Coming & Going: Continental charges for food; Chile earthquake update and more

Cuernos del Paine in southern Chile's Torres del Paine National Park, which was unaffected by last month's earthquake.
Cuernos del Paine in southern Chile's Torres del Paine National Park, which was unaffected by last month's earthquake. (BigStockPhoto)
Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chicken or beef? Try neither.

Next time you fly coach on Continental Airlines, be sure to pack a lunch.

The last of the large domestic carriers to offer free food in coach, Continental has announced that it will launch a food-for-sale program this fall. Yes, that means no more free sandwich rolls on many U.S. and Canadian and certain Latin American routes (though you'll still get a nonalcoholic beverage and pretzels, or some snack, free.)

Complimentary food will continue to be served in coach on all intercontinental and certain other international routes and on domestic flights longer than six hours.

And first-class and BusinessFirst passengers need not fret. Not only will you continue to get free meals, you will even have new menu options starting April 1. (Care for some spinach-and-cheese cannelloni with pomodoro sauce for dinner?)

Menu choices and prices for the food-for-sale program will be announced later this year.

Continental joins American, Delta and other major U.S. carriers in selling food to coach passengers. "Our traditional free-food model has served us well for many years, but we need to change to reflect today's market and customer preferences," Jim Compton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Continental, said in a statement.

Chile earthquake update

Chile wants travelers to know that they need not stay away due to last month's massive earthquake.

Although cities near the epicenter of the quake -- Concepcion, Talcahuano and Temuco -- suffered severe damage, many tourist areas are intact, a representative of the Chilean tourism office in the United States confirmed. They include Patagonia and Torres del Paine in the southernmost part of Chile, the southern part of the lakes and volcanoes region, the Atacama Desert region in the north and Easter Island, 2,300 miles from the Pacific coast.

After suffering some structural damage to its terminal, the Santiago airport is operating again as are communications, electricity, transportation, government services and hotels around the capital city. Some damage, however, has been reported in Chile's wine country.

CoGo does feel the need to point out that there have been strong aftershocks and that just last week, a blackout affected the country for an hour.

Budget travel

CoGo's eyes tend to cross when trying to calculate how much to budget for its next trip, but a new Web site may be able to help.

BudgetYourTrip.com is the brainchild of Laurie and Bryan Tighe of Atlanta. Their frustration with using Microsoft Excel to track the costs of their year-long trip around the world prompted them to create the site, which launched in January. "We were hoping it would help other travelers," Laurie Tighe told CoGo.

Nonregistered users can browse the site to see how much they should expect to spend in a wide variety of locales. People who register can use the site to plan their trips or track their expenses during or after their travels.

The catch is that it all relies on the contributions of travelers who submit how much they put out for such items as accommodations, transportation, food and entertainment.

Tighe admits that because of the crowd-sourcing nature of the venture, some weird numbers are bound to surface, especially when not all fields are completed. (CoGo thinks that getting by in Pittsburgh for $3.33 a day is a bit of wishful thinking.) She hopes that as the site grows, more people will add accurate information, which will even everything out. If not, they'll try to eliminate obvious outliers. Plans for more sophisticated searches are in the works.

Travel ticker

Award-winning chef Michel Richard, owner of Michel Richard Citronelle and Central Michel Richard, has designed the menu for OpenSkies' new "Capital to Capital" route between Washington Dulles Airport and Paris Orly. The all-business-class airline and subsidiary of British Airways will launch the new route, starting with five flights a week, May 3. Info: http://https://www.flyopenskies.com/home/en_us . . . Cape May will hold its 15th annual Spring Festival from April 23 to May 2, featuring house tours, ghost tours and food and wine events. Info: http://www.capemaymac.org. . . . The U.S. Department of State will celebrate its second annual Passport Day on March 27, with extended hours at regional passport agencies and thousands of post offices across the country. U.S. citizens will be able to apply for a passport without an appointment. Info: http://www.travel.state.gov.

Reporting: Becky Krystal and Nancy Trejos. Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: cogo@washpost.com. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071


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