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October 30, 1999

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Cheap Airfare for College Students

If you're a college student, it's time to think about getting home or at least getting away. And if you're a student on a budget, you should register at United Airline's College Travel Network Web site where students pay by the mile if they book by the end of November.

How does it work? Simple. You pay a fixed price depending on the length of your trip. If you need to fly 500 miles or less to get to where you want to go, you pay only $99 round trip. Have to fly 1,000 miles to get home? That's $139. If you need to fly cross-country -- about 2300 miles -- you'll pay only $209 round trip. Those fares are for travel Monday through Thursday. Add 30 bucks for weekend travel.

You have to buy your tickets by the end of November and complete travel by the end of May. There are some black out days right around the holidays, but nothing you shouldn't be able to work around if, like most college kids, you get lots of time off during winter break. You need to reserve at least two weeks ahead and stay over a Saturday night. Check it out by visiting collegetravelnetwork.com.

Some relief for college students on United -- that's my Deal of the Week!

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Cabin Depressurization
The investigation of the tragic crash of golfer Payne Stewart's chartered Learjet continues. The likely cause: a sudden loss of cabin pressure.

I wanted to know if a similar loss of cabin pressure doom a commercial jet. I asked Bill Waldock, an air crash investigator.

Waldock: "Simply put, the crew is well-trained to deal with the situation. We have had depressurizations in airliners before and unless some kind of structural damage were to occur, the crew should be easily able to get the plane down to a safe altitude."

Bill also teaches engineering at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona. He said a few flights do lose pressure each year. At commercial cruising level--about 35,000 feet--you'd have maybe 45 seconds to get an air mask on. When a plane does decompress, the pilot's job is to get down to about 12,000 feet fast. That's where the air's thick enough to breathe.

New International Direct Flights
Last week, U.S. Airlines unveiled dozens of new flights the Caribbean. Delta has new flights from Atlanta to the islands of Aruba and Saint Martin. T.W.A. is adding daily non-stops from Los Angeles, St. Louis and Orlando to San Juan, Puerto Rico. T.W.A.'s turning San Juan into a regional hub, with more flights to St. Croix, Grenada and Tortola. United is flying from Washington D.C. and Chicago to St. Thomas.

Add to all that a new air treaty allowing more direct flights to Chile. Not to mention new routes in Southeast Asia, like the one planned between Taiwan and the Philippines. It's enough to make a guy like me crazy just thinking about all the places we can go.

Getting Your Free Tickets
Did you ever notice collecting free tickets can sometimes be an ordeal? Those 800 numbers can be a real pain, what with phone mazes and ubiquitous busy signals.

Well, the frequent flyer magazine called Inside Flyer tested all those customer service numbers. What'd they find? Don't call on Mondays: that's when the phones are busiest. Wednesdays are better. Free tickets to Europe in the summer are the most difficult to snare; some folks start calling for them a year in advance. If you have no luck, call back a week, a month or even three months later. You may find airlines have freed up more seats. Ever get an representative who isn't particularly helpful? Call back later for a second opinion.

Lewis: "That's a trick we use sometimes if we want to get some information or verify a bonus. Sometimes you get somebody who's not as trained as you would like. Just say thank you very much and try calling back again and maybe you'll get someone who can help you."

That's journalist Pam Lewis. She wrote the article for Inside Flyer.

Travel Advisory
by Cheryl Glaser

Kidnappings in Yemen
Less than a week after a new State Department warning, kidnappers abducted three Americans in Yemen. Yemen's become a hot travel spot for people wanting to see the rough and undeveloped desert country. That, despite hundreds of tourist kidnappings there since 1991. Most victims are returned safely, like those three Americans were last Thursday. But the State Department is worried the violent incidents are on the rise.

Malaria in Cambodia
And if you're going to Cambodia, you better take your own malaria medicine. Doctors there are warning about counterfeit pills on the streets of Phnom Penh. The fakes cost a lot less than the real ones...and they don't work at all.


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