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Frequent flier plan is out of this world



Published: Sun, April 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Frequent flier planis out of this world

US Airways has come up with the ultimate destination for frequent fliers who want to go far with their Dividend Miles. Accrue enough bonus miles, and you're off to outer space.

Well, not so fast. It may be a while before you can board a commercial space liner to the outer reaches of the universe. In the meantime, US Airways, teaming up with Space Adventures Ltd., is offering some reasonable facsimiles: zero-gravity and supersonic high-altitude jet flights and astronaut-led shuttle-launch tours.

Space Adventure's zero-gravity flights allow participants to float weightlessly at the formerly top-secret Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

Even more adventurous are the edge-of-space flights. Participants board a MiG-25 supersonic jet and are whisked to 80,000 feet, where they can see the curvature of Earth and the blackness of space. All you need for this flight is 275,000 bonus miles plus $8,000. Ten million miles reserves you a seat on the first spacecraft to take passengers to space.

Check www.usairways.com.

Travel industry getscreative to lure clients

How far will the travel industry go to lure back travelers?

The "carrots" grow bigger and more original every day. How about mopping up your vacation with a discount on home cleaning by the Merry Maids? Or a free 25-inch TV set with your European vacation bookings?

Homewood Suites by Hilton has come up with the slogan, "Come stay at our home and we'll help clean up yours." The residential-style hotels' "Spring into Homewood" promotion package at participating hotels includes accommodation in a suite that sleeps four, free breakfast and $20 off professional cleaning services from ServiceMaster Clean and $25 off maid service from Merry Maids. To get the discount offers, guests must make their weekend booking online at www.home wood-suites.com. An e-coupon for cleaning service will be e-mailed within 14 days from the date of reservation. Weekend rates start at $69 per night. The clean offer is good through April 28.

Call (800) CALL-HOME.

Meanwhile, free color TVs go to travelers who book one of Insight Vacations' first-class Europe departures using Delta Airlines for travel through Dec. 31. The booking must be made by March 31. There's a limit of one free TV per double-occupancy booking. Call your local travel agent or log on to www.inusa.insightvacations.com.

Orbitz puts new spinon airport parking

Travel agents have long supplied clients with airport parking coupons, some offering $1 off per day or a small percentage discount, others offering more extensive savings. Now, a new spin on parking discounts has emerged: Orbitz, the big online booking service, recently began offering up to two days of free parking at airports in 25 cities to those who book through the site at www.orbitz.com.

To take advantage, customers buying airline tickets are directed to an Orbitz Web page, at which they pick a departure city and print a coupon that can be redeemed at a particular lot. Customers present the coupon and a proof of purchase from Orbitz to get one day of free parking on a short trip, two days of free parking on a longer trip.

USAirways recently offered a free parking deal as well to Dividend Miles members who booked through its site at www.usairways.com. The initial USAirways offer has expired, and the Orbitz deal continues through the end of April, but passengers should watch for similar parking bonuses to arise. Airline service and passenger traffic has grown since the declines after Sept. 11, but there are still far fewer passengers overall, which means fewer people using the private parking lots located near many airports.

The airline-booking tie-ins provide an easy and effective way for operators to help fill their lots.

Even if your airline or booking site is not offering a parking deal, you can almost always find coupons through the Web sites of the parking companies' own sites.

Hotel at LAX allowsguests to say awhile

A hotel at Los Angeles International Airport is letting guests stay a full 24 hours instead of having to observe the typical 3 p.m. check-in and noon check-out common in the industry.

Although some high-end hotels indulge their well-heeled guests with 24-hour stays, the Four Points by Sheraton at Los Angeles International Airport has extended the practice to what general manager Phil Baxter calls "the great middle." The 573-room hotel is rated three diamonds by AAA and three stars by Mobil (both on a 1-to-5 scale, with 5 tops).

The 24-hour stay is good, with advance notice, on rooms priced at $95 or more. Rooms average $99 on weekdays and $79 to $89 on weekends, Baxter said. The hotel also offers a $99-per-night rate that includes parking and breakfast. (800) 529-4683, www.fourpointslax.com.

Hawaii tops Vegasas 'up and coming' spot

Hawaii bumped Las Vegas out of the top spot as the U.S. destination that travel agents expect to be "up and coming" this year, according to a poll released recently by a committee of travel agent groups, airlines and the Airlines Reporting Corp.

In explaining the change from a poll taken in 2000, Kathleen Argiropoulos, a vice president at ARC, said Hawaii "has all the elements of a tropical vacation, but you don't need a passport to go."

Reluctance to travel far from home was also reflected in the international favorites. Mexico topped the list, followed by the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and the Caribbean.

Australia, Italy and Ireland, which were among the top destinations in 2000, didn't make the cut this year.

FAA warns of boomin air travel next year

The traditional cry of losing baseball clubs, "Wait till next year!" is being heard in the airline industry these days. Only it's more of a threat than a promise.

Although the airlines are not expected to recover from their post-terrorist slump this year, air travel is expected to boom in 2003.

Numbers of air passengers, which peaked at 695.3 million in 2000, will probably reach no higher than 600 million by September as traumatized travelers continue to stay on the ground. Barring any further terrorist attacks, however, the numbers will soar until they reach 1 billion by 2013, predicts the Federal Aviation Administration.

These numbers could overwhelm the air traffic system, the FAA warns, unless industry officials use the current lull to modernize air traffic control and expand airports. Otherwise, look for delays of the kind experienced at LaGuardia before 9/11 grounded many travelers.

Mayflower replicato head to Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- A replica of the Mayflower will visit Rhode Island this summer to help the nation's smallest state celebrate Independence Day in a big way.

The Mayflower II will sail from Massachusetts' Plimoth Plantation to Newport and then to Providence. Powered only by its linen canvas sails, the wooden ship will travel for two days along the Massachusetts coast and then up into Narragansett Bay.

Aboard the Mayflower were some of the nation's first settlers. It never stopped in Rhode Island.

The Mayflower II was built as a gift from Great Britain to the United States. The Rhode Island voyage will be the sixth trip the ship has taken since its maiden trans-Atlantic voyage in 1957.

Aboard the Mayflower II will be a crew and passengers dressed in s garb and speaking in the accents of the period. They will disembark at India Point Park, where they will set up a small pilgrim village.

Tourism officials say the Mayflower's visit will mark Providence's biggest Fourth of July celebration in years. The ship is slated to arrive in the city on June 30. Visitors will be able to tour the ship and speak with the crew, who will describe the conditions of the harsh voyage.

On July 3, there will be a concert by the Rhode Island Philharmonic and a fireworks display.




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