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June 26, 1999

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Summer Airfare Bargains

This is prime travel time when airfares are at their highest. But if you know where to look, you can find some deals. Think of shopping for airfares as a garage sale--you have to go through a lot of junk to find anything worthwhile. But I've already gone through the junk for you. First of all, two weeks ago I told you British Airways and American would give you a free coach ticket to London for travel this winter if you bought one now for travel this summer. Well, this week, TWA and USAir duplicated that offer. But you have to buy your ticket by Wednesday, June 30th.

If you need to travel on July 4th weekend, Reno Air (www.renoair.com) has special fares such as LA-Vegas $58 round trip, LA and San Francisco $76. If you're on the east coast, USAirways' low-cost airline MetroJet (www.flymetrojet.com) continues to fly to new cities. And whenever that happens, there's usually a month or so of bargain, introductory fares. In the case of MetroJet, book two weeks ahead and you can fly between Hartford and DC for $78, between Baltimore and West Palm Beach for $138. Miami's only $20 more.

And AirTran (www.airtran.com) begins service to Newark on July 1st. Roundtrip fare between there and Dallas, $198, between Newark and Miami, $178 and between Newark and Atlanta, $158. You only have to buy your ticket a week in advance and travel before the end of September.

Unexpected summer sales now that you know where to look--that's my Deal of the Week.

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Airline Alliance
Another move in the airline alliance game this week: Air France chose Delta as its exclusive U.S. partner. What's emerging are four global groups: the Star Alliance, OneWorld, the soon-to-be-unfurled Wings; and now, this partnership. These alliances help you earn miles on multiple airlines, but for passengers, there aren't many more benefits, says Biztravel.com's Joe Brancatelli.

Brancatelli: "A perfect example is this new Delta-Air France alliance. So now you have two carriers that are going to globally align their flights. Yet if you connect between a Delta flight in New York to an Air France flight in New York, which are their two major hubs for international flights, you'll have to change terminals because they're not going to move their flights into the same terminal, so actually passengers have to pay more attention to these alliances to see what they're losing than what they're gaining."

No question what the airlines are gaining. United and Lufthansa said being part of the Star Alliance contributed at least $200 million to their profits last year.

B'bye Passenger Rights Bill
Airlines have had five years of record profits, but some travelers say they're not doing as well at customer service. A Senate committee Wednesday supported the airline industry's voluntary improvement plan. Gone for the moment at least is Senator Ron Wyden's proposed legislation, which would guarantee passenger rights such as access to the lowest fare.

More on Pilot Fatigue
How about a guarantee that your pilot is well-rested? USA Today reports that American Airlines pilots have complained they're often pressured to fly without adequate sleep. The airline called the claims nonsense, but the FAA will investigate the matter as part of its probe into the Little Rock crash.

The Not-So-Friendly Europeans Skies
There's trouble in the air over Europe as well. The Association of European Airlines says the first three months of '99 were the worst EVER for flight delays. They predict a summer of chaos, blaming increased military air traffic and incompatible air traffic control systems. Milan's Malpensa airport had the worst record, with more than half of its flights delayed by an average of 45 minutes.

Leaving London
Well, it just got easier to leave London. Check-in desks for Heathrow Airport opened Wednesday at Paddington Train Station. Passengers on 19 airlines can now get boarding passes and check luggage before hopping on the high-speed Heathrow Express Rail, which reaches the airport in 16 minutes

Travel Advisory
by Cheryl Glaser

Transportation Strikes in Italy
You might have to wait even longer for that flight out of Milan if Italy's transportation strikes continue. This week's wave included airport firefighters, railway workers in Tuscany, Venice and Naples, and ferry service to Sicily. The strikes against government reforms are expected to continue several more weeks.

U.S. Embassies in Africa
The State Department closed six U.S. embassies in Africa on Friday. They cited security concerns including suspicious individuals watching the buildings, and intelligence reports that accused terrorist Osama Bin Laden was planning an attack.

Worldwide Caution
Earlier in the week the State Department issued a "Worldwide Caution," anticipating the resumption of the treason trial against Turkish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. It urged Americans abroad to remain "vigilant" with regard to personal security, but declined to specify areas that present the most danger. Violent protests occurred throughout Europe when the Kurdistan Workers' Party leader was captured earlier this year.


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