Barnett on Business Travel for 2005

chris December 22: AirTran: Pleasant, Comfy Up Front--and Often Late
As an AirTran first-timer, I wasn't the only one surprised by the discounter's service. Seatmates on a recent flight raved about AirTran's friendly and helpful staff and the spacious business-class cabins. But AirTran regulars know the airline is plagued by the worst on-time percentage in the country. It makes for a frustrating trade-off.

December 8: A Cautionary Tale About a Once-Great Hotel
The decline of San Francisco's Stanford Court hotel, which operates under Marriott's Renaissance flag, is a cautionary tale of what can happen when a property's owner is primarily a real-estate tycoon, not a hotelier. Once the proud recipient of 18 consecutive Mobil 5-star awards, The Stanford Court seems stuck in the 1970s and badly needs a renovation.

November 17: Coffee, Tea--or Humbling Reality
Wondering why flight attendants aren't happy anymore? How would you like to work for 14 hours after sleeping four hours the night before? How'd you like to deal with prima donnas who demand first-class treatment for their $99 coach-class ticket? How'd you like to have your pay cut, benefits chopped, pension jettisoned--and then maybe lose your job anyway?

November 3: Three Business-Travel Truths About Las Vegas
Here are three etched-in-granite truths about surviving a trip to Las Vegas: If you're winning, pocket your profits and never bet another nickel. If time is money to you, always rent a car and never take a cab. And avoid the gargantuan gambling-palaces-cum-hotels. Check into a real hotel for personalized perks and the business services it takes to get work done.

October 27: At Home and on the Road With Stu Gordon
Lawyer and restaurant entrepreneur Stu Gordon and his wife and business partner are always on the road, traveling for business and pleasure and sleuthing their next "big idea." They've eaten more than 3,000 restaurant meals worldwide in the name of their dining research. They don't travel steerage and Gordon is as finicky as the guests at his restaurants.

October 20: The Final Frontier of Hotel Accommodations
The ultra-high-tech Room 267 at the Hilton Garden Inn in El Segundo near Los Angeles Airport is part of a not-so-secret laboratory of new rooms created by Hilton Hotels. Elsewhere in the otherwise unprepossessing airport hotel are concept rooms for Hilton Garden Inn as well as next-generation accommodations for other hotel brands in the Hilton Family: Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, Doubletree, Hampton and, of course, Hilton itself.

September 29: So Long America West. It's Been (Mostly) Fun.
I cannot understand why America West chief executive Doug Parker, who now sits atop the merged US Airways, would allow his carrier's name to be swallowed up. America West, it seems to me, had more brand equity. After all, US Airways was not only twice-bankrupt financially, it was notorious for poor service and greedy pricing on the routes it dominated.

September 1: Voodoo Economics and High-Speed Internet Fees
Call it voodoo economics, fuzzy logic or a blatant rip-off, but have you noticed that high-priced hotels charge $10 or more to use in-room high-speed Internet but lower-priced hotels give it away free? Many business travelers will now bunk elsewhere if a hotel charges for in-room Internet, so smart chains are getting the message and eliminating the fees.

August 18: A Boston Bar Where Everybody Knows Your Drink
My Boston cocktail safari was pure scholarly research: I was searching for the best bar for business travelers and I think I found it. Simply called City Bar and tucked inside the 102-year-old Lenox Hotel, the place made me feel at home the minute I walked in the door. It's a sophisticated, soothing saloon that will cut your blood pressure by 20 points.

August 4: Slimming Down (Your Bags) to Save Your Spine
Even the most passionate road warriors concede business travel can be a pain in the rump. Even a short trip can hurt your back, arms, shoulder, hip, neck and legs, depending on what you lug and where you sit. Or so say two prominent doctors who travel frequently and specialize in alleviating pain. Here's how to travel without endangering your health.

July 21: As Time Goes By at the Timeless Oriental Hotel
If Kurt Wachtveitl, general manager of the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, ever decides to write his memoirs, every publisher and film studio will be begging to buy the rights. Wachtveitl is so refreshingly and startlingly candid about the titans that he has pampered, it's not hard to imagine what he'd serve up if he really dredged his memory and committed it to paper.

June 30: The File on Helena Wong
Organized and outspoken are the trademarks of globetrotter Helena Wong. Half-Brazilian, half-Chinese and all-business, she is the global chief marketing officer and Asia-Pacific president of Esselte Corp., the $1.2 billion international office-supplies manufacturer. "Traveling overseas on a U.S. airline today is like riding a Greyhound bus," she asserts.

