by Sarah J.F. Braley | March 01, 2004

Technotravel. By summer, the more than one million passengers who wait for trains in six of Amtrak’s busiest stations along the Northeast Corridor each week will be able to access the Internet through Wi-Fi for $9.99 a day. AT&T Wireless will be providing the service to Boston’s Route 128 Station; Providence, R.I.; New York City’s Penn Station; Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station; Wilmington, Del.; and Baltimore’s Penn Station. Current AT&T Wireless Wi-Fi customers won’t have to pay extra for the service.
   In other logging-on news, Continental Airlines will provide free wireless access in all 28 of its Presidents Clubs by the end of the year. Nine of the clubs already are offering the free service: Five Presidents Clubs at George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, three clubs at Newark (N.J.) Liberty International and one at Cleveland Hopkins International.
   Check-in kiosks are being tested at two Phoenix properties in the Starwood Hotels & Resorts family: the 735-room Westin Kierland Resort & Spa and the 500-room Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa. After guests swipe a credit card and access their reservation, the machine delivers a receipt and a key card for the room. The current incarnation of the machine is for check-in and check-out only, but when the technology is installed throughout the chain this year and next, guests should be able to select specific rooms or change to a different room with the same rate. Eventually, guests also will be able to upgrade their accommodations using the kiosk.

Fly any day. Travelers on Alaska Airlines no longer have to stay over Saturday night to get the best fare. The carrier has simplified its ticket structure in other ways as well, such as reducing first class offerings.
“Weekends are for being with your family, not for staying overnight just to save a buck,” says Gregg Saretsky, Alaska’s executive vice president of marketing.

Lockdown. Travelers once again can secure their belongings before sending them into the belly of the plane. New Travel Sentry Certified Locks can be opened by Transportation Security Administration workers if they need to inspect checked baggage; they use special codes and tools that do not damage the locks. After inspection, the screener can relock the bag before sending it on.
   Magellan’s, the travel catalog, offers the locks for $19.85 ( The package of two comes with a “Just in Case” guarantee: If airport security fails to recognize the lock and cuts it off (instead of using their Travel Sentry tools), Magellan’s will replace the lock for free.

Flight calls. A Louisville, Colo.-based company is working to bring cell phone service onto airplanes. The Federal Communications Commission has awarded AirCell permission to use a particular cellular frequency as the basis for developing the technology needed for passengers to complete cell-phone calls from the air without disrupting cell service for those remaining on land. (Currently, when someone on a plane makes a call, the phone connects to several cell towers at once, often interrupting service on the ground.)
   According to an AirCell spokesperson, the goal is to perfect a device that will communicate with the ground. It will be installed on aircraft to filter calls, allowing passengers to use their own phones in flight. Such service might be available in 18 to 24 months.

Captive audience. Coming soon to the top of a tray table on your next America West Airlines flight: advertisements. The carrier recently signed agreements with SkyMedia International, Bank of America, Mercedes-Benz USA and cable television’s History Channel to fill that small amount of blank space in front of travelers. For now, only one advertiser per aircraft will be presented on the tray tops.