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 Barnett on Business Travel for 2004

chris December 16: A Fresh Start for InterContinental Hotels
Long before Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental were courting senior managers and moguls, InterContinental ruled that rarefied roost around the world. Now, after a long dry spell under a series of corporate owners, InterContinental has opened an impressive new hotel in the United States, a 443-room tower in Atlanta's tony Buckhead section.

December 2: It's Grin-and-Bear-It Time at Delta Air Lines
I recently flew several segments on Delta Air Lines and I had mostly pleasant, even relaxing journeys. Putting on a brave public face and a smile is tough when your job benefits have been slashed and your paycheck may go out the window, but Delta's ground and cabin crews deserve a round of applause for showing amazing grace under fire.

November 18: Remaking Courtyard for Today's Road Warriors
Two decades after Marriott invented Courtyard hotels for 9-to-5 business travelers, the market has changed and the Courtyard brand has been "re-invented." The chain's best customer today is a road warrior in a 24/7 on-demand society who works over meals, works in his room until midnight and has to be more productive than ever before.

November 4: Is Ted the Business Traveler's Friend?
I finally met Ted the other day and actually did think United's discount sibling was going to be my new buddy. Ted, it turns out, was not all that friendly to me. Prices are higher than you might expect, the standard coach seating is too tight to use a laptop comfortably and the service, at least on my test flight, was distinctly unfriendly.

October 21: An Affordable Business-Travel Hotel in Las Vegas
I've found the best hotel in Las Vegas for a business traveler who feels lost, frustrated and ripped-off at the huge gambling temples with beds. Last year, the old Maxim Hotel got a $75 million "extreme makeover" and emerged as the Westin Casuarina Hotel and Spa, the first hotel in town wooing individual and small groups of business travelers.

October 7: Your Questions, My Answers
You have questions about the bewildering world of travel today and I have answers. It's my take on an old parlor game. Call it Clueless. I'll answer your queries about the whereabouts--and financial comfort--of former airline executives; the state of hotel high-speed Internet; where you should rent a car; and why 50 cents worth of booze costs $8 at a hotel bar.

September 16: Butcher, Baker, Hotel General Manager
Too many hotel general managers act like lords of their castle. But Wayne Susser, general manager of a Doubletree hotel in Pennsylvania, acts more like the mayor of a small town. He cooks omelets at the breakfast buffet, checks in guests, pops into the restaurant to clean tables and occasionally bakes the signature amenity, the free chocolate chip cookies.

September 9: Good Fares and Bad Seats
Wait! Before you mouse click on a fare for your next business flight, have you really crunched all the right numbers--including the seat pitch? For maximum cost-effective flying comfort, shop for the best fare and note the type of aircraft scheduled to make the flight. Then check for seat width and pitch. And don't forget the other variable: load factors.

August 19: It's Not Only Rock 'n Roll at the Hard Rock Hotel
Think Hard Rock Hotel and you probably flash on swaggering rockers, ear-splitting heavy-metal music, tattooed and pierced groupies and tourists roaming the lobby fingering the memor-abilia. But on a recent expedition to the Hard Rock in Chicago, I was surprised to discover that the 381-room property just may be the city's best value-for-money hotel.

August 12: Chicago's Best (Hotel) Bag Man
Every time that ABC sportscaster John Madden pulls up to the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago, he roars, "Where's the Greek?" Teddy Psychogios is always curbside to greet him. And when the fruit-and-vegetable king of Lansing makes a reservation, he calls Teddy direct. Is Psychogios the hotel's general manager? Does he own the Ritz? Neither. He's the hotel's bell captain.

July 22: A Makeover on the Moors
For months, Peter de Savary has been micro-managing the makeover of a shabby, century-old manor house inside Dartmoor National Park in England. He has spent $50 million to turn the five-story, stone fortress into Bovey Castle, a refuge for the weary traveler, the wealthy who don't have a castle of their own and deep thinkers who want an unusual retreat venue.

July 8: Is American Airlines Still Something Special in the Air?
With main rival United Airlines bankrupt and No. 3 carrier Delta Air Lines threatening to file for court protection, money-losing American Airlines is surviving by battling the nation's scrappy discount carriers with lower ticket prices, a massive frequent-flyer program, sack meals and gate agents and flight attendants who can still muster up a smile in tough times.

June 24: Pounded by the Pound in Pricey Britain
Here's an instant seminar on currency trading any business traveler can understand: A martini at a popular cocktail bar in London set me back $25 and a night in a stylish hotel there can cost you more than a roundtrip coach ticket to England. Headed across the pond without a CEO's expense account? Here are some tips for controlling your currency costs.

