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Taming the wild blue yonder.

Frequent fliers often depend on small commuter airlines to get from one client to the next. But are these airlines safe? And since it's impractical to cancel a business trip because of nagging doubts about airline safety, what can fliers do to better ensure a smooth flight?

The federal government has intervened after a couple of well-publicized crashes. New safety standards for smaller planes include a requirement that they increase their distance from jets on takeoff and landing in order to avoid the larger planes' wakes, which have been implicated in more than one crash.

In addition, Marty Salfen, senior vice-president-North America, at the International Airline Passengers Association (IAPA), suggests that fliers should be better informed about these airlines. They should remember, for example, that commuters do fly smaller aircraft and that their pilots work longer hours and generally are less experienced than those at the major airlines. It's also not always immediately clear what type of aircraft will be used when a passenger books a flight, he adds. "Check with the airline about the equipment," Salfen advises, to determine whether the flight is a jet or propeller plane. If a flier is told the airline plans to use a propeller plane, he or she should consider weather conditions--especially ice--when deciding whether to fly. Although the IAPA does not advise passengers against using commuter airlines in general, Salfen says, "I'd be somewhat hesitant to use a propeller plane when weather conditions are severe."

Travelers who want to avoid propeller planes should investigate whether there is a jet service alternative on a given route, Salfen recommends. Sometimes regional or small carriers operate jets in smaller markets in competition with the commuter lines associated with the major airlines.

Fliers also should know that no major airlines operate the commuter lines that carry their names-- American Eagle and Delta Connection are examples--and that some of these lines aren't even owned by the major airlines whose names they bear.

There is a good resource available for determining the safety record of different airlines--the IAPA. Passengers who want to check the safety history of a given carrier should call the association at 800-821-4272 for information.

BOOKSHELF: Zagat's Survey of America's Best Meal Deals

Travelers who touch down in new cities may have no idea where to find good but inexpensive dining. l0 the rescue comes Zagat, the folks who survey inveterate diners in numerous cities to get the real scoop on what's hot and what's not even luke-warm. A taste of 1,840 restaurants in 36 cities, America's Best Meal Deals provides lively, savvy commentary culled from local residents about where to eat and what to order. For example, Casa Paco in Miami is a "treasure" of real Cuban cuisine that will set you back about $17 for dinner, drink and tip; in Chicago, try Charlie Beinlich's, a Midwestern roadhouse with good burgers but gruff service; Fajitas in Phoenix reportedly has the best fajitas in town but patrons must suffer long waits and a smoky atmosphere.

The book is a great resource for travelers seeking the best value and pleasant surroundings in an unfamiliar town. And it's fun to read; the participants' candid quotes are included, even when they don't all agree about the merits of one eatery. Each listing gives location and phone number, hours and credit cards accepted and rates food, decor and service on a scale of 0 to 30, with 30 being the highest rating. The cost column for each establishment reveals the estimated price of a dinner with one drink and the tip included.

Restaurants chosen for inclusion have the highest combined ratings for food, decor and service at the lowest average cost per meal, so if your company or you are on a tight travel budget-or if you're tired of hotel dining and crave some local color--this is the book to turn to. It's available in bookstores for $12.95. For other survey information, call Zagat at 800-333-3421.


Trying to avoid being forced to cool your heels somewhere in transit? Travel agents can provide information on the on-time arrival performance for a given flight on any of the largest airlines in the United States, according to The Fearless Flyer, by Cherry Hartman and Julie Sheldon Huffaker.

The authors employ a scale of 0 to 9. An 8 rating means a certain flight landed within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time 80% to 90% of the time during the last monthly reporting period, a 7 indicates that it was punctual between 70% and 80% of the time and so on. Travelers who have a choice of departure times can use these averages to identify peak times for their destinations and choose flights more likely to arrive without undue delays.

--Anita Dennis, a Journal contributing editor

FIRM FOCUS: Electronic access

Busy CPAs are always seeking easier--and less expensive--ways to stay in touch while on the road. One of the greatest changes in travel efficiency has been the advent olemail, says Bea Nahon, a practitioner with an eight-person firm in Bellevue, Washington. "When I travel, I carry my laptop and the office puts through my messages on e-mail. When I answer, it's a local call instead of a toll call into voice mail. More and more of my clients have e-mail, too," she points out, making it easier to communicate while the practitioner is on the road.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Institute of CPA's
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:travel tips for accountants
Author:Dennis, Anita
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Dec 1, 1996
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