TRAVEL ALERTS FOR THE DAY

Business ExtrAA Members offered Triple Miles from Dallas Love Field
Celebrating the launch of new service from Dallas Love Field, American Airlines is offering triple credit to Business ExtrAA members when flying American Airlines or American Eagle between Dallas Love Field and St. Louis, Kansas City, San Antonio or Austin from March 2 through Dec. 31, 2006. "From pre-reserved seating to First Class service (on American flights) to the world-leading AAdvantage program, American Airlines is committed to providing a superior product to travelers at Love Field - and the Business ExtrAA program is just one more example of that commitment," said David Cush, American's Vice President and General Sales Manager. 

Only Two Weeks Remain: Support AA's New Route to China
For those who wish for better service to Beijing from Dallas read the below:
Only 15 days remain to show your support. Everyone can help by signing the electronic petition and making the case that the both the U.S. and China can benefit the most from a DFW gateway to Beijing. Judging from the benefits that would extend to the interests of the hundreds of communities served by DFW, everyone wins, and everyone's support is vital. Please go to www.flytochinaonaa.com and complete this important task today.


Northwest Provides Q&A on Flight Attendants
(August 17, 2006) – Northwest Airlines plans to operate its normal schedule despite United States Bankruptcy Court Judge Allan Gropper's denial of Northwest Airlines' request for a preliminary injunction to prevent a threatened strike or work action by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) beginning August 25. The company has a range of contingency options to respond to any AFA work disruption and it will take all necessary actions to continue to operate its normal flight schedule. While we are disappointed by the ruling, Northwest and AFA remain focused on reaching a consensual agreement and will continue negotiating to that end.

Q & A

Now that flight attendants may engage in limited job activities starting August 25, will flights be affected or cancelled?
Customers can continue to book Northwest with confidence. We remain committed to continuing to serve our customers professionally and transporting them to their destinations safely and reliably. The company has a range of alternative options to respond to any AFA work action and it will take all necessary action to avoid inconveniencing customers. We will continue operating our normal schedule safely.

How do you plan to replace the flight attendants if they take job action or strike?
Our first priority is to reach a consensual agreement with our flight attendants, but in the event of a job action, Northwest has a range of alternative options to respond to any AFA work action. We will take all necessary action to protect the company and avoid inconveniencing customers.

Will Northwest experience a shortage of flight attendants?
We have a plan in place to ensure that our flights are properly staffed with certified flight attendants to meet both FAA and NWA requirements and the needs of our customers.

Will there be any noticeable changes to the in-flight service Northwest provides?
No. We have a plan in place to ensure that our flights are properly staffed with certified flight attendants to meet both FAA and NWA requirements and the needs of our customers.

If a work action or strike does take place, will you cut back the number of flights or close operations in any market, state or district?
Northwest plans to continue serving all markets in our network, with our normal schedule of flights.

Do you expect other unions to engage in sympathy strikes or refuse to cross AFA picket lines?
Under the requirements of the Railway Labor Act, all of the unions representing Northwest employees are required to follow the agreements that are in place. However, if individual members of other unions choose to engage in job actions, Northwest is prepared to serve our customers without interruption. Our contingency plan ensures that we will have sufficient personnel to continue operating our normal, full schedule of flights.

Will you give refunds or otherwise accommodate customers who wish to change or cancel their trips?
No. Northwest plans to continue to operate our normal schedule of flights, so normal fare rules will apply, based on the ticket the customer has purchased.

Will it be safe to fly Northwest if its flight attendants take a job action or strike?
Yes. Safety is our first priority. Northwest must be in full compliance with all FAA safety regulations at all times. Northwest meets, and will continue to meet, these regulations in every respect. Northwest has a range of alternative options to respond to any AFA work action, and it will take all necessary action to protect the company and avoid inconveniencing customers.

If your plans to fly a normal schedule fail, will you compensate for delays or cancellations?
We do not anticipate that our passengers’ travel plans will be disrupted.
However, any airline must always be prepared for irregular operations, and if any should occur, we will follow our existing policy of accommodating customers in several ways. Examples include the waiving of fare rules, rebooking passengers to other Northwest flights, allowing the refund of non-refundable tickets, and in some cases, re-booking passengers on other airlines’ flights.

Please visit www.nwa.com for additional information.


Air Travel Affected by Terror Threat
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has raised the overall terrorist threat level to ORANGE and has issued a RED alert for commercial flights from Britain to the U.S.

Due to the increased security threat, we are issuing the following talking points that can be used with your customers or with members of the media.