June 17: A Better Class of International Coach
International frequent flyers who feel cramped back in coach but can't afford the business- or first-class fares and can't get upgraded have a little-known comfort option on some airlines. A handful of international carriers sell an "economy plus" ticket with a bigger seat, more legroom and some of the perks doled out in the front of the bus.

June 3: 'Urgent' Is the Standard for Great Hotel Service
In steamer-trunk days, corporate bigwigs traveled with an entourage of secretaries, assistants, chefs, doctors and nurses. Today, powerhouse business travelers--titans who can rattle a stock market or shut down a plant--usually travel solo and they don't want obsequious servitude. The top brass today makes one demand: They want everything now.

May 20: Hotel Suites for the Homeless
Extended-stay suite hotels are a sort of a pied--terre on the road with a fully equipped kitchen, a living room, a bedroom, someone to shop for groceries, a free community breakfast and a happy hour. On a recent nine-day visit to Washington, I checked into--and checked out--branches of Residence Inn, Homewood Suites and BridgeStreet.

April 22: Bread and Circuses--and a Brasserie--in Berlin
To stand out in Berlin's brutally competitive hotel market, Ritz-Carlton has built a startling range of sybaritic pleasures into its new 301-room property in Potsdam Platz. There's a shoeshine butler, waiters offering water pipes filled with flavored tobacco--and a brasserie shipped piece by piece, board by board from the French countryside.

April 8: Life on the Road With Wolf Blitzer
"I have some travel quirks that are important to me," Wolf Blitzer, CNN's lead anchor and most recognizable newsman, tells Chris Barnett. He studies the seating configuration of different aircraft and avoids bulkhead seats. Most of them don't offer enough legroom or a drop-down table for working and spreading out papers, he says. Read all about his other quirks and what Blitzer thinks of his life on the road.

March 25: Some Frills and Style Survive at Continental Airlines
The original Continental Airlines had plenty of attitude and passengers often felt like privileged guests at a private party. Clearly, Continental's glory days are long gone. But among the Big Six carriers that I've flown in the last year, Continental's flights were the friendliest, the airfares were shockingly low and the airline has hung on to some of the frills and style.

March 11: Hampton Inn's Extreme Makeover
Just before 9/11, Hampton Inn began a three-year odyssey to reinvent the chain. Hampton wanted to make the hotels hip and homey without sending the chain's reasonable room rates into orbit. The company recently unveiled its new look and it is clear that Hampton Inn has, indeed, been given an extreme makeover. The estimated $100 million worth of improvements is obvious.

February 26: Bagged at Security in Brussels
Helping out an old friend by carrying their extra bag when you check in for an international flight is a generous act that may land you in big trouble. It happened to Chris Barnett in Brussels and now he's concerned that being a good pal is in his permanent security file. Here's his tale of woe and paranoia.

February 12: America West Reinvents Itself
Despite some visible scars and bruises, America West is fighting on, scoring with a new plan that includes long-haul nonstops at affordable walk-up fares for business travelers who have to book last-minute trips. And it's making money. Are we talking "extreme makeover" here? To find out, I recently flew three America West roundtrips. In my opinion, the door-to-door flight experience remains inconsistent.

January 29: When One-Way Is the Right Way to Fly
One wise way to save big money on airfares today is also incredibly simple: Pick your destination, check the Internet for the best available round-trip fares and then buy two one-way tickets on different airlines over the phone. The few extra minutes of shopping are worth it regardless of whether you're a self-employed entrepreneur picking up your own travel tabs or you're reimbursed by a cost-conscious corporation.

January 22: The Incredibly Shrinking Jets in Our Future
Chris Barnett has seen the future of air travel in the United States and it is small, noisy, cramped and hostile to carry-on bags, tall people and laptop-toting road soldiers. It's an ugly and uncomfortable fact of life: The major airlines are now using 50-seat regional jets on routes as long as 1,300 miles. That's almost four hours of flying on a knee-crunching, shoulder-stooping, laptop-crimping, all-coach aircraft.

January 8: From Shabby Spaces to Exciting Hotel Spaces
Converting decrepit old buildings into shiny new hotels is a popular pastime with hospitality companies today, yet many seem to transform shabby spaces into boring places. But Chris Barnett has found imaginative re-creations of a 148-year-old former bank headquarters, a rundown dry-goods warehouse and a one-time department store.

Copyright 2001-2004 by Chris Barnett. All rights reserved.
A note to editors: This column is available biweekly through Copley News Service. Contact: Glenda Winders.