Travel News: Airports' Fast-Access Debuts at Sports Arenas

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Rob Cimino, a representative from Clear, demonstrates how biometrics is used at the Clear express security lane at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California.

For the week of Oct. 20, 2008


Permission to Dodge the Line. Southwest Airlines will offer "Fly By" priority lanes through security for Business Select and Rapid Reward A-List customers starting Oct. 17. Passengers at Baltimore/Washington International, Dallas Love Field, Phoenix Sky Harbor International, Orange County John Wayne, Denver International, San Francisco International and Los Angeles International should look for the orange and blue Southwest Fly By lane sign in the security area and present your boarding pass or A-List card to gain access to the special screening fast-lane. The program will roll out to other airports starting in November.

Iceland Cometh. The value of Iceland's krona has melted a bit. But if you have any cash left, there's a special being offered by IcelandAir. A round-trip ticket from Boston or New York to Reykjavik (a four-hour flight), plus three nights at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, Scandinanivan breakfast buffet included, costs $549. Book by Oct. 21 for travel through November.

Navigation 2.0. Believe it or not, your Garmin or iPhone uses a more advanced navigation technology than your airline. There's been discussion of upgrading the WWII-era radar technology on which air traffic relies to a satellite-guided GPS system, but the $35 billion plans have stalled. The proposed overhaul would help airlines fly shorter, more direct routes, reduce delays and save about $5 billion in fuel costs a year, according to estimates by the Associated Press. But even if the Federal Aviation Administration does invest, the new system wouldn't roll out until after 2020.

Frequent Flying. British Airways adds daily service to Venice, Italy, from Heathrow's Terminal 5, starting Oct. 26. JetBlue will offer daily service from Orlando, Fla., to Bogotá, Columbia, with fares beginning at $99 one-way, starting Jan. 29, 2009. Emirates' flight on its A380 from JFK to Dubai goes from three times a week to daily starting Oct. 26.

More Fee Cuts. Following Qantas's lead, Air France, KLM, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airways, Lufthansa, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have all reduced passengers' fuel surcharges in light of the drop in oil prices. Depending on the class of ticket you purchase, British Airways is dropping $12 to $20 off flights over nine hours and $10 to $18 off shorter flights. Virgin Atlantic is lopping off the same amounts. Lufthansa will drop its fees $4 to $32 depending on the route.


Everything But a Lullaby. Talk about taking your mission seriously. Westin's Chicago River North hotel has installed a testing room — a quasi sleep lab — created in consultation with sleep scientists, dedicated to figuring out how to help guests combat jet lag. It's unadvertised, but the Concept Room has been available to guests to reserve for about a year and has already spawned several sleep-inducing ideas — like blackout curtains — that are now standard in all Westin guest rooms. Another Concept Room program that will soon be rolled out nationwide is Sleep TV, a channel offering guided meditation to lull guests into slumber. Guests of the Concept Room can also receive an assortment of calming oils, a sound machine and a special jet lag–busting herbal calming tea and snacks. To encourage alertness the next morning, there's a blue light in the shower, which sends a signal through a receptor in your eye to signal wakefulness; if that doesn't do the trick, there's also a eucalyptus shower fizzer. Still groggy? The light box over the desk helps re-energize you in 20 minutes and the special morning breakfast menu offers invigorating tea and high protein smoothies. To reserve, call the hotel and request the Concept Room. 320 North Dearborn Street; 312-744-1900

Rooms with a View. Hilton has opened an outpost in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, next to the city's convention center — a sky bridge attaches the two buildings — and it's so close to Camden Yards that you can watch the Orioles play from your window and from the hotel's fitness center. The 757-room hotel is set up for conferences, with the largest ballroom in Baltimore, and meeting spaces with hi-speed Internet access and video-conferencing capabilities. If you have some spare time, the National Aquarium with 16,500 animals, including a tank full of stingrays and sharks is just steps away. Or, instead, you can while away the time in the hotel's indoor pool, whirlpool and sauna. 401 West Pratt Street; 443-573-8700

