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Travel letters

August 21, 2011

Regarding "Don't Light Up There," by Mary Forgione [Need to Know, Aug. 14]: As a pipe and cigar smoker and author of numerous books and articles on the subject, I was appalled by Norwegian Cruise Lines banning the smoking of pipes and cigars by passengers on their private stateroom balconies, yet permitting cigarettes. Like many others, I find cigarette smoke pungent and acidic. However, many people — including nonsmokers — find the aroma from pipes and cigars pleasant, even nostalgic. I trust more than a few pipe and cigar smokers — people who literally have money to burn — will steer clear of this cruise line due to its prejudicial policy.

Richard Carleton Hacker

Studio City

Great article about how and why to haggle ["Go Ahead and Haggle" by Rick Steves, Aug. 7]. But many won't do it on a stressful first trip abroad. A great way to practice is to go to garage sales. Practice "not" being interested. Practice walking away. Practice negotiating. When a merchant or garage saler tells me how much something is worth, I say, "If it was worth that much, someone would have already bought it." I get the item at what I want to pay 90% of the time.

Gary Zeune

Powell, Ohio

I think the remarks in Catharine Hamm's On the Spot column about an airline's ability to downgrade a passenger from business class to coach fail to respond to the reader's question ["Downgraded? Stand Up," Aug. 7]. If a passenger has paid for a seat in business class because a physical problem prevents her from flying in coach, a partial refund of the purchase price or vouchers fails to solve the problem. Downgrading her to coach could prevent her from flying or could cause physical problems that cannot be adequately compensated with partial refunds and vouchers.

A few years ago I purchased a full-fare first-class ticket for my 84-year-old mother to fly on AirTran from Tampa, Fla., to Milwaukee. She had recently undergone hip-replacement surgery, and her surgeon required her to sit in a first-class seat as a condition of permitting her to make the trip. I was prevented from accompanying my mother to the gate because of the post-9/11 security rules.

When she was taken in a wheelchair to the gate, she was bumped from the first-class seat I had paid for to coach, notwithstanding her explanation of her medical need to fly in a first-class seat. She could either fly in the coach seat or not fly at all — those were the choices offered. AirTran did give her two vouchers for a first-class upgrade on a future flight, which failed to address the medical problem presented by the downgrade to coach.

Hamm's column should have pointed out that a passenger who has paid for a business-class or first- class seat because of a medical condition cannot be adequately compensated by a partial refund or vouchers. The legal explanation in the column may have been technically accurate, but it failed to address the violation of a personal relationship between the airline and the passenger that an airline commits when it engages in such practices.

Andy Couch

Newport Beach

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