April 2005

Go ahead, bite Mickey’s ear off. Slather him with dressing. Chop him into slices. Carve him up. The Walt Disney Company doesn’t mind. In fact, it encourages you to find the signature rodent in its resort food. Mickey Mouse-shape fare has been a staple at Disney’s theme parks for more than a decade – everything from waffles to pasta are shaped like the cartoon icon.

Roger Hughes returns his Enterprise rental car in what he thinks is good shape. No scratches or dings. But he’s wrong, according to a manager who carefully circles the vehicle and finds a “dent.” After a lengthy fight, Hughes is forced to write a check for $510 to cover the repair and repainting of the car. But he continues to insist that he is innocent and that Enterprise has pulled a fast one. Who is right? And how can you make sure you don’t get “dinged” on your next rental?

The U.S. government plans to force foreign airlines flying over American soil to turn over the names of passengers on board or check the names against U.S. government watch lists in an effort to prevent terrorists from entering U.S. airspace.

US Airways, which is in bankruptcy protection, and cash-poor America West are in merger talks that have hit a critical stage as they search for an investor or investors willing to inject $500 million in equity into the combined enterprise. The talks are aimed at creating a low-cost carrier with market strength on both the East and West coasts.

US Airways became the low-cost carrier of all time over the weekend – selling round-trip flights to some U.S. cities for less than $2 – until the carrier fixed a glitch in its computer system. For several hours, US Airways Group Inc. was selling tickets to smaller cities for $1.86 plus fees.

Everyone has a horror story about their worst flight. This is mine. We arrived at the gate about 5 p.m. for our eleven-hour flight back to the U.S. only to discover that we had a half-hour mechanical delay. We immediately became suspicious, because “half hour” and “delay” don’t belong in the same sentence. We were asked to board and do our preflight checks. We would be told later when passenger boarding would commence. Exactly half an hour later the passengers were boarded, so we assumed the problem was fixed.

Security at U.S. airports is no better under federal control than it was before the September 11 attacks, a key House member says two government reports will conclude. The Government Accountability Office – the investigative arm of Congress – and the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general are expected to soon release their findings on the performance of Transportation Security Administration screeners.

A fire at a hotel in central Paris has killed at least 18 people – including eight children – and injured dozens more, fire officials say. The blaze at the one-star Paris-Opera hotel in the city’s ninth district on Friday morning was so bad that guests jumped from upper floor windows to escape the flames and choking smoke, officials said.

Her white-sand beaches that fade into a green ocean are among the most postcard-perfect in the Caribbean. Her history, from the crumbling windmills to the old sugar-cane plantations, is among the most fascinating. Her people, accomplished in the West Indian art of island hospitality, are among the friendliest. So why is St. Croix the lost Virgin Island, at least when compared with her two showy sisters, St. Thomas and St. John?

Ryan Sober is a former frequent traveler. So frequent, in fact, that he ended up with nearly 500,000 points and elite status with Hilton. But now, two years after trading in his frequent flier wings for a desk job, he discovers that all of the points in his account are gone. Hilton says he can earn his way back to elite status – for a price. But Sober doesn’t think that’s right, after being such a loyal customer. Does he have a case? And can his points be saved?