UPRIGHT AND LOCKED
Travelers holding airline tickets to South Asia this month may find they're eligible to postpone their trip or get a refund, even if their destination is quite far from areas hit by last month's tsunami.
Northwest, for example, is allowing passengers with tickets for January to delay travel if they are traveling to or through the eight countries the airline serves in South Asia. The offer includes Singapore, which wasn't touched, and all of India, a vast territory where only a tip of the coast was affected. Northwest passengers can delay travel without penalty for one year from the issue date of their tickets.
All airlines are offering some flexibility to tsunami-affected areas, but details vary widely. ANA, for example, was allowing refunds and penalty-free changes, but only through yesterday. United requires that postponed trips be rebooked by Feb. 28. Virgin Atlantic is offering refunds or indefinite postponements for passengers slated to fly in January. But the airline hinted that it might extend the offer, saying on its Web site that passengers scheduled to fly in February should "call back at a later date to inquire" about the refund policy.
Most airlines are inviting frequent fliers to donate miles to the relief effort, and some have pitched in themselves with seats for relief workers, money and cargo space.
Sailing Through the Tsunami
If you've booked a cruise with stops in South Asia, anticipate port changes if stops were planned in countries damaged by the tsunami. But forget about getting a refund or changing your travel date: Cruise ships reserve the right to change ports for just about any reason.
Among those that have announced port changes: Star Cruises' SuperStar Virgo and SuperStar Gemini will bypass Thailand's Phuket until further notice. Star Clippers has temporarily relocated the home port of the Star Flyer from Phuket to Singapore. Swan Hellenic's Minerva removed four tsunami-affected ports from its current itinerary.
Although they steer clear of damaged landscapes, cruise ships were not affected by the tsunami: The destructive forces of underwater events are not unleashed until the water hits spots too shallow to even dock a major ship. In fact, some of the above liners were under sail in the Indian Ocean when the tsunami hit, with no ill effects.
Delta set off a fare war last week after slashing many everyday fares. American, US Airways and Northwest quickly matched in many markets, and others are sure to follow. As part of its fare restructuring, Delta also eliminated Saturday-night stay requirements, and joined a trend: charging $5 extra for tickets purchased by phone, and $10 at city offices and airport counters . . . Get two-for-one lodging deals at 150 properties in Pennsylvania this month. Budget travelers will find rooms for two nights as low as $49. Details: www.visitpa.com; click on "Cabin Fever" . . . Some BWI passengers will become test subjects for two new security devices set to arrive in the next month or so. The Trace Portal shoots small puffs of air to test for explosive residue. The Backscatter is a kind of X-ray that sees through clothing, but the Transporation Secuity Administration promises that passengers' "private areas" will not be exposed . . . Independence Air is cutting 150 of its 560 daily flights at the end of this month. All routes from Dulles will remain, but flights will leave less frequently.
BARGAIN OF THE WEEK
Bites of the Apple
Some of Manhattan's trendiest restaurants are offering cheap eats. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.
Reporting: Cindy Loose.
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