We welcome the news that travel agents in New York, New Jersey and New England are marshaling their forces to stage a Day of Awareness in Washington on Jan. 13. A number of ASTA chapters, ARTA members and other agent groups said they support the initiative.

Modeled after a similar demonstration that brought together about 500 retailers and ASTA officials on the steps of the state capitol in Denver on Oct. 27, Day of Awareness northeastern-style is designed to rally support for H.R. 2200, a passenger rights bill pending in the House of Representatives.

The legislation, the handiwork of ASTA and the Coalition for Travel Industry Parity, would guarantee the traveling public the availability of all fares, no matter how booked -- a sore point with the trade.

While demonstrations such as this sometimes turn out to be gestures of little or no practical import, with national elections less than a year away the time appears right for agents to get up close and personal with congressmen and their aides in order to lobby for legislative redress.

Jeanne Sturm Sherman, president of ASTA's Long Island (N.Y.) chapter and the event organizer, said 100 agencies have agreed to participate, "even if it means closing our offices for the day."

In our view, the more the merrier.

Star Wars

It is with some degree of detachment that we hunker down in no man's land while Priceline.com and Expedia.com go head to head in a war of words over who is better equipped to lure travel consumers from brick-and-mortar travel agencies.

Surely, trade traditionalists -- among them you, perhaps -- probably wish they were hurling bombs at each other, not barbs.

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