Subject: London stopover planning

I've had some slight complications in my planning of my summer trip to Europe; I think I have things under control, so I'm reporting this in case it's interesting or useful to anyone. I reported earlier that I booked a frequent flyer award on Northwest to London, because I couldn't get any closer to Italy. Since I did this, NW announced it was resuming service to Rome, but there was no award availability to be found at the time of the announcement. More recently, I've found some available award seats to Rome, but no return seats from there or anywhere in Europe on dates that work. I could go to Rome and keep the return I've booked from

London. Surprisingly, the only awards to Rome are on weekends, and my return from London is midweek; going on one of the weekend dates would make my trip either too long or too short. For now, I'm staying with what I've booked to London.

>From London, there are very low airfares to the Continent on the new low-cost carriers; since I'm arriving at Gatwick Airport, I was thinking that I wouldn't bother with the long transfer to Stansted where most of the low-cost flights depart. I would just stay at Gatwick and take one of the legacy carriers (British Airways or Alitalia), since their intra-European

fares are more reasonable than they used to be. Also, each of them had an afternoon flight from Gatwick to Rome that would work well. Although I felt that it was too early to book these flights, I looked at the timetables and fares after New Year's and found that both airlines' flights from Gatwick to Rome were off the schedule; as of summer, the only direct flight on this route is too early for me. I continue to think that it would be too grueling to change airports after a transatlantic flight and not arrive in Italy until night, so I'm looking at the remaining options from Gatwick: go to Pisa or Florence (pretty convenient for my Umbria destination) or take easyJet from Gatwick to Milan Linate for next to nothing. Other family members, my mother at least, may be booking

themselves to Milan so this may encourage me to take this route, and wonder what schedule changes might still come along.

I'm planning a stopover of a couple of days in London for my return. I've built up Hilton Hhonors points mostly from credit card use; I'm not a Hilton-class traveler, but this is a nice way to build up travel points on a no-fee credit card, and now is an occasion to start using the points. I get lots of tips on building up points from the discussions on ; I was tipped off that award stays can be booked at renovation, would start out as a Category 1 hotel requiring 10,000 points a night, as opposed to the 25K for the Kensington on the fringes of things and 35-40K for most London Hiltons. I promptly tried to book myself at the Waldorf but award stays weren't available for my days. Then Flyertalk discussion reported that phone agents were saying it was a mistake that the Waldorf was listed as a 1; it should be a 6 and anyone who booked it as a 1 would need to have a certificate for 40K points per night. At this writing, more than 24 hours after the first reports of the misrating, it still shows on the Hilton Web site as a 1. I was ready to suggest that Ziners who have Hhonors points and are planning a London trip should try to snag an award stay at the Waldorf, but now that seems risky.

Andrew Missouri