Travel News: Low Fares to Oz, and Other Goodies

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Qantas Airbus A380

For the week of Oct. 27, 2008


Cheap Fares to Oz. In 1954 Qantas began flying propeller planes from Australia to the U.S. (a three-day journey). Today the airline has added the decidedly faster 450-passenger Airbus A380 to its fleet. To celebrate, Qantas is putting fares on sale: $380 one-way from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Sydney or Brisbane and $480 one-way to Melbourne, for travel Oct. 24 to Nov. 17, 2008, and May 1 to May 31, 2009.

Snack Happy. Virgin America, which recently stole Condé Nast Traveler's Best Domestic Airline title away from six-time winner JetBlue, is introducing new items to their on-demand food menu. After swiping a credit card through the seat-back's touch screen menu, passengers flying coach can order ham-and-Havarti tea sandwiches, chicken Cobb salad wraps or Greek salad for $7 to $9. An expanded cocktail selection, with cosmopolitans, mojitos and margaritas are also on offer for $8. For first-class and select main-cabin passengers, the cocktails and meals are free.

Luxe Layovers. Westin Hotels are coming to you gate-side. The hotel group has teamed with United Airlines and created the Westin Renewal Lounge, located inside United's Red Carpet Clubs at the JFK, Los Angeles and San Francisco airports. Each lounge (built for one) is furnished with daybeds and the energy-boosting blue-light ActiViva lamp used in the Westin Chicago's Concept Room (see Hotels here, plus healthy snacks. In United's business class, passengers get oversized Westin Heavenly Bed pillows and blankets, along with scented towelettes.


Free Stays at Marriott. If you're a member of the Marriott Rewards loyalty program, you're in luck. The company has announced it will do away with blackout periods beginning Jan. 19, 2009, so you can use your points for free stays anytime. Marriott is also adding some new perks for members — when you redeem points for any four-night stay, you get a fifth night free. The offer is good at all Marriott hotels and resorts worldwide.

Rack Rate Bonus. Starwood's got an offer you might not want to refuse: For each night you pay full freight at any Starwood property — W, Westin, Sheraton, etc. — you get the next night 50% off. Call 866-924-8703 and mention promo code ZBT.

Openings. Doubletree opens in Milan...St. Regis Houston completes a refurbishment and updating of all 232 rooms and suites...W Scottsdale Hotel & Residence opens with 224 rooms...Sheraton opens in the Northbrook, Ill., near O'Hare Airport.


This Can't Be Good. Magnolia Bakery, the beloved New York City cupcake creator has opened an outpost in Rockefeller Center — a five-minute walk from this travel reporter's desk. The bakery's famous pastel-colored buttercream-frosted cupcakes are made on premises, along with flourless chocolate cakes, brownies and muffins. This is a take-out joint, but you can eat your treats on a bench in Rock Center; if it's cold out, head down into the nearby Rockefeller Center concourse. There's an entrance in the building a few steps from Magnolia, at 1250 Sixth Avenue.


Industry Downturn. The National Business Travel Association found in a recent survey that corporate travel managers are eliminating all non-essential travel. No surprise, considering the tanking economy and rising airline fares; costs of domestic business trips rose $140 to $175 per person over last year, and international trips went up $315 to $400. Employees who travel are even being asked to stay the weekend, returning on Sunday, so T&E can book lower-fare tickets. Next thing you know, they'll start charging you for blankets.


BlackBerry Bold. RIM's eagerly awaited new smartphone, the BlackBerry Bold, is going on sale Nov. 4. It's got GPS capabilities, BlackBerry maps, WiFi capability and a video player. Like the Curve, this Crackberry's only available through AT&T. Price: $299.


Meet Me in St. Louis. The St. Louis Art Museum opened Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940–1976 this week. (Click here for a review.) Billing itself as the "first major U.S. exhibition to reconsider Abstract Expressionism in over 20 years," the show takes a look at 50 works by such artists as Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Ad Reinhardt and Frank Stella through the lens of two contemporary art critics, Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg, as they dueled over the meaning of changes in the art world. Through Jan. 11, 2009. 1 Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, MO; 314-721-0072

New Take on Old Art? During the 1990s many artists mixed architecture, design and theater inside museum exhibition spaces to create an interactive moment of transformation for participants. As a retrospective of sorts, New York City's Guggenheim Museum has invited artists including Angela Bulloch, Jorge Pardo, and Rirkrit Tiravanija to collaborate on site-specific installations for the upcoming theanyspacewhatever. Carsten Höller, who installed aluminum slides last year at London's Tate Modern, will erect the "Revolving Hotel Room" at the Guggenheim in which visitors can sleep for the night. (Naturally, this opportunity is already sold out, but at least you can see the digs.) Through Jan. 7, 2009. 1071 Fifth Avenue, at 89th Street, New York, NY; 212-423-3500

Architect Porn. If you're in New York City this week or next and feel like looking at a really cool structure, head over to Central Park's Rumsey Playfield where starchitect Zaha Hadid has dreamed up Mobile Art. Inside the building is a project by Karl Lagerfeld — an exhibition of 20 variations on the classic Chanel handbag designed by artists including Yoko Ono. Well, at least the Pritzker Prize–winner Hadid's building is worth seeing. After its New York run, the entire exhibit will be taken down and reassembled in London, then Moscow and Paris. Admission is free, but you have to show up onsite to get your same-day tickets; the box office opens at 8 a.m. Through Nov. 9.


Closet Call. Forget mail order. You can now get on-demand deliveries from the New York City J. Crew Collection store, which will bring to your door a selection of cashmere sweaters, velvet trousers, Japanese silk obis, vintage flower brooches or snakeskin clutches. If you prefer to browse the store in person, you can book an appointment with a personal shopper who will get you champagne and snacks while you spend. 1035 Madison Avenue, at 79th Street, New York, NY; 212-249-3869