MILE HOUNDS

No Deposit, No Return

Saving British Airways miles for a frequent-flier ticket? Pay close attention to the experience of Mildred Jacobs.

Jacobs, of the District, cashed in her BA miles to book a flight in late June -- from Dulles to London on BA, then on to Dublin on partner Aer Lingus. Soon after booking, she discovered she'd have to return home a few days earlier than planned. She says she was told that if she changed her return, she'd have to buy an $800 one-way return ticket. Shopping around, she found a $673 round-trip fare on Air Canada, and figured she'd come out ahead buying the Air Canada ticket and saving her BA miles for another time.

Nope. Your miles are gone, she was told.

BA, you see, does not allow changes on a frequent-flier ticket if any leg of a trip involves a partner airline. Any change and the miles are forfeited, said BA spokesman John Lampl.

However, Lampl said "situations with mitigating circumstances will be assessed individually," adding that the airline "will be in contact with Ms. Jacobs directly to come to a suitable resolution."

Most airlines charge a $50 or $100 fee to redeposit miles. Virgin Atlantic takes back 25 percent of your miles if you change a frequent-flier ticket at least seven days before a flight. After that, you lose all the miles.

Room keys

One More Reason

To Quit Smoking

Smokers still fuming about restaurant smoking bans, take note: Hotels are shrinking their smoking venues as well.

On average, hotels in major cities allow smoking in only 16 percent of their rooms -- down from 20 percent just a few years ago, according to the research firm PricewaterhouseCooper.

Furthermore, the trends don't augur well in favor of smokers. Hotels that have banned smoking entirely seem thrilled with their decisions and gleefully report how good it's been for business. The Ohana Reef Lanai in Waikiki, for example, recently announced that its occupancy rates swelled after the Hawaiian hotel went smoke-free a year ago. Apple Core Hotels brags that its smoke-free Comfort Inn in Midtown Manhattan fills its rooms 98 percent of the time, and had 100 percent occupancy for the entire month of April.

"Banning smoking hotel-wide has worked out terrific, it's been amazing," says Chris Canavos, franchise owner of the smoke-free Howard Johnson in Williamsburg. In 1990, he said, his hotel set aside 20 percent of its rooms for smokers, and despite cutting the percentage each year, found the hotel was constantly running out of non-smoking rooms. Finally the hotel decided to test the smoke-free option. Canavos says some chains already set aside only 10 percent of rooms for smokers, and predicts: "Someday soon there's going to be a whole brand that is going to bite the bullet and ban smoking."

CASE CLOSED

Don't Forget Your . . .

You could make a pretty good packing list out of the results of a recent survey showing what people most frequently forget to pack.

Some 42 percent of adults said they sometimes forget toothbrush and toothpaste, according to a survey conducted by the polling firm CyberPulse on behalf of Celebrity Cruises.

Second place: underwear, forgotten by 22 percent. Film is third, sunscreen is fourth, and fifth place is a tie: tickets and contraceptives.

The only thing that can mess up a trip even worse: leaving behind the passport -- something 3 percent of travelers said they'd done.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Venice and Beyond

Sail from Venice to Athens for $1,000 off the usual price for two. Details: "What's the Deal?," Page 3.

Reporting: Cindy Loose.

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.