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Newsletter: Thanksgiving travel may mean paying extra to sit with your kids

Getaway day
If you’re flying coach during the holidays, there may be no guarantee you’ll be seated with your kids unless you pay more to reserve seats.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, with a look today at holiday travel.

There have been a number of alarming stories recently about the nightmare of getting out of Los Angeles International Airport amid a new policy of steering taxis and ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to an off-site lot.

Though LAX officials are scrambling to smooth things out, nothing can be done to ease the headaches that come with going anywhere during the holiday season. And the days before and after Thanksgiving are typically some of the worst.

AAA estimated that more than 54 million Americans traveled last year at this time, up nearly 5% from the year before. With the economy doing relatively well, things could be even more ferocious this year.

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AAA and the online travel site Expedia say the busiest travel day will be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving — that is, Nov. 27. But AAA is forecasting that Tuesday, Nov. 26, could be just as bad as people rush to get a head start on their trips.

Consumer Reports, meanwhile, warns of hassles (and costs) if you’re traveling with young ones. If you’re flying coach, there may be no guarantee you’ll be seated with your kids unless you pay a little extra to reserve seats.

That’s obviously a terrible policy on the part of airlines, which risk having children separated from their parents in the event of an emergency. In 2016, Congress directed the Department of Transportation to take a more active role in prodding carriers to keep families together.

But three years later, Consumer Reports found no such instructions being issued. Instead, it says, the Department of Transportation “simply added a section to its website offering advice to families about sitting together and linking to airline websites for information about their policies on family seating.”

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Tip: Even though an airline may not be obligated to keep your family together, it never hurts to ask. Call a reservation agent and see what can be done. You can also beg for mercy at the gate.

If you have a bad experience in the unfriendly skies, don’t be shy about lodging a complaint with the government — this is frequently the only way authorities know how big a problem something is. You can do this here.

Oh, and if you’re already planning ahead for Christmas, most travel sites expect Saturday, Dec. 21, to be the busiest travel day. Things will peak again on Saturday, Jan. 4, when everyone struggles to get home.

Now then, here are some recent stories that caught my eye:

STORY LINES:

Activism in tech: On Nov. 1, 2018, thousands of Google employees marched out of their workplaces in frustration. That protest helped set in motion a year of activism in the tech world, bringing changes to Google and beyond.

#MeToo hits finance? Financier Ken Fisher’s crass comments caused pension funds to pull billions of dollars in holdings from his firm, marking a rare moment when the investment world has publicly reckoned with its culture in the era of #MeToo and Time’s Up.

Automate them first: Plans to automate jobs at the port exposed a stark economic divide between two sets of Southern California workers: unionized dockworkers facing the prospect of automation and truckers, who are mostly independent contractors and are rooting for the machines to take over.

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What a trip: Timothy Leary’s former LSD ranch in the San Jacinto Mountains has sold to another enigmatic and eccentric leader of youth culture: YouTuber Logan Paul.

What we’re reading:

The heist: If Bitcoin is digital cash, then this wasn’t a bank robbery — it was a theft of the presses that actually print the money. Vanity Fair tells a story of crypto crooks in Iceland.

Peril in the Amazon: Logging isn’t the only threat to the world’s biggest tropical rainforest. Illegal mining is a profitable and pernicious enterprise that threatens a critical environment and indigenous communities, the New Yorker reports.

Let me know what you think of the newsletter. My email is david.lazarus@latimes.com, or you can find me on Twitter @Davidlaz. Also, tell all your social media pals to join the party.

Until next time, see you in the Business section.


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