Cheap Rooms, Airfare Included. If you're traveling this fall, consider staying at Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express. Guests who book the "Stay to Fly" rate now through Dec. 31 will get a flight voucher for $198 toward a domestic ticket, or $298 toward destinations in Canada. (Flights must be booked 21 days in advance, and include a Saturday night.) To entice you to stay, Holiday Inn's parent company, IHG, which also owns Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites, has partnered with Google Earth and created a new search tool for visitors. Guests can download the free program, scan the world for IHG properties, tour the hotel in 3-D and see nearby attractions and local traffic and weather reports.


How Cheesy! If you're feeling peckish in Midtown Manhattan you might try wandering into the IMB Building's atrium at East 56th Street and Madison Avenue to nosh on a mozzarella tasting menu. Obika looks like a take-out sushi joint, but it's an Italian restaurant chain focused on cheese, specifically its handmade Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. The porcelain white (the yellow mozzarella in your supermarket was made from cow's milk, not buffalo's), slightly briny balls are paired with grilled vegetables and prosciutto. If you just want a sandwich to go, the menu also includes paninis. Look for Obiká's original location in Rome, plus outposts in Milan, Turin and London; the website has maps and directions. 590 Madison Avenue; 212-826-1400


Home-Field Advantage. Clear, the company that pre-screens subscribers and gives them fast access through security in 18 U.S. airports, including Logan, JFK and Los Angeles International, has extended its service to select sports stadiums. Fans of the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, and Denver Broncos can now sign up with Clear and get fast-pass access to their stadiums. To get a Clear card, customers pay $128 a year and submit to a one-time security screening, which includes iris and fingerprint images. It's a little Big Brother, but if you're the impatient sort, you get to sail past the crowds and straight into the stadium without having to get your bags checked.

BlackBerry Clams Up. It's finally here: BlackBerry's first clamshell phone. The Pearl Flip 8220, which costs about $150, is available from T-Mobile. It's about the same size as the original BlackBerry Pearl but bigger than other flip phones, and like other BlackBerrys it has integrated access for corporate e-mail, a Web browser, document-editing capabilities and a camera. It doesn't have 3G connectivity, but it's Wi-Fi enabled.

Translation Tool. Struggling with a phrasebook and your clumsy pronunciation is so old school. You can now cross the language barrier with Lonely Planet's audio phrasebooks for mobile phones. Local linguists have recorded 600 phrases — "Do you have a room?" or "Can you recommend a bar?" — in 10 languages (Mandarin, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Japanese, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Thai and Czech, with more promised soon). You simply play them through your phone's speakers. You can download the app onto iPhones (go to the App Store), BlackBerrys and any cell phone running the Java midp 2.0 platform or Windows Mobile. You can also buy the program from its maker, Steape.


Crazy for Art. Following its popular 2007 retrospective of self-taught 20th-century artist Martin Ramirez — who produced the bulk of his work while he was a mental patient at the DeWitt State Hospital in Auburn, Calif. — New York City's American Folk Art Museum is now showing 25 newly discovered Ramirez works. These drawings and collages, of horseback riders, trains, landscapes, Madonnas and animals, were done in Ramirez's last years, 1960-63, and collected by a doctor who provided the artist with art supplies. See Martin Ramirez: The Last Words through Apr. 12, 2009. 45 West 53rd Street; 212-265-1040

Canvassing the Stars. The first survey of work by portraitist Elizabeth Peyton, who is sometimes compared to David Hockney or Edwardian-era painter John Singer Sargent, in the U.S. includes her early paintings (of Kurt Cobain and Liam Gallagher), as well as more recent works depicting significant figures in politics, art and fashion. Live Forever: Elizabeth Petyon will be at the New Museum in New York City through Jan. 11, 2009. Afterward, the exhibit will travel to Minneapolis, London and Maastrict, the Netherlands. 235 Bowery; 212-219-1222