Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Monday, March 03, 2008

2008 Travel Highs & Lows To Date

ORD Hilton Zip Check-in kiosks will also print your boarding pass

Checking in for a recent overnight at the venerable and convenient Hilton O'Hare, I noticed for the first time that the Hilton Zip Check-in kiosk has an option allowing you to check in for your flight. You can check in for virtually any airline at O'Hare.

Since I had an early morning flight the next day to Canada, I used it to print my Northwest boarding passes, which included the option to enter my passport number and avoid doing it at the NW counter.

This is a great common sense service which I'd never noticed. Thank you, Hilton! Is this available at every Hilton with Zip Check-in kiosks? If not, it should be.

Hilton London Metropole–don’t bother

This Hilton property near Paddington (225 Edgware Road, London) was my brief place of residence in early February when it hit me that I should go home and be with my family (see previous post). OK, so I didn’t stay a month, but it didn’t take long to become irate and then weary of the place.

My so-called deluxe room (upgraded on account of my Hilton Diamond status) was not very. After waiting two hours for it in the pitifully-small Concierge Lounge, I was surprised to find the room tattered and worn. If the room I occupied could be classified “deluxe,” then the regular rooms must be the size of broom closets.

Towels were small and thin, perhaps to appropriately match the room size and the threadbare carpet. The showerhead leaked badly into a broken drain plug in the bath.

The overall effect was a dreadful dreariness, reminiscent of East German hostelries in the 1970s.

I was shocked that Hilton could get away with such third-rate, third world charms and still charge $360/night (whoopee! about half the rack rate, thanks to my client’s clout in negotiating a corporate rate, but still…), plus another $24/night for Internet connectivity.

American Airlines new Business Class seats are still uncomfortable

Going home from London I flew on one of AA’s 777s outfitted with their new Business Class seats, about which seats on one of their 767s I had written an unflattering review last November. But this was my first 777, and I hoped somehow that they’d be better.

They weren’t.

Even on the roomy 777, the seats are laid out in claustrophobic pods and feel very crowded. Here are my handwritten impressions at the time:

Terribly hemmed in. Can’t move. No place to put anything. Even the little shoe cubby holes are not deep enough for shoes, nor tall enough to accommodate both shoes. The seat slope when “flat” is too steep, and makes it impossible for the window seat guy to get over you. Feel sorry for anyone with window seats or the middle one in the center. Trays are poorly designed and insufficient.

In summary, the seats are the poorest design I’ve ever seen, especially for the full $6600 fare (round trip), beating even Delta’s horrible BusinessElite seats. 100% of people I’ve spoken to who’ve tried AA’s new business seats hate them and mourn the loss of the old seats, which, while they would not fully recline, were far more comfortable and roomy.

New Delta SkyMiles Award Travel redemption program to offer three tiers

If you’re a Delta frequent flyer, perhaps you got the email about this, too. Three tiers? Do you reckon the third tier will be a TRIPLE mileage requirement now for a guaranteed seat, replacing the double mileage?

With this announcement, Delta has taken dissembling to a new level. Their opening sentence reads: “We’ve heard you loud and clear.” And the third sentence makes me want to puke: “You’ll soon enjoy…”

What kind of dolts do they think can’t see that they are trying to spin this further dilution of the FF program to be a customer-oriented response?

We all know it’s a crock. Instead of treating us like intelligent beings by explaining that they HAD to do it for their own reasons—to make money—which is a fine reason, Delta put BS language in their message like they are doing us a favor by responding to our requests. It’s the worst kind of hypocrisy, and it doesn’t engender trust or respect for the people talking to us as officials from a significant travel partner. Why can’t they just say something like this:

“HEY, YOU! YEAH, YOU, OUR BEST CUSTOMER. We’re changing the rules on you because we want you to pay more for free seats. It’s our damn program, and we’ll do what we want to with it. You signed up for a 60-day window for unilateral changes when you agreed to join our program. So we played by the rules, albeit the rules we created. If you don’t like it, you can stick it in your ear.”

I might not like their tone, but I couldn’t fault them for candor. I’d even respect that and put my loyalist Delta hair shirt on again.

But I’d still berate Delta copywriters for being so ignorant that they didn’t even know to hyphenate the word “hard-earned” in the second sentence.

American Airlines, Continental, & AirTran beat the odds

Ten flights on AA, CO, & AirTran in February were all good experiences and close enough to being on time that I'm not going to nit-pick about it.

My family was with me on four of those segments, and that made it even better. Nothing's worse than schlepping your kids and all their stuff plus your own bags between connections when the inbound plane is late and the outbound gate is so far away that it's in the next county over.

My wife's native good luck must have helped, but, hey, she wasn't with me on those other six flights, so I have to thank these three carriers for beating this winter's delay odds for me.

On the road to not be on the road

Oh, I forgot to mention that I have found an interim solution to my work-versus-travel conundrum (see previous blog post on my epiphany in London):

I have a temporary consulting assignment that's just a 2-hr flight away from Raleigh and allows me to be at home Fri-Sat-Sun. I'm giving it a whirl and will report between now and April on whether my family life can remain in balance doing this.

Meantime, I make a 2-day trip to Regina, Saskatchewan this week, which should make for an interesting blog report. Here's a precursive tidbit: Northwest serves Regina out of MSP with several flights a day using Embraer 175 aircraft which even have a small First Class section. I'm aiming for one of those few "F" seats so I can see what it feels like to fly first on an RJ.


Blogger gbtrotter said...

I just spent a cold few days in Milwaukee but as I walked into the warm environs of the Hilton City Center, I did located a Zip Check-In Kiosk. Good thing too, a busload of people beat me to the front desk but no one was at kiosk! I had my room key in just over a minute and used it a few days later for my NWA boarding passes.

3/14/2008 1:40 PM  

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