BA and Iberia take on trans-Atlantic market (AP)

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

LONDON – British Airways, Spain’s Iberia and American Airlines unveiled new flight schedules on Thursday following a codeshare agreement to provide a more comprehensive service on lucrative trans-Atlantic routes.

The airlines said that flights on the key Heathrow to New York route will be spread out to create more of a “shuttle service.” Afternoon flights from London will depart every hour, while afternoon flights from JFK will depart around every 20 minutes.

The new London to New York schedule — due to start on March 27 — contrasts with clashing flights when the airlines operated separately. For example, previously, of the 11 daily flights to New York from London, five left Heathrow at almost exactly the same time.

Among the other changes, BA will resume daily flights to San Diego in June after an eight-year break, Iberia will begin the only direct flight between Spain and California later this month and American Airlines will launch a service from JFK to Budapest next month.

The three airlines teamed up in October to cooperate on trans-Atlantic services without violating U.S. foreign ownership laws, angering rivals such as Virgin Atlantic, which believes the move impedes competition on trans-Atlantic routes. BA combined with Iberia last year to create Europe’s third-largest airline.

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Mary Higgins Clark heads NYC’s St. Pat’s parade (AP)

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

NEW YORK – New York City’s 250th St. Patrick’s Day Parade has stepped off with best-selling author Mary Higgins Clark as grand marshal.

The parade started at 11 a.m. Thursday at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue. Throngs of green-wearing marchers and spectators are enjoying sunshine with temperatures expected to reach the low 60s.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral before marching in the parade.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg got a less than warm welcome at a St. Patricks’ Day parade in Queens. Some parade-goers were angry about the mayor’s joke last month that he usually saw “people that are totally inebriated” at the American Irish Historical Society in Manhattan. Bloomberg apologized shortly after making the comment.

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Fires still spreading from Hawaii volcano (AP)

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

HONOLULU – Authorities say lava-ignited fires from a volcano eruption in Hawaii continue to spread across Volcanoes National Park.

Park firefighters said Wednesday that the blaze has now burned more than 1,166 acres since Sunday. They say the fire was sparked from the Kamoamoa eruption.

Fire prevention expert Gary Wuchner says the wind-driven fire is flowing through Ohia forest in an area that has been burned at least twice due to lava flows.

Authorities say firefighting resources have been ordered from California and are expected to arrive by Friday.

Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, has been in constant eruption since Jan. 3, 1983.

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Enjoy spring break on the slopes

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

For the AJC

With more than eight inches of fallen fresh powder over the past few days, Utah’s Park City offers top spring skiing and boarding opportunities and with affordable ways to make it happen!

First, convert your airline boarding pass into a free, same-day lift ticket at one of Park City’s three resorts: Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort or Canyons Resort. This offer is valid from March 27 through each resort’s closing day in 2011, conditions permitting:

  • Park City Mountain Resort: April 10
  • Deer Valley Resort: April 10
  • Canyons Resort: April 17

For more details, visit

Get one night’s lodging free at a participating property along with a free day on the slopes at one of Park City’s three resorts with the purchase of a four-night package. See details at

Sample rates on the Canyons Resort “Bed and Breakfast” package are from $125 per night, including breakfast. Valid on stays through April 17 at Grand Summit Hotel, Silverado Lodge, Sundial Lodge or Vintage on the Strand. See more at

Book a three-night package, which includes daily lift tickets at either Park City Mountain Resort or Deer Valley Resort, and receive the fourth night, as well as the fourth day lift ticket free. Nightly rate start at $508.50 for a one-bedroom suite, double occupancy. Visit for details.

Goldener Hirsch Inn’s “Two or More Night Ski” package from $216 per person, double, includes two or more night’s lodging, two or more day ski pass vouchers at Deer Valley Resort and daily European buffet breakfast. Valid on March 27-April 9, 2011 stays. See more at

Visit the “Hot Deals” section of for more spring savings in Park City.

Through midnight, tonight (3/17) purchase tickets from Frontier Airlines to Salt Lake City at rates from $134 each way. This sale rate is valid any day of the week, based on sale seat availability on trips started on or after April 1 and finished on or before April 30.

With a ten-day or more advance notice, travel with Continental Airlines to Salt Lake City at rates from $179. This special deal is valid any available day of the week through February 11, 2012. There is no ticket-by date on this offer — act fast!

