July 01, 2001
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio July 2001 Current Issue

On Travel

By Sarah J.F. Braley


The DOT is evaluating whether airline passengers deserve more money for their trouble

Paid enough to wait? No traveler likes to be bumped, but getting an airline coupon for a few hundred dollars usually eases the pain somewhat. What most frequent flyers don’t realize, however, is the Department of Transportation’s Denied Boarding Compensation rule, which established the amounts due to passengers who get kicked off oversold flights, hasn’t changed since 1978.

As the rule stands, if the airline can arrange alternate transportation that will get the passenger to his destination within two hours of the original planned arrival (four hours for international flights), the passenger can receive up to $200. Compensation doubles if the delay is longer than two (or four) hours.

Now comes word that Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has ordered a review of the measure, with an eye toward increasing compensation payments. There is no set time line for a resolution, according to a DOT spokesperson.

Big brother is watching the bags.
Following the arrest earlier this year of 17 baggage handlers at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, British Airways has announced it will install cameras in its 340-plane fleet by the middle of next year.

The airline introduced cameras in some of its planes two years ago but kept the operation secret. “After the detection aspect of the operation, which worked well, the airline felt it needed to provide a deterrent,” says a British Airways spokesperson, “although we are still not saying how many cameras will be in each plane and exactly where we are putting them.”

E-mail service from an airplane finally has been launched. In April, Singapore Airlines debuted the system on a 747 flight between Singapore and Los Angeles, when its public relations representatives sent a message to the media saying, “This mail is sent to you from 35,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean.”

The service, which also allows passengers to access Web sites stored on an onboard server, is being installed on the rest of the carrier’s 747s and 777s.

The e-mail capability, which is connected to Singapore’s inflight entertainment system, is one of a number of new features being introduced throughout the year. For instance, all passengers now can play multiplayer network PC games against each other, no matter where they are seated. Also available are 25 Nintendo games. The Wisemen audio-and-video-on-demand system, available in first and Raffles (business) class, has been upgraded to DVD quality; starting this month, coach passengers also will be able to use it. The entertainment choices are being expanded to 50 movies, 60 hours of short features and 100 CDs.

Curbside hotel check-in.
Wyndham International has announced it is installing a new wireless check-in/check-out service in all its larger conference hotels and resorts.

Here’s how it works: Staff members greet guests curbside and, using handheld devices called OperaPalms (from Micros Systems), wirelessly obtain credit card authorization, record guests’ signatures and program a key card. At checkout, the wireless printers produce a guest folio and receipt.

U.S. and select Caribbean properties will be the first to be wired for the new service over the next two years. The technology was tested and is now live at the Wyndham Dallas Market Center.

Digital subway map.
A popular program for Palm-based handhelds and PocketPCs is Métro, a free route calculator for just about every subway network in the world. Available in 17 languages, version 3.0 helps travelers get from here to there in more than 150 cities, including New York, London, Cairo and Seoul. The download is accessible at PalmGear (

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