June 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio June 2000 Current Issue

On Travel

By Sarah J.F. Braley


Northwest passengers will soon be able to print their own boarding passes

Bypass the counter. Taking the airlines even further into the world of technology, Northwest Airlines is testing a system that allows passengers to check in online. A traveler who doesn’t need to check her bags can go to the carrier’s Web site ( and enter either a major credit card number, flight confirmation number or WorldPerks number. She can change or confirm her seat, get an upgrade (if fare and space allow) and print out a boarding pass. An agent at the gate will check her ID and scan the bar code on the boarding pass. Several of Northwest’s corporate clients are trying out the system; it is expected to be offered to all passengers by early 2001.

Another new service from Northwest is the Rebook Hotline, a portable bank of phones that can be wheeled to the gate where a flight has been canceled or connections missed. The carrier says customers who pick up the rebook phones become reservation agents’ top priority.

Wireless while waiting. In April, San Francisco-based SoftNet Systems Inc. announced a deal with Delta Air Lines to bring wireless Internet services to travelers waiting at gates, conference rooms and Crown Room clubs maintained by Delta.

The society does not legislate air-quality standards, but guidelines developed by the group often are adopted by local planning boards and other government agencies.

In some airports, Delta will use the existing backbone of computing areas called LapTop Lanes, available in 15 airports. These areas are operated by SoftNet Zone, a consortium of technology companies including SoftNet Systems, Compaq Computer Corp., Cisco Systems and Nokia Corp. In other airports, Delta and SoftNet together will provide the Internet on-ramp. In order to access the service, travelers’ laptops and Palm-style devices must be equipped with a wireless local area network card.

Web surfing aloft. The Boeing Co. has announced it will offer a new service, called Connexion by Boeing, that allows travelers to access the Internet in the air. Pricing will be about the same as a cellular phone call. Connexion also will bring a live television feed onto the plane. The service should be on aircraft within a year.

Carry-on movies. Bored during a long layover? Tired of watching badly edited versions of big-screen hits on planes? InMotion Pictures ( has several airport locations where travelers can rent portable DVDs and movies, and either watch a film while they wait or view it on the flight and return the player and the movie later.

Flyers choose from three packages: In-airport and one-way rentals (return the items before flying or at the airport on the other end) cost $10 for the player, a headset and a movie; additional movies are $4 and companion headsets rent for $2.50. The roundtrip rental (bring the equipment back to any InMotion location) is priced at $10 per day, and renters get a movie for each day; additional movies are $4; a companion headset, $5. The DVD mailer program, for travelers who have DVD players in their laptops, offers movies for $5 each for five days. The movies come with a prepaid mailer and must be postmarked within five days.

InMotion, which recently entered a financial partnership with Blockbuster, currently has kiosks at airports in Portland, Ore.; Minneapolis; Philadelphia; Seattle; Denver; San Jose, Calif.; and San Diego. Locations in Jacksonville, Fla.; Orlando; Cincinnati; New York’s La Guardia; and Atlanta are scheduled to open before fall, with one opening in San Francisco soon after. Several other sites are in the works.

Dallas lockup. Active people who travel frequently to the Big D need only carry their exercise gear once. The Sheraton Suites Market Center now offers a long-distance locker program. The hotel will launder repeat guests’ workout clothes and store them along with sneakers, monitors or whatever they need at the gym.

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