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airline tickets By Joe Brancatelli


Delta Lining Up SkyMiles and WorldPerks Before the Mileage Merger: Delta Air Lines, which gobbled up Northwest Airlines this year, is moving to absorb Northwest’s WorldPerks program into Delta’s SkyMiles plan, too. The official mileage merger won’t hit until late next year, but a few changes become effective immediately. Most notably, SkyMiles will allow members to qualify for elite status with segments as well as miles. Silver Medallion will require 25,000 miles or 30 segments; the Gold level will require 50,000 miles or 60 segments; and Platinum will need 75,000 miles or 100 segments. Meanwhile, WorldPerks will adopt a three-tier award structure that mimics the SkyMiles award chart. And both SkyMiles and WorldPerks will offer a minimum of 500 miles for each segment flown. … Holders of American Express cards tied to the Hilton HHonors and Delta SkyMiles programs take note: Amex has changed how it awards points and miles for many purchases. The result? Lower earnings for most non-travel categories.


More Perks, More Amenities, More Greenies: A pay-per-visit lounge called reLAX has opened in the Bradley International terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The entry fee ($10-$35, depending on length of stay) covers club access; snacks and beverages; and free Internet. … Heineken has opened its first bar in the United States at Newark Airport. The so-called Heineken Lounge is located in Terminal C. … Starwood Preferred Guest and Clear, the sputtering airport-security "line cut" program, have struck a deal. Platinum level members will receive a free year of membership and other members will receive three free months if they enroll in the $199-a-year Clear plan. … A 169-room Hilton Garden Inn has opened at the airport in Liberia, Costa Rica. Liberia is the closest airport to the increasingly popular Guanacaste Peninsula.


Car Sharing is the New Car Rental: Everyone’s heard of Zipcar, the urban car-sharing service — and so has Hertz, the world’s leading car-rental company. Hertz is beginning its own car-sharing club in New York, London and Paris. The program, Connect By Hertz, has an annual membership fee and hourly rental rates start at about $8.50. … Speaking of Hertz, the car-rental giant has changed its refueling policy. Instead of the old plan — the market rate for the gasoline plus a flat $6.99 service fee — Hertz has reverted to a much-disliked policy: charging as much as $7.50 for each gallon it pumps into the vehicle you’ve just returned. The best way to avoid the high price? Fill up at a nearby station outside the airport before youreturn your car. … Advantage Rent-A-Car has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed almost half of its locations. … The mixed-blessing of "consolidated rental facilities" — one big building that houses all car rental firms at an airport — has been gaining ground in recent years. But the trend has run smack into the financial realities of the credit crunch. The first casualty? Seattle/Tacoma has suspended work on its $400 million consolidated rental center. … The Internal Revenue Service has set the 2009 per-mile driving rate at 55 cents. That means you can deduct 55 cents for each mile of business-travel driving you do.

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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of, a non-commercial Web site for business travelers. Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use.

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