U.S Rules for Carry-on Luggage and Security Checkpoints

Based on the latest terrorist threat, the U.S. government has issued new regulations with regards to air travel. 

  • All liquids in carry-on bags are banned including: beverages, shampoo, suntan lotion, creams, toothpaste, hair gel, and other items of similar consistency
  • Travelers will be forced to remove such items at all security check points
  • For those traveling with an infant, baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger) and sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (diapers, wipes, creams, diaper disposal bags) will be allowed
  • Prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger's ticket will be allowed
  • Insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines are permitted
  • Any food purchased in the international departure lounge must be consumed before boarding
  • All passengers must be hand searched and their footwear and all items they are carrying must be X-rayed

No Electronics or Carry-on Baggage on All Flights Originating in U.K.

No hand baggage can be carried on board of any aircraft departing any United Kingdom airport. The U.K. government has advised that this will apply to all airlines operating from U.K. airports.

Electronic or battery operated items, such as:  computer laptops, DVD players, mobile phones, iPods, camera equipment and any other electronic items must be part of your checked baggage.

Items that may be carried on board in a single (ideally transparent) plastic bag are:

  • Travel documents essential for the journey (i.e. passports, tickets and visas)
  • Pocket sized wallets and pocked sized purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards and identity cards). Handbags are not permitted
  • Prescribed medicines essential for the duration of the flight, except in liquid form unless verified as authentic
  • Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases
  • Contact lenses, without bottles of solution
  • For those traveling with an infant: baby food, milk and sanitary items essential for the flight
  • Keys (but no electrical key fobs)

Every other item must be carried in customer’s checked luggage.

Advise Customers on Steps to Take

Our travel agents routinely counsel and advise their customers on matters of safety while traveling, whether domestically or internationally.  We provide them with the facts, as we know them, so that travelers may make informed decisions.  With access to the latest State Department Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, as well as up-to-the-minute information from our travel partners, we can help our customers navigate the changing travel landscape, should additional travel warnings or restrictions take place.

Travelers should:

  1. Expect longer delays at airports and airport screening stations
  2. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently recommending domestic travelers arrive two hours prior to departure, while those flying to international destinations are encouraged to arrive three hours prior to departure.
  3. Call ahead to see if their flight has been delayed or cancelled

For those customers traveling abroad who have provided contact information during their travels, we will be contacting them to make sure they are aware of the new restrictions and provide any assistance needed.

We are also advising customers who are scheduled to travel internationally to consider the practicality of traveling with their laptop and other electronic equipment before departing for the airport.

Travel is many times a necessary part of daily life.  We are here for our customers as a resource, so they can carry on with their normal daily activities.

U.S. Government is Vigilant

The United States currently has the safest air transportation system in the world.  When consumers hear that the Department of Homeland Security has raised the national threat level from an elevated to high risk of terrorist attack, they should keep that fact in mind


A380 superjumbo passes key evacuation test
Result is important step toward plane’s approval for commercial flights
AP, PARIS March 29, 2006
- The Airbus A380 has passed its emergency evacuation test, the European aircraft maker announced Wednesday, an important step toward the superjumbo’s official certification for commercial flights.

Both the European Aviation and Safety Agency and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approved the A380’s performance in an emergency evacuation drill conducted in a darkened aircraft hangar Sunday with 853 volunteers and 20 on-board staff.

One volunteer broke a leg and about 30 others sustained minor injuries during the drill in Hamburg, Germany, when all 873 participants evacuated the plane in under 80 seconds, using only eight of its 16 exits.

Airbus Chief Operating Officer Charles Champion said in a statement that the A380 had “passed a major milestone on the road to certification.”

Airbus aims to deliver the first two superjumbos to its launch customer Singapore Airlines by the end of this year — about six months behind the original production schedule.

The Toulouse, France-based jetmaker is majority owned by European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.


Protectionism door threatens to slam on Open Skies

 
Currently, only two U.S. airlines, American and United, have rights to take off and land at London's Heathrow Airport, the world's busiest international gateway. Approval of Open Skies could change that.  

By Marilyn Adams, USA TODAY - The rising tide of protectionism that killed the Dubai ports deal threatens to swamp another major transportation proposal: removal of 62-year-old limits on air service between Europe and the USA.

If European Union transport ministers approve the move at a meeting scheduled for June, any U.S. airline could fly to any of the European Union's 25 nations. Likewise, any European airline could fly from anywhere in Europe to anywhere in the USA.

