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February 12, 2000

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The U.S. for Lots Less

Last week, I told you about some great winter fares overseas. This week, some cheap domestic fares popped up. So if you want to hop around the country, give a listen. You have to move fast -- by midnight on Monday, actually, in the case of US Airways and its low-cost sister, MetroJet. They're offering great deals from Boston and Chicago. Like between Boston and Los Angeles, round trip: $283. Chicago-Orlando, $160. Those are online fares; it's five per cent more if you don't book on usairways.com. And you can travel through May 25th.

The new discount airline, JetBlue, just started from New York's Kennedy airport with $98 fares to Buffalo, $158 to Ft. Lauderdale. That's round-trip. And Delta and Continental both have spring sales. You have until this Friday to buy tickets, but you can travel until May 24. Sample fares: Las Vegas-New Orleans, $178. $D.C. to Dallas, $238. Atlanta-San Francisco, $338. Now, if you find you can't get a seat when you want, check with competitors who fly the same routes. They often match sale fares.

See the U.S. for lots less -- that's my Deal of the Week!

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F.A.A. Responds
It's been a tough few weeks for the aviation industry. First, the Transportation Department reported consumer airline complaints doubled in 1999. Then, there was the crash of Alaska Airlines flight 261. The F.A.A. is now ordering the inspection of all MD-80s -- that's the model of plane that crashed off the Southern California coast -- as well as a whole number of similar Boeing jets. All in all, over 1,100 planes will be inspected over the next few days -- about one-fifth the domestic fleet. The government is worried that a key component of the planes' horizontal stabilizers may be defective.

Avalanches Plague Winter Sports
Maybe you don't want to take any chances; you'll stay right here on the ground. Perhaps a ski vacation; the snow has been picking up lately in the Rockies. But that terra firma doesn't seem to be as "firm" this year.

Avalanche forecasters say this is one of the deadliest seasons on record. Some of the victims were inexperienced, but others were expert skiers, which got us to wondering if it's all in the draw of the cards. We called Ethan Green, a back-country avalanche forecaster in Utah. He says it's not tough to predict who's most likely to get trapped. It's a white man, age 18 to 35, who's very skilled at his sport...and chances are he's snowmobiling.

Green: "The technology has improved quite a bit. Snowmobiles are much lighter and faster and powerful so you can get up really quickly to the steep alpine terrain, where avalanches are prevalent."

So what do you do if you're caught in one? Well, you can try to angle off to the side and outrun it, but if you get buried be sure to move your head around as much as possible to create an air pocket. You should be able to survive for 15 minutes or so while friends dig you out. Ethan says you might also want to consider travel insurance with a rescue clause. Those highly publicized search and rescue efforts can run up quite a tab. Also, most important, is to never go alone!

New Zealand Harbor Chokes on Success
One of New Zealand's most famous -- and remote -- tourist destinations is choking on its own success. Officials say cruise ships that have taken to beautiful Milford Sound are too large to drop anchor, so they're having to sit in the harbor with their engines revving. All this idling produces a pall of smoke and haze in the otherwise pristine New Zealand air.

Communist Theme Park
A new Communist theme park in the former Soviet state of Lithuania has some residents seeing red. The park is filled with discarded communist monuments, which residents say is in bad taste because thousands of Lithuanians died fighting the Red Army. The park's creator defends his project, saying it's important to preserve history.

Travel Advisory
with Cheryl Glaser

Turbulence in Colombia
If you want safe travel, stay clear of Colombia. That's the word from the U.S. State Department, which is renewing its warnings against travel to the country. It says there's a greater risk of being kidnapped in Colombia than in any other country in the world. Just this week, soldiers freed hundreds of people who'd been held by leftist rebels during a four-day standoff. Meanwhile, negotiators say talks in Sweden have moved Colombia's main guerilla force and the country's government closer than they've ever been to ending Latin America's longest conflict.

Political Unrest in Austria
There's continued unrest in Austria, where protestors are outraged over the rightist Freedom Party role in a new coalition government. Over the years, party leader Joerg Haider has had kind words for the Nazis. There's another demonstration scheduled for Vienna on Saturday the 19th, but one travel writer we spoke to says tourists shouldn't have anything to worry about.


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