Good, bad and the ugly at American

Hey if you’re looking for your luggage on American Airlines, you might want to check Kennedy airport in New York.

A computer software glitch Wednesday crippled the baggage handling system at an American Airlines terminal at JFK, delaying some flights and causing a luggage pileup at the ticket counters.

On some slightly better news, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants says layoffs will not be necessary next month because enough American attendants have agreed to take early retirement or leave.

American was planning to eliminate 900 flight attendant jobs this summer as airlines cut routes to combat higher fuel costs.

An online statement Wednesday from the union said “based on the overage leave proffer results, none of our members will be furloughed effective Aug. 31.”

Earlier this week, American and El Al, Israel’s national airline, announced that they will begin selling tickets on each other’s connecting flights beginning in September.

Delta had a code-share deal with El Al  until Delta began its own direct flights to Tel Aviv.

American will sell tickets on El Al flights from the United States to Tel Aviv as if they were American jets. El Al will sell seats — or place its “code” on tickets — on some American domestic flights from gateway cities reached by El Al flights.

Many airlines use code-share agreements to expand their network without adding more people or planes. Frequent flyers usually earn miles for the part of their trip flown on the other airline’s planes.

Delta increases baggage fees

Delta Air Lines Inc., the nation’s third-largest carrier, will double its charge for checking a second bag on a domestic flight as part of a set of fee increases to help offset the high cost of fuel. The changes will apply to customers who purchase a ticket beginning Thursday.

The fees increases from $25 to $50 to check a second bag for domestic travel. Fees for items that require special handling, such as surfboards or ski equipment, will increase on domestic and international flights.

Delta doesn’t charge passengers for checking a first bag on domestic flights, but it’s studying a decision by other carriers who do charge that fee.

First Class, BusinessElite and Medallion customers will still be able to check up to three bags at no charge, the airline said.

Customers checking bags on international flights can check a first and second bag at no charge.

Delta believes revising its fee structure for excess bags and specialty items is needed to offset its higher fueler costs.


