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July 17, 1999

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Autumn deals on Southwest

On the East Coast, things are heating up in the Department of Airfare Wars, and flyers who like to plan ahead are the winners. Southwest Airlines announced this week it'll gain another toehold in the East Coast when it begins service to Hartford, Connecticut's Bradley International Airport. This is a direct shot aimed at US Airway's low-fare carrier, MetroJet, that's been trying to sew up East Coast business.

Now, Southwest won't start flying to Bradley until the last day of October. But here's the deal: If you can book ahead, you'll fly non stop for practically nothing to Chicago, Baltimore-Washington, Orlando, or Nashville. Book seven days in advance, and you'll pay only $39 each way between Bradley and BWI.

Is it too soon to plan a fall jaunt? To get that kind of price, I don't think so. Heck, even the walk-up fare is only $69 each way. Compare that with the current $277 one-way, walk-up fare offered by the competition. Watch for MetroJet to lower its fares to match Southwest. And that's good news for all budget travelers!

Autumn deals as Southwest continues to expand--that's my Deal of the Week.

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ValueJet Crash Case Indictments
"This was a horrific accident, not a crime." That's what the lawyer for SabreTech said this week. SabreTech is the Florida company charged with murder in the case of the ValueJet crash in the Everglades that killed 110 people in 1996. Three SabreTech maintenance workers were indicted on separate federal charges of conspiracy, making false statements, and mislabeling and mishandling hazardous materials. Oxygen generators missing safety caps and falsely labeled as empty led to a cargo hold fire that doomed the jet.

Carnival Sails Muddy Waters
A lawsuit by a nurse who said she was raped by a fellow crew member aboard a Carnival Cruise Line ship last summer elicited this statistic: on average, a Carnival crew member has been accused of some form of sexual assault once a month over the last five years. Because cruise ships operate in international waters and fly under foreign flags, there's no obligation to tell American officials of alleged crimes. This was the first public disclosure of its type. In her suit, the nurse is asking that every Carnival ship carry rape-evidence kits.

Bottled is Better
And you might want to stick to bottled water on long flights. The World Health Organization says about a quarter of all drinking water on flights passing through Tokyo's Narita airport flunk the organization's health standards. Blame stagnant water that remains unchanged after long flights, poor tank maintenance, and faulty disinfectant methods.

Hotels Get Low Marks from NAACP
An annual survey by the NAACP found that the nation's largest hotel chains improved in the areas of hiring minority workers and reaching out to minority businesses and consumers last year. Marriott headed the list with a grade of B+. No one flunked, but the Bass/Holiday (which owns Holiday Inns) Wyndham, Starwood and Omni brought up the bottom with a grade of C.

New to the Skies: JetBlue
And JetBlue is the name of the new airline funded in part by investor George Soros that will start up early next year in the northeast. No word on the rationale behind the name, but I'm guessing blue will be the airline's official color.

Travel Advisory
by Cheryl Glaser

Flooding in China and Mexico
Heavy rains in Acapulco led to the evacuation of some homes due to the risk of mudslides or flooding. The Mexican beach resort's main boulevard as well as the road to the airport were also partially flooded. Major hotels, however, are open and receiving guests. Too much rainfall was the problem along China's Yangtze River as well this week. About 60,000 tourists--fifteen hundred of them foreigners--were evacuated from cruise ships on the river when the water rose above the locks built to allow construction of the massive Three Gorges dam.

Curfew in Columbia and Jamaica
And to clamp down on Marxist rebels, the country of Columbia has decreed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on road traffic in about third of the country, including areas around the capital of Bogota. In Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, there's a dusk-to-dawn curfew in some poor neighborhoods. Military troops have also established outposts there. Both moves are meant to halt gang wars that have killed 10 people in the last week.

Air Traffic Control Debacle
Technicians who maintain the nation's air traffic control system distributed leaflets at major airports this week claiming a 'rush to modernize' the system means that equipment is being rushed into service without sufficient testing or training. The Federal Aviation Administration says that's not true, that the equipment is subject to extensive testing before being put to use. The FAA says that the labor union representing the 10,000 technicians is merely trying to spur along stalled contract negotiations, as the workers have been without a contract since February, 1997.


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