Coming and Going

Bad Baggage News . . . Early

Sunday, October 26, 2008; Page P02


Bad Baggage News . . . Early

Considering the woeful state of airline luggage handling, it's nice to have something helpful to report: United Airlines has introduced baggage kiosks at 14 airports across the country, including Dulles.

At the kiosk, arriving passengers with checked luggage can key in their baggage-claim number, mileage program number or name and find out on which carousel their luggage will arrive, whether their bags made an earlier flight or whether the luggage has been delayed.

That might seem like a two-edged sword. On one hand, knowing where to find one's luggage is a boon; on the other, learning that it won't arrive right away can be irritating. However, knowing upfront that your luggage didn't make your flight will eliminate the need to stand forlornly beside the luggage carousel, waiting with other grumbling passengers for that last bag to come down the chute. That's time far better spent grumbling and waiting in line to file a claim with the lost luggage agents. Or, slightly better, giving the agent your home address so the bags can be delivered.


How Big Is Your Carry-On?

Honey, I shrank your carry-on! As of Nov. 1, Continental Airlines is reducing the size of allowed carry- on luggage; the total measurement (height plus length plus width) is decreasing from 51 inches to 45 inches, which is in line with most of the other legacy carriers (US Airways still allows 51 inches; AirTran, meanwhile, allows a whopping 55 inches). What motivated the shrinkage?

Julie King of Continental explains that "the driving reason is to align our policies with [those] of our alliance partners," including Delta, Northwest, Air France and KLM. "You want it to be seamless for the traveler," so a Continental passenger won't have to check her 51-inch carry-on when connecting to, say, a Delta flight. Makes sense to us.


Fuel Surcharge Cuts?

With jet fuel costs declining (less than $2.20 a gallon last week, down from a high of $4.27 in July), some airlines have reduced or eliminated fuel surcharges. Among the early volunteers to cut surcharges were Air France and KLM; recent slashers include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Qantas. But so far, American carriers have cut surcharges only on cargo.

In a letter this week, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) implored the chief executives of the nation's major airlines to drop the charges, saying, "If you tell the public that you need long-term higher prices to survive, I urge you . . . to do it directly through fares rather than a collection of confusing and hidden fees."

So will the airlines comply with his wishes?

Not likely, industry experts say. Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare, tells CoGo in an e-mail: "The bottom line is that the U.S. airlines will not trim fuel surcharges back to pre-summer 2007 levels until passengers start staying home in droves,[which] is not likely as U.S. airlines have slashed over 15 percent of the available domestic seats (210,000 daily by Christmas) in order to keep planes packed. Airlines are poised to slash even more as demand withers under the pressure of higher prices and the global economic crisis." He adds, however, "There have been some slight cutbacks in international fuel surcharges this past week as U.S. airlines reacted to the trimming of fuel surcharges initiated by foreign carriers on competitive routes."


Going Out for Dinner

If you'd rather give thanks without the cooking, gluttony and crazy relatives, here are a few resort packages that might give you a good excuse to spend Thanksgiving away from home:

· Head to the Rusty Parrot Lodge & Spa in Jackson Hole, Wyo., for its Thankful Thanksgiving package, available Nov. 26-30. For $629 per person double (plus $57 taxes and fees), get four nights' lodging, breakfasts, Thanksgiving dinner, two one-hour massages, two tickets to the National Museum of Wildlife Art and an expert lecture on the Yellowstone ecosystem. Info: 800-458-2004,

· The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., a four-hour drive from the District, is offering a deal (good Nov. 25-30) that includes reduced rates for longer stays. Stay two nights and pay $450 a night; three nights are $400 per night; four nights are $350 a night. The room rate covers a family of four; taxes and resort fees are an extra 23 percent. Afternoon tea is included, but the meal plan is an additional $108 per person per day ($39 for children 12 and younger). Info: 866-354-4653,

· The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., near Jacksonville is offering a Thanksgiving Holiday Package Nov. 26-30. Deal includes lodging, breakfasts, Thanksgiving dinner, unlimited golf (carts extra) and unlimited tennis, plus activities for kids. Price for three-night package, including taxes and tips, starts at $367 per night for two adults; four-night package starts at $351. Kids younger than 11 staying in their parents' room are free. Info: 800-234-7842,


Lufthansa has sale fares from Washington Dulles to several cities in Europe, including Frankfurt, Germany, and Madrid. Round-trip fare on nonstop service to Munich, for example, is $635 (including taxes); fare on other airlines starts at $856. Depart by April 2, and return by May 1 (Dec. 12-24 blackout dates). Seven-day advance purchase required, and surcharges apply for Friday-Sunday flights. Purchase at by Oct. 31.

Reporting: Charlie Leocha, Christina Talcott, Carol Sottili

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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