La Costa Resort welcomes families


La Costa Resort & Spa, Carlsbad: 95 miles

By Stan Wawer
Staff Writer
La Costa Resort and Spa isn’t La Costa anymore. Oh, it’s still named La Costa, but you ought to see the old girl now.
It’s amazing what new management and a $140-million face-lift can do for you. A tweak here, a tweak there and suddenly you emerge as a destination for all seasons.
La Costa has transformed itself into an all-inclusive getaway with a Camp Family persona.
“Families are 60 percent of our summer business,” said Cindy Lawrence, the resort’s public relations director. “We have so many family activities, and we are just minutes away from Legoland, Sea World and other San Diego activities.”
La Costa Resort opened in 1965. It was ahead of its time as the first full-service spa in the United States.
Moe Dalitz — one-time bootlegger, racketeer and owner of Las Vegas’ built the resort along with Irwin Molasky and Mervyn Adelson, later the founders of Lorimar productions.
Founded in 1992, KSL Resorts took over ownership of the faltering resort in 2003. It has transformed it into a destination for families, as well as romantics and golfers.
What’s new?
Splash Landing pools and waterslides
Garden pool and Garden Pool Cafe for a more adult pool experience
The $1 million Kidtopia, a club for infants and kids up to age 12
Vibz Teenspace, a game lounge with Xbox 360 game center and more
Legends Bistro renovation and seasonal menus
High-definition plasma TVs in all guest rooms
Renovated Plaza guest rooms and corridors
New studio villas and one-, two- and three-bedroom villas
$1.5 million golf practice facility
“We have a teen reception in Vibz between 5 and 6 p.m. every Friday night during the summer,” Lawrence said. “It’s for teens ages 13 to 17. It gives them a chance to get acquainted while their parents check in.”
“La Costa also boasts the largest ballroom in San Diego County. We did an event in the ballroom for 1,500 guests,” Lawrence said. “We also did an Indian wedding with the groom riding an elephant while white flowers were thrown in front for good luck. The ceremony lasted four hours.”
The resort’s village-like atmosphere offers a different experience from traditional hotels. Its 400 acres includes 40 acres of rooms and grounds, all connected by fountains and lush landscaped walkways.
Summer rates begin at $319, double occupancy. If you make your reservation now, you get a 30 percent off a three-night stay (800-438-9216 or
Recreation is at the heart of the resort. The Spa at La Costa offers everything from a coastal stone massage to a 50-minute custom facial. The spa has 28,000 square feet of indoor space and a 15,000-square-foot outdoor courtyard.
La Costa also offers 36 holes of championship golf. Tiger Woods made a legendary shot that clinched the 1997 Mercedes Championship on La Costa’s North Course.
There are seven pools. Splash Landing features three pools and a trio of waterslides. The family pool offers its own sandy beach. It is connected by a tot-friendly slide to an interactive splash pad outfitted with geysers, squirting cannons and a cascading water tree.
La Costa’s 17 tennis courts include seven lighted courts. The resort’s stadium court hosted the Women’s Professional Tennis Tour’s Acura Classic, as well as the Davis Cup men’s competition.
An 8,000-square-foot athletic club offers more than 50 classes a week.
La Costa also has six dining venues. Legends Bistro features a wine bar and wine room, along with a private dining room and patio dining. BlueFire Grill features sophisticated dining and coastal cuisine. The lobby lounge has cocktails and light fare including onion rings that are to die for.
Kidtopia is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with Night Camp sessions offered on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 10 p.m, Kidtopia offeres interactive, supervised programs, including a reading program.
Vibz, the teen lounge, is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“We have a teen reception in Vibz between 5 and 6 p.m. every Friday night during the summer,” Lawrence said. “It’s for teens ages 13 to 17. It gives them a chance to get acquainted while their parents check into the resort.”
If you care to venture outside the confines of the resort, you can take the family on a short ride to Legoland (also in Carlsbad), the San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park and SeaWorld Adventure Park. Adults might like a sidetrip to Temecula wineries.
KSL also has two other resorts in the area: the famous Hotel del Coronado and Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage. The latter resort has two 100-foot-long waterslides and a 425-foot lazy river in which you can bob along on a floating tube.
La Costa Resort and Spa is an idyllic summer family playground, but it also is a place for all seasons.

JetBlue leaving Ontario

Low cost air carrier JetBlue has announced it will discontinue operations in Ontario, CA, beginning Sept. 3.

“The dramatic rise in fuel prices has forced us to make the difficult decision to discontinue operations in Ontario,” said CEO Dave Barger. “While we understand the impact this decision has on our customers and our crewmembers, we need to make appropriate network adjustments to better match our capacity with customer demand.”

JetBlue also announced that it will defer 10 EMBRAER 190 aircraft originally scheduled for delivery between 2009 and 2011 to 2016. 

“We believe slower growth, combined with our rigorous cost control and aggressive revenue focus, will further strengthen our liquidity position, which is essential in this environment,” said Ed Barnes, JetBlue’s CFO.

In addition, JetBlue announced it has obtained a new $110 million line of credit with Citigroup Global Markets Inc. JetBlue plans to use the funding to fund working capital, capital expenditures and other general corporate purposes. The credit facility, which expires next July, is secured by a portion of JetBlue’s auction rate securities.

“We are keenly focused on cash preservation and liquidity,” said Barnes. “This new line of credit further bolsters our financial position and better positions us to address the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Trail guides to state parks online

California State Parks announced today that one of the most asked questions from park visitors all across the state now has a fast answer.  The question is: Where can I go to take a hike and do you have a trail map?   The answer can now be found on the new trail guide now available on the California State Parks web site at


Check it out: Finding an exciting new hiking trail to explore has just become much easier with a few clicks on our web site. Click the above site and then pick a Region. Bingo!! Before you know it the hiking boots are strapped on and you are moving.  


