2006 Extra Mile Awards

MAXjet Airways: Business-class fares that tempt middle-class fliers 

Champagne cocktails and spacious leather seats with no middle rows are typically the domain of Hollywood players and corporate bigwigs who don't think twice about dropping $5,000 on airfare. The advent of MAXjet, an all-business-class carrier that began flying between New York JFK and London Stansted last fall, ushered in a new era. "Our goal is simple," says CEO Gary R. Rogliano. "Bring affordable business-class travel to the people who will pay a little more for a lot more quality." With one-way fares starting at around $700, MAXjet may not be a low-fare carrier, but it certainly is a welcome upstart. And its formula is apparently working: MAXjet, which has thus far attracted an even split of business and leisure travelers, recently introduced flights between Washington Dulles and London.

GetHuman.com: The secret code to better customer service 

After frustrating experiences navigating the labyrinth of automated phone prompts used by his bank and wireless provider, Paul English did what seems natural in the Internet era: He blogged about it. English, a cofounder of travel search engine Kayak.com, posted a cheat sheet of which buttons to press to reach a live customer service representative at a handful of companies. The idea struck a chord, and visitors to his blog chimed in with codes for other companies. In February, English shifted the growing list of codes to a new, volunteer-run site, GetHuman.com. At last check there were 415 companies, including health insurers, cable operators, and dozens of travel-industry players--Universal Studios Hollywood (press 4), Holiday Inn (press 0, then 0), and Northwest Airlines (press 3, then 1), to name a few. "I'm not anti-technology," says English. "Automation is great. Companies just need to treat people with dignity and give them a choice when it comes to customer service. When you call, you're automatically jammed down this path."

Hilton Hotels: A hotel making airline check-in go smoother

Smart travelers print their boarding passes before heading to the airport, but until now, folks staying in a hotel before a flight had little choice but to wait in the usual check-in line. "A lot of people travel with laptops," says Thomas Spitler, vice president of front office operations at Hilton. "But no one brings a printer, and sometimes it's troublesome to use the hotel's business center." In March, lobby kiosks began allowing Hilton guests to check in for flights, print boarding passes, and even change seats on 18 airlines (all major U.S. carriers and Air Canada). The kiosks directly access each airline's website, meaning that a Delta passenger looking at the kiosk will see the same page as at delta.com. "It's easy for everyone," says Spitler. "There's no learning curve." More than 90 full-service Hilton hotels currently have the kiosks, and the chain expects about 200 more properties--100 percent of its North American hotels--to be outfitted with them by the end of December. The kiosks are also working at 185 Embassy Suites, another Hilton chain.

LAST YEAR'S WINNERS

China Help Line Chinese-English translations over the phone.

Club Med Introduced The Ramp, a hangout exclusively for teens.

Continental Airlines Easy online calendar displays when frequent fliers can use their miles.

Google Google Maps and Google Earth, which changed how travelers find addresses and directions.

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts Free XM Satellite Radio in all rooms in the continental United States.

Independence Air Free tickets for passengers with delayed luggage.

InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club Rewards members now allowed to exchange points for stays at competitor hotels.

Microtel Inns & Suites Free Wi-Fi and nationwide phone calls.

Travelocity No-penalty flight date changes for customers who goof.

Walt Disney World Magical Express, a free airport shuttle for guests staying at its resort hotels.

2006 EXTRA MILE AWARDS

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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