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October 2, 1999

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Europe By Air

When Europeans travel here, they can get airline passes that let them fly around the U.S. for much less than you and I pay. Well, to even things up, you should know about Europebyair.com, a plan that lets you buy coupons for flights around Europe for only $99 each way. You have to buy a minimum of three coupons, but even if you only use a couple of them, you may still save money.

These coupons allow you to fly between 130 cities in more than 20 countries. You don't even have to make your reservations in advance, though, of course, it's always a good idea. And you can fly any of 12 airlines--including Spanair, Icelandair, Air Greece, and Virgin Express. Each flight costs the same. Let me say it again for impact: Only 99 bucks. Usually, it can cost $700 one way between, say, Copenhagen and Madrid.

Now, you have to be a citizen and permanent resident of a non-European country. And you should try to order your vouchers at least 15 days before you plan to visit Europe. But there are no black-out dates, and you can determine your itinerary after you get overseas. Check out available flights by going on line to Europebyair.com. Your vouchers, by the way, are good up to four months after purchase.

Beating sky-high European airfares -- that's my Deal of the Week.

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FAA Champions Disabled Passengers
The federal government says it's cracking down on airline discrimination against the disabled. This summer, the F.A.A. fined Continental airlines a hefty quarter-million dollars for abandoning three disabled passengers on board a plane long after landing. This week another fine was announced after America West employees refused to let a blind passenger take her first class seat. They sent both her and her guide dog to coach.

Laurel Van Horn is the president of the Society for the Advancement of Handicapped Travelers. She says regulation has improved travel for the disabled -- just not enough.

Van Horn: "It's really a question of people continuing to remain vigilant and standing up for their rights. I mean, with more people and the aging of our population and more chronic illness, this is an area the F.A.A. needs to address more closely."

Van Horn says it's hearing-impaired passengers who now have the most trouble flying: safety videos aren't always subtitled and sign-language translation extraordinarily hard to come by.

737 Rudder Troubles
Well, no, it's not to get you to the gate on time, but United and U.S. Airways are telling their pilots to fly a little faster during take off and landing. Why? See, there are warnings of mechanical problems in the rudders of 737s. And the airlines say that at higher speeds, pilots can better detect possible malfunctions, and fix them on the fly if need be.

Does this mean stop flying 737s? I asked Chuck Eastlake; he teaches airplane design at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He says he's not worried.

Eastlake: "To me, it's not enough of a concern to keep me from riding on a 737. It's not enough of a concern to make me fret and worry while I'm on a 737. I've flown on 737s several times recently. I'm comfortable with it."

The F.A.A. has ordered more rudder tests, and Eastlake did remind me that the 737s have one of the best safety records, even though the rudders are the suspected cause of two crashes.

Fork it Over
Well, we all do it ... a towel here, a bathrobe there. This borrowing from hotels caught up with a woman's conscience in Israel. She decided to make it up during last month's Jewish Day of Atonement. So, she sent it all back ... forks, knives, towels ... everything. The hotel forgave her ... and they say they'll forgive anyone else too. That's the Nirvana Hotel, on the Dead Sea, in Israel. Here's how to get in touch with them:

Grand Nirvana
Mobile Post: Dead Sea 84960, Israel

Travel Advisory
by Cheryl Glaser

Ecuadorian Volcano
A volcano near Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is threatening to erupt. It dropped over an inch of ash on the city's southern sections one night this week. But there's only been minor evacuations so far. Luckily, another mountain stands between the volcano and the city. Scientists are warning about dangerous air pollution and are keeping a close eye on the rising smoke.

Alitalia Walkout
And things could get messy in Europe next week. Flight attendants for Italian airline Alitalia are planning a walkout in Rome Thursday that could affect travel across the continent. If the protest goes as planned, it will be the start of a series of transportation strikes in Italy that could last through the end of the year.


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