Supporters of so-called Open Skies say it would allow airlines to step up competition for an estimated 17 million new passengers annually, making a trans-Atlantic market already valued at $22 billion a year even more lucrative. For travelers, Open Skies could mean more flights, more convenient routes and cheaper fares across the Atlantic.

But Open Skies has been controversial since negotiators for the U.S. departments of State and Transportation and other agencies began talking to the EU in 2003 about dropping arcane restrictions that limit air service between the continents.

In the USA, the Bush administration backs Open Skies because officials believe it would lower fares and benefit U.S. carriers. No. 2 United Airlines and No. 3 Delta Air Lines support it as a welcome step toward globalization of the industry.

Just as adamantly, Houston-based Continental Airlines argues that the promised benefits are illusory. Open Skies has also drawn vehement opposition from labor groups that fear American jobs might be lost.

"Giving away another vital U.S. industry to foreign interests is one more example of globalization run amok," says the AFL-CIO's Edward Wytkind.

Open Skies was no sure thing even before the political flare-up that killed the plan to turn over management of five major U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, a company based in the United Arab Emirates. Now some of the same arguments used to thwart that deal are being used to attack Open Skies.

Opponents are aiming criticism not at Open Skies directly, but at a proposed change in rules that govern ownership of U.S. airlines. EU transport ministers aren't inclined to approve Open Skies unless the U.S. first relaxes restrictions on foreign control of U.S. airlines to better reflect foreign ownership rules for European airlines.

The House has approved a non-binding measure to delay the DOT proposal to relax foreign ownership rules. Separately, 163 House members have co-sponsored a bill to delay or veto the DOT rule change. The Senate has similar legislation pending. If enacted, Open Skies could be stalled indefinitely.

Roots of foreign restrictions

Tight restrictions on foreign control of U.S. airlines date back to the 1920s, when memories of World War I were still fresh. Even today, no U.S. airline is permitted to have foreign interests control more than 25% of its voting stock or more than one-third of its board of directors.

In addition, foreign investors may not currently exert "actual control" over any aspect of a U.S. airline by, for example, having a majority of votes on a board committee or a company president who is American but beholden to them.

U.S. citizens must control an airline's safety, security, routes, fares — everything. To invite foreign investment and to pave the way for Open Skies, the DOT now proposes changing this rule so foreign investors could exert control over purely "commercial" decisions, such as fares and routes.

Only U.S. citizens would make decisions on safety and security, the proposal says. Limits on stock ownership and board control wouldn't change. Loosening foreign-control restrictions is not formally linked to Open Skies, but EU officials say one follows the other.

Daniel Calleja, air transport director for the European Commission, said in an interview from Spain that Americans don't face the same restrictions on investments in European airlines. Companies in the EU want "the possibility to invest in the American (aviation) market." In Europe, foreigners can own up to 49% of voting stock.

If the U.S. refuses to loosen its rule on airlines, "The EU ministers would have to re-examine the situation, and I think there would be no agreement," Calleja said.

Reaction in the USA to the foreign-control proposal has been swift and severe. Changing the U.S. rule would open the door to investment not only from Europe but also from anywhere else. Critics have not forgotten that U.S. oil company Unocal was nearly sold last year to CNOOC of China before a U.S. political backlash prompted withdrawal of the Chinese offer.

U.S. labor leaders fear foreign investment could threaten airline jobs at a time when tens of thousands of airline workers already have been laid off amid heavy losses and bankruptcies. U.S. pilots on trans-Atlantic flights could be replaced with foreign pilots, or more U.S. jet maintenance could be farmed out to foreign companies.

Reps. James Oberstar, D-Minn., and Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., sponsors of the House bill to block the easing of ownership restrictions, are sounding alarms about homeland security and national defense. During war, the Pentagon pays U.S. airlines to transport troops in the airlines' jets. Critics of the rule change say foreign investors might resist allowing aircraft use in a war they oppose.

"Allowing the daily operations of our airlines to be controlled by competing — and potentially unfriendly — foreign interests could significantly undermine homeland security," LoBiondo says.

Critics also say the DOT is trying to make an end run around Congress by changing the rule administratively. "If they straight up asked Congress to amend the law, it would fail," says Duane Woerth, national president of the Air Line Pilots Association.

But DOT officials say they have the legal authority to revise the ownership rules and are prepared to defend their actions in court.

"I am a little surprised by the ferocity" of the criticism, says Jeff Shane, the DOT undersecretary for policy. He chafes at opponents' likening the Dubai ports deal to foreign investment in airlines.

