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January 22, 2000

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Entertainment Discounts

Usually I'm not a fan of discount books, but then I came across this one that got my attention. Maybe you've seen those fat books published by Entertainment Publications. They put out 130 regional editions every year.

There are all kinds of discounts in these books: two-for-the-price-of-one meals at restaurants, cut-rate admission to theme parks, hotel and motel price breaks...but the book is really worth it for the discount air certificates. They give you $25 off a Northwest or Continental ticket costing between $175 and $300. Or twice that off higher fares. The biggest savings are for families or friends who travel together, since you can use the coupons for up to four passengers at a time. Use 'em all, and you can save as much as $6,000.

Now, as usual, there are advance-purchase requirements, and you can't fly during most holidays. The biggest savings are until the end of May and again next fall. For the first time, the process is entirely electronic -- you can even redeem the discount certificates online.

Want a copy or just more details? Call 800-445-4137 or check out entertainment.com. The books only cost between $45 and $65.

Entertainment Discounts -- that's my Deal of the Week!

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New Airline Fuel Surcharge
Okay, we've seen this coming for a while, and now it's official -- most airlines are raising fares this week...but the way they're doing it is downright dastardly.

First, a little background: last week, the airlines released their earnings reports and for the most part, the numbers came in well short of what Wall Street wanted. Why? The airlines said they're spending more on labor and fuel.

Now, "fuel" is important because instead of going ahead and raising their listed fares, several airlines this week started charging -- you're not going to believe this -- they're calling it a "fuel surcharge" on domestic flights -- $10 dollars for a one-way ticket, $20 dollars per round trip.

What this means is when you book your flight, the price will look the same. I just found a $228 dollar round trip from Washington, D.C. to L.A. on Continental. But were I to go ahead and pay for it, the actual price would be $20 higher. When you add in all the other taxes and surcharges, it's more like $270 dollars.

So who are the offending airlines? Well, Continental started it and now most major airlines have followed along. Let's hope some airlines hold back, because usually when even one or two of them do, these higher prices fall apart.

United Email Alert for Flight Delays
But before you get all depressed, there is some airline good news. Starting this week, United will send you an email, or page you if your flight is delayed. Simply go to their Web site at ual.com and click on "Flight Paging," under the "Travel Support" menu. You can choose a number of options to be sure you get to the gate, at the same time your plane does.

Lost or Delayed Luggage
Here's some good news on another bad front: lost luggage. It's a horrible thing, when it happens but this week, it became just a little less horrible.

Last Wednesday, the F.A.A. doubled the "minimum reimbursement" for lost luggage to $2500, which is great. The catch is, you have to submit a written list of what you pack, along with the date of purchase and how much each item cost.

That's a lot hoops to jump through. And some airlines require you to file your claim within 24 hours of your flight. You should also know that even if your bags aren't lost -- say they're just delayed, sent to Hanoi instead of Hawaii -- you could be entitled to a little spending cash while you wait. How much depends on each situation.

But the most important thing is you have to be persistent. The airlines don't exactly like to give away money -- even if it is their fault -- so you can be sure that if you lose interest in your lost luggage, they will too.

Travel Advisory
with Cheryl Glaser

Travel Warnings for Indonesia
Violence continues to plague parts of Indonesia, and this week the State Department is cautioning travelers there. On the resort island of Lombok, religious violence caused hundreds of tourists to flee, and countries like Australia and New Zealand are saying you should avoid the island entirely. The situation varies across the country. Bali, the next island over, remains calm for now. Visit our "Before You Go" section for more information on planning your trip.

Floods Take Toll in Venezuela
In Venezuela, last month's floods damaged the country's Caribbean coast. Now, the government has banned swimming and fishing for hundreds of miles of coastline. The water's too polluted, and many popular tourist beaches are closed indefinitely.

Strike Looms in Midwest Airlines Future?
And finally, closer to home, a judge issued a "cooling off" period this week to Midwest Airlines and its pilots association. They're in the midst of heated contract talks, and the cooling off period is a sign that a strike could happen as soon as mid-Feburary.


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