June 16: Taxation Without Car-Rental Explanation
I recently spent $134.89 for a one-day rental of a four-door car in Houston. My Houston hotel room cost just $127.53 for the night. And here's the real consumer rip-off: taxation without explanation. The local taxes and surcharges accounted for a whopping 36 percent of my bill and no one could explain what two of the extra charges covered.

June 2: The Brave New World of Airline Surcharges
Besides in-flight meals, free pillows, blankets and magazines, extra legroom and smiles have disappeared on many carriers. I think the bean counters at the big airlines are just warming up. My fearful forecast is that your economy-class ticket will soon buy you a middle seat--and then almost everything else, including seat assignments, will be à la carte.

May 19: At the Bar in Chicago: Capone, Ciroc and Style
The toughest part of traveling on business isn't battling the crowded airports, working on the cramped planes or waiting an hour for room-service breakfast and getting cold eggs. The real challenge is entertaining clients on their home turf with a drink after work. So here's a cheat sheet on where Chicago locals wheel and deal over a cocktail or a beer.

May 12: Me and the Night and the Empty Flight on Independence Air
You have to wonder if the skies are saturated with low-cost airlines when Independence Air can't fill a plane flying coast-to-coast even when fares are as low as $69 one-way. True, it was a Monday night red-eye and it was only the second day that Independence was flying to the West Coast. But the low fares had only enticed 30 flyers onto the new Airbus A319.

April 28: Once Upon a Time in the West: When the Flyers--and the Planes--Smiled
Twice-bankrupt US Air is talking merger with Phoenix-based America West and the discussions are déjà vu in reverse and possible revenge for West Coast business travelers. After all, the last time Virginia-based USAir ventured west for a deal, it was the predator gobbling up beloved PSA, the airline with a friendly staff and smiles painted on the nose of its planes.

April 7: Hilton Garden Inn: More Value for the Money in the Middle
Hilton Garden Inn is getting a major in-room makeover aimed squarely at road warriors. Besides a new bed, the redesigned rooms have a version of the iconic Herman Miller Aeron desk chair. A 26-inch high-definition, flat-screen TV has also been added. So's a nifty new clock radio that can play and amplify your MP3 player or portable CD.

March 31: JetBlue at Five: Healthy and Mostly Happy
It's amazing to think that a five-year-old can have a million friends, but JetBlue Airways boarded that many passengers in January and only four complained to the government about the way they were treated. I flew JetBlue from Oakland to Boston last week and, if my experience is typical, it's easy to see why more business travelers are clamoring aboard.

March 17: Is Holiday Inn Express Suddenly Hip?
Holiday Inn Express is suddenly hip with the Fortune 500 crowd. What sounds like a stripped down motel is becoming the bunkhouse of choice for business travelers who work for multinationals. I recently overnighted at the HiEx in Newport Beach, California, and was surprised to find that top guns with marquee corporations were regulars at $89 a night.

February 24: What Travelers Expect From Luxury Hotels
What do privileged business travelers expect to get for the towering rates that luxury, five-star hotels and resorts now charge? What do they want when they lay down their plastic? For starters, they don't pay the retail rate. And they demand attentive, personalized, 24/7, no-questions-asked service, often from the general manager himself.

February 10: It's a Wi-Fi World. We Just Travel in It.
It has finally hit me: The world has gone wireless for business travelers. My corner Starbucks has long been filled with over-caffeinated laptoppers working on business projects. But now even grand dame hotels have gone wireless in their lobbies, meeting rooms, restaurants and bars. So anywhere you sit down becomes an instant office with worldwide connections.

January 27: Business Travel Forecast: 'Home-ier' Hotels and Higher Hotel Prices
What's ahead for the estimated 38 million travelers like us who take 210 million business trips a year? My own poll of pundits, senior travel executives and veteran road warriors produced a laundry list of strong opinions. But all seem to agree that travel prices will rise, good deals will be harder to find and hotels will feel a lot more like home.

January 20: On the Road the Hard Rock Café Way
As manager of acquisitions and artist relations for Hard Rock Café International, Don Bernstine travels around the world to hang out with top rock stars. His mission: convince musical headliners to donate their most prized possessions to the world-famous memorabilia collection that adorns the walls and hangs from the ceilings in the 144 Hard Rock Cafés.

January 6: My Business-Travel Resolutions for 2005
You can't control natural calamities like this week's snowstorm, but you can count on money-losing airlines to consolidate more flights and cut more staff this year. And hotels are already inching up rates for 2005. So here are a half-dozen resolutions for traveling on business this year that should make life on the road easier and more productive and save you some money.

Copyright © 2001-2005 by Chris Barnett. All rights reserved.
A note to editors: This column is available biweekly through Copley News Service. Contact: Glenda Winders.