"The two cases are dramatically different," he says. In the foreign-investment proposal, "We have walled off security issues entirely" from foreign influence.

Restrictions on trans-Atlantic air service are almost as old as those on foreign investment. In the final years of World War II, the U.S., with the world's largest commercial fleet, wanted to fly anywhere.

But at a 1944 meeting in Chicago, the United Kingdom and other nations refused, citing their competitive disadvantage. The countries agreed instead on a system of individual agreements between nations regulating air service.

Although the U.S. has since negotiated individual Open Skies agreements with 15 European countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Greece and several Eastern European countries are not among them. They still restrict service to protect their own interests.

For example, only two U.S. airlines, American and United, have the legal right to take off and land at London's Heathrow Airport, the world's busiest international gateway. United, however, is not allowed to fly from Heathrow to all of its U.S. hub airports: Heathrow-Denver flights are prohibited.

Open Skies would end that.

"Those would be significant openings," says Michael Whitaker, vice president of United, which supports the changes. "It would get government out of those decisions."

It would also lift restrictions on European airlines, allowing them to fly between the USA and European cities outside their home countries for the first time.

"Instead of just Alitalia flying to the U.S. from Rome, you might see Air France, KLM or Lufthansa offering non-stop service to the U.S." from there, says Washington, D.C., aviation consultant Mark Gerchick.

U.S. airlines' responses

Delta Air Lines has come out publicly for Open Skies, but No. 1 American Airlines has been quiet, as have others. Continental, the only U.S. airline to come out publicly against Open Skies, has gone so far as to threaten litigation.

Continental President Jeff Smisek calls it "ludicrous" to think an airline could wall off safety and security decisions from a major foreign investor. And he says Open Skies would not be all its supporters promise. U.S. carriers already operate so many trans-Atlantic flights that "the only thing they really need in Europe is access to Heathrow," he says.

Open Skies would technically make it possible for any U.S. airline to fly to Heathrow, but the agreement would not automatically make it possible to land there. Heathrow is so congested that takeoff and landing times must be owned. Although slots there may be bought and sold, they are costly.

If Open Skies is signed, Continental, which now flies to London's Gatwick Airport, would be locked out of the more popular Heathrow until it could buy slots and gate facilities there. Getting enough slots might take years.

Meanwhile, London-based British Airways could launch Heathrow service to Continental's home base of Houston if it wished. British Airways already flies between Heathrow and Continental's hub airport of Newark, N.J., but Continental can't compete. "If a U.S. carrier can't actually serve Heathrow, Open Skies is a worthless piece of paper," Smisek says.

Shane acknowledges Heathrow slots are costly and may not be readily available. But, he says, "Anyone who thinks we can live with the status quo should think long and hard."

The next move is up to the Bush administration. The DOT is scheduled to issue its decision on foreign control next month. The EU's transport ministers are scheduled to meet on Open Skies in June, when they could ratify it. U.S. and EU leaders could sign Open Skies in August.

Meanwhile, criticism in the USA shows no sign of relenting. "Some of the rhetoric has been embarrassing, even xenophobic," United's Whitaker says.


Arpey's AMR Ups India Service, Shanghai Flights
New York - See America First, the 1920s travel-industry slogan went. But for AMR, that's a tad out-of-date.

Led by Chairman and Chief Executive Gerard Arpey, AMR is the parent of American Airlines, whose news this week highlights how the industry is changing.

According to Indian Internet site Daily News & Analysis, American has initiated "tele-bookings" for customers flying from the Subcontinent. With the launch of this service, the report says, passengers can now make reservations, itinerary changes, book and process transactions by calling American directly, toll-free. (Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal probably has someone to call for him.)

And Arpey's firm has its sights set even further east. Born as the air-mail company employing Charles Lindbergh in 1926, American announced Tuesday that it'll launch nonstop service on April 2, from Chicago O'Hare International Airport to Shanghai Pu Dong International Airport. Fliers may be excused for occasionally mistaking O'Hare for Shanghai--but the teeming Chinese town is probably better organized.

AMR has the jump in opening up a Chinese sphere of influence: Rivals must wait for limited flying rights to become available starting in 2007. Continental Airlines and UAL unit United Airlines are expected to fight fiercely for the lucrative rights.

But that's south and east Asia. What of the U.S.? Delta Air Lines and others have expanded international service and cut domestic routes. And according to the Dallas Business Journal, a quiet omen appeared Wednesday that may signify even more of the same for AMR.

