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Travel and You

Don't Be Led Astray By the Lingo of the Trade

February 23, 1986|TONI TAYLOR | Taylor, an authority on the travel industry, lives in Los Angeles

There is a law of semantics that holds that industries develop their own language which they then abbreviate into a mishmash of verbal shorthand and acronyms.

That is certainly true of the travel industry.

While it is quite unnecessary for John Q. Public to understand all of the terms used by travel purveyors, it can't hurt to know a little of the jargon. Knowing what certain phrases, initials and symbols represent can help you make intelligent choices.

Avoid Costly Mistakes

At least, it might help you avoid making an irritating--and potentially costly--mistake. And people have been misunderstanding, or not recognizing, the significance of travel terms since time began.

There are a couple of "golden oldie" errors that travelers still make from time to time. They involve direct--as opposed to non-stop--air transportation, and adjoining--as distinct from connecting--hotel rooms.

A direct flight, which some people think of as one continuous flight from gateway city to destination, is not that at all. A direct flight is merely one on which the same aircraft is used throughout; it may make several stops en route.

A non-stop flight is just that. And that's what most passengers want . . . and get, if they know what to ask for.

Then there's the old adjoining/connecting misunderstanding, subject of a million bawdy jokes.

If you're headed off for a trip with someone with whom you do not wish to share a room, or do not wish to be seen sharing a room, but with whom you want easy contact, you may want to specify that you be put in separate, connecting, rooms. That means that you can flit from one room to the other without going into the corridor.

On the other hand, adjoining rooms are rooms side by side; they need not have a connecting door.

Terms May Be Confusing

The need to point out these things was brought home to me recently when a friend, an experienced traveler, found himself on a one-stop, direct flight to the Midwest when what he thought he was buying was a non-stop. Even as he indignantly told me the story, he kept confusing the terms. I got the impression that he had contributed to his own embarrassment by not using a travel agent in the first place, and by accepting the wrong thing from the airline in the second.

You don't need to know all of the phraseology of travel. Who but a travel agent or airline would care that ARC stands for the Airline Reporting Corp., the entity that governs agents' ticketing practices?

And it wouldn't help you much to know that an MCO is a miscellaneous charge order, a device used by airlines and agents to request that a ticket or other service be provided for the person named on the document. Nor do you need to know that "need/need" is a code used by agents requesting space on an airline whose inventory they suspect is not accurately depicted in the computer system they're using.

These are esoterica and quite beyond the need, or the interest, of the average traveler. But there are some terms and acronyms you might be able to use:

ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) and ARTA (Assn. of Retail Travel Agents). Look for the ASTA or ARTA symbol on the door and letterhead of any travel agent you use. It is not a guarantee of professionalism but it does mean that the agent has agreed to abide by the ethics code of a trade association and that he or she is exposed to more educational programs than a non-member might be.

Professional Standards

CTC and ICTA. An agent with a CTC (Certified Travel Counselor) degree, issued by ICTA (Institute of Certified Travel Agents), has undergone a lengthy and comprehensive course of studies in the business. Completion of the course is an indication of a higher professional standard reached. Again, though, nobody's perfect. CTCs don't come with written guarantees.

Service charge. A lot has been written and said about how "Travel agents do it for nothing." The majority of them work on a commission basis--the commission to be paid out of the ticket sale--but a few have taken to charging for their services over and above. Be sure that you understand what you have to pay before you order.

MAP (Modified American Plan). This refers to a hotel room rate that includes breakfast and one other meal. Not to be confused with AP (American Plan) or FAP (Full American Plan), which includes three meals in the price of the room.

Apex (Advance Purchase Excursion). An airline ticket that must be purchased usually from 7 to 30 days before departure and which often involves a minimum/maximum stay restriction.

Deluxe, First-Class, Five-Star, Premier-Class, et al. Watch out for these words when they're used to categorize hotels. In some countries it's difficult to know whether the rating offered is an accurate reflection of the hotel's quality or whether it's a word picked for effect by the promoter. When you hear one of them used, ask where it stands in the table of categories. There is no official rating system in the United States.

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