The best deals, the latest hot spots and what's new in travel

Bargain of the week: America in comfort

In summer, transatlantic economy airfares soar - yet business-class tickets get cheaper. American Airlines is selling business-class returns to Boston and New York for only £1,598. Chicago is available for £1,715 return. Fly out 1-10 July or 21 August-10 September, and stay away one Saturday night; book at www.americanairlines.co.uk.

For travel during the school summer holidays, then a deal from British Airways (online at www.ba.com) looks good value - and Club World is significantly better than American Airlines' business class. The lowest fares are to Boston, New York and Washington, at £1,599. Across the border in Canada, Toronto and Montreal (above right) are on offer at £1,649.

To the west coast, where the benefits of a flat bed are more significant, Los Angeles is the best buy at £1,899. Cities where BA has few rivals - Phoenix, Seattle and Denver - cost £90 more. Book by the end of May; travel between 15 July and the end of August.

Warning of the week: no more Mr Nice Guy

If you are a regular traveller to the US, you may be forgiven for being unaware that the Customs and Border Protection staff have been showing leniency - but they have. Last October, a new rule came in that demanded all travellers using the Visa Waiver Program carry a machine-readable passport. In fact, the rule has not been rigorously imposed, with ineligible travellers being allowed a once-only exemption. From 26 June, that ends. Airlines will face a fine of $3,300 (£1,800) for each passenger they bring in without a machine-readable passport or a visa. The traveller can expect to be put on the next plane home.

The next significant change comes into effect on 26 October. People who have passports issued on or after that date will not be able to use the Visa Waiver Program unless the travel document is "smart", ie it includes biometric data. Neither the UK nor any other country in the world will be in a position to issue such a passport by then.

Even if your paperwork is in order, you may not be allowed on board if you fail to make the check-in deadline for your transatlantic flight. While British Airways continues to show flexibility to travellers who turn up less than 60 minutes before departure, "Virgin Atlantic has adopted a 'Ryanair-style' approach to check-in deadlines", according to one of several Virgin passengers who have contacted The Independent. Reports suggest that being just one minute over the one-hour deadline will result in boarding being denied - even for passengers carrying only hand luggage. Virgin Atlantic says that the deadline is enforced to enhance punctuality, and that it recommends travellers check in two to three hours ahead of flights.

Destination of the week: Sardinia

The Mediterranean island is more accessible this summer than ever before; easyJet augments its flights from Luton to Cagliari with a new Gatwick to Olbia service, starting next Tuesday, 24 May. Return flights for next month are available for around £95.

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