Y2K Arrives Early for Travelers

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NEW YORK: Aaaah! Y2K is arriving ahead of schedule for the airline industry -- Thursday, to be exact: With flight-booking systems able to work a maximum of 331 days in advance, Feb. 4 is the first day that customers can book reservations for January 1, 2000. The industry has spent five years and billions of dollars to get compliant; now they find out who gets to travel on the last New Year's Day of the 20th century -- and who's already missed their scheduled flight by about 100 years. Travel agents everywhere are hoping for the best.

special It may not be so bad. Sabre Group Holdings Inc., the No. 1 travel reservation company, which handles a third of all travel bookings worldwide, says it expects 90 percent of its travel agent suppliers to have their systems in shape; others are similarly optimistic about avoiding a total meltdown. And many in the industry are expecting 2000 to start off slow -- many would-be travelers have already been scared off. But foul-ups will doubtless occur. If you're planning to ride out the apocalypse in Fiji, we suggest you leave in December.