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One Ticket, Please

CoGo reader Roger Winston of Bethesda and his wife, Karen, set off on a mutual birthday celebration trip with a rather tight connection: 65 minutes to change from a United Airlines flight landing in London to a British Airways flight to Prague. Winston said a BA rep had told them not to worry: They could take a later flight to Prague if they missed the connection.

In fact they missed the connection by minutes, but taking the later flight came at a huge price. A BA rep told them their original ticket to Prague was no good and they had to buy new tickets at more than three times the original price of $512. The airline didn't bother answering a letter of complaint, Winston said. BA spokesman John Lampl, reached by CoGo, was unapologetic. If Winston had bought a through ticket -- i.e., one ticket on two different airlines -- there would have been no problem. But Winston had bought two separate tickets, which created no obligation on the part of the connecting airline.

Reader Ann Christe of Laurel got caught in the same quagmire. She bought a ticket to Los Angeles on United and a ticket on Qantas from L.A. to New Zealand. When Qantas changed the flight time, her United connection was no longer viable. Neither airline would help her out, said Christe, who shortened her trip to make up for change fee penalties.

CoGo advises: Unless you have a very long stopover -- preferably overnight -- stick with this plan: one trip, one ticket.

UPRIGHT AND LOCKED

US Airways: Book It?

Bookings are down at US Airways, apparently because fliers are worried that the bankrupt airline could suddenly disappear. But experts say customers can buy tickets through February without fear.

"I think you can be reasonably confident during that time period," said airline analyst Henry Harteveldt of Forrester Research, a consulting firm. The airline has enough cash on hand to operate through February, and a bankruptcy judge recently gave the airline permission to cut costs by slashing the pay of most employees by 21 percent through February.

Meanwhile, the airline last week announced a restructuring plan that will cut turnaround time so the existing fleet of planes can fly an extra 230 flights daily. The airline is adding flights to the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe from Charlotte. It's also adding new nonstop service from Reagan National to six key business destinations as of Feb. 6: Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas and Houston. To do so, it will eliminate nonstop service from Reagan to Birmingham and reduce the frequency of some other flights.

"The announcements show a company that clearly intends to continue," said Harteveldt. "They are nowhere near out of the woods, but the airline is making intelligent moves to remain a key player."

Another factor in US Airways' future: The potential bankruptcy of upstart competitor Independence Air. Analyst Robert N. Ashcroft of UBS Investment Research said last week the airline's parent company has large losses and faces a potential Chapter 11 filing by January.

Stay tuned.

TRAVEL TICKER

Sandals Resorts lifted its controversial ban on gay couples last week after an 11-year battle . . . Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv this month opened a new interurban train line, with 64 daily round trips between the airport and Nahariya, Haifa and downtown Tel Aviv. Details: www.goisrael.com . . . Amtrak will eliminate fees for exchanging most tickets as of Nov. 1; at the same time, it will begin strictly enforcing baggage limits. Details: www.amtrak.com . . . US Airways has dropped its $10 fee for buying tickets at the counter . . . Candida's World of Books (1541 14th St. NW) will host Paola Gianturco, author and photographer of "Celebrating Women," on Nov. 7 at 3 p.m. The book documents festivals in 15 countries that honor women and lists 100 similar festivals around the world.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Europe 101

Students and other youths can fly across the pond (including $369 to Paris) with a deal from STA Travel. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.

Reporting: Cindy Loose.

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