA Connect, to Flybe, a much smaller British airline. The sale means that BA, which once served 25 airports in the United Kingdom, will only fly from nine when the Flybe deal is completed next March. Besides flights from three London airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and London/City), BA will continue to operate from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle and Jersey. … United Airlines says it will launch flights between Washington/Dulles and Rome on April 1. … The new flagship for the InterContinental hotel chain has reopened in London. The property, now called the InterContinental London Park Lane, has undergone a £60 million renovation. The hotel is still working on some guestrooms and suites and its spa. … Marriott has opened a 297-room hotel in Hyderabad, India. On the other hand, Marriott has lost its property in Busan, South Korea. The hotel will be renovated and renamed the Novotel Ambassador.

Bankrupt Northwest Slashes in Milwaukee Again
Bankrupt Northwest Airlines continues to slash service in Milwaukee, where it fought several bitter battles with Midwest Airlines, the hometown carrier. Effective January 2, Northwest says it will dump nonstop flights from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Orlando. Earlier this year, Northwest dropped flights to New York and Washington. The latest cuts will leave Northwest with just 15 flights in Milwaukee, all of them to the carrier's hubs in Detroit, Minneapolis and Memphis. … Northwest's bankrupt commuter carrier, Mesaba Aviation, has cut a deal with its flight attendants and mechanics. … Keep your eye on Comair, the bankrupt commuter carrier of bankrupt Delta Air Lines. The airline wants its bankruptcy court to allow it to impose concessions on pilots. But the two sides are talking this week and next while waiting for the judge's ruling.

More Gimmicks and Geegaws on the Mileage Front
Delta Air Lines, which launched a shopping program for platinum elite SkyMiles members in March, has expanded the concept. The so-called Medallion Marketplace is now open to gold and silver SkyMiles elite members, too. It permits travelers to use miles to claim hotel stays, car rentals and merchandise. … US Airways has launched a shopping program, too. Dividend Miles members can shop at the so-called Dividend Miles Shopping Mall and earn miles for purchases at 100 online stores. … If you're absolutely desperate for even more frequent flyer miles, a new outfit called E-miles will "pay" you to view online advertising. In exchange for the time you spend watching advertising, you can earn miles in any of four frequent flyer programs. The idea, such as it is, is the brainchild of Hal Brierley, who has had a long career creating and managing frequent travel plans and promotions.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Big Six carriers, led by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, have pushed through a $10 roundtrip fare increase. The increase only applies on routes where the Big Six don't compete with alternate carriers. Separately, United Airlines unilaterally raised walk-up and last-minute fares by $25-$50 each way on about 50 routes. … Northwest Airlines has retired the last of its aging DC-10 aircraft. The planes had been flying on some of Northwest's transatlantic routes.

Election-Night Detritus
Before we close the books on the midterm elections, two travel-security-related notes. Asa Hutchinson, who was responsible for building the awful bureaucracy at the Transportation Security Administration, failed in his Arkansas gubernatorial bid. The former under secretary for border and transportation security, Hutchinson was thumped 55-41 by Arkansas attorney general Mike Beebe. Then there is this: Just before Election Day, Florida Republican John Mica, chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, created a flap when he cavalierly dismissed local media reports of egregious security oversights at Orlando Airport. Mica cruised to reelection 63-27 against a nearly unknown opponent. Since the Democrats have won control of the House, however, Mica will lose his committee chairmanship in the next Congress.

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