Sale airfares are always subject to change. Every seat on every flight is not offered at the lowest rate. Since only a limited supply of seats is available, act quickly to make your purchase. I recommend starting the search for available seats at vs. calling an airline directly. You can also search for the sale at travel Web sites such as Expedia or Travelocity, etc. Airlines can discontinue or pull a sale price without notice when the offer is deemed “sold out,”or when that rate does not have a “ticket-by” date.

Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.

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Pack your bags! 6 airline credit card offers for spring travel

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

The new year may start in January, but it doesn’t really feel like a fresh beginning until spring arrives. Warmer weather and cheerier moods make it easier to look ahead: new goals, new hobbies, new friends…and at least one big trip to experience new adventures.

Whatever your springtime travel plans, you’ll want to maximize the value of the reservations you make. Depending on how–and how often–you travel, you can find a new credit card to make the most of your purchases, with points, miles and other goodies.

Frequent flier? Tell Capital One to “Match My Miles”

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a perfect choice for the frequent traveler or overseas adventurer. You’ll earn two miles per dollar on every purchase, and there are no foreign transaction fees. But the card’s special current deal is the “Match My Miles” challenge: After you’re approved for a new card, submit proof of your current airline miles, and Capital One will match the amount up to 100,000 miles when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Plus you’ll get a 10,000-mile bonus.

The annual fee is waived the first year; after that, it’s $59. The card’s variable APR is 11.9 to 19.9 percent.

Make the most of travel expenses with Miles by Discover

Spend up to $3,000 each year on travel, and Miles by Discover offers a tempting deal for you. You’ll earn double miles on the first $3,000 in eligible travel and restaurant purchases each year. All other purchases will earn a mile per dollar. Discover also is offering 1,000 bonus miles for each month you make a purchase in the first 12 months after you open your account.

The Miles card has no annual fee and a zero percent introductory rate for the first six months. After that, the APR varies from 10.99 to 16.99 percent.

Airline loyalists: Look at credit card offers from Southwest, Continental and JetBlue

Do you find yourself flying Southwest, Continental or JetBlue the most? Consider their special deals:


The new Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Plus Visa Credit Card from Chase has some special deals for you. With a new account, you’ll get a special bonus: 20,000 points after your first purchase. You’ll get two points for every dollar spent on Southwest Airlines purchases as well as partner hotel and car rental expenses. The regular rate of one point per dollar applies to all other purchases.

Southwest also remembers your account anniversary with another 3,000 points each year, and you can earn up to 10,000 points for balance transfers within 90 days of opening the account.

The card currently has a 14.24 percent variable APR and a $69 annual fee.


The Continental Airlines Onepass® Plus Card is a MasterCard from Chase with several rewards for account holders:

  • You’ll get 25,000 bonus miles after your first purchase with the card–enough for a round trip within the continental United States.
  • Add an authorized user within two months for 5,000 bonus miles.
  • Spend $25,000 annually on your card for another 10,000 miles.

Need a little spending money for your trip? You’ll get a $50 statement credit after your first purchase. And using the card will waive the fee on your first checked bag for you and your companions on the same Continental flight.

The $85 annual fee is waived the first year. The card has a 14.24 percent variable interest rate.


The JetBlue Card from American Express comes with its own bonuses. Your first purchase will net you 10,000 points, and if you spend $500 the first three months, you’ll get another 10,000 points. You’ll also earn extra points for purchases–up to eight points per dollar.

The card has a $40 annual fee and a variable rate, currently 15.24 percent.

Spend big to earn big with Chase Sapphire Preferred offer

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a Visa card that comes with elite-card privileges, such as 24-hour customer service. Spend $3,000 in the first three months, and you’ll earn 25,000 bonus points–enough for a free flight. You’ll earn two points per dollar on airfare and hotel accommodations booked through the dedicated Travel Booking Tool. You’ll also find an Ultimate Rewards Mall, where purchases can earn you up to 10 points per dollar spent.

The annual fee of $85 is waived the first year. The variable APR starts at 13.24 percent.

No matter how or where you travel, a card specially designed to reward your adventures can take the bite out of the expenses–and open up opportunities for more travel in the future.

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discounts on business class: Too good to be true?

