Tapping Real Value on the Road
The Business Travel Guide
Written by Michael Roney
Now, more than ever, you need to extract top value from your business travel. That translates to efficiency, comfort and reward — maximum return on investment for each dollar spent. Some pundits insist that overall travel quality is declining, yet a review of the business travel marketplace paints a much different picture, revealing instead unprecedented value opportunities for those in the know.
Think Loyalty and Alliance
Building your best foundation for business travel value means staying true to a loyalty program and a global airline partnership such as the Star Alliance group, SkyTeam or oneworld®. A loyalty membership lets you leverage special promotions, use airport lounges and receive personalized hotel room perks, car upgrades and earnings that can be cashed in for free flights, hotel stays and other exclusive deals. Reciprocity agreements have effectively turned loyalty rewards into currency that can be exchanged among all partners.
For example, you can earn and spend exchangeable rewards not only by flying as a member of one of the Star Alliance carriers’ programs such as Air Canada’s Aeroplan or Miles & More, the frequent flyer program of Lufthansa, but also by staying at scores of major hotel companies, including Hilton, Marriott and Sheraton; renting through Avis, Hertz and Eurocar; using an associated loyalty credit card; or buying services and merchandise from scores of retail and specialty partners.
Flying within an airline alliance usually will result in faster and more comfortable connections en route, thanks to sleek new transfer-friendly terminals at places like Toronto, Zurich and Frankfurt, as well as code sharing among participating airlines. Lufthansa and Air Canada are founding members of the Star Alliance group, whose 21 members fly 16,500 daily flights to 912 airports in 159 countries.
Access More Value
Frequent flyers have long valued the benefits that top-tier status brings, including access to airport lounges that offer areas for both work and relaxation. Air Canada’s 20 award-winning Maple Leaf Lounges provide access to Wi-Fi and well-equipped business centers, as well as complimentary refreshments, entertainment centers and shower facilities in select lounges. And you don’t even have to have top-tier Air Canada or Star Alliance Gold status: Air Canada customers can purchase access starting at $25 per visit.
Whenever you’re traveling to or from China through Air Canada’s ultra-efficient hubs or doing business in any of Canada’s world-class cities, you owe yourself the opportunity to explore the sights, sounds and tastes that make these places so special.
Canada’s French metropolis is one of North America’s most unusual cities. Spend a few hours at the Museum of Archaeology and History (350 Place Royale; phone 514-872-9150), which features an actual ongoing archaeological dig that reveals the 300-year history of the city, then stroll through the incredible Jean-Talon Market (7075 Avenue Casgrain; phone 514-277-1588) and its myriad stalls of produce, meats, fish and baked goods.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop by the Stash Café (200 rue Saint-Paul Ouest; phone 514-845-6611), a Polish restaurant in the old town that was a hangout for journalists in the 1950s. If you want to savor some French-Canadian culinary culture, try Au Pied de Cochon (536 Avenue Duluth West; phone 514-281-1114), a traditional Quebecois restaurant in the Plateau district.
This host city of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games sublimely combines multicultural urban delights with stunning natural beauty. When you have an afternoon to spare, visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown (578 Carrall; phone 604-662-3207), a beautiful little place combining the harmony of four main elements: rock, water, plants and architecture. Later, take a walk along the False Creek Seawall, which extends from Stanley Park past Sunset Beach and eastward to False Creek, with views of the downtown skyline and the mountains beyond.
If you have a full day, travel five miles north of downtown to the Capilano Suspension Bridge (3735 Capilano Road; phone 604-985-7474), where you can experience the wilderness and the gigantic, age-old trees. On the way back, stop for an atmospheric lunch, dinner or cocktails right on the water at Cardero’s (1583 Coal Harbour Quay; phone 604-669-7666).
Don’t leave Beijing without experiencing the hu-tungs, or traditional alleyways, with their markets and old-style houses built around a quadrangle. This venerable architecture is quickly disappearing in favor of anonymous new apartment blocks and offices. All that may be left of them soon is a few token buildings for the tourists.
Take an afternoon and evening to mix old and new. First check out 798 Space in Beijing’s Dashanzi Art District (No.4 Jiuxianqiao Road/Chaoyang District; phone 86-10-64376248), where old industrial buildings have been converted in Bauhaus style to trendy galleries serving a growing art community. Then positively relive the old days at the Lao She Teahouse (Bldg. 3, Zhengyang Market, Qianmen Xi Dajie, Chongwen District; phone 86-10-67160201), where you’ll get a taste, quite literally, of traditional Beijing cuisine and live performance.
If you’re an Air Canada Super Elite member or traveling in Executive First on an international flight, you can take advantage of a personalized concierge service available in 20 airports around the world. The dedicated service offers assistance with ticketing, connections, upgrades, baggage handling, customs clearance and special requests like hotel or restaurant reservations.
Lufthansa and SWISS offer a fleet of private jets that can be booked individually on short notice to more than 1,000 destinations in Europe, Israel and the Russian Federation, saving hours of critical time for important business meetings at a much lower cost than conventional business jet programs. You can start your day in Milan, be at a business lunch in St. Tropez and join your colleagues for dinner on the Greek island of Mykonos all in the same day, or simply save time and have a meeting directly on board while flying to your next appointment.
For further convenience, Lufthansa offers nonstop flights to Germany from its 22 North American gateways and connects to over 400 destinations worldwide with its partners.
