United Airlines is leading the industry's latest assault on oversize carry-ons: this winter, it's installing stainless-steel "templates" in front of the X-ray machines at dozens of U.S. airports. When you put your bag on the belt, it must fit through a 9-by-14-inch opening, or you'll be told to go back to the check-in counter.
United insists that no one, not even its best customers, will be exempt. Why?Because passengers with oversize carry-ons delay departures, cause boarding hassles, and create safety hazards, for example when the big bag falls out of the overhead bin onto someone's head. (Last year, the Association of Flight Attendants sponsored its first national conference on the safety aspects of overstuffed bins.)
Delta has installed the same templates at a half-dozen airports, but hasn't decided whether to expand the program. Southwest is trying out the carry-on sizers — but with a greater limit, 11 by 17 inches — in Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
In a twist, Continental is bucking the trend. The airline, which shares a concourse with Delta at San Diego's airport, filed suit to force Delta to remove the templates, and sent a harsh letter warning United not to put them in a shared concourse in Denver. Continental, it seems, is spending $14 million to install larger overhead bins on 150 planes. Instead of cracking down on carry-ons, it "intends to accommodate carry-on baggage when practicable" — and doesn't want competitors telling Continental passengers what they can and cannot do.
It remains to be seen which side will prevail, but one thing is clear: as with any battle, when one side is infighting, the other side (in this case, the passenger) stands to gain. —J.G.
Among the State Department's travel advisories, special attention is given to the dangers of driving in Turkey. Here's what is recommended (and you thought Boston was bad):
• "Drive defensively. This is not a catchphrase to be taken lightly."
• "Drive each day as though you are on a mission, the goal of which is not to be involved in an accident, be hit by another car, or strike a pedestrian."
• "Do not assume other drivers will do the 'right' thing."
The warning then advises visitors to be careful of "vehicles backing up on exit ramps and main highways"; "oncoming drivers who play inscrutable light games, flashing whether you have your brights on or not"; and "the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Temporary lack of food and stimulants while fasting has in the past had a deleterious effect on levels of alertness."
The advisory also has a list of motoring terms. One to bear in mind: Allah korusun ("May God protect me"). —Matthew Yeomans
A handy rule of thumb from Natural Encounters, a safari operator and nature-trip organizer: "When tipping bellmen, etc., tip the cost of a local beer."
• Why can't more "couples-only" Caribbean resorts follow the lead of Swept Away?Reversing its policy, that Jamaican hotel now allows same-sex couples.
• It's nice to get the news when you're in an airport, but all those TV's can become annoying — especially if your flight is delayed.
• Airlines go to all the trouble of announcing connecting-flight gate information when what we really want to know is where to find the nearest rest room.
• A luxury hotel without bubble bath is like a wedding without champagne.
Biztravel.com has made getting an upgrade easier. Plug in your destination and the dates you want to fly, and its new Upgrade Finder will tell you which flights — among domestic routes on America West, Continental, Delta, Northwest, TWA, United, and U.S. Airways — are upgradable and what the qualifications are (whether certificates, coupons, or being a premium member in the airline's frequent-flier program). After you book your flight, Biztravel will send notification that you'd like an upgrade the moment the airline starts taking requests — a feat difficult for the harried B-traveler to match. If the upgrade isn't available at first, Biztravel keeps trying. —Emily Berquist
Most FBT's (frequent business travelers) do their best to block out memories of airports. Not Marco Brambilla. Eighteen months ago, he decided to make art of his alienation, flying to 60 airports around the world — and taking photos. (Because it's illegal to shoot in baggage-claim areas, he encountered more than a few guns.) The result: a coffee-table book, Transit (Booth-Clibborn Editions; $39.95), and a lost suitcase. —Jean Nathan
Another long day, and you'd love to relax by a waterfall. No problem: Hilton has installed a Stress-Less guest room and a Health-Fit guest room in each of nine hotels (in New York City; Rye Brook, New York; Short Hills, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; and at airport hotels in Chicago and Atlanta). At no extra charge, a Stress-Less room comes with a small fountain, a massage pad, yoga videos, soothing music, and an aromatherapy kit. The Health-Fit rooms have Reebok CyclePlus equipment, jogging maps, fitness magazines, and power bars. —Tom Belden
so you have meetings in...HOUSTON
Best business hotels: Four Seasons Hotel Houston (1300 Lamar St.; 800/332-3442 or 713/650-1300; doubles from $280) or the Luxury Collection (1919 Briar Oaks Lane; 800/325-3589 or 713/840-7600; doubles from $275). Expense-account restaurants: Breakfast at the Luxury Collection hotel (see above; $30 for two); power lunch at Anthony's (4007 Westheimer Rd.; 713/961-0552; $60 for two); Southwestern dinner at Café Annie (1728 Post Oak Blvd.; 713/840-1111; $110 for two). Car company of choice: Houston Town Car (713/635-2608). If you have a free afternoon: The Menil Collection art museum (1509 Sul Ross; 713/525-9400) or the Galleria shopping mall (5015 Westheimer Rd.; 713/622-0663). If you forgot to pack a tie or scarf: Saks Fifth Avenue (at the Galleria II, 5115 Westheimer Rd.; 713/627-0500). Web resource: www.houston-guide.com.
going my way
Name: Irene Wilson
Occupation: Vice President, Trend Forecasting/Consumer Behavior, the Spiegel mail-order Company
Home base: Chicago
How often do you travel? Every month or so I hit New York. I also frequently visit London, Paris, and Hamburg. Twice a year I take a major monthlong trip. This year: Tokyo, Taipei, and perhaps Milan.
Packing secrets: Ziploc. I should get stock in the company. Also, everything must be packed in a Takashimaya organza bag attached to a hanger, with lavender beads. Luxurious yet practical.
What do you bring? New ideas aren't usually found in the fanciest part of any city. I prepare for everything from walking up dirty stairs in central London to an evening at the opera. But comfort is my overriding concern. I pack three pairs of black microfiber shoes (walking, flats, quasi-heels), black Piazza Sempione pants and jackets, and black cashmere sweaters.
Gripes: Luggage is a problem — I've witnessed many incidents of overhead-compartment rage, but on one out of every 15 trips, a checked bag doesn't arrive. Also, a 20-minute wait after a six-hour flight is unacceptable. I carry on my luggage — two nylon Prada bags. It's like a planned workout.
Forecast: The industry will have to recognize that by 2002, 52 percent of business travelers will be women. Recently, a flight attendant assumed I was the wife of the man sitting next to me! —Catherine Doyle