The guide is organized by region so it’s easy to find opportunities near your community or locate a never-before-discovered state park to visit. Over 150 hiking trails are highlighted, most between one and 15 miles long. For instance, 38 trails are portrayed in the North Coast Region, 10 in Los Angeles County and 7 in the High Sierra Region.


The length, elevation gain and trailhead directions are described in detail for each trail. A depiction of the geology, views and ecology you will encounter on the trail as well as interesting tidbits of history are also included. Helpful trail maps provide an illustration of the trail in relation to park roads and other facilities.


See detailed trail descriptions of over 200 hikes featured in the “Day Hiker’s Guide to California State Parks”. (“Day Hiker’s Guide to California State Parks” is published by The Trailmaster, Inc. 2007. Trail descriptions and maps on the web site have been reproduced with the permission of the author.)


Trail descriptions link directly to park information, where a wealth of necessary and interested information on visiting the State Park is readily available.  Current weather, facilities (including campgrounds, museums, restrooms, etc.), park brochures, aerial maps, wheelchair accessible facilities, other park activities and contact information is easily accessed.  


The Take A Hike web site,, offers information about hiking safety, preparation tips and the Governor’s Challenge to Californians to improve their physical fitness through outdoor recreation in California‘s wonderful state parks.

Wine tasters welcomed to Los Olivos


Matthew Moraca and Becky Lukas enjoy the wine tasting at Epiphany Cellars, one of a dozen tasting rooms in Los Olivos.(Photos by Marlene Greer / Correspondent)

Los Olivos
150 miles
35 miles north of Santa Barbara off Highway 154
Accommodations: Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn & Spa, 2860 Grand Ave. (805) 688-7788; $300-$495 per night, includes breakfast.

By Marlene Greer
Tom Olmsted has been pouring wine at Epiphany Cellars, one of a dozen tasting rooms in Los Olivos, for three years. He does it with style and a touch of humor.
“You can tell a good wine by its color; it should be clear,” Olmsted explained to a couple of tourists visiting this small town in Santa Ynez wine country 35 miles north of Santa Barbara and 5 miles from Solvang.
“First you sniff, then your swirl and sniff again,” he continued. “Take a sip. Swirl it around your mouth. Cover all your taste buds. Swallow. Then put down your glass and say, ‘Damn that’s good.’ “
His method works.
Visitors laughed as they worked their way through the seven wines uncorked that day. Everything from Marsanne and Grenache to Roussanne and petite sirah were available for sampling.
Los Olivos might be an upscale town, with a couple pricey restaurants and even costlier boutiques and art galleries, but it has a down-home spirit.


Across the street at the tiny Carhartt tasting room, proprietor Mike Carhartt entertains the packed house with tales of his family and life on the farm.
Carhartt grows 13 acres of grapes on the ranch he grew up on just a few miles from town. His bar is adorned with photos and T-shirts sporting his company brand.
One photo shows his son, Chase, at a young age (he’s now in his 20s) in a tub full of red grapes. He named his 2007 rose, Chase the Blues Away, after his son.
Wine tasting brings most visitors to Los Olivos. Fortunately, it’s priced for the average pocketbook.
Wine tasting rooms run from the elegant Andrew Murray Vineyards and upscale Consilience to the simple Longoria and cozy Carhartt.
All charge a fee of $5 to $12 per person to sample six or seven varieties. Some even allow guests to share and take home a souvenir glass.
At Los Olivos Home Grown, owner Paul Poulmer sells many varieties of organic garlic and onion.
“There are 60 different kinds of garlic,” Poulmer told a shopper who had never seen so many colorful bulbs.
Poulmer’s grandparents moved to Los Olivos in 1907. His grandfather opened a blacksmith shop, while his grandmother worked in the post office for 50 years.
Poulmer grows garlic on his three-acre farm. He sells his specialties for $10 a pound. Choices include Chinese purple, Tuscan and Xian garlic. Among the onions, the Southern bell red stands out as the most vibrant.
Located just down from Poulmer’s is Wine Country Home, a country store that sells everything related to wine. Here, shoppers can pick up an elegant picnic basket, wine glasses, wine racks and wine chillers.


