Check-In Changes

Savvy fliers avoid check-in lines at airport ticket counters by going straight to the gate for a boarding pass. So some CoGo readers freaked at the news that passengers can no longer use an e-ticket receipt, paper ticket or itinerary to get through the first security checkpoint, as required by new Transportation Security Administration regulations.

Relax. The new rules shouldn't present a hassle. First of all, they are currently in effect at only six airports: Detroit; California's Long Beach and LAX; and Newark, JFK and LaGuardia in the New York area. The rules will be phased in at other airports in the coming year.

Second, you can avoid check-in lines by printing out a boarding pass from your computer. (Check your airline's Web site for details.) And most airlines now have electronic kiosks where you can check in and print your own boarding pass. CoGo repeatedly has whizzed through the kiosk process, wondering why hundreds of people were patiently chewing their cuds as they waited for a live agent.

Once the new rules are in place, airports will eliminate routine security checks at the gate. Overall, not bad news at all.


No One to the Rescue

Missy Snelling of Arlington put her Visa check card into an ATM in Florence one recent Sunday, but received no cash when her card got stuck in the machine. When she returned to the bank the next day to claim her card, she learned it wasn't stuck; it was gone, and thieves had already used it to rob her of several thousand dollars.

"I learned it's a popular scam in Europe," Snelling says. "Thieves jam the machine on a weekend and watch you entering your PIN." When you leave, they remove the card from the ATM.

Snelling's U.S. bank assured her the losses were covered. That left just one problem: She was broke.

No problem, Snelling figured. She still had her American Express card and had seen the ads where a penniless Amex cardholder stumbles to a phone in the desert and orders cash. She headed to the American Express office -- and was shocked to hear she couldn't get a cash advance. When she protested, agents advised her to call customer service. She stalked out.

CoGo called American Express and learned an important fact: You no longer automatically qualify for cash advances unless you sign up in advance for that privilege. There is no charge to sign up, said spokeswoman Desiree Fish.

However, even if you don't sign up, you should still be able to get emergency help, i.e. cash, through the "Global Assist" program. (The number is on the back of the card.) "There was a miscommunication from the Florence office, and we apologize," says Fish.

CoGo's advice: In addition to credit and bank cards, take a blank check, which you can cash at any AmEx office.


Ride Amtrak's Metroliner or Acela Express twice before Feb. 28 and get a free ticket. Details: 800-USA-RAIL, www.amtrak.com . . . Northwest Airlines' luggage policy will change Dec. 15, with charges for bags weighing more than 50 pounds. All carriers are cracking down on previously ignored weight limits . . . America West, a discount carrier that already serves Reagan National and BWI, will begin flying out of Dulles today . . . West Virginia's Snowshoe Mountain opened for skiing Wednes- day, the first regional resort to open for the season (Seven Springs in Pennsylvania was scheduled to open Friday); a new road that links the Snowshoe summit to Route 66 outside Cass, W.Va., shaves a half-hour off the four- to five-hour trip. Details: 877- 441-4FUN, www.snowshoemtn.com.

Bargain of the Week

On the Aer

Aer Lingus plans to resume nonstop service between BWI and Shannon March 30, and is offering sale fares. Fly round trip March 30-May 31 for $356 or June 1-Aug. 3 for $456. Buy tickets by Jan. 14 at www.aerlingus.com. Reporting: Cindy Loose, Carol Sottili.

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to:

cogo@washpost.com. By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.