Henri Manasse remembers checking into the Hilton Hotel in Istanbul a few years ago when the employees there were on strike.

The frequent flier from Rockville had to make his own bed. His room wasn't cleaned. His towels and washcloths weren't changed. And getting room service wasn't even an option.

Manasse said if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't stay at a hotel while employees were on strike. "I recommend staying at another property," he said.

With unions and hotels in Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles locked in tense contract negotiations, strikes could soon occur at some hotels, including some owned or managed by Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood. Travelers could find themselves having to cross picket lines if the two sides are unable to reach an accord. Among the key issues is the length of a new contract.

The unions are scheduled to meet with hotel officials today in a bid to avert a strike in the District.

If the talks fail and a strike is called, it's unclear how many hotels would be hit. At most, nine hotels in Los Angeles, including the St. Regis and the Westin Century Plaza, 14 hotels in San Francisco and 14 properties in Washington could be affected. But workers also may strike at just one hotel in each city, or the action may not be even that extensive. For a listing of the hotels possibly affected, travelers can go online to the union-sponsored Web site, www.hotelworkersunited.org/factsheets.asp, then click on a city.

The hotels say they have contingency plans to ensure that business remains as usual during a strike. "We will be open and operating as always and we have plans in place to manage and ensure that our guests receive the best customer care," said Jeanne Datz, a Hilton spokeswoman. The Hilton San Francisco and the Capital Hilton and Washington Hilton & Towers hotels in the District are among the properties threatened by the strike.

Spokesmen for Hilton, Marriott and Starwood said that in the event of a strike, they have no plans to waive cancellation fees.

Managers of the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles last week locked out laundry employees and quickly filled their jobs after a contract standoff between the union and management there.

Hotel strikes do not commonly affect properties nationwide but rather are touched off at isolated sites. The unions are hoping to strengthen their clout by seeking two-year contracts in the three cities that expire at the same time as current contracts in New York, Chicago and other cities.

Joseph A. McInerney, president and chief executive of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, said that even if employees are picketing properties, guests can expect the "same, usual service."

"This might be an inconvenience, but will not affect your stay," McInerney said.

EPA Warns About Airline Water: The Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday that 12.6 percent of the planes it tested had drinking water on board that failed to meet the agency's standards. The EPA inspected the water on 158 planes at seven airports.

The preliminary study tested tank water used in the galleys and lavatory sinks.

Doug Willis, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, the organization that represents the nation's airlines, said the group was "confident" that the airlines' drinking water was safe and that no one had ever become sick from it. About 87 percent of the planes tested met EPA water standards.

Coliform bacteria, a non-illness-causing bacteria, was found aboard 20 planes, suggesting that other more serious forms of bacteria could be present, according to the EPA. Two planes tested positive for E. coli.

Cynthia Bergman, an EPA spokeswoman, declined to identify which airlines were part of the study. Only U.S.-based airlines were tested. The EPA and the airlines are working to resolve concerns about the water quality.

The EPA tested water aboard planes at all three Washington area airports -- Reagan National, Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International -- and at San Francisco International, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International, Philadelphia International and Dallas-Ft. Worth International airports.

Southwest Is No. 1: Budget carrier Southwest Airlines carried the most travelers -- 39.8 million -- during the first six months of 2004, according to the latest numbers from the Transportation Department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Delta Air Lines was second with 39.4 million passengers, and American came in third with 36.2 million. Arlington-based US Airways was sixth with 18.4 million passengers. Last year, Southwest ranked second in the same period behind Delta Air Lines, which flew 38.4 million passengers.

Question of the Week: You board your flight expecting a quiet, relaxing trip. Instead, your seatmate loves to talk and talk and talk. What do you do? Tell us about your experiences. What strategies do you use to get yourself out of these dreaded conversations? Send your thoughts to alexanderk@washpost.com. Please include your name and a daytime telephone number.