And then there’s the town celebrity, actor-turned vintner Fess Parker.
Famous for his roles as frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the 1950s and ’60s, he owns Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn and Spa in Los Olivos, as well as a winery only 10 minutes away.
A longtime resident of Santa Barbara County, Parker can often be seen walking around town or dining in the hotel restaurant.
“He’s here all the time,” said the desk clerk who checked us in at Parker’s inn. “He was just in here yesterday having dinner.”
Parker may effuse downhome charm, but his 21-room Victorian-style inn is all about luxury.
The rooms are spacious and plush. Each features a fireplace, king-sized bed, down comforter and sitting area. Wrap yourself in one of the comfortable robes for a trip to the outdoor hot tub and pool.
Parker bought the property, formerly the Grand Hotel, in 1998. Rooms are pricey, starting at $300 on weeknights. This include a sumptuous breakfast, which may be enjoyed on the hotel’s front porch or in a beautiful interior courtyard.
Much of Los Olivos, though casual, is on the pricey side.
Dinner for two on the wisteria-covered patio at Los Olivos Wine Merchant and Cafe runs $120 with wine and appetizer. Though we didn’t dine at the Side Street Cafe, a look at its menu suggested a similar cost.
Sandwiches and salads for $8 can be purchased at Panino for a takeout picnic or to dine at its sidewalk tables.
Be sure to check the beautiful art galleries. Prices range from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars.
At the Judith Hale Gallery, the “Turning Point” bronze by Victor Fisher costs $15,000, while Robin Cappon’s Patronus bronze is $8,000. But there are other beautiful pieces for much less. The sculpture garden in the rear is well worth a stroll just for the humorous and unique ironworks.
Another interesting stop is Gallery Los Olivos. The co-op gallery features the work of 40 local artists working in a variety of media, including oils, watercolors, pastels, photography, metal and clay.
Check out the wines bars in Los Olivos and learn how to sniff, swirl, sip and swallow.

Virgin America: Best to Bay Area

During a recent trip to San Francisco, I flew Virgin America from LAX to SFO. I didn’t even know this airline existed. Even finding the web site was tricky. Don’t look for it under Virgin Airlines or Virgin Atlantic. It has its own separate site:

In San Francisco International Airport, it has its own half of the new international terminal. Very spacious, uncrowded and quiet. Don’t forget to tell anyone picking you up at the airport to follow signs to “International flights.” My college buddy who was meeting me there figured it out on his second try around the airport.

That was the only trouble I had. The airline flight attendants were pleasant, the plane (with “mood lighting” ) was roomy. And the airline’s “Red” video screens offer satellite TV channels for free (the movies will cost you, however). I enjoyed watching ESPN’s “Sports Center” and “Baseball Tonight.”

I’ve flown to the Bay Area — both to SFO and Oakland. I prefer SFO. With terminal renovations complete, and with the on-site BART station, SFO is the better airport to take to the Bay Area. If you go to Oakland, you must board the “BART Bus” to the BART station next to the old Oakland Coliseum (McCaffee Coliseum). I never felt comfortable making that trip in the night time. In the day it’s fine, but it costs you ($3) to ride the BART bus and there’s no one to help you schlep your luggage on and off the bus.

A flight from LAX to SFO and back for two weeks from today cost $138 round trip (for early morning departure). Not bad at all. Especially in today’s market. Especially since other discount airlines (like ExpressJet from Ontario) are going out of business.

–steve scauzillo


Desert offers beauty, serenity and lots of heat


Photo by Raul De Paz / Correspondent

Light streams through the partially collapsed ceiling of a lava tube at Mojave National Preserve.