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

“Business Class up to 75% off!” Certainly, the offer is tempting to anyone looking to escape from the cramped seating and non-service you get on most long-haul overseas flights. But are those claims just a come-on or are they for real?

  • There are some opportunities for discounted premium travel, but there are plenty of caveats that accompany the perks.

    By Jennifer S. Altman, for USA TODAY

    There are some opportunities for discounted premium travel, but there are plenty of caveats that accompany the perks.

By Jennifer S. Altman, for USA TODAY

There are some opportunities for discounted premium travel, but there are plenty of caveats that accompany the perks.

A reader who recently came across a claim like that asked:

“I saw a website offering big discounts on business class, but it looks like some kind of coupon travel broker that buys unused frequent flier miles then somehow sells business class award tickets to customers. I never heard of this agency, and it sounds fishy to me. Is it OK or not?”

The short answer to this reader is, “It’s fishy.” The site in question displays the tell-tale sign for a coupon broker: a “we buy miles” notice. But not all agencies that claim big business class discounts are fishy. Instead, probably most of them are outlets for consolidator tickets. If you’re interested in cheap business and first class travel or even in economy you need to know the difference.

Brokers: Still around 

What, exactly, is a “coupon broker?” Basically, it’s an agency that buys and sells frequent flier travel awards. And, because of market prices and mileage award schedules, almost all of the coupon action is in first or business class on intercontinental trips. Contrary to some reports I’ve seen, coupon brokers do not buy and sell frequent flier credit as miles. Nobody can do that without paying transfer fees that often cost more than the credit is worth. Instead, a coupon broker buys and sells frequent flier awards in a three-step process:

• A person interested in selling excess miles contacts a broker, specifies the amount of available credit for sale, and negotiates a price. Typically, sellers receive 1 to 1 cents a mile, depending on the number of miles involved and the airline. The seller then waits for the broker to make a deal for some or all of the miles available.

• A person looking for a cheap trip contacts a broker in search of a specific award, the broker gives a price, and they strike a deal. Typically, buyers pay 2 to 3 cents a mile for the credit required for the award.

• Once a deal is agreed upon, the broker pays the seller and asks the seller to have the requested award issued in the buyer’s name. Sometimes, the buyer makes reservations. Sometimes the seller or the broker does. In any event, the buyer travels under his or her own name.

Just about every legitimate travel writer I know warns that traveling on brokered awards is “risky.” All major airlines expressly prohibit “sale, barter, or trade” of their frequent flier awards. Over the years, airlines have apparently been able to shut down a lot of coupon brokers, apparently using fraud laws. Others have hindered the process by limiting award transfer to family members and possibly requiring that both the mileage holder and the person flying show up at an airport ticket counter together. Despite concerted airline opposition, a few hardy brokers seem to remain in business.

Usually not a good idea 

Overall, I recommend against buying a brokered award, for three compelling reasons:

• Airlines do enforce anti-broker rules, at least some of the time, and if you’re caught using a purchased award, the airline can cancel your reservation, void your award, require you to buy a replacement ticket at full fare, confiscate your own frequent flier miles, or some combination of those.

• Even if you buy an award without a problem, you may not be able to use it. Most airlines allocate very few seats to award travel in business class, especially at the lower mileage levels, and actually getting a seat typically ranges from tough to impossible. Some brokers suggest that you arrange a reservation before you buy, but many airlines do not permit you to reserve award trips unless you already have sufficient miles in your account.

• Foreign airlines may add a fuel surcharge of several hundred dollars to your supposedly “free” award trip using their own awards.

Given the consequences, I can’t see why anyone would want to risk a lot of money on a coupon especially because alternative discount sources are available.

Consolidator tickets for legitimate discounts 

Probably most of the ads you see these days for heavily discounted business and first class travel are from agencies that sell discounted consolidator tickets. Consolidators are wholesale agencies that arrange contracts with individual airlines to sell tickets at less than published prices. The benefit to the airlines is that “back door” ticket sales through consolidators allows them to discount discreetly without adversely affecting sales at regular published fares and to fill seats that might otherwise depart empty. Typically, consolidators arrange ticket discounts in all classes, not just business and first, although they can typically offer much bigger discounts on business and first class tickets than in economy. Most big consolidators I know are strictly wholesalers that do not sell directly to the public. Instead, they sell through retail travel agencies that specialize in discounted tickets, and those are the agencies that promote the big discounts.

