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Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page P01


Fees or Taxes?

The U.S. government quietly increased by 60 percent a mandatory fee on airline tickets this month, and the Bush administration is proposing to more than double a second fee.

In the first case, as of Jan. 1, passengers on international flights began paying $4.95 per flight for the inspection of plants and animals -- an increase from $3.10 per passenger. The fee will jump to an even $5 on Oct. 1. CoGo wonders what kind of marketing psychology went into the decision to put off collecting the extra nickel for 10 months.

Meanwhile, the $2.50-per-leg security fee on an airline ticket would jump to $5.50 under President Bush's Homeland Security plan. (The plan is expected to be released tomorrow, but the Associated Press got an advance copy.) Luckily, neither the old nor new plan counts legs indefinitely: The maximum security fee on a round-trip ticket is currently $10 and would increase to $16 under Bush's plan.

The Air Transport Association, an airline trade group, immediately complained that the proposed hike would devastate an already struggling industry. ATA spokesman Jack Evans said taxes and fees already account for as much as 24 percent of a ticket price. Last year, he added, the airlines and their passengers spent about $15 billion for airport security.

Travel Health

A DVT Cure? Riiight

Think twice before you pony up the $29.95 for Zinopin, a new dietary supplement made from ginger and pine bark that purportedly helps prevent "economy class syndrome," also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

"There is absolutely no data supporting the pine bark and ginger claim for preventing thrombosis," said William Geerts, director of the Thromboembolism Program at Sunnybrook and Women's College in Toronto. "I hope you say that there is no evidence to support the use of this agent for anything."

Wearing well-fitted compression stockings and taking the anticoagulant drug heparin "have been proven to reduce asymptomatic thrombosis related to travel," Geerts noted in an e-mail. But "no studies have demonstrated that any intervention prevents clinically-important thrombosis related to travel," he wrote.

The good news: The odds of developing DVT are still so low that a team of international experts recommended against the use of any preventive measures for long-distance travelers. The full report is online at www.chestjournal.org/content/vol126/3_suppl.

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