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Make sure your carry-on measures 22 by 14 by 9 inches and not an inch more if flying AA, DL, UA or US

Posted by George Hobica on Sunday, June 15, 2014

It happened to me and many others, and it could happen to you: getting sent to the check in desk with a 20-inch or 21-inch carry-on bag that has never raised an eyebrow with the airlines before. And you could miss your flight as a result. Note: this isn't gate checking. It's back to check in. This only applies to American, Delta, US Airways and United. JetBlue and Southwest have more generous carry-on limits. As does Virgin America, which has a 24 by 10 by 16 (50 inches over all) limit.

I've heard of this going on in Miami, and I experienced myself a couple of weeks ago and saw it happening again last week at New York's JFK in the American Airlines terminal. My 20 by 15 by 8 inch (43 linear inches overall) bag was rejected just before TSA, and even though I arrived at the airport 90 minutes ahead of flight I just made the last boarding call.

I'm only mentioning this because I don't want anyone to miss a flight. So many people get sent back from the pre-TSA line (where a "redjacketed" airport employee checks your boarding pass normally) that the check in lines can be unusually long.

Here's what's happening: the FAA is giving extra scrutiny to American Airlines as they move along with their merger with US Airways to make sure they're enforcing their (meaning American's, not the FAA's or TSA's) 22 by 14 by 9 inch carry on bag limit. And they are enforcing it the letter. So a 22 or 21 or even a 20 inch long bag that happens to be 15, instead of 14, inches deep can be rejected if it sticks outside of the bag sizers placed just before TSA.  Again, they are not just checking at the gate (although they check there too of course). You don't get to gate check! You go into the check in line and pray that you make your flight.

Delta and other airlines are also following the bag size rules to the inch, I've learned on Twitter, but for different reasons. It's the busy summer travel season and planes (and overhead bins) are full. One guy with the same sized bag I have (21 by 15 by 8) was made to pay $100 to check his bag on Delta on an international flight.

Just a word of warning.

Interesting, too, that American's carry on allowance info on its website is a bit different from US Airway's but supposedly the two airlines are now following the same rules. As you can see, effective June 11, 2014 US now permits a "soft-sided garment bag up to 51 inches" in lieu of a "carry on bag." No word on exact dimensions for the garment bag. Just 51 inches.

And while we're at it, before travel look up your airline's carry on weight limit too because some foreign carriers have strict weight limits, not just size limits.

And for the record, I'm all for restricting the size of carry on bags. But the recent strict enforcement is something you should prepare for.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+


Updated: How a flexible date airfare search can save money

Posted by George Hobica on Monday, June 2, 2014

People who have flexible dates get the best fares. There's no magic day to buy a fare, although there are cheaper days to fly--for domestic U.S. travel it's Tuesday and Wednesday, and for international trips it's usually Monday to Wednesday or Thursday.

You can often save hundreds of dollars by flying when the going is cheap, and sometimes it just requires tweaking dates by a few days. Indeed, lists airfares based on the lowest possible price, assuming that you’re date-flexible, which is why people with specific travel dates often don't find the fares we list.

It's disappointing that Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotwire and Expedia have dumbed-down their flexible date search tools, in part because these searches place a lot of stress on their computer systems (searching for a needle in a haystack is more data-intensive than search just a specific date). But a few good options still exist, along with an interesting newcomer.

Here are some tools we use to find the cheapest flights. You can play too!

This online travel agency (OTA) site allows a 330-day search.  It only works on some domestic U.S. routes and doesn’t include Southwest, Allegiant and other airlines that sell fares only on their own websites. To use this feature, enter an origin and destination and check the “My dates are flexible” option. Although it’s convenient and easy to use, Cheapair charges a $9.95 booking fee. As far as I know, it’s the only site that still shows searches over 330 days. (By the way, if you’re wondering why only 330 days, that’s the maximum period over which major domestic U.S. airlines such as Delta, US Air, American, and United publish airfares. Other airlines, such as JetBlue and Southwest, publish fares over shorter time periods).

Kayak, a meta-search travel site rather than an OTA (the difference between meta search and OTA is explained here), has a robust flexible date search, powered by ITA Software (see below). First you have to sign up with your email. From the flights tab click on the "more search options" link under "find flights" and then choose Flex month. Specify a departure date and a trip length, either a single number of nights or a range of up to any seven days (such as 6-8 or 18-25). As is the case with Cheapair, you won’t find Southwest, Allegiant, or Ryanair, but you will find a wide range of destinations, domestic and international. Once in a while, however, you’ll click through on fare found via flexible search and find that it’s not available. That’s just the nature of the beast. And you may not find the best possible routings, since airlines apparently don’t share their entire inventories with third-party sites.

No discussion of flexible date airfare search can exclude ITA Software’s Matrix Airfare Search function, but read why it shouldn’t be relied on as the Holy Grail.

The "pricegraph" feature isn't exactly a flexible date calendar but many people find it useful once they get the hang of how to use it.

Another favorite site has been online travel agency (OTA) They used to have a 30-day flexible date search but now it's just plus or minus 1 to 3 days.

Hotwire, also an OTA, works like does. It, too, is powered by ITA Software. Again, just plus or minus 1-3 days.

This newish, under-the-radar site is a very cool airfare search product for many reasons. You enter a "to" and "from" airport and then a trip length such as "about two weeks" and you'll see a bar graph showing the fares for dates in that range.

Some airlines have good flexible date search tools as well.

One of the positive changes United made when it combined the Continental website with its own was to introduce an excellent flexible date function. From the home page “Flight” tab choose a calendar start date, a length of trip, click on “My dates are flexible” choose a length of stay and search. Use the blue forward arrow to the right of the calendar search through United’s entire schedule over 330 days, month by month. Easy.

