UPRIGHT AND LOCKED
We Hardly Flew Ye
US Airways may not be on life support yet, but its condition is critical. Last week, its chairman, David G. Bronner, said that the airline, if forced to seek bankruptcy protection for the second time in two years, has a "1 to 2 percent" chance of surviving. A consultant hired by the pilots' union concluded that without concessions from the airline's unions, it will have to file for bankruptcy protection in mid-September, and will likely stop operating within 180 to 270 days.
So what's a traveler to do?
* Booking a US Airways trip within the next couple of months remains fairly safe, but booking much past the end of the year is dicey. "Until labor makes concessions, I wouldn't advise making long-term bookings after the Thanksgiving-Christmas time frame," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association. Even if the airline stays solvent, look out for service cuts, Stempler added. And consider travel insurance. (Make sure the policy covers airlines in bankruptcy -- some don't.)
* If you already hold a ticket on US Airways, keep abreast of the news and investigate flight alternatives on other airlines. Federal law currently mandates that other airlines accommodate passengers on airlines that go out of business, but the law is scheduled to expire in November and it's unclear whether it will be renewed. Even if Congress acts to renew, load factors on other airlines are high, and the law promises standby seats only.
* If you're one of the 21 million members of US Airways Dividend Miles program, start using your miles. Randy Petersen, frequent-flier expert and editor of WebFlyer.com, said no airline is going to pick up outstanding US Airways miles if it stops operating. "The industry is starting to take a hard-nosed approach," Petersen said. "They're already stretched to the limit." Consider booking your mileage flight on one of US Airways' 15 Star Alliance partners (www.staralliance.com), which include United, Lufthansa, BMI and Singapore Air. Miles can also be used on partner airlines Qantas and Bahamasair. Once a flight is ticketed, partner airlines will likely honor it even if US Airways has stopped operating.
Florida: What's Open
After Hurricane Charley slammed through Florida last weekend, the state is rummaging through billions of dollars worth of rubble and finding . . . Mickey still standing, Flipper still swimming and Daytona's race cars still breaking the speed limit.
"All of our attractions are open," said Danielle Courtenay, vice president of public relations of the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Central Florida, Daytona, Brevard were all very fortunate, and are up and running as normal."
Farther south and west, though, reports are not so encouraging. "Sanibel and Captiva islands were the prime trouble spots, and Punta Gorda was ground zero," said Visit Florida spokesman Tom Flanigan. Last week, the Sanibel bridge reopened for residents and business owners only, and the National Guard was protecting the vulnerable region due to "sporadic reports of looting and mischief," Flanigan said.
As for visitors with upcoming trips, the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau is urging them to call ahead to see if the hotel is open (at press time, none was). And don't be frustrated if the phone rings and rings; many have no power. (For the latest status, call the 24-hour accommodations line at 888-231-5320.)
However, if you have a room at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, hang on to that reservation. The luxe resort reopened Monday, allowing its evacuated guests to return to their rooms.
Visit Florida, the state's tourism office, lists hurricane recovery updates on its Web site (www.visitflorida.org) as well as links to counties affected by Charley.
BARGAIN OF THE WEEK
Take a tour to China for $1,749, including airfare. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.
Reporting: Carol Sottili,
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