The Journal cites a filing with the Texas Workforce Commission, saying that American is cutting 25 jobs in the Lone Star State's town of Austin, effective April 3. Based in Fort Worth, the carrier is axing 11 part-time passenger service agents, five full-time fleet service clerks and nine part-time fleet service clerks at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. An AMR spokeswoman said the layoffs are related to restructuring--and some 50% of the axed employees are taking other jobs within the company.


Worldwide Caution Public Announcement
December 12, 2005 - This Public Announcement updates information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against Americans and interests overseas. This supersedes the Worldwide Caution dated August 2, 2005 and expires on June 12, 2006.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. Ongoing events in Iraq have resulted in demonstrations and associated violence in several countries. Americans are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur with little or no warning.

Current information suggests that al-Qa'ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics to include assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings.

Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. The hotel bombings in Jordan in early November illustrate how terrorists exploit vulnerabilities associated with soft targets. Additional examples of such targets include residential areas, business offices, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas and locales where Americans gather in large numbers, including during holidays.

In the wake of the July 2005 London bombings and the March 2004 train attacks in Madrid, Americans are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems. In addition, extremists may also select aviation and maritime services as possible targets.

U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.

U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its Consular Information Program documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.


Airport Security Changes For Travelers
Monday, December 12, 2005
- DALLAS - A warning for holiday travelers, there’s new airport security measures that will take effect December 22nd. The changes involve allowing passengers to carry on items that were banned after September 11th.

A senate committee took up the new security measures on Capital Hill today. Critics say by allowing small scissors and tools onto planes, the Transportation Security Administration is asking for trouble.

Since September 11th warnings have greeted passengers at every airport. No pocketknives... no scissors and no sharp tools. Passenger Ashley McCafferty likes things just the way they are. “It would probably make me feel safer if they were not allowed back on the plane.”

But changes are coming. Starting in two weeks passengers will once again be allowed to carry on small scissors and small tools like screwdrivers.

“Nowadays everyone is so paranoid; everyone’s watching each other, with the U.S. Air Marshall onboard. Ya know, I think everyone is paying attention to what the next person is doing,” said frequent flyer Teresa Barrera.

The TSA says screeners spend too much time looking for these non-threatening items. The TSA argues it’s time that could be better spent searching for guns and explosives.

During Monday’s senate hearing TSA Director Kip Hawley told the committee that changes such as air marshals, armed pilots and passengers willing to take action... have made airplanes much safer. “Americans will not sit still when threatened. There is a changed battlefield Mr. Chairman, we know it and terrorists know it,” Hawley said.

Pocketknives and box cutters will remain on the list of banned items. But the unions representing flight attendants say small scissors and tools should also remain banned.

“Well we're completely in favor of them looking for things like explosives and handguns. And those should be kept off the aircraft, but so should anything that could be used as a weapon. Small scissors, screwdrivers, sharp objects are what caused 9-11 to happen and we want those things kept off the aircraft also,” said Thom McDaniel, spokesperson for Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants’ Union.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Dallas is also opposed to new measures. CBS 11 has learned that Hutchison will meet with the TSA director on Wednesday, in hopes the agency will reconsider the changes.


Avoiding Ugly Airline Fees
Monday Dec 12, 2005 - By Kelli B. Grant - THESE DAYS, MANY AIR TRAVELERS are feeling nickled and dimed by the airlines. Want to get some extra leg room by sitting in an exit row? Be prepared to pay $25 or more. Care to check your luggage curb-side? Some airlines now charge $2 per bag — not including the tip.

Travelers may search high and low for that great fare, only to get slammed at the airport with these added fees. Airlines use them as a way to keep fares low while still gaining some much-needed revenue, says Josh Roberts, managing editor of SmarterTravel.com, a travel advice web site. The nine major U.S. airlines cleared nearly $500 million for excess baggage and change fees (to cancel or alter a reservation) during the first half of 2005 alone, according to Consumer Reports. That's a 250% increase from the same period in 1995.

Here are five surprise fees — along with advice on how to avoid them.

Booking Fees
It's getting increasingly hard to avoid booking fees, notes Bob Harrell, president of Harrell Associates, an airline-consulting company. Online travel booking companies such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity charge a flat fee — usually $5 to $10 per ticket — when you book. The airlines themselves now also charge a booking fee (often $10) if you want to book your ticket over the phone.

Solution: Book online, directly through the airline, advises Harrell. That's the one "fee-free transaction," he says.

