Though everyone's crying gloom and doom about U.S. aviation, there are several positive recent developments to report.
While the bill will not reach the U.S. Senate floor in the next several weeks — the Health Care Reform Act will occupy the senators' attention until then — it seems realistic to hope that the passenger bill of rights will be advanced for an actual Senate vote sometime later this year. And there is, at long last, hope that approval by the House of Representatives as well will finally result in the measure's enactment this year (though airline lobbyists are waging a frantic campaign to defeat the legislation).
If you've ever been confined to a plane on the tarmac for three hours, as I have, you will agree that this grueling experience is one that should not be visited on anyone. The instrument for expressing your views to Congress, and urging that they pass the measure, is FlyersRights.org (www.flyersrights.org), which has been lobbying for such a measure since 2007. According to the group's founder, Kate Hanni, a frightening 1,232 flights from American airports were kept confined to the tarmac for longer than three hours in 2008.
Five hundred and ninety-nine dollars is a remarkable round-trip fare for September and October flights to balmy Rome, especially when additional taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges amount to an additional $150 (as they do on the Go-Today package). And note, as well, that Go-Today's $599 also includes four nights with breakfast daily at a hotel in Rome.
Thus far, in test bookings, I've discovered several European carriers that provide the air for Go-Today's package, flying to Rome via their own capital city. But even Alitalia, going nonstop to Rome, is used on occasional dates by Go-Today.
An important limitation: The $599 price is available only if you fly in both directions on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday; flights on other days bring a $35 surcharge. This means that after using the four hotel nights offered by Go-Today, you will have to extend the date of your return flight to a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday in order to escape the surcharge. This is easily done (and indeed, encouraged) on the Go-Today.com Web site.
And finally, this odd member of an otherwise super-dignified chain adds another world-famous name — Cook — to its title (thus, "Cook American Express Travel"), but never explains the identification. Despite all the confusion, it boldly advertises "Last Minute Business Class Deals" and "Last Minute Domestic & Economy Deals," stressing (on its Web site) that it mainly provides cut-rate tickets for All Nippon Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.