Boarding Pass

By David Tykol
A special (chocolate) cake for ITN’s editor last year at the Vera Kaymakli Hotel in Cappadocia.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 380th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

The following may explain some things about air travel fatigue.

Airplane cabins pressurized to equal the air pressure found at altitudes up to 6,000 feet generally cause passengers no discomfort, but the discomfort increases dramatically among some people as the pressure nears that of 8,000 feet. So concluded a study described in the July 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Most commercial aircraft are pressurized to 6,000-8,000 feet, with short-haul flights set at 5,000-6,000 feet and long-haul flights closer to 8,000. At an altitude of 8,000 feet, a person has about four percent less oxygen in his blood than at sea level. The average person can tolerate being at 8,000 feet without ill health effects, though there may be some discomfort, such as muscular discomfort, backache, headache, fatigue or a lack of alertness.

In the study, in which 502 volunteers took a 20-hour simulated flight at various air-pressure levels, the discomfort of those who reported it became apparent three to nine hours into the “flight.” People over 60 were less likely to feel discomfort than younger people, and women were less affected than men.

Acute mountain sickness, or altitude sickness — involving headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting or worse — can occur at altitudes of 6,500 feet and higher. However, in this experiment it was found that the incidence of acute mountain sickness did not vary with the altitude. Thus, whether at ground level or 7,000 feet, if a group of people is confined to a tight space for 20 hours, 7.4% of them are likely to report symptoms of the sickness, regardless. What did increase with the altitude was the percentage of those who reported discomfort.

The conclusion — keeping cabins pressurized to 6,000 feet or lower on long-duration flights would increase the comfort of everyone on board.

Unfortunately, in order to pressurize airplane cabins to that level, the weight would have to be greatly increased in the aluminum frames, which would then require loading more fuel and fewer passengers. The good news — Boeing’s new 787, made out of composites rather than aluminum, will allow cabins to be pressurized to 6,000 feet.

A first — in its ships’ dining rooms and restaurants, Norwegian Cruise Line (Miami, FL; 800/327-7030, now is allowing passengers to go casual not only during the day but during the evening meal.

For dinner, men can wear collared shirts and pants, including “nice jeans,” and women can show up in slacks, jeans, dresses, skirts and tops. Children 12 and under can wear shirts and nice shorts in all restaurants.

On any ship, one restaurant each night will still require dressing up (no jeans).

At all restaurants during the day, casual attire includes khakis, skirts, jeans, casual tops and shorts. Swimwear with a cover-up is fine at the buffet and outdoor restaurant.

Do you consider this a step forward or backward?

ITN staff noticed that several of you, when writing in about a hotel room or ship’s cabin, have mentioned whether there is adequate light for reading in bed, so we asked everyone to tell how they manage when there is not a good light or to recommend a good book light. Responses were few (July ’07, pg. 37), but the advice packed a punch.

In one of the letters, a woman praised the hands-free reading light Beam N Read®, which hangs around the neck, resulting in this letter from its inventor, Arthur S. Friedman: “Many thanks for publishing your reader’s letter. As a direct result of these positive comments, ASF Lightware Solutions has received an avalanche of orders for the Beam N Read® LED 3 light as well as other Beam N Read® products, which we appreciate very much.

“I have been very impressed by the comments your readers have made about ITN itself. While they have phoned or used our website to order our lights, they also have spoken in glowing terms about how much they value the information provided in each and every issue of ITN and how helpful ITN is when they make their travel plans. It is really remarkable to hear such consistent admiration and loyalty to a publication.”

ASF Lightware Solutions (Merrick, NY; 800/771-3600, www. also offers products for people with low vision, such as computer keyboard and cell phone keypad stick-on letters and numbers printed 400% the usual size.

Here’s another instance where ITN readers’ letters made a difference.

Fred Koehler of Orange, California, recently wrote, “We just received our tickets for this year’s ’round-the-world trip.

“In May of 2006 our travel plans had not yet jelled for the year. To maintain Premier Executive status on United, I needed to start planning immediately. The task became easier after I recalled seeing an article in the December ’05 issue of ITN. It comprised numerous letters from readers writing on the best-kept secret in the travel industry: flying around the world.

“We were on the first flight in less than 30 days. This included International Expeditions’ (Helena, AL; 800/633-4734, coordinating nine days in Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls. The entire trip was seamless. Thank you, ITN.”

On the same subject, William Rice of Lake Forest, California, wrote, “I am planning a ’round-the-world trip to start in September 2007. I have found the use of very helpful in organizing the trip.

“This travel aggregator site doesn’t handle the booking of any of the flights. However, by linking directly to the airline websites and sites like Kayak, Mobissimo, Qixo, SideStep and Yahoo!’s FareChase, ITA Software allows me to perform a more comprehensive search of airlines (including low-fare domestic and worldwide carriers like JetBlue, Southwest, Ryanair and easyJet). By purchasing directly from the airline, I avoid paying booking fees to the Internet travel service provider. In addition, this travel aggregator often includes the results from sites like Travelocity and Orbitz in its fare listing.

“ITA Software (Cambridge, MA) is a travel aggregator website developed by MIT computer scientists that consistently returns rock-bottom airfare prices, although these prices tend to be more volatile and change minute by minute. I encourage ITN subscribers to use the website.”

To do a search for ’round-the-world airfares, go to the homepage of and click on “Search airfares using QPX,” then log in as a user guest, choose the “multisegment” tab and type in city names or airport codes plus dates for each flight segment, etc.

Yet another surprising turnout of responses — ITN subscriber G.F. Mueden just three months ago explained his predicament with travel slides, and a number of you wrote in with suggestions. See page 46 for those.

This is the ITN travel forum in action, folks. Next question!

Talk about a good omen! I was in the air on my way to Istanbul last November when, a half hour before landing, a man across the aisle pulled out the latest issue of ITN to read. At first I thought, ‘How did he get into my carry-on?’ Then I came to my senses and introduced myself.

Well, my trip to Turkey turned out terrific, including celebrating my birthday in a place I had wanted to visit since reading a subscriber’s letter on it and seeing her pictures 30 years ago: Cappadocia.

The tour company I went with even had the hotel’s cook wheel out a special cake during dinner while a couple hundred people sang “Happy Birthday” to me. That was a special moment.

Read how the rest of the trip went, in this issue.

And then it’s your turn to write in with your latest find overseas. The littlest thing you write may help someone have a nice trip later on.