Kids-Don't-Fly-Free Fees
When minors fly, so do the fees, according to a January 2006 study by Consumer Reports. Most airlines tack on a fee — perhaps as much as 15% of the ticket price — for international flights if an infant will be sitting on the parent's lap.

And when flying domestically, be prepared to pay extra for an unaccompanied minor as well. Some airlines — like Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines — will charge a fee of $40 or more in such situations.

Solution: For lap-held babies, look for an airline with a fee of no more than 10% and some added perks. Both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, for example, assess a 10% fee, but offer extra services such as travel bassinets, baby food and extras necessities such as bottles and diapers, according to Frommer's.

Consumer Reports recommends that parents with babies consider buying their infant his or her own seat. (Heaven knows, the folks sitting next to you will appreciate that.) It may not be quite as expensive as you think: Many airlines offer discounted "child in seat" fares for infants. United, for example, discounts the fare by 50%. It also means that your infant can check two bags — things like that baby stroller, which could otherwise generate an extra-baggage fee (see below), if the parent already has two other bags to check.

As for unaccompanied minors, look for kid-friendly airlines, like Southwest Airlines that won't charge. You might also check the guidelines — some airlines only charge the fee for minors of a certain age, say 12 and younger.

Baggage Fees
Airlines are becoming more restrictive when it comes to checking luggage, says Susan Foster, author of "Smart Packing for Today's Traveler." The fees to watch out for:

Solution: To avoid these airline fees, check first with your airline about baggage restrictions, which you can find this information on the carrier's web site. Heavy bags are an easy problem to fix. Just put your belongings in two smaller bags instead of one large one, or divert some items to your carry-on bag. (Most airlines restrict your carry-on to 45 pounds or less, says Foster, but they rarely check.) Finally, weigh your luggage before leaving the house.

Curb-Side Check-In Fees
Some airlines, like United, Northwest and Alaska Airlines are charging $2 per bag for curb-side check-in at select airports (in addition to the customary tip).

Solution: Ask if there's a fee before you wait in line. If there is, you can always check in inside free of charge. To beat the line and get your luggage checked quickly, SmarterTravel's Roberts recommends considering an airline like Jet Blue Airways, which allows online check-in from your home's computer. When you get to the airport, you can then drop your bags at the airline's self-service/bag drop counter.

Food/Pillow/Blanket Fees
More airlines are charging for items that used to be basic, such as food, pillows and blankets. United Airlines has debuted a $5 snack box, for example, and Air Canada provides a "comfort kit" with a blanket and inflatable pillow for $2.

Solution: Pack your own amenities, says Foster. She recommends investing in your own travel pillow and blanket — you don't have to spend a lot to get good quality, and you can use the items every time you travel. As for food, Foster advises packing your own at home, especially if you're yearning for a sandwich or salad. "I have yet to be on a domestic flight where the airline is selling anything other than junk food," she says.


Protect Valuables When Traveling
1. Leave The Nice Jewelry At Home.
You should never bring your most valuable jewelry on vacation with you. There are many destinations where simply wearing your shiny wedding ring could invite theft. If you're not comfortable without a wedding ring or your watch, purchase less-expensive versions and leave the truly special baubles at home in a safety deposit box. If you have a special event in your destination and need to bring nicer jewelry, wear it, or secure it in a plastic zipper bag and put it in a secure place, such as an inside pocket of your carry-on.
2. Don't Bother Locking Your Luggage.
If a screener needs to search your bag, it will be cut off anyway. Use a Transportation Security Administration-approved lock, which will deter baggage thieves but make it easy for TSA agents to search your bag. Remember, if the TSA opens your luggage, you will find a TSA flyer inside when you claim it.
3. Deter Thieves With Duct Tape.
A thief will pass over your bag if it looks time-consuming to pilfer it. Duct tape is easy enough for the TSA screeners to peel off.
4. Pack Smaller Items.
Pack things such as underwear or shirts in plastic zipper bags. Security staff will have an easier time examining it, but the plastic bag will deter a thief because of the extra step needed to open it.
5. Pack Items Of Lesser Value On Top.
Put items such as socks, underwear, pajamas or toiletries on the top. This will make it more difficult for a thief to find your best dress shirt.
6. Take Inventory Of Your Bag.
Take inventory of nicer items in the bag you plan to check, like business suits or cameras. This will help you remember what you packed, and alert you if something has disappeared. If you notice something is missing, report it to the airline immediately.


