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L.A. to host Microsoft conference, still wooing Comic-Con

Even if Los Angeles fails to woo one of the nation’s biggest gatherings of comic book fanatics, the city at least has netted a major conference of computer techies.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to announce Monday that the city will host Microsoft Corp.'s Worldwide Partner Conference 2011, a gathering of the company’s staffers and business partners July 10 to 14 next year.

The conference is expected to bring about 15,000 attendees, who would spend an estimated $45 million, officials say. It would be one of the biggest gatherings at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles is still fishing for an even bigger catch: Comic-Con International.

The celebration of comics and pop culture typically draws about 125,000 visitors, who spend nearly $60 million on food, lodging and other expenses during the annual conference that has been held in San Diego for four decades.

Comic-Con organizers say the event has outgrown its longtime host, the San Diego Convention Center. The event is under contract to stay put through 2012; after that, it’s free to relocate.

Now, Comic-Con has three suitors: San Diego, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Organizers say they expect to make a final decision in a week or two.

Meanwhile, Villaraigosa is touting Microsoft’s decision to hold the conference in the city as evidence that downtown Los Angeles is much safer, cleaner and more exciting than it was years ago.

“We look forward to welcoming Microsoft and its partners to L.A. next summer,” he said, “and showing them the best of what this world-class city has to offer.”

Book hotel rooms your favorite way

If you are content with your hotel room, that probably has nothing to do with how you booked it.

That is the conclusion of a new survey of more than 27,000 travelers. Most guests were just as satisfied with their hotel rooms regardless of whether they booked via a phone call, through a hotel’s website, used an independent travel site or walked in off the street, according to a Consumer Reports annual survey.

And when it comes to getting a discount, the survey found that people who haggle with hotels said they got a better room rate 80% of the time. (The survey didn’t ask how much the hagglers saved on average.) The best technique, according to the survey? Negotiate over the phone before making a reservation instead of waiting until you get to the lobby.

Union wants life vests, rafts to be required on all flights

“In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device.”

That’s part of the usual spiel that flight attendants give at the start of most long-haul flights.

But it seems the Assn. of Flight Attendants believes passengers should have much more than a seat cushion if a plane ditches in the water.

The union, which represents more than 50,000 flight attendants, has recommended that all commercial planes be equipped with such water safety equipment as personal life vests and inflatable rafts, regardless of whether the flight is scheduled to go over water.

Federal guidelines require the extra gear only on planes that fly over water for at least 50 nautical miles. The rule was discussed at a hearing last week by the National Transportation Safety Board about the “miracle on the Hudson” incident in January 2009.

Although the US Airways flight from New York to Charlotte, N.C., was not required to have the extra water safety equipment, it did. So after the plane was hit by birds and crash-landed in the Hudson River, airline safety officials said, life vests and inflatable rafts kept many passengers from drowning.

“Seat cushions are fine, but you have to hang on to them in order for them to keep you afloat,” said Corey Caldwell, a union spokeswoman. “Life vests, when used properly, allow flotation without having to expend additional effort.”

The NTSB endorsed the flight attendants’ recommendation last week. The Federal Aviation Administration has 90 days to make a decision about changing the rule.

hugo.martin@latimes.com


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