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NEWS, TIPS & BARGAINS | TRAVEL LOG

Hotels, air carriers take it day by day

September 25, 2005

NEW ORLEANS, after making progress on mopping up after deadly Hurricane Katrina, was under evacuation orders early last week because of a new storm brewing in the Southeast.

As of Tuesday, the Travel section's deadline, thousands of residents and tourists had also fled the Florida Keys as Category 2 Hurricane Rita lashed the region, bringing flooding and strong wind. The storm's path was not predictable, but forecasters feared it might gain strength and head for the Gulf Coast, with possible landfall this weekend in Louisiana, Texas or Mexico.

The travel situation as of Tuesday:

* Florida Keys: These low-lying islands, including Key West, were closed to visitors. The Monroe County Tourist Development Council, a government agency that promotes tourism in the area, said it would post updates at www.fla-keys.com. Airlines diverted flights from area airports.

* Airlines: Some more carriers announced plans to resume or expand passenger service to New Orleans' Louis Armstrong International Airport. It was unclear how the impending storm might affect those plans. Travelers were urged to confirm ground transportation, hotel and other arrangements because services were limited.

Southwest on Tuesday was to have begun twice-daily round trips between New Orleans and Houston's Hobby Airport.

American was to have restarted limited flights Wednesday, initially operating three daily round trips between its Dallas-Fort Worth hub and New Orleans. It planned to resume service Nov. 1. from Chicago and Miami.

Earlier, Continental, Delta and Northwest restarted limited service.

* Hotels: A handful of New Orleans hotels reopened, and some others announced reopening dates; again, it was unclear how the new storm might affect those.

Even when reopened, hotels were often housing relief workers and were not accepting new reservations.

Officials at Hotel Monteleone, which relocated its sales office to Baton Rouge, La., said they anticipated reopening the French Quarter stalwart on Oct. 15. They said the hotel sustained minor exterior damage in Hurricane Katrina.

The Windsor Court Hotel, at 300 Gravier St. in the Central Business District, was expecting to open Nov. 1.

The heavily damaged Hyatt Regency New Orleans is expected to reopen at the end of next year.

* Cruises: Delta Queen Steamboat Co., based in New Orleans, which earlier announced itinerary changes for its three vessels, reshuffled ports for the late fall and canceled winter cruises on the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen. American Queen voyages after Sept. 16 also were canceled. The company said it was working with the government to make all its boats available for relief efforts from December through February.

* Amtrak: Amtrak postponed a fare increase of 5% to 7% that was blamed, in part, on rising fuel costs worsened by hurricane losses in the oil-rich Gulf Coast. No new date was announced.

*

Notes on

flying ...

US AIRWAYS received final approval to exit bankruptcy protection and merge with America West Holdings Corp. The ruling allows the airline to be bought by America West, the nation's eighth-largest airline, as soon as Tuesday. But integrating the two carriers is expected to be a gradual process, with no dramatic changes at first. The action occurred just days after Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.... Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air stopped issuing paper tickets on Sept. 15 in favor of electronic tickets. They will accept existing paper tickets through Sept. 14, 2006. The airlines, more than 95% of whose customers use e-tickets, said the goal was to streamline ticket distribution and reduce costs.

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