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Businesses offer discounts to military personnel


As U.S. troops return from the Persian Gulf, businesses across the country are tying on a yellow bow in the form of discounts on airfares, new cars, entertainment and travel packages.

The discounts -- which range from free tickets to Walt Disney World to stickers priced barely above dealer's cost on new Ford cars and trucks -- are available in many cases to all active-duty military personnel and their families, even if they did not serve in the gulf.

"What we're trying to do, in our own way, is to say 'thank you' to the troops," said Francis Conner, spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Delta Airlines, which is offering 70 percent off coach fares through Sept. 30 to anyone with an active-duty military identification card.

Northwest, United, USAir, Continental and American airlines are also offering large discounts to service people and their families.

Airline representatives admitted the discounts come at a time when air passenger traffic is at its lowest level in years.

"It's hard to say whether we'll make money on this. There are a lot of seats now that would go empty, otherwise," said Dave Shipley, a spokesman for Arlington, Va.-based USAir.

"But that's not the idea. The point here is to give a break to all these folks who were over there in the gulf and who did this wonderful thing," he added.

Service people who return home to find they need a different form of transportation will find that Chrysler Corp. is offering active-duty personnel a $500 rebate through May 31, and Firestone Tire and Service Centers are giving free vehicle lubrications, oil changes and oil filters to Persian Gulf veterans.

Ford Motor Co. is offering active-duty personnel and their families any 1990, '91 or '92 new car or light truck at a price only 3 percent to 4 percent above dealer cost if purchased by Dec. 31. Ford vehicles usually retail at about 25 percent over dealer cost.

The program will help auto dealers located near military bases RTC who have seen sales plummet since troops were sent to the gulf almost seven months ago, said Chuck Snearly, a spokesman at Ford's headquarters in Detroit.

Military families looking for fun after the months of waiting can get free or discounted tickets at several major attractions, including Universal Studios Florida. Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., is offering each service person returning fromthe gulf two free tickets.

Even non-military personnel can benefit from one of the discounts.

Northwest Airlines is offering 25 percent off airfares to Germany for any "family or friends" who wish to visit military personnel stationed there, according to Christy Clapp, a Northwest spokeswoman.

As for who qualifies as a friend, "we'll be pretty liberal. But the person they visit has to be military," Ms. Clapp said.

Closer to home, the Baltimore Orioles are offering families of service people who were stationed in the gulf a free ticket to one weekday or weeknight home game -- except for Opening Day, April 8, and Friday, Oct. 4 -- during the 1991 season, a spokeswoman said.

To be eligible for the tickets, families must send a letter to the Orioles by April 15 giving the name of the service person, his or her service number, a list of three games they wish to attend in order of preference, and the number of family members planning to attend.

Families should also include their own names, addresses and phone numbers. The address is Orioles/Desert Storm Tickets, P.O. Box 33246, Baltimore, Md., 21218.

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