How to safeguard your guests from being the next identity theft victims?
DID YOU hear the one about the guest who checked in to a luxury hotel room and found a guest folio print out for the previous guest in the waste paper basket in the guest room.
Personal information was located on the guest folio and was in the hands of a stranger who had ample opportunity to steal the previous guest’s identity. This happens all too often in large and small facilities.
During my recent visit to a 5-star hotel, I walked by an empty meeting room with the door wide open. On a table just inside the door was the daily guest recognition report that showed the arrival dates of all the VIPs and celebrities in the hotel including personal comments about the guests. It also contained a detailed meeting itinerary for a professional football team. Personal information of this nature should never be left in plain view in any public space, but it happens.
Identity theft can occur in hotels and motels and should be taken very seriously. The Federal Trade Commission has stated that identity fraud is one of the fastest growing white-collar crimes nationwide and affects one in four Americans. In 2002, the FTC received 161,819 complaints about identity theft and it is estimated that it costs each victim more than $1,000 to correct the damage made to their accounts and their reputations.
Identity thieves capture information about your guests and use it to commit fraud, steal money, and charge items to credit accounts and even create new accounts. How can you protect your patrons and guests from being victims of identity theft? Here are some basic security rules for you to pass on to your managers and supervisors to decrease the likelihood that your patrons and guests will be the next victims of identity theft.

• Training is the most important rule. Hotel personnel should never announce out loud the guest’s name and room number at the front desk during check-in or in the food and beverage outlets in the hotel or facility. If during the check-in process, you or any of your employees overhears a guestroom number being announced, immediately assign a different room for the guest. In addition, instruct your wait staff not to request a guest’s room number out loud in restaurants. Have the guest write it on a piece of paper then destroy the paper. Never, ever say the room number out loud. Believe it or not, this is still happening at hotels and motels across America.

• Instruct your housekeeping staff to leave a kind note for the guest reminding them to never leave important papers containing personal information in plain view in your guestroom, the lobby, any of the food and beverage outlets or in any meeting room space. Remind them to put all personal information, such as airplane tickets, passports, etc. in the in-room safe located in the guestroom when absent from the room.

• Remind guests, and meeting planners so they can advise their attendees, to make sure all computers, including laptops and PDAs (which usually contain valuable and personal information) are secured in all meeting rooms or hand carried by the owner from the guestroom or meeting room space.

• Have your front office and accounting office procedures that address your efforts to safeguard guests’ personal information in writing and available for your guests to see. Find out if there are any leaks or holes in your process. Who has access to guests’ data and is it secured? Are the employees trained on maintaining the privacy of guests, and how so and how often? How secure are your fax machines? Does personal guest information lie around for anyone walking by to see? Hotels and motels need to focus on these issues and if you haven’t, you need to do so immediately.

• Do not place calls directly to guestrooms without the caller knowing the name of the guest assigned to the guestroom for that day. Although your telephone operators want to be helpful to callers, they should never give out names or partial names of any guests to outside callers.

• Do not slip guestroom folios under the guestroom doors the evening prior to checkout. Mistakes by your night shift hotel staff can and do happen and valuable personal information may find it’s way into another guestroom or worse yet, stranded in the middle of the hallway for all guests and employees to see.

• Check the credit card receipts printed from all outlets in your hotel, such as retail shops and restaurants. Some receipts still print the entire credit card numbers. Others only print the last four digits of the credit card number. Having the entire number printed on the receipt can be hazardous to your guests’ financial health. This is usually a simple software programming issue and it will protect your guests if you promptly remedy this situation.

• Remind all meeting attendees to remove their convention badges outside the meeting venue as it provides immediate personal information to any stranger the attendee passes by. Also, remind meeting planners to be careful as to what information is stored on the back side of the convention badges because if it is lost or misplaced, the information displayed, albeit intended for the ease and convenience of the attendee (such as cell phone numbers of colleagues), can end up in the wrong hands.

• Inspect your wastepaper refuse system or trash dumpsters for your hotel or facility. It is in a secure area? Is it inaccessible to the general public? Does a fence or wall surround it? If thieves will go through your personal household trash receptacles to gain personal information, imagine what they could find if they gained access to the waste paper dumpster located at your hotel or motel. Some thieves have admitted that they go dumpster diving at accounting and law offices to gain proprietary information. What will they find if they dive into your dumpsters?

• Be aware of the potential for identity theft with your hotel if you engage shoptalk or shop call systems. This is when you contract with a third party provider to record live reservation calls for purposes of spot checking the reservation agents for compliance efforts and for training purposes. These audio recordings which include names, addresses and credit card information are now in the hands of someone, other than the hotel staff, that can abuse the process and use this information to steal personal information. Make sure you have written agreements with these companies, together with clear and precise language in the contracts prohibiting any type of use of the information contained on the tapes. The information on the tapes should be limited to hotel use only.

