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Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August 1999 Current Issue
August 1999 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Sarah J.F.Braley


Major airlines try a new tack to avoid delays

Watch the closing doors. Major airlines continue to come up with experiments to improve on-time departures and arrivals on domestic flights. In April, United Airlines launched its Time to Go! program, and US Airways followed with a similar push in June.

On United flights, all passengers should be on board and seated 10 minutes before departure time; the door is closed five minutes before the flight, and the plane then pushes back on the button. US Airways is aiming to have aircraft ready to leave five minutes ahead of schedule.

"Our on-time departures improved in May," says Joe Hopkins, a spokesperson for United, "and we have had fewer delays in flights because of cabin-checked baggage. We're quite pleased to see US Airways instituting basically the same program." United is considering applying the program to international flights as well.

Java jive. Passengers who buy a cup of joe in the terminal no longer have to dump the brew before boarding, thanks to a ruling by the Federal Aviation Administration. In June, the agency said coffee does not count as a carry-on that has to be stored before takeoff.

The topic was brought to the FAA's attention when a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines complained that an FAA inspector was making attendants collect carry-on coffee cups so passengers would not be splashed with hot liquid if a plane made a sudden stop. Alaska had noticed that some competitors were not being asked to follow the same rule.

The FAA also decided to allow airlines to evaluate their preflight routines, suggesting flight attendants ask passengers if they want to discard any items they have brought on board before takeoff. By rule, any drinks that are supplied by the airline have to be picked up.

The agency still is discussing its policy regarding the use of glassware in first class before takeoff. Because the FAA requires U.S. airlines to use plastic and to collect it before a plane begins taxiing, some carriers have complained they cannot give passengers the same top-notch service as their international counterparts, which do not have to follow the same rules.

Breathe deeply. Travelers passing through the British Airways Lounge at Heathrow's Terminal Four are looking around for the lawn mower or the beach. On alternating days, heated capsules hidden in the floor emit the scent of either fresh-cut grass or sea air.

Handheld destinations. PalmPilot owners now can load city guides in their devices' memories. Aramis Communications, a developer of travel products for handheld computers, has teamed with Weissmann Travel Reports (a division of Cahners Travel Group, publisher of M&C) to distribute the electronic information for $19.95 per city. Two Web sites that offer the guides are the Aramis site (www.aramis-inc.com) and PalmCentral (www.palmcentral.com). Fifty-five cities are available, including Amsterdam, Bangkok, Beijing, Las Vegas, Nairobi, New Orleans, Paris and Vienna.

Bookshop. It's hard enough to decipher menus when traveling abroad, but what is a vegetarian to do? The Well-Prepared Traveler book series now offers Speaking Vegetarian, "the globetrotter's guide to ordering meatless in 197 countries," by Bryan Geon (Pilot Books, Greenport, N.Y., $14.95). The book is broken down geographically and translates phrases like "I am a vegetarian" into such diverse languages as Kazakh, for travel in Kazakhstan, and Vietnamese.

Also new for the bookshelf is The Smart Woman's Guide to Business Travel, by Laurie D. Borman (Career Press, Franklin Lakes, N.J., $14.99). Inside is a collection of strategies and tips, including chapters on safety, keeping the office running smoothly and handling emergencies on the road.

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