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TRAVEL Agents offer tips in time of crisis



Published: Wed, September 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



This is no time to be traveling, local travel agents said.

By GAIL WHITE

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Tuesday's terrorist activity has brought traveling to a halt.

"Travel, for all intents and purposes, is at a standstill," said Brian Newbacher, director of public affairs with AAA Travel in Cleveland, which serves 640,000 AAA members in Northeast Ohio, including Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

"Until the FAA decides flights can resume, we are attempting to get people who are traveling back to their destination."

AAA has set up a toll-free hot line for travelers: (888) 435-9222.

"The hot line will be operating from now until the ban is lifted, and everybody is where they need to be," Newbacher said.

What to do: Judy Davis, a travel consultant for Pan Atlas Travel Service in Boardman, explained the protocol for vacationers caught in a crisis.

"I have worked in travel for 16 years. I have never seen a disaster like this, but we have dealt with strikes, hurricanes and bad weather," she said. "When a flight is canceled, a traveler is reimbursed or rescheduled by the airline."

Pan Atlas received several calls from travelers hoping to catch a flight Tuesday or today.

Davis advised, "Do not go. No one will be there."

New York trip: This weekend, Pan Atlas has a group scheduled to go to New York City. "If the flights are open, some will go; some won't," she said, referring to the destruction the travelers will find.

Hotel reimbursement can be a different ordeal than the airlines.

"If you have bought travel insurance, you are covered," Davis said. "Otherwise, it is at the discretion of the hotel."

Yet, Davis does not believe travelers will encounter much trouble. "This is a national tragedy. Hotels will accommodate travelers as a matter of good will, to uphold national morale."

With the borders closed, Davis is thinking of a couple honeymooning in Cancun. "They can't come home." She feels certain the hotel will accommodate the newlyweds for free. "Everybody works together in tragedies like this."

Stranded: Then, there is the matter of those with no place to stay.

"Our phones have been ringing all day," said Julie Costas, director of marketing for Carlson Wagonlit. "It's hard to get a car; difficult to get a hotel room. With many of the airports closed, people can't even stay there."

Costas said she has heard stories of large corporations contending with their own stranded employees.

"An employee may have taken a flight from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles but it landed in Chicago," Costas said. "Corporations are asking employees from local offices to house stranded travelers until they can get them out of town."

No one knows when that will be.

"It's just a tragedy that no one can conceive," Costas said.




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