Twice a month, Laura Williams heads to Boston for face-to-face meetings with some of her top clients.
But this month, the Bethesda-based health care consultant replaced one of those trips -- with a conference call.
As tens of thousands of people converge on Boston this week for the Democratic National Convention, some frequent business travelers say Boston is one of the last places they plan to be. Williams said she decided against the trip two months ago after seeing stories about expected record attendance and increased security at the convention.
"Traveling is stressful enough, but throw in trying to find a cheap hotel room and even securing a cab there this week, you can forget it," she said.
Airlines and hotels, meanwhile, are celebrating strong bookings this week. All 15 of US Airways' hourly shuttle flights on Sunday were sold out, said US Airways spokesman David Castelveter. Shuttle flights from Boston to Washington next Sunday, the weekend after the convention, were nearly sold out as well. Castelveter said the Arlington-based airline was considering adding shuttle flights during the week to handle convention traffic, but the move would depend on whether the carrier has any spare aircraft.
Travelers flying to Boston this week have been encouraged to arrive at the airport at least an hour before their flights. While shuttle passengers are usually able to breeze through security in about 10 to 15 minutes thanks to special lines at Reagan National, US Airways has urged passengers to arrive early because of the higher passenger load levels and potential bottlenecks at security checkpoints.
All 16 of Independence Air's daily flights to Boston from Washington Dulles were sold out on Sunday. All of the carrier's flights back to Dulles from Boston on Friday are also sold out, said Independence Air spokesman Rick DeLisi. He said flights were available Saturday morning.
Train travel to the Northeast also has surged. The number of Amtrak passengers heading north has swelled ahead of the convention but has not reached levels typical of a holiday period such as Thanksgiving, said Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel. Rail passengers will notice tightened security on the trains and at the stations, he added.
All three Boston area Hyatt hotels are fully booked, which is rare, said Hyatt spokeswoman Lori Armon. All five of Marriott's downtown Boston properties also are sold out this week, said spokesman John Wolf. The Republican National Convention, Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, also will pose challenges for travelers. US Airways still has "plenty of flights" available to New York during the period, Castelveter said.
Amtrak said yesterday it will require passengers traveling between Washington and Boston during the Republican convention to reserve their seats in advance. Amtrak spokeswoman Marcie Golgoski said Amtrak uses the same procedure during busy holiday periods.
Cell Phones on Planes: Travelers could be talking on their personal cell phones as early as 2006. Earlier this month, American Airlines conducted a trial run on a modified aircraft that permitted cell phone calls.
The flight required special clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission. The FAA and the airlines ban in-flight cell calls for fear the signals could interfere with navigational equipment. In a joint venture, American and San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc. will spend the next two years testing the system.
Question of the Week: The government's registered traveler program begins at Reagan National Airport next month.
Do you plan to sign up in exchange for bypassing long security lines? How do you feel about the required background check, fingerprinting and iris scan? Send your comments, along with your name and daytime phone number, to firstname.lastname@example.org.