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NEWS, TIPS & BARGAINS | TRAVEL LOG

New ways to garner free flight awards

June 15, 2003|Jane Engle

United Airlines this month began a "Fly Three, Fly Free" promotion for domestic travel under which certain customers can earn a round-trip ticket by flying three round trips. Similar offers were made two days later by American and Northwest.

The promotions recall frequent-flier programs run by discounters Southwest and JetBlue, which award tickets based on trips taken instead of mileage flown. The majors' offers come with many restrictions. At least some discounted leisure fares don't qualify, and there are more than 50 blackout dates when award tickets can't be used.

United and American aimed their deals at business-class travelers. Northwest's offer appeared broader, although it also excluded some low-priced leisure fares.

"It's very good news for business travelers," said Kevin P. Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, a consumer group based in Radnor, Pa.

Aviation analyst Mike Boyd, president of the Boyd Group in Evergreen, Colo., had a different view. "It's a very interesting idea, but the free ticket has so many limitations on it that I don't think there will be many people chasing it."

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CDC lifts

Hong Kong

travel advisory

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has removed Hong Kong from its list of areas to be avoided because of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. The June 4 action followed a similar move by the World Health Organization, based on a reduction in cases.

Both agencies continued to recommend that international passengers in Hong Kong be screened for SARS symptoms.

As of the Travel section's deadline Tuesday, the CDC still advised against nonessential travel to Taiwan and mainland China; WHO was recommending against such travel to Taiwan, Beijing and four Chinese provinces. Both agencies outlined precautions for travelers to Toronto, but neither recommended avoiding the Canadian city. For updates, visit www.cdc.gov and www.who.int.

The downturn in travel to Asia during the SARS outbreaks, and the CDC's lifting of its Hong Kong advisory, have prompted cut-rate deals.

As of last week, Singapore Airlines, (800) 742-3333, www.singaporeair.com/usa, was offering $299 round trips to Hong Kong from San Francisco. Its vacation arm, Asian Affair Holidays, had five-night air-hotel packages to Hong Kong from San Francisco starting at $549. (800) 742-3133, www.asianaffairholi days.com.

Cathay Pacific Airways reduced its "All Asia Pass," which offers three weeks of unlimited coach-class travel from the U.S. to Hong Kong and 17 other Asian cities, to $699. The pass was available through travel agents only. More information is available at www.cathay-usa.com.

Most of these deals were subject to availability and other restrictions.

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Raise the tent,

light a campfire and log on

Wireless access to the Internet, the latest tech update at big hotel chains, is coming to a campsite near you.

Kampgrounds of America, which says it runs the largest system of private campgrounds in the U.S., plans to install wireless at nearly a fifth of its 500 locations by the end of this year. It's already at the Albuquerque Central KOA; eight Florida sites are being added this month.

"People are totally addicted to their e-mail," KOA spokesman Mike Gast said. More than a quarter of campers surveyed by KOA last summer said they were traveling with Internet devices such as laptops, up from 18% in 2000.

KOA already has plug-in Internet access at more than 90% of its campgrounds, Gast said; charges vary by location. For wireless, the Internet charge is $4 per hour, $8 per day or $18.95 per month. KOA hopes to add Internet cafes next year so customers without their own equipment can log on. For information, www.koakonnect.com.

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Traveler's notes

Norwegian Cruise Line, which scratched several eastern Caribbean sailings of its Norway after a shipboard boiler exploded May 25, killing several crew members, said last week it would cancel all the vessel's trips through Sept. 28. Officials said the boiler would need to be rebuilt.... Nearly 33,000 tickets to the First Flight Centennial Celebration, Dec. 12 to 17 in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. -- more than a fifth of the total paid spots available -- have been sold since sales opened April 24, the National Park Service reported. The festival will mark the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first manned flight. Adult tickets are $10 per day. (800) 973-7327, www.wrightbrothers.reserveworld.com.

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DEAL OF THE WEEK

Half off 3rd night

in San Francisco

You can stay two nights at several San Francisco hotels and get the third night for half off under the "Xtra Xtra Value" deal from San Francisco Reservations. Rates at the Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental, for instance, are $159 per room per night for the first two nights and $79.50 for the third night. At the Sir Francis Drake, comparable rates are $119 and $59.50. The deals, good through July 31, are subject to availability. (800) 737-2060, www.hotelres.com. (To get the half-off deal, click on rates marked "Xtra Value.")

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FREE FOR THE ASKING

Guide to Oregon

county, with map

The well-organized "Official Lane County Oregon Visitor Guide" profiles three regions of the county, which includes the cities of Eugene and Springfield and the Pacific Coast. It lists festivals, events, lodging and campsites (with prices), and restaurants. There's also a pullout map. (800) 547-5445, www.visitlanecounty.org.

-- Compiled by

Jane Engle

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