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July 10, 1999

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Online Deals and Steals

There a few unusual deals and contests this week on that great big World Wide Web. Let's review 'em. Ever dream of flying Concorde? Air France is holding a drawing for a free Concorde trip for two to Paris, including lodging. Just answer three trivia questions about the supersonic jet--you'll have to browse the Web site to find those answers--and you're entered. The address is airfrance.com and the contest ends August 31st.

Travelscape.com will give you 10 percent off all air and hotel travel packages booked in July and August. And Expedia.com launches a new section devoted to family travel. For example, you can find out how to keep kids amused at 20 major North American airports. And kids can win free cameras and software by submiting short essays on their ultimate family vacation idea.

If you're in the market for a family car, check out VolvoEuropeanDelivery.com for details on a great deal. The Swedish automaker is offering a free European vacation with the purchase of a car abroad if you place your order by the end of September. Plus, you can drive your new Volvo all around Europe, and Volvo will ship it back to the States.

Travel deals and steals courtesy of the Web--that's my Deal of the Week.

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Strike One: Air Canada
Passengers with plans to fly to Canada breathed a sigh of relief when Air Canada came to terms with its flight attendants just in time to avoid a strike. But the agreement didn't help passengers who'd already scrambled to re-book on other airlines or canceled their plans in fear of the strike. Critics complained Air Canada should be more careful about disrupting passengers; after all, it has barely started to smooth things over after a pilots' strike last September. I asked travel columnist Ed Perkins who wins when these labor negotiations drag on to the brink of a strike.

Perkins: "Actually, in many ways, the consumers win because the net result of this is to keep costs under control. The mindset is that everybody wants wider seats and more legroom and better meals but nobody wants to pay anything for them. And as long as that happens, they're pretty much required to keep costs as low as they possibly can."

And that means playing tough with employees who want more money.

Transportation Near Misses
There were a few close calls for travelers last Thursday. An Amtrak derailment in Texas injured eighteen people. A Continental plane bound for Puerto Rico made an emergency landing in Bermuda after hitting severe turbulence. And the south Florida air traffic control center, which handles planes from Orlando to Puerto Rico, lost communication for 13 minutes when a power line was knocked out. Two planes barely missed each other while a controller helplessly watched them on the radar screen, but most planes went into holding patterns until communications were restored.

Safer Child Seats on British Air
Whether in turbulence or smooth skies, your baby will be a bit safer on British Airways starting August 1. That's when it becomes the first airline to offer specially designed seats for children under two at no extra charge on all long flights. BA plans to include the child seats on short flights in the future as well. It's responding to parents who complained about holding infants in their laps, a questionable practice as far as safety's concerned.

The Show Must Go On
If you want to give your regards to Broadway this New Year's Eve, you've got Mayor Giuliani on your side. New York police asked the theatres to close for the night of December 31st because the cops expect Times Square to overflow with two million revelers. Theatre owners initially agreed to do their part for crowd control, but Giuliani challenged the request, and said it'd make more sense to limit the Times Square visitors and allow the shows to go on.

Run, Bull, Run
And speaking of getting trampled by crowds of partyers--the bulls are on the run in Pamplona, Spain through July 14th. This year, bulls have gored and trampled at least a dozen runners; the annual bull-running has killed 13 people since they began keeping records 75 years ago. Half a million people visit Pamplona for the festival; thousands make the mad dash alongside the bulls.

Travel Advisory
by Cheryl Glaser

Strike Two: Olympic Airways
Air Canada avoided one strike, but strikes two and three were in Europe. Olympic Airways in Greece staged its second 24-hour strike in less than a week, leaving travelers stranded in 10 airports across Greece. So far, international flights haven't been affected. And when domestic planes aren't flying, you can travel between the Greek islands via ferry.

Strike Three: Italian Railway
It's not just air travel, though. Italy's railway workers launched a 24-hour protest when negotiations about job cuts fell apart. If you're planning to travel by train to Italy this summer, you might consider booking a combined Rail-Drive pass so you can rent a car during those pesky 24-hour strikes.

Floods Drive Tourist to Casinos
And back in the U.S., heavy rains paralyzed Las Vegas. Planes were diverted to Los Angeles as the airport shut down, and tourists huddled in casinos along the Strip as streets across town flooded. The National Weather Service called it Vegas' worst flooding in 15 years.


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