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Coming and Going: Honduras Advisory, Air New Zealand's 'Naked' Video, Bag Fees

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

HONDURAS UPDATE

Not a Ticket to Paradise

The recent coup in Honduras raises the question: Should you postpone or go?

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At press time, the State Department was advising Americans to "defer all nonessential travel to Honduras until further notice" as Hondurans took to the streets in protest. Supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya as well as backers of the new regime were assembling in such popular areas as Tegucigalpa, the capital; San Pedro Sula, the second-largest city; and La Cieba, the departing point of ferries to the Bay Islands.

Protesters also erected roadblocks in the north and northwest regions, and some bus companies have halted service. "This is making land travel complicated and dangerous," said Tobias Friedl, regional manager for Latin America at iJet Intelligent Risk Systems, a risk management firm in Annapolis. "If you can postpone travel, that's what we are advising," Friedl said last week. "There still could be a lot of protests and civil unrest over the next couple days, if not the next couple weeks."

If you have a ticket to Honduras, contact the airline to inquire about a refund or rebooking. Spirit Airlines is allowing passengers scheduled to fly to San Pedro Sula by July 15 to rebook without penalty. American Airlines is waiving change fees (but not airfare differences) for tickets issued by June 28 and travel by July 10. Passengers with refundable tickets can reclaim their money; those with nonrefundable tickets will receive a voucher.

Cruise ships are sticking to itineraries that include Roatan, a Bay Island 30 miles off the mainland. "We have a ship on Roatan today, and we have been in contact with people" there, Carnival Cruise Lines spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said Wednesday. "There have not been any problems."

Jim Woodman, editor of Latin Travel magazine, has a temporary solution: "Forget Honduras," he said. "Go to the neighbors."

For updates on safety in Honduras, check the travel section of the State Department's Web site, http://www.state.gov.

DEPT. OF FULL DISCLOSURE

Kiwis Without Clothes

Trying to persuade passengers to pay attention to airline safety videos would seem to be something of a lost cause, especially among veteran travelers, who no doubt think they can recite the whole place-the-mask-over-your-nose-and-mouth spiel in their sleep. Air New Zealand knows this. So in a novel attempt to combat passenger apathy, it recently created an in-flight safety video showing employees performing "domestic safety briefings naked, with crew buckling seatbelts and inflating life jackets in nothing but body paint," according to a press release.

CoGo, having watched the video on YouTube, applauds the airline's moxie (and begs you not to get your hopes up, as the body paint is rather thickly applied). The nudity, such as it is, is part of Air New Zealand's "Nothing to Hide" ad campaign (something about its fares not coming with clandestine fees).

The safety video has gone viral, especially compared with, well, other airline safety videos.

"We'd like to give you what we call the bare essentials of safety," says a man with a jacket, shirt and tie airbrushed onto his chest, his delivery a mixture of enthusiasm and dazed whose-idea-was-this-ness. At the end of the video, a chirpy female flight attendant (we know because of the airbrushed scarf) offers a traditional Maori greeting ("Kia ora, and have a great flight") before turning on her heel and walking off, her figure going out of focus just as her bottom half comes into view.

"Consumers today demand radical transparency from companies, and rightly so," said Air New Zealand's chief executive, Rob Fyfe, by way of explanation.

UPRIGHT AND LOCKED

New Bag Fees

Just when you thought airlines had finished imposing bag fees, a new crop has sprouted this summer. Airlines clearly want customers to prepay online for checked bags, and in June United started charging an extra $5 per bag if you pay at the airport. Now US Airways is following suit, imposing the extra $5 starting July 9. The fees for both airlines are $15 for the first bag, $25 for the second.

Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines has started charging for the first checked bag ($15), with a second bag $25 and a third $50. In a twist, Delta/Northwest is charging $50 for a second checked bag (the first one's still free) for economy tickets to and from Europe. For flights to anywhere else outside the United States, you can still check two bags free. Is this the beginning of an industry-wide trend? CoGo hopes not.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

American is offering late summer and fall sale fares to Europe. Round-trip airfare from BWI to Rome, for example, is $677, including $94 taxes; fare on other carriers starts at $760. Deal applies to flights departing Aug. 17-Oct. 25 and returning by Nov. 24. For destinations in the United Kingdom, fly Monday-Wednesday. For all other cities, fly Monday-Thursday. A Saturday-night minimum and 30-day maximum stay is required. Purchase at http://www.aa.com by July 14, or, for an extra $20, call 800-433-7300.

Reporting: Andrea Sachs, Scott Vogel and Christina Talcott

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: cogo@washpost.com. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.


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