Use the Technology
Technology continues to enhance travel value and flexibility. Most major carriers now have online check-in, allowing you to select your seats and print boarding passes from any computer up to 24 hours before the flight, and some even let you check in with mobile devices. In addition, Air Canada can send an electronic boarding pass to your mobile device that can then be scanned at the airport for all its domestic Canada flights and departures to overseas (non-U.S.) destinations, and also alert you via text message if there’s been a change to the flight time.
Passport verification and seat-change procedures are now streamlined with integrated radio frequency identification (RFID) scanners that are being installed at Lufthansa’s 300 existing airport check-in terminals, while mobile systems from Lufthansa and most other major carriers let you monitor arrivals and departures in real time. “With the additional convenience of our eFly services, customers can now make bookings, select their seat, check in and obtain a boarding pass, all from their cell phone,” says Jens Bischof, Lufthansa’s vice president, the Americas. “Following the successful launch of our mobile boarding pass technology in the Canadian market, we hope to make it available to our U.S. customers within the next year.”
International hotel chains such as Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) now have online check-in and lobby kiosks where you can print boarding passes for upcoming flights. Hertz, Avis, Budget and other major car rental brands provide electronic toll payment systems so you can bypass cash toll lanes in the Northeast Corridor and elsewhere in the U.S.
Enjoy More Services Onboard
New levels of value extend to the onboard experience, where the range of comfort options has never been greater for business travelers. For example, Air Canada offers the extra space and service of Executive Class on all its mainline flights, and the business class cabins on all its wide-body aircraft flying overseas feature lie-flat beds and private suites. The airline also offers all its customers in coach and business class an on-demand digital seat-back entertainment system, not just on international flights, but on all flights — and that’s in addition to 110-volt electrical sockets and USB ports. Air Canada customers can now start enjoying hundreds of hours of movies and CDs from the moment they take their seats on the aircraft until they disembark. “The increased availability of our in-flight entertainment on the ground and in the air makes flying even more pleasurable,” says Louise McKenven, senior director, product design at Air Canada.
Constant connectivity for PCs, PDAs and cell phones while in the air is another value booster that is finally gaining some real traction among the major airlines. This summer, Air Canada will begin offering in-flight broadband service to passengers on some flights to and from the U.S. West Coast and plans to expand domestically later on, while other carriers also have started deploying their own fleet-wide Wi-Fi services.
Challenge Equals Opportunity
There’s no question that even in the midst of economic troubles, the options for achieving real value on the road have never been better. Successfully tapping those opportunities is simply a matter of knowing what’s out there, and then executing your plan for real travel ROI.
You’ve had a busy few days conducting business in Europe, and now you’ve got some downtime. Forget about the usual tourist sights and restaurants; instead, seek out some favorite spots appreciated by the people who actually live and work in Lufthansa’s top business destinations.
Begin your explorations with a stroll down one of the city’s long avenues, the Berger Strasse or Schweizer Strasse. Then share some schnitzel and cider with the locals at the long wooden tables of Apfelwein Wagner (Schweizer Strasse 71; phone 69-612565), or check out Struwwelpeter (Neuer Wall 3; phone 69-611297), a genuinely old pub in the Sachsenhausen-Nord neighborhood across the river from the cathedral and city center. Here you’ll find benches, great beer and delicious family-style German food. Go ahead and take your pick; these places offer classic German ambience at its best.
You also can spend an afternoon wandering between the best of Frankfurt’s world-class museums lined up along the Main River, including the Städel Institute of Art (Schaumainkai 63; phone 69-6050980) and the Museum of Communications (Schaumainkai 53; phone 69-60600), or totally change your perspective at the Palmengarten Botanical Gardens (Siesmayerstrasse 61; phone 69-21233939) while viewing its world-renowned collection of tropical plants.
The heart of Munich is Marienplatz, the old city’s central square, which boasts a number of superb Bierkeller (beer halls) that offer a traditional Bavarian night out. Hit those establishments after visiting the Viktualienmarkt (80331 Altstadt-Lehel), a huge outdoor farmer’s market that has been around since the Middle Ages.
Travel a few kilometers north of downtown to check out the BMW Museum (Petuelring 130; phone 89-38223307) and enjoy the views of the city from the tent-like Olympic Stadium. Or simply walk through the artsy Schwabing district and then over to the Eisbach, an artificial stream in Munich’s large central park, the Englischer Garten, where urban surfers regularly work the standing waves created by a pumping mechanism.
Zurich is Switzerland’s commercial and cultural center, so why not enjoy all it has to offer? Check out the wonderful permanent collection and great thematic exhibitions at the Museum Kunsthaus (Heimplatz 1; phone 44-253-84-84), or enjoy the show at the renowned 1,100-seat Zurich Opera House (Falkenstrasse 1; phone 44-268-64-00) after dinner at the traditional and quite wonderful restaurant Kronenhalle (Rämistrasse 4; phone 44-262-99-00) or the old-style café littéraire Odeon (Limmatquai 2; phone 44-252-59-59).
For something a bit more avant-garde, join locals at the Theaterhaus Gessnerallee (Gessnerallee 8; phone 44-225-81-10) and its Bohemian-style restaurant Reithalle (Gessnerallee 8; phone 44-212-07-66). In August you can take the experience further at the Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Stadthausquai 17; phone 44-412-35-51), a great open-air fringe theater festival on the shores of Lake Zurich.
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