A large area of travel language beyond the sort of jargon used in any industry - can prove hazardous to a traveler. Some of its euphemisms can be misleading. This language usually appears in brochures and other sales materials, or is used in defining what you are about to buy. For example, unless you know to ask, you may assume that a first class hotel means the best, when there may be a deluxe or five-star grade above it, depending on the country or city.
Here are other phrases to be alert for.Probably the most persistently vexing is direct flight versus nonstop flight. If a flight billed as nonstop makes a stop, barring an emergency, the Department of Transportation considers that a deceptive practice. A flight labeled direct is another matter: It is certainly going to involve at least one stop, but there may be more than one, and there may be a plane change or even an airline change.
Sally C. McElwreath, a spokeswoman for the Official Airline Guides, which publish all airlines' schedules in books and electronically, said that those publications define a direct flight as one with a single flight number even though the plane might be changed on the way.
A direct flight differs from a connecting flight, she said, in that the next leg will not begin until the first plane lands: "You can't miss that plane unless you wander around the terminal instead of getting aboard." A second difference between a direct and a connecting flight, she said, is that if a plane change is involved, the planes are usually at adjoining gates instead of at opposite ends of the airport.
Nils J. Flo, a Scandinavian Airlines System spokesman, said that direct flight was an inaccurate term with no clear definition, and that the industry was doing itself a disservice by using it. "It creates ill will," he said.
Mitchell R. Ferris, vice president of production for the Official Airline Guides, said that airlines sometimes carried out a change of gauge, meaning a shift to a larger or smaller plane: You fly a small plane from home to a bigger city and board a big plane with others from other cities for a trans-Atlantic flight. But if the flight number on the ticket is the same for both parts of the flight, the data on the flight are carried in the OAG direct flight section rather than in the connections section. "It's become more of a marketing device than a defined term," he said.
Timothy Kelly of the Department of Consumer Affairs of the Department of Transportation said that the term direct flight had never been legally defined. "But we want people to know what the story is here," he said. "If the plane is going to stop, we want customers to know. If there is a change of gauge, we want the agents, the salespeople, the OAG, to tell people this." Mr. Kelly said records for 1990, the last full year available, showed the department got only six complaints about direct flights. Complaints about what appear to be deceptive practices may be sent to the Department of Transportation, Consumer Affairs, I-25, Washington, D.C. 20590; (202) 366-2220.
Two valid questions to ask a travel agent offering a direct flight, Ferris said, are: "Am I going to change planes on this flight?" and "Am I going to change airlines?"
Explaining Tour Terms:
Avid readers of tour brochures may notice that nuances also flower there. Trafalgar Tours, a big European tour operator, recently took the bull by the evasive horns and published a leaflet enshrining a number of these. Here are a few concerning movement by bus:
Visit. A stop with sufficient time to see the attraction mentioned.
View. A chance to take pictures or a brief stop.
See. The motorcoach will pass by this site.
Why not see or perhaps enjoy. These phrases are used to suggest visits to attractions not in the itinerary, or available as optional excursions. Available is also sometimes used for side tours that cost extra.
And a batch of phrases meaning the same thing; that is, we have no program for this day/afternoon:
Afternoon at leisure, a day to relax, time to explore or discover, free time.
Nigel Osborne, vice president for sales and marketing at Trafalgar, asked why his company decided to pin down some slippery language, said: "The phone lines to our sales people were tied up too much of the time with travel agents asking questions because they couldn't answer the questions of the customers."
The leaflet is available, with a catalogue, free from Trafalgar Tours, 11 East 26th Street, Suite 1300, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Hotelspeak: When it comes to hotel terminology, many of us have learned the hard way the difference between ocean view and ocean front, although if both are offered in the same brochure, the higher price on the second category tells us we will not have to crane our necks to glimpse the water while standing on the radiator.
A recent booklet directed at hotel operators, "Glossary of Hospitality Management Terms" by Andrew Schwarz and David C. Dorf, does not discuss that one, but covers a spectrum of terms that apparently wobble around in the minds of hotel managers as well as consumers.
Double room. In the United States, this usually means a room with one bed accommodating two people; in Europe, it usually means a room with two single beds, which would be called a twin-bed room in the United States. In American motels where children stay free in rooms with their parents, the double will probably mean two double beds.
European plan, or E.P. In the United States, you get only the room, no meals. In Europe, it customarily includes a breakfast.
American plan, or A.P. This includes the room and three meals a day, with limited menu selections; full American plan, or F.A.P., means three meals but with unlimited selection from the menu; modified American plan, or M.A.P., means two meals a day, usually breakfast and dinner.
Continental plan. This includes a Continental breakfast, usually rolls or toast, a beverage and sometimes juice. The free Continental breakfast at American motels these days often includes cold cereal, bananas or other fruit, milk, doughnuts and yogurt.
Confirmed reservation. The Schwarz-Dorf definition reads like this: "An acknowledgment by a hotel that a request for accommodation for a specific day and period has been received and accepted. A confirmed reservation, sometimes confused with a `guaranteed' reservation, has specific limitations, and the hotel usually is not legally obligated to honor the request if the guest arrives after a designated time (usually 6 p.m.) unless `late arrival' has been specified or payment has been guaranteed whether or not the guest shows." My experience has been that when the reservations department uses the phrase late arrival, it is linked to the word guaranteed, which means your credit card will be charged even if you do not show up.