It may frustrate an allergic flier in the adjoining seat to discover that a cat, booked as carry-on baggage, is granted the same privileges as its owner. That policy at some airlines is one of many rights of passage (in this case for pets) detailed in a new compendium of transportation challenges that range from hiring a chauffeur in China to canceling a charter and getting your money back.

The 147-page book Travel Rights (World Leisure, 800-444-2524, 1994, $7.95) can be whipped out for guidance if you need to know how to file claims for lost luggage (don't inflate its value -- the airline may deny the claim completely); when to rely on credit-card rental-car collision insurance (most cards won't cover a Mercedes or a BMW); or how to recover overseas sales taxes (there's a program that will do it for you for a fee).

In most situations, the well-prepared voyager can prevail. The book recommends, for example, that you photocopy your ticket; with that information, an airline can be persuaded to replace a lost ticket more promptly. And there's one reason it's usually better to buy tickets with a credit card: if you pay by cash or check and the airline goes bankrupt, you may not get a refund. Another safeguard: sit at the rear of the aircraft. It's about 34% safer than the front is.

In some cases, however, travelers' leverage is fading. Car-rental agencies now can tap databases in a growing number of states to screen an applicant's driving record and can refuse -- at the counter and despite a traveler's having a reservation -- to rent a car to a person with an accident-prone background. Your recourse: none, even if the data turn out to be in error.

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