Travel to Tunisia, credit card authorization for flights


STEVE, in your January ‘06 column you listed a number of airlines “that have not lost a single passenger since they were founded.” Just wondering if Aloha Airlines doesn’t consider flight attendants to be passengers. I recall the loss of one Aloha Airlines flight attendant, in flight, when the airframe came open about seven years ago. — Greg Lucas, Vancouver, WA


DEAR GREGORY, good memory! And your assumption is correct. My main source,, relates that the crew on the April 28, 1988, Aloha 737-200 flight was able to land the plane safely with no loss of passengers. Airsafe stated that “Even though no passengers were killed and therefore (it was) not (considered) a fatal airline event”, one of the five crewmembers perished.

If you or I were doing the calculations, using our own rules, there might have been a different categorization of this event.


STEVE, can American citizens with Jewish-sounding surnames obtain visas for travel in Egypt at the Cairo International Airport? What about visas for travel within Libya and Tunisia? — A.E. Lear, Philadelphia, PA


DEAR A.E., American citizens arriving at the Cairo airport with a valid USA passport good for at least three months beyond their intended stay, visiting for touristic purposes, with documents (such as prepaid travel arrangements or proof that they have the means [like cash or credit cards] to support themselves during their stay) as well as tickets for return or onward transportation can obtain a visa good for up to one month for a fee of $15 plus one recent passport-size photo. Meeting these requirements, no American should have a problem.

As an alternative, a visa can be obtained in advance (it will then expire within three months of issuance) from one of the Consulates General of the Arab Republic of Egypt in the United States. Their visa application form does not ask a person’s religion.

Tunisia allows Americans to visit up to four months without a visa.

Zierer Visa Service (Washington, D.C.; 866/788-1100 or, a company which helps people obtain visas for a fee, at press time was saying, “Currently, the Libyan government is not issuing visas to holders of U.S. passports.” Even if they would, I understand that Libya stipulates that admission will be refused if the passport contains a valid or expired visa for Israel.

Here’s part of an article from the Feb. 9, 2006, edition of Travel Weekly magazine that may interest you: “Citing complications that make it difficult to guarantee its passengers entry in Libya, Oceania Cruises pulled Libya off a May 21 Mediterranean itinerary aboard the Insignia sailing from Barcelona, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal.”

Always remember: visa requirements are subject to change without notice, and Immigration personnel of some countries may have authority to reject visitors without explanation.


STEVE, I just bought an airline ticket to India from a travel agency in California. Before they mailed me the ticket, they asked me to fill in an authorization form which required not only copies of my credit card front and back but also a copy of my driver’s license and the name, address and telephone number of my bank. I had to fax these before they would send me the ticket. I have never encountered this procedure before. Is this normal now? — Herman Pfauter, Santa Barbara, CA


DEAR HERMAN, it sure is, and I’d like you to fax me the same information.

Seriously, travel agencies generally accept credit cards only on behalf of airlines, and airlines require that travel agencies accept full responsibility for the cost of tickets purchased this way unless the agency obtains three things: 1) an authorization code from the credit card company to prove it hasn’t been canceled, reported as stolen, or overmaxed, 2) the cardholder’s signature and 3) an imprint of the card. Without all three, the agency can be stuck.

So you can see there’s a problem here when a purchase is not made in person and it’s by a person not already known by the agency. Without the imprint, the agency was taking a calculated risk on you for a small profit versus a big loss, and the hoops they put you through were their way of assuring themselves that it was really you who was using your credit card to make this purchase.

—Ask Steve is written by Steve Venables.