Consolidator tickets are perfectly legitimate. The airlines deliberately sell them at discount prices. Even so, however, consolidator tickets pose several drawbacks:

• Typically, they’re 100% nonrefundable. If you cancel, you get no residual value. Some, however, allow changes, but usually for a fat fee.

• Many highly discounted consolidator tickets entail indirect routings. The international airlines that discount tickets often follow a “don’t mess up your own backyard” practice. They don’t discount nonstops to or from their home countries, but instead discount connecting flights through their home countries to or from third countries. Thus, for example, a few years back some of the best deals form the U.S. to Europe were via connections in Canada. The best discounts from the U.S. to London may be on connecting flights through some continental “hub” city rather than nonstop.

• Some discount tickets do not earn frequent flier credit.

• Although government rules prevent airlines and major online travel agencies from quoting artificially low fares, to which they subsequently add fuel or other surcharges, many consolidators and retail agencies ignore these rules. As a result, some of the “too good to be true” fare promotions really are too good to be true. They’re deceptive and you actually pay a lot more.

• Except in unusual circumstances, consolidator tickets in economy class don’t usually provide much of a price advantage over cheap published fares. When you can’t get a good published fare, however, a consolidator ticket might be useful.

Unlike regular tickets at regular published fares, consolidator tickets typically do not show a price. Consolidators usually sell to retail agencies at a “net” price, so the agency can add as much markup as the market might bear. That’s one of the main reasons you shouldn’t buy a discounted ticket without getting several competitive bids.

Most online discount agencies post a few sample fares, but they want you to submit a specific trip request, to which they respond in a few hours. Although I have more than a dozen such agencies on my “favorites” list, I prefer not to list any because I don’t want to imply any personal recommendation. They’re easy enough to find online.

All in all, if you can accept the various limitations, consolidator tickets are generally your best bet for a cheap trip in business or first class, and sometimes good for economy, as well. But be sure you’re dealing with a consolidator ticket, not a brokered award. Ask if you have any doubt about that. And keep in mind that even at 50-75% off, a business class ticket is likely to cost at least twice the cheapest economy trip, and usually quite a bit more than that. Still, if you do want to escape the cattle car, discounted tickets are almost always the best deal you can get.

Read previous columns features expert travel advice and unbiased coverage of travel deals.

© 2011 Smarter Travel Media LLC. All Rights Reserved

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Various Ways to Inexpensive Travel, Says Travel Deals Website Founder

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Various Ways to Inexpensive Travel, Says Travel Deals Website Founder

Published 03/17/2011

(New York, New York) – Gas prices are edging higher and higher and airlines are inflicting new pain on the wallet with a variety of booking and travel fees. It’s hard to get away from the growing cost of travel these days.

But one website,, and its founder Joel Fan, are offering some tips on cutting the costs of whooping it up in style abroad or around the nation.

First, Fan suggest to use apps.

“There are many apps that can save you money,” Fan said. “Whether it be GasBuddy to help you find the cheapest gas near you or ATMHunter which allows you to avoid fees when withdrawing money.”

Next up, use the brown bag method. Make your own lunches or breakfasts while traveling whenever possible. It’s not too hard in some instances to stock up on fruit, snacks and cold cuts. He also suggests reusing a water bottle and refilling it, to cut beverage costs.

Look to the happy hours when entertaining yourself at night. “Drinking can often be very expensive and the drinks can quickly break your budget,” Fan said. “Research happy hours or local deals using Yelp.”

Look into public transit at your destination, such as the subway or a bus, instead of a taxi or car rental.

“Take advantage of deals,” Fan said. “If you’re a member of organizations that offer discounts, look into where you could be saving money. AAA offers its members a variety of savings which range from discounts to attractions to local restaurants.”

A variety of cheap vacation packages lurk out there, which is where his website comes in. LuckyChic is a luxury bidding site which also features vacation packages which include hotel, airfare, and access to exclusive events. Just recently an LA Fashion Week package sold for $35.70.

Fan is quick to point out you should always keep safety in mind as well. “Make sure you save money reasonably; it’s not worth trying to risk your safety to save money.”


