Livin' (a Little) Larger

It's a good time to fly the shuttles to New York and Boston, with US Airways introducing a new shuttle craft, an Airbus 320, on the Reagan National-LaGuardia route. Plans are to phase in five more this year (pushing the new hardware onto the D.C.-to-Boston run) and two more in 2000, sending the incumbent 727s into hard-won retirement. (Upgrade plans for the Dulles-LaGuardia shuttles are not certain.)

The A320 offers significant improvements over current flying stock--"seat pitch" (space between rows) of 34 inches (up two inches), an extra inch of butt-width on the seat, deeper overhead bins and (sweet!) a coat hook on the seatback in front of you. But compared with Delta's planes--also warhorse 727s, which Boeing stopped making during the Reagan administration--the new craft are no leap forward. The new US Airways craft offer two-tenths of an inch extra seat width. But its seat pitch only equals Delta's worst; Delta leg room ranges from 34 to 36.

Delta plans to introduce new shuttle craft next year.

Delta ($198) and US Airways ($197) offer similar walk-up fares to New York, but you can cut that in half--$201 round trip--if you buy seven days in advance. The best current deal in shuttledom is US Airways' $98 round trip to Boston Logan from Dulles, for 21-day advance buys. Why? US Airways' archnemesis, United, is charging $88 for a non-shuttle Dulles-Logan run.

Delta and US Airways are dangling miles: Delta offers 1,000 miles per shuttle leg; US Airways offers 500 miles each in its own and partner American's programs, per leg.


The Child Profit

Reader Sharon Edge-Harley of Landover reports being "somewhat shocked" at Carnival Cruise Lines' family-unfriendly habit of charging infants (in this case) $799 to cruise--the same rate she paid for her 10-year-old. More startling was this not-warm-and-not-fuzzy reply to her letter of complaint: "Since we sail at over 100 percent occupancy throughout the year, the company bases its profit objective on having revenue guests occupy each available berth on the ship." Meaning: Since even a baby is counted against the total number of passengers Carnival can admit to the ship--and since presumably they'd otherwise be able to sell that berth to a full-fare passenger, elsewhere on the ship--the kid's gotta pay.

Cost-conscious family cruisers may want to consider Norwegian, which lets babies under 2 sail free.

Bargain of the week

Low, Canada!

Air Canada is offering sale fares, with savings of up to 40 percent, to destinations throughout Canada. Sample round-trip fares (from at least one, not all, local airports): $211 to Montreal, $200 to Ottawa, $220 to Quebec City, $375 to Winnipeg, $270 to Halifax. Tickets must be bought by Wednesday, and travel complete by Dec. 17. Seven-day advance buy and travel day rules apply.

Exit Lines

Online agency Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) has enhanced a feature that reports lower fares to alternate airports. They now pop up (usually) in a new window when a fare search is returned. Previously you had to click to get other-airport deals. This can pay off big when you're flying to such multi-airport areas as Boston, L.A. or San Francisco. Recent tests cut $200 on DCA to SFO, by flying into Oakland--but another fare we checked, though lower, was unavailable . . . Speaking of SFO, reader Whit Minkler reports that, thanks to construction there, regular transit-style buses carry passengers from the terminal to rental car pickups, making for difficult, unassisted baggage-hauling up and down steep, narrow stairs . . . Fodor's recently surveyed Washington area travel agents. One unexpected nugget about locals' travel tastes: an unusually high interest in visiting Costa Rica.

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