AIRLINES & AIRPORTS
Cheap Chopper to NYC. Delta passengers flying economy class to New York City's Kennedy Airport can get a lift into town by helicopter for $45 about the same price as a taxi ride. There are 27 flights daily from Monday through Friday, connecting passengers at JFK with the Downtown Manhattan Heliport near Wall Street or the East 34th Street Heliport in Midtown. The eight-minute U.S. Helicopter flight is free for business- and first-class customers; the offer is good on all tickets purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31.
DeltaWest? Norelta? Northwest and Delta have announced a merger. It will take up to two years to fold Northwest fully into Delta, so, in the meantime, the airlines will continue to operate separately. You won't lose any award points you've accrued with Northwest, and if you bought your tickets with that airline, you should still go to its gates at the airport to check in. For more info, see the FAQ on the Northwest website.
Member Benefits. Continental Airlines is waiving fees on the first checked bag for holders of Continental Airlines Chase Bank credit and debit cards. That's a cool $15 back in your pocket.
More Member Benefits. American Airlines is now giving its best customers PriorityAAccess privileges. First-class, business-class and other full-fare ticket-holders, along with AAdvantage frequent flier members, qualify for priority check-in. At select airports (Dallas-Ft. Worth, Chicago O'Hare, Miami International, Los Angeles, New York City's JFK and La Guardia, St. Louis, San Francisco, Boston, San Juan and Puerto Rico) they'll also have access to designated priority lanes through security.
Companion Tix. Book a round-trip ticket on American Airlines from the U.S. to the U.K. in first, business or select economy class between now and Dec. 31 and earn a free companion ticket for travel to the U.K. or the Caribbean between Jan. 15 and Dec. 15, 2009.
Shortchanging Short Hops. What American giveth with one hand, it taketh with the other. A new mileage-award policy takes effect Dec. 31: Short-haul flights, which once earned fliers a minimum of 500 mileage points, will now earn points equal only to the actual miles flown. Super-elite gold and platinum AAdvantage members, however, will still receive the 500-point minimum.
Southern Comfort. The new $570 million Raleigh-Durham International Airport opened this week, featuring 40 electronic check-in kiosks, 19 gates and 10 lanes through security with the latest and fastest security screening equipment available. Inside, there are 25 shops and restaurants, including an oyster and ale bar and an organic food market, to occupy you before your flight. Currently serving the airport: Air Canada, American Airlines, American Eagle, United and, beginning Nov. 6, Delta.
Free Money. When was the last time a hotel gave you cash at check-in? The Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago is handing guests $20 in one-dollar bills in the hopes that they'll use the money charitably during their stay. The hotel suggests giving back by tipping a street musician or paying the highway tolls of 10 cars behind you. If you upgrade your room, the hotel will donate $25 to one of three local charities, including the Chicago Food Bank. Generosity must be contagious: Another Chicago hotel, Hotel Indigo, is handing guests $25 gift cards to Target or Best Buy. And Detroit-area Marriott hotels are giving away $25 Visa gift cards; they're also offering $94 weekend rates to entice you to stay (mention the code D53, when you call 800-228-9290 to book).
Cool Running. Select Westin hotels have added a Running Concierge to the staff, so if you're not content with jogging on treadmills, you can sign up for a guided three-mile run outdoors. Jogging strollers, water and towels are provided.
Down, Dow! Here's a reason to hope for a bad market close: From now through Dec. 19, the High Peaks Resort (800-755-5598), in Lake Placid, N.Y., is offering weekend rates tied to the Dow's closing. For example, if the Dow closes on Friday at 8,387, you can book a room that weekend for $83.87.
Rising in the East. With the hotel market falling at home, perhaps W will find success with its first outpost in China. The 393-room W Hotel in Hong Kong opened this week on the waterfront in Kowloon, with sweeping views of Victoria Harbor from the rooftop pool. 1 Austin Road West, Hong Kong; 852-3717-2222
Ticket to Ride. New York Citybased Carmel Car and Limousine Service expands its network of car services to 52 cities including Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco and Houston. One central number (212-666-6666) allows you to book a ride in any of the company's affiliates nationwide.
Day Tripper. Discovery Cruise Line is offering free day cruises to Grand Bahama Island from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Register online, and the company will send an email entitling service members to the complimentary cruise. The offer's good until Dec. 31.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Picture Perfect. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 19132008 brings together the magazine's historic 19131936 photo archive and its stash of contemporary portraits from 1983 to the present, tracing nearly a century of change in celebrity photography. Artists include Cecil Beaton, Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz, Mario Testino and Bruce Weber. The exhibit runs through March 1, 2009. 5905 Wilshire Boulevard; 323-857-6000
Night Vision. Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night is at New York City's Museum of Modern Art. The small exhibit includes the artist's masterpiece, "Potato Eaters," and other night-inspired paintings, drawings and letters. See the collection on MoMA's late night (Friday), then hit Danny Meyer's Modern bar and restaurant next door for drinks and small plates (sit in the Bar Room). The Alsatian thin-crust tart with crème fraîche, onion and applewood smoked bacon is perfect with a glass of white. The Van Gogh exhibit runs through Jan. 5, 2009, then moves to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. 11 West 53rd Street, New York City; 212-708-9400
Street Sweepers. If you'll be in town this weekend, check out the New York City Marathon runners make their way through all five boroughs on Nov. 2. The course starts in Staten Island and finishes in Central Park; there are two good places in Manhattan to cheer the athletes along First Avenue, between East 59th Street and the East 90s, and along Fifth Avenue south of East 110th Street, until the exhausted marathoners make their turn into the Park. If you're trying to get out of New York City, be aware of street and bridge closings, detailed on the marathon's website, where you can also find a course map.