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Omni hotels: Save up to 30% in April on room rates

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Omni Hotels Resorts is offering a three-tier discount for April stays at its hotels across the country. The deal is good at 40 sites — from Amelia Island, Fla., to New York City — but you’ll need to act quickly because it expires Sunday.

The deal: The Spring for Travel offer gives you 10% off a single night’s stay, 20% off a two-night stay and 30% off a three-night stay. Discounted rates range from $109 to $249 per night and are subject to availability.

When: The offer is good for stays throughout April, but reservations must be made by 11:59 PDT Sunday.

Tested: I went to the Omni Hotels website and checked room rates for April 15 to 17 at two hotels. I found a room for $127 plus tax a night at the Omni Los Angeles and $143 plus tax a night at the Omni San Francisco Hotel. As a comparison, best available rates at these hotels for those nights were  $159 and $179 respectively.

Contact: Omni Hotels Resorts, (800) 843-6664

Article source:,1,6060432.story

TSA defends privacy, safety of imaging machines (AP)

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration on Wednesday defended its privacy policy at airports and the safety of an advanced imaging machine that transmits low radiation doses.

Testifying before skeptical House members, two TSA officials said imaging machines used for passenger screening have software that prevents the full-body images from being retained, stored or transmitted.

The officials, Robin Kane and Lee Kair, also said a single screening from a “backscatter” imaging machine produces radiation similar to a dose from about two minutes of flying at 30,000 feet.

The chairman of a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee, Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, said he isn’t convinced privacy is being protected.

“Nobody has to look at my grandmother naked to secure an airplane,” said Chaffetz, a frequent critic of the TSA.

A Columbia University radiology researcher, David Brenner, testified that despite a low individual risk, it’s possible that radiation from backscatter machines could cause cancer in 100 people a year.

Brenner, director of Columbia’s Center for Radiological Research, called the number “a best estimate,” but acknowledged “this number is quite uncertain.” He added that the cancer risk to each individual is as low as one in 10 million.

When TSA security officials Kane and Kair testified they were unaware of TSA ever retaining full body images of passengers, Chaffetz demanded to know why the answer wasn’t an unequivocal “no.”

“I’m frustrated by the lack of candor,” Chaffetz said.

The TSA has installed two types of explosive-detecting machines that produce full body images: the “backscatter” that emits radiation and millimeter wave machines that do not. The agency says that with no concerns about radiation exposure, it uses both types to foster competition between manufacturers.

TSA also said it is testing a new type of imaging that will only show anomalies rather than a full body image.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, expressed doubt about TSA’s contention that it does not save images — which are viewed in a separate area away from public security lines.

“We’ve obtained from the U.S. Marshals Service more than 100 images” from a Marshals’ scanner at the U.S. Courthouse in Orlando, Rotenberg said. They were among 35,000 images that the Marshals acknowledged — in a Freedom of Information response — that they retained from the Orlando screenings.

He added that TSA has acknowledged, in a Freedom of Information response, storing and recording images while testing the machines.

“TSA has 2,000 images. They don’t want the public to see this,” he said. The TSA has refused to turn over the images.

The Center has filed a lawsuit to stop the TSA from using scans that show a naked image of a passenger’s body. The group contends the machines violate privacy laws, religious freedom and the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The TSA officials, who refused to sit on the same panel as Rotenberg because of the lawsuit, said the advanced imaging machines are vital to keep up with terrorist tactics.

“We have witnessed the evolution of this threat from checked baggage, to carry-on baggage, and now to air cargo and non-metallic explosives hidden on the body,” Kane and Kair said in a joint statement.

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Muslim removed from flight wants crew disciplined (AP)

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

SAN DIEGO – A Muslim woman from San Diego wants a Southwest Airlines crew disciplined for removing her from a flight for wearing a headscarf.

Irum Abassi says Wednesday she was forced off a San Jose-bound flight in San Diego on Sunday because a flight attendant found her to be suspicious.

Abassi says she was told that a flight attendant overheard her say on her cell phone “it’s a go.”

Abassi told reporters that she said, “I’ve got to go,” before hanging up because the flight was about to depart.

Southwest Airlines apologized to Abassi and gave her a voucher for another flight.

Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz says the airline is looking into the matter, but will not disclose internal actions.

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