Mojave National Preserve

150 miles

$12 per night

No reservations; first-come, first served

Trailers and motorhomes not recommended

Before planning your own adventure through the Mojave National Preserve, visit


By Maritza Velazquez

Staff Writer

As I sat in the blistering heat, it was hard to remember why I had decided to visit the desert in the middle of June.

The sun was intense, even under the protection of the thick green tarp we had tied to a couple of trees. It was 106 degrees in the shade. Unfortunately, we had set up camp as the summer’s first heat waves scorched Southern California.

But the raw beauty of the Mojave National Preserve made it all worthwhile. The 1.6 million-acre park is located in the heart of the Mojave Desert.

Our weekend getaway offered a glimpse into a simpler and quieter kind of life. When many think of the desert, the word “desolate” might come to mind. But that doesn’t ring true in this huge and inviting landscape, even in the summer months.

We set up camp in Mid Hills Campgrounds, approximately 5,600 feet above sea level, where it’s slightly cooler than the basin below.

Most campsites and attractions are accessible only by dirt road, so make sure you have a truck or 4-wheel drive vehicle that can handle the sometimes rocky terrain.

Although some of the Mid Hills Campground was burned by a fire in June 2005, our camp site was still surrounded by the beautiful juniper trees and pinyon pines. The site overlooks the basin below, revealing vibrant colors of reds, oranges and browns.

The sunsets were stunning, silhouetting four different mountain ranges, including Mt. Whitney.

As I stood atop a plateau near the edge of a cliff, the cool breeze blew through my hair. I felt blessed to have the opportunity to experience something so amazing.

Over the next three days, we visited a few of the many sights this arid landscape had to offer.

Our first stop was the Lava Tubes, where hot molten magma once flowed to form this underground haven. It was just about a five-minute hike from the dirt road where we had parked our vehicles.

With a ladder already in place, it’s easy to get down into this incredible sight. The cool interior was a welcome break from the heat.

Climbing down, we made sure not to kick up too much of the fine dust that covers this geological wonder. The dust could carry particles infected with the hantavirus from infected rodents. (If you breathe in the dust and develop flu-like symptoms, be sure to see a doctor promptly.)

Although holes in the roof of the tubes offer light, bring a flashlight to see some of the great formations on the walls.

Back above ground, at least six cinder cones, the remnants of former volcanoes, can be seen in the distance.


Future of Flight

Will anyone be flying by the end of 2008? With increased prices, declining service and additional costs for check-in luggage only business people and those in an emergency situation will fly. I tried to book a flight to Denver for Thanksgiving for my wife, son and me. I tried United and Southwest airlines. Even though my wife and I have frequent flyer miles with United, I was quoted a price of $752 round trip out of Ontario Airport and $630 out of LAX. Southwest was about the same. I also tried Orbitz and Travelocity. They both had a flight on Delta out of LAX for about $369 with tax. The total for the three tickets was $1,035. I booked it before it went up. Airline prices can change by the hour. When you search for a flight, know exactly what you want to spend. If you find a price close to that figure, immediately book it. You’re probably not going to find anything better, but you can bet that the prices will increase by the end of the day. Southwest Airlines has some excellent senior prices, but they were conveniently (for Southwest) unavailable for the Thanksgiving weekend. Following American Airline’s direction, a number of airlines are now charging to check your luggage ($15 for the first bag on up to $100 for a third bag). Luckily for those of us who live in California, there are many places to travel and things to see within driving distance of home.

The Hilton Checkers offers downtown vacation

The Hilton Checkers

535 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 624-0000


Hilton Bed & Breakfast

  • Start your Downtown vacation on a Thursday and enjoy the comfort of a Hilton Hotel plus a personalized Hilton Breakfast for two all weekend long.  Nightly rates start at $199.


Checkers Spa Package

  • Relax and pamper yourself with one of many treatments available at Checkers Spa ($100.00 Certificate). Also included is Breakfast for two at the famous Checkers Restaurant. Nightly rates start at $279.


Each of these packages are available throughout the week, but availability is higher on weekends.