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New Security Procedures After Terror Plot

As you no doubt already know, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has raised the terror alert level to Orange after British authorities uncovered a plot to attack transatlantic flights from the U.K. This means increased security and screening for everyone traveling on commercial flights. In addition, the TSA has instituted new rules banning the carry-on of all liquids and gels including water, soda, shampoo, sunscreen, lotion, tooth paste and hair gel. TSA agents will be searching every carry-on to make sure that none of these things are brought on-board aircraft so expect long lines and waits until people get the hang of it. We urge you to arrive at the airport earlier than normal (two hours ahead minimum for domestic flights, three for international). These security measures are not permanent and may change at any time as circumstances warrant.

You can read the most recent update issued by the TSA on carry-on items at www.tsa.gov/press/happenings/threat-change.shtm.

In addition, there is a ban on all carryon luggage and no electronics or any kind may be brought on board for flights departing all UK airports.

In fact, according to the Virgin and British Airways websites, there is a very specific list of allowed items. Even handbags and briefcases are not allowed. You may carry on wallets and small purses, travel documents, prescription medicines, eyewear, contact lens holders (but no solution), baby essentials, unboxed tissues, and keys. There is no mention, even, of reading material, or items like baby strollers and folding wheelchairs. See the Virgin Atlantic statement.

And here's something else to think about: although you can bring onboard expensive and delicate electronic items such as laptop computers on your journey from the US to the UK, you cannot bring them on a journey through the UK (for instance, if you connect on a British Airways flight to Rome, because that would be on a flight departing the UK). And, you must place them in your checked luggage on your return from or through the UK. Do you really want to put a $3,000 laptop in checked luggage? We wouldn't. So does that mean you should leave them at home, and go iPod-less on your next trip? It's certainly something to ponder.

Washington, D.C. to Mexico

United Airlines (tel. 800/864-8331; www.united.com) is having an unadvertised sale from both Washington, D.C. airports to three destinations in Mexico. These fares are highly unstable and may expire at any minute. Here are some sample fares including all taxes and fees:

Depart September 9, Return September 16

  • Washington to Puerto Vallarta: $313 vs. $480 on Continental
  • Washington to Ixtapa: $357 vs. $435 on American

Depart December 7, Return December 12

  • Washington to Cabo San Lucas: $313 vs. $360 on Delta

To find these fares use an Orbitz flexible search by clicking on the flexible search link at the bottom of the big blue box and use option 3 for a flexible stays search. Choose 5-7 days to fulfill the Saturday-night stay requirement and select dates up to 30 days apart. These fares maybe sold out by the time you read this so act fast.

Spirit's Larry Sale

Spirit Airlines's (tel. 800/772-7117; www.spiritair.com) season of sales continues to bring us discounted fares with the newest sale named "Larry." Many of these fares are the lowest available. Below are some sample round-trip fares:

  • Atlantic City to Fort Myers: $138
  • Boston to Myrtle Beach: $158
  • Chicago to Fort Lauderdale: $138
  • Detroit to Orlando: $88
  • Fort Lauderdale to Grand Cayman: $138
  • Las Vegas to Detroit: $158
  • Orlando to San Juan: $158
  • Tampa to Punta Cana, DR: $198
  • Washington to Fort Lauderdale: $138

Hurry, these low fares sell out fast. Travel on select dates between August 15, 2006 and September 29, 2006. Purchase fares by August 13, 2006 for the specified dates on the specified routes.

US Airways Charlotte Sale

US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322; www.usairways.com) has discounted fares to and from Charlotte. There is no specified expiration date to this sale so it may end at any moment. Below are some sample round-trip fares before taxes and fees. In addition, there are comparisons with other airlines, which are offering lower fares on some of these routes.

Continental Sale to Scandinavia

Continental Airlines (tel. 800/523-3273; www.continental.com) is having a sale to Oslo, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, but we've found better deals on United/Lufthansa through Orbitz.com. Below are some sample round-trip fares including all taxes and fees:

Depart August 19, return August 26

  • Boston to Stockholm: $1000 vs. $657 on United

Depart November 8, return November 13

  • Dallas to Oslo: $743 vs. $700 on United
  • Newark to Copenhagen: $535 on Continental with United matching

These lower United fares, with taxes included, are in many cases about the same as Continental's fares before taxes. The only routes that Continental has the value advantage on are from Newark, from which they fly to these cities nonstop. On many routes, especially in August when you wouldn't expect to find a deal to Europe, we found an even wider difference between United's fares (some with travel on Lufthansa) and Continental's sale fares. To find these Scandinavian fares, use a 30-day flexible search on Orbitz, where, surprisingly, we found even lower fares than on United's own Web site.

Outbound travel is valid August 13, 2006 through December 9, 2006. All travel must be completed by December 14, 2006. Purchase your ticket by December 2, 2006 with a 7-day advance purchase are required. A Saturday-night stay is required, and the maximum stay is 30 days.

Eos Special Companion Offer to London

Eos Airlines (tel. 800/598-2149; www.eosairlines.com), which calls itself an all-business-class airline but is really a first class carrier, and flies only between New York and London's Stansted Airport, is offering a free companion ticket, good for future travel, with every roundtrip ticket purchase through August 18, 2006. In addition, you will also get a free 12-month membership in the Leading Hotels of the World Leaders Club and a $100 gift voucher for any of Chef Gordon Ramsey's London restaurants. Book your ticket online or via the phone and mention promo code: GFPKG1US. The promotion ends August 18, 2006.

Kayak Launches Historical Fare Data Tool

Kayak (tel. 203/899-3100; www.kayak.com) has recently launched a "Best Fare Trend" graph that is displayed with nearly every airfare search. Placed on the left side of the page, users can quickly glance at the chart to see whether airfare prices have been rising or falling over the past 90 days. This is a great new tool to help consumers decide whether it's time to buy.

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and blogger whose website, www.airfarewatchdog.com, tracks unadvertised airfare wars and other fare sales.

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