• In case one or more of your guests’ identity has been stolen during their stay at your hotel or motel, be prepared to offer assistance by sharing with them the FTC hotline for identity theft at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) and their accompanying website www.consumer.gov/idtheft. This will enable them to get a head start on the process to regain control of their identity.


Beginner's guide to air travel
You also may not carry on a suitcase the size of a sleeper sofa apparently containing the entire wardrobe of the Broadway production of "The Producers." The fact that your suitcase has wheels does NOT automatically mean that you may carry it onto the airplane.
We're entering the busy summer air-travel season, which means the airports will be swarming with millions of vacation travelers, all of them ahead of you in the security line, many of them with the intelligence of an avocado.
No, that's unfair to avocados. I say this because of the passenger behavior I often observe at my local airport, the Miami International Permanent Construction Zone and Narcotics Bazaar. Every security checkpoint there is festooned with signs informing you, in several languages, that you must produce two things: (1) Your boarding pass; and (2) A photo ID. Also there are people announcing in loud voices, "Please have your boarding pass and photo ID ready!" Also, as you near the checkpoint, you can see that all the passengers in front of you are being required to produce a boarding pass and a photo ID.
If there were an avocado in the line - even a non-gifted avocado - at some point it would grasp that it needed to produce a boarding pass and ID (which would say "Avocado"). But many human air travelers cannot manage this feat. Dozens of times, I have stood behind people who are taken totally by surprise. A boarding pass! AND an ID! Of all the things to need, here at the airport! And so they start rooting through their belongings, while those of us in the line roll our eyes, and the avocado rolls its pit.
To help prevent unnecessary airport delays and stranglings this summer, I've prepared the following BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO TRAVELING BY AIR:
WHEN TO ARRIVE AT THE AIRPORT: You should be at the airport already.
HOW MUCH LUGGAGE YOU CAN CARRY ON: You can carry on one small bag and one medium bag, for a total of two bags. You may not carry on three bags by insisting to airline personnel - as I have seen many travelers do - that one of your bags is not really a bag, as if it is some kind of magical invisible fairy bag that the airline personnel cannot see. You also may not carry on a suitcase the size of a sleeper sofa apparently containing the entire wardrobe of the Broadway production of "The Producers." The fact that your suitcase has wheels does NOT automatically mean that you may carry it onto the airplane. A piano also has wheels, but you wouldn't try to take a piano onto a plane, would you? No, wait, some of you would.
PROHIBITED OBJECTS: You may not take knives, guns, spears, spear guns, flamethrowers, catapults, missiles, armored personnel carriers, GI Joe dolls, sharp objects or cheeses, scary animals such as squid, pointy Madonna-style brassieres, or anything else that could be used to inflict harm, such as a DVD of the movie "Gigli." If you know karate or kung fu, you may take your hands on board, but you must keep them clasped tightly under your armpits throughout the flight. You may carry nail clippers, provided that you padlock them shut and give the key to the pilot upon boarding.
HOW TO GO THROUGH THE SECURITY CHECKPOINT: Have your boarding pass and photo ID ready. Remove all your possessions from your pockets and put them in a plastic tray. Have your boarding pass and photo ID ready. Remove your belt, shoes, pacemakers and any large dental fillings and put them in another plastic tray. Have your boarding pass and photo ID ready. Remove your laptop computer and put this in another plastic tray. FOR GOD'S SAKE HAVE YOUR BOARDING PASS AND PHOTO ID READY. Put everything - trays, bags, children under two - on the moving belt, then stand in a non-terroristic manner until the security person signals to you, at which time, while holding your boarding pass and photo ID up non-threateningly, you should shuffle meekly forward until your pants fall to the floor.
JOKING AROUND WITH THE SECURITY PERSONNEL: Airport security personnel are a wacky and fun-loving group who are bored to death from spending eight hours a day reminding morons to have their boarding passes and photo IDs ready. There is nothing they enjoy more than a good joke or prank, such as the one where you give the victim a can that says "peanut brittle," and when he opens it, giant spring-loaded worms come shooting out. Ha ha! That always sets off a round of hearty knee-slapping at the checkpoint.

Yes, if you just use your common sense this vacation season, instead of wasting your summer waiting in long hectic lines at the airport, you can spend your time relaxing in the quiet privacy of your federal detention cell. Which is just as well, because your flight was canceled.