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October 9, 1999

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Hawaii Travel

If our story about Hawaii has you dreaming about palm trees and wide sandy beaches as winter approaches, then check out this deal from a California-based tour company called Pleasant Holidays. It's selling an unlimited travel pass that will let you fly between the mainland and Hawaii as many times as you want for a whole year for only $1400.

Every day except Wednesday, the company operates flights between Honolulu or Maui and San Francisco or Los Angeles. Pleasant Holidays says its average AirPass holder makes seven or eight trips a year, which works out to $200 or less per round-trip. That's about half what you'd normally pay.

There are eight holiday blackout periods during 2000, and there's a limit on the number of passes. But their agents say there are still plenty available since the deal was just announced. For more information, call 800-242-9244.

Hawaii...once is never enough. That's my Deal of the Week.

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Beware of Tourist Taxes
Add this to your "be careful what you wish for" file. Tourism in Juneau, Alaska has done wonders for that city's economy, but that was before there were 20 times more annual visitors than residents.

Well, last week the residents fought back. They passed a $5 a head cruise ship passenger tax. The big ocean liners bring almost all the tourists to Juneau.

Well, those kinds of -- call them tourist taxes -- are becoming more and more popular, especially with local residents who don't have to pay them. Hawaii, for example, just raised its rental car surcharge to $3 a day. Jamaica charges 27 bucks just to leave the island. Don Holecek watches taxes for the tourism industry. He says these new fees can really sneak up on you.

Holecek: "One of the problems here is that a lot of times these costs are hidden and the traveler doesn't even know what he or she may be paying in the form of taxes."

Check out the World Travel and Tourism Tax Policy Center at traveltax.msu.edu. From there, click on "Tax Barometer" to compare the travel tax burden city-by-city.

United Reduces Ticket Commissions
Unfortunately, higher prices are in the air -- at least that's what travel agents are saying. Starting Friday, United Airlines is reducing the ticket commissions they pay the agents. How does this affect you? Well, the travel agents are worried the airlines are cutting them out of the picture. And as Deena Long from the American Society of Travel Agents says, that could affect consumers.

Long: "The end result of that is that consumers will pay higher fares because they won't have a source to go to for unbiased information about airfares and for alternatives to major carriers. Travel agents say that without an advocate on the customers behalf -- that's what the agents consider themselves ... advocates -- there will be fewer deals and trips will get that much more expensive."

Airline Compensates Travelers
Gosh, taxes, natural disasters -- is anybody having a good week? Well, the answer is yes. Thanks to a judge's ruling Thursday, American Airlines will give over two million dollars to 13 passengers because of excessive turbulence on a 1995 flight.

A Clever Getaway -- Almost
And finally there's the case of a 12-year-old who stowed away on a TWA jet last week. He hopped a flight from Washington D.C. to St. Louis. The airline downplayed the breach of security, but the kid's having a hard time. His mom says he's grounded indefinitely.

Travel Advisory
by Cheryl Glaser

Terrorist Attack Warning
The State Department this week issued a worldwide caution as U.S. officials send a suspected terrorist to Saudi Arabia for trial. The U.S. government is worried about terrorist attacks and private security firms are urging precautionary steps, like avoiding Saudi-based airlines and watching luggage extra-carefully.

Floods in Central America
And, think again if you were going to drive down to Panama this week. Heavy rains and floods in Central America knocked out bridges and key sections of the Pan American Highway and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing for higher ground across southern Mexico.

Ecuadorian Volcano
In Ecuador, falling ash from a nearby volcano forced Quito's airport to close last week, even as scientists downgraded the chance of eruption. Rob Rachowiecki is just back from Quito for Lonely Planet guidebooks, and he says the situation is not as grim as it seems.

Rachowiecki: "It's not another day in Quito, that's for sure, but people are maintaining a relatively calm atmosphere."

A mushroom cloud of smoke and ash rose above the city Thursday and officials are telling people to wear surgical or gas masks while outside.


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