. UNITED AIMS FOR BETTER BOARDING | Meetings & Conventions


Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August 2003 Current Issue
August 2003 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Sarah J.F. Braley


Flyers are called aboard by seat class and status&Boston’s airport fights terrorism

Boarding made simple? United Airlines has begun a new boarding system intended to speed up the sometimes frustrating process. Passengers are called to the door in four groups, rather than by row.

Upon checking in, travelers are assigned a number from one to four. Group one consists of all premium customers elite members of its Mileage Plus program (Premier, Premier Executive, and Premier Executive 1K designations), Star Alliance gold and silver members, and US Airways’ Chairman’s Club preferred customers. Group two is Economy Plus passengers; group three includes those seated in the last 10 economy rows; and group four comprises all remaining passengers.

First- and business-class ticket holders and Global Services customers still are allowed to board at any time.

In other United news, the carrier has partnered with Verizon Airfone to allow passengers to send messages from the Friendly Skies. The carrier will introduce inflight e-mail, instant messaging and text messaging over Verizon’s JetConnect service. To use it, passengers plug their laptops into jacks on the phone handsets. No software downloads are required; the computer connects through standard dial-up procedures.

The ability to send e-mail has been offered as a test service on select United 767 flights since December 2002; it will be rolled out to the rest of the domestic fleet by the end of the year.

On patrol. In June, the Massachusetts Port Authority introduced an elite security police, called the Anti-Terrorism Unit, specially trained to watch for suspicious activity at Logan International Airport. The officers are armed with Heckler & Koch MP-5 submachine guns. The unit will conduct security sweeps, surveillance, counter-surveillance, roadblocks, covert security testing, intelligence gathering and passenger behavior pattern recognition. The officers also are trained as a rapid-response team, should a high-risk situation arise.

Snazzy suitcases. Always wanted a Tumi bag but couldn’t afford it? Starwood Hotels & Resorts of White Plains, N.Y., has teamed with the South Plainfield, N.J.-based luggage company to offer various products to its frequent-guest club members. Starwood’s Preferred Guests now are eligible for Tumi incentives for frequent stays, have access to Tumi’s private sales and can redeem their Starpoints for merchandise at the Tumi website (www.tumi.com).

More mileage news: Frequent flyers on Continental, Delta and Northwest now can earn miles on any of the airlines and on most of their affiliates. The carriers’ airport clubs also are now open to each other’s members.

Leave the laptop at home. Guests at all Four Seasons properties now can rent a laptop from the hotel for the length of their stay. Depending on the location, either the hotel has computers on hand or it has contracted with a company to outsource the rental service. Prices also vary: At the Pierre in New York City, for instance, guests can rent laptops for $250 for their entire stay; at the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul, the cost runs to $75 per day.

Smaller is better. As part of its recent reader survey on service, Travel + Leisure magazine asked respondents which airlines paid the best attention to passengers. The results for domestic carriers are surprising, as none of the megas made the top five. Number one for service was Midwest Airlines, followed by JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines.

International results were more predictable: In top place was perennial favorite Singapore Airlines, followed by Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways International, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic.

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