U.S. airlines must accept failed rivals' tickets for $25 or less each way under a bill that Congress passed last week. The U.S. House and Senate had enacted the measure two months...

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U.S. airlines must accept failed rivals’ tickets for $25 or less each way under a bill that Congress passed last week. The U.S. House and Senate had enacted the measure two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, giving consumers confidence to buy tickets without fear of losing money as airlines faced bankruptcy.

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The requirement expired Nov. 19. Now, legislation adopting some recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission revives the law through Nov. 19, 2005.

It requires carriers to transport passengers “to the extent practicable.” The Transportation Department interpreted that to mean carriers with seats available on flights must let the passengers fly standby.

“With today’s full flights it might still be some cold comfort for passengers,” David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association consumer group, said last week. “It’s a small level of protection but protection nonetheless.”

United Airlines, US Airways and ATA are operating under bankruptcy protection.


Travel online


Expedia offers guests’ reviews of hotels on its Web site

Expedia is the latest online travel site to post candid reviews of hotels by travelers with first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to stay there. Only travelers who have booked a stay at the hotel through Expedia in the previous six months can submit a review, and all reviews expire after 12 months.

Expedia, of course, has a vested interest in encouraging people to book the hotels on its Web site — it lists 65,000 — but so far the opinions seem objective.

Each hotel receives an overall “satisfaction” rating based how reviewers score the hotel when it comes to service, condition, room cleanliness and room comfort.

The Westin Seattle, for example, earned an overall rating of 4 out of a possible 5 based on five reviews so far posted. Customers generally like the hotel, but they had their quibbles.

One writer reported mildew on the shower walls and another proclaimed the “heavenly bed not so heavenly.” To read or submit reviews, customers can click on “traveler opinions” on the left-hand side of each hotel information page at www.expedia.com. Seattle, San Diego and San Francisco are among the first cities to have reviews posted.


Lodging


Bed wars are fluffed up at luxury hotels

Westin’s “Heavenly Bed” and Sheraton’s “Sweet Sleeper” are in for some competition, as numerous hotel brands gear up to increase their coil counts and fluff factors.

Hilton will soon begin introducing “Sweet Dreams” bed ensembles, including a plush-top mattress, down comforter and pillows, and 250-thread-count sheets. Among other Hilton brands, Doubletree will have “Sweet Dreams” by the end of this month.

Next year you’ll find the “Grand Bed” at Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt hotels. The mattress is a 13.5-inch pillow-top Sealy Posturepedic 720 series and will include “plush linens.” Marriott hasn’t picked a cute name but will soon roll out high-end beds and bedding at its 2,600 hotels.

The highest-end hotels have long had extra-comfy beds, but even they are improving. Four Seasons Hotels, for example, recently added merino wool Anichini throws and Italian bed linens.


Travel ticker…


• Portland International Airport now offers free wireless Internet access in 70 percent of the terminal’s main level, including most gates, the food court and lobby areas near the north and south security checkpoints. Wireless access will remain free at least through 2005. …

• If you’re a ‘boarder, head for the border. Whistler/ Blackcomb in British Columbia is the best place to snowboard in North America, according to a survey of readers of Trans-world Snowboarding. …

• Priceline.com and Lowestfare.com have stopped selling Northwest Airlines tickets, due to a distribution dispute. …

• California’s new Green Lodging Program puts a seal of approval on hotels with a range of eco-friendly standards, including recycling, landscaping that doesn’t suck up water and shampoo dispensers instead of individual bottles. Hotels that make the grade are listed at www.ciwmb.ca.gov (click on What’s New) …

• Vacationers say it takes at least the first three days of a trip just to unwind, according to a survey of 4,000 families conducted by the marketing research firm Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown and Russell. …


Seattle Times staff and news services