. NEW PERKS IN AIR, HOTEL AND AIRPORT 10-1-2001 | Meetings & Conventions


Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August 2001 Current Issue
August 2001 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Sarah J.F. Braley


Benefits of an airline merger, a hotel points program, airport food guidance and more

TWA turnover. Now that the old workhorse airline is part of American Airlines, the TWA faithful are beginning to see some changes, aside from the appearance of American Way magazine in seatback pockets. TWA’s Aviators frequent-flyer program will expire on Nov. 30, but all miles will be transferred to American’s AAdvantage. Members of both programs who have reached a higher level through TWA will be upgraded in the American program.

For now, travelers can place their miles in either account, but American is encouraging Aviator members to join AAdvantage, using the exact same name and address on both accounts, so the transition of miles will go more smoothly.

On another note, American is taking two rows of seats out of TWA’s cabins to give passengers more room.

Winged Web.
Now that Singapore Airlines offers e-mail service and limited Internet access using technology from Matsushita Avionics Systems, the big domestic airlines are preparing to provide the capability in the near future. American, Delta and United have taken equity stakes in Boeing Co.’s Connexion technology, which uses satellites to provide e-mail and Internet access.

The service is expected to be installed in the first set of planes by mid-2002. If successful, it will be wired into about 1,500 planes. Lufthansa will be the first international airline to install Connexion.

Reciprocal points.
American Express and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide have joined together to launch the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card. Every time cardmembers make a purchase, they are awarded one Starpoint per dollar (plus two extra points per dollar if the money is spent at a Starwood property), which can be redeemed at the company’s more than 700 hotels or with 29 airlines. Those who sign up are enrolled in Preferred Plus, a new level of Starwood’s points system offering complimentary upgrades at check-in, when available, and 4 p.m. checkout. The annual fee is waived for the first year and is $30 after that.

Starwood also is joining the curbside check-in club. Using a handheld computer from Holtsville, N.Y.-based Symbol Technologies and a miniprinter, hotel staff members check guests in, process their credit cards, print receipts and program room keys at any location in the hotel. The system is in place at the Sheraton in Parsippany, N.J., and will be instituted soon at many Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, Luxury Collection and W Hotel properties.

The right food choice.
The terms “healthful food” and “airport dining” tend to be opposites in most travelers’ minds, but more terminals are offering tasty dishes that won’t hurt your waistline. To get the skinny on which airports have the most healthful choices, visit the Web site of Washington, D.C.-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.pcrm.org), which evaluates the availability of healthful food at the 10 busiest U.S. airports each year.

The organization praises San Francisco International, where 24 out of 25 restaurants offer low-fat, high-fiber, cholesterol-free meal options. “Healthy and delicious foods are abundant,” says the report. “If you have time, swing by the new international terminal, which has the most gourmet choices.”

Next on the list is Minneapolis-St. Paul, with 27 out of 41 restaurants providing healthful options, followed by Chicago’s O’Hare International, with 18 of 28 restaurants. In descending order, the last seven are Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Detroit.

Because some major airports, including Boston, JFK, Newark and Miami, weren’t in the top 10, PCRM will expand its critique to evaluate the top 20 next year.

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