Looking at the major U.S. legacy carriers, in contrast, only allows a +/- 1-3 day search when you choose “My dates are flexible” from its home page. US Airways doesn’t have a flexible option at all; and American used to have a 30-day flexible date search but got rid of it.

Among the smaller U.S. airlines, JetBlue doesn’t have a true flexible date search, but once you enter your route and dates, you can forward-arrow week-by-week from both your original departure and arrival dates to find alternate fares.  Virgin America offers the same functionality. It’s a bit time-consuming and clumsy, but better than what’s offered by USAir and others.

Southwest doesn’t list its fares on meta-search or OTA sites, but it does have an excellent flexible date search feature. As the case with other sites mentioned here, doesn’t scream this fact from its homepage. To find the “Shortcut” Low Fare Calendar takes some work, unless you know where it is. It's right here.

But it’s simple to use. Choose a departure and arrival city and a departure and arrival month and you’re all set.

Over in Europe, has a simple and effective flexible date tool. Just click on the “Flexible on dates” box to use it. has one too, similar to the JetBlue model. Interestingly, the “Flexible dates” button is pre-checked, suggesting that Ryanair prefers that you be flexible to find its lowest fares. also defaults to flexible dates, searching over a two-week period for both departure and return. automatically shows a seven-day flexible date range and provides previous week and next day arrows to further search.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

The Travel Insurance In Your Wallet That You Didn't Know You Had

Posted by George Hobica on Sunday, June 1, 2014

 I recently wrote about a new air travel insurance plan called AirCare, which provides cash payouts on the spot if your flight is delayed more than two hours for any reason, if your luggage is lost, delayed or stolen, if a flight delay causes you to miss a connecting flight, or if you're stuck on the tarmac for more than two hours. There are surprisingly no obvious loopholes, and this is over and above what compensation you might collect from the airline, insurance policies, or other sources, all for $25 per flight.

But soon after publishing the story, some commented that credit cards provide the same benefits for free. Do they? Yes and no.

What I didn't realize is that, yes, some credit card issuers have buried in their fine print contracts rather extensive travel insurance. Some, but not all, and the benefits vary widely between issuers.

Did you ever have a laptop or iPhone stolen or "gone missing" during TSA scanning, or perhaps in the plane? Depending on the cards you used to pay for your trip, your issuer's built-in, free travel insurance might have compensated you for at least part of your loss.

Did a traveling companion get sick just before departing on a trip, causing you to cancel? Did the airline lose your bags, and only offer a paltry $500 in compensation? You might have been covered and not even known it.

But as this report clearly shows, there are credit cards with extensive benefits and those with paltry ones, even though the annual fees tend to be similar.

It's the travel insurance you probably didn't know you have. 

Of course, the details of that coverage are going to be buried in fine print, in documents you probably threw away when your card showed up in the mail. Not to worry – it's easy to go back and check because it's all on line.

There are three main categories of air travel insurance included with credit cards, although not all cards offer all of them: 

Trip interruption or delay

Your flight is interrupted or delayed after departure due to a "covered reason"—typically one or more (but not always all) of the following:  illness, injury, labor strikes, equipment failure, or weather. Needless to say, no card covers all possible causes of a delay. If it's not in the "covered reasons" (for example, a crew showing up late for your flight or congestion-related air traffic control delays) you're on your own.  

Trip cancellation (i.e., when you have to cancel a trip before departure)

You or a traveling companion or immediate family member (definitions of "immediate" vary widely) becomes ill or injured before departure and you need to cancel your plans. For example, your son breaks his leg a week before your trip and you have $4,000 in non-refundable trip arrangements, many credit cards cover that. But in all cases, pre-existing conditions are not covered.

Lost or delayed baggage

The airline loses your checked bag; someone steals something from your carryon bag in flight; or your bag is not lost but merely delayed upon arrival.  Different cards define a delay differently: for some it's just four hours, for another it might be 12 hours. And in almost all cases, lost bag coverage is in "excess" of whatever you collect from your airline or any other insurance you might have, such as homeowners insurance (although if your policy deductible is $1500 and the loss is $1000, you might not have to make a claim if you present your policy's declaration page to the credit card company's representative).

Even computers, cell phones, and jewelry are covered by some credit cards, although for no more than $500 per incident. But at least it's something, and airlines don’t cover these things at all.

Cards vary in their deadline for making a claim, so in some cases if you've had a recent loss but didn't know you had coverage, you may still have time to file a claim retroactively to your credit card issuer (some claims can be made a full year after the loss). However, some cards require that you pay the entire cost of your trip on the card to qualify for coverage, while others settle for just a portion of the trip. One card we checked, oddly, only pays for round-trip transportation, not one-way trips. Some cards cover trips of up to 30 days, another might cover up to 60. 

This free coverage will never be as extensive as a policy you purchase separately from a company like Travel Guard or Access America, but neither is it something to ignore and if you've had a recent loss you even might be able to file a claim retroactively.  

Are you covered? Here are some favorite credit card brands and issuers with a synopsis of what they will and won't do for you next time something goes bump in the flight, along with links to their official contracts.


American Express

Chase Sapphire card

Citibank Aadvantage Signature card

World MasterCard

Capital One Venture Rewards

United Explorer Visa Platinum card

Related: Watch out for larceny in the air

Follow us on Twitter @airfarewatchdog

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Credit Card Travel Insurance: The Citibank Aadvantage Signature Card

Posted by George Hobica on Thursday, May 29, 2014

Almost all credit card issuers offer some kind of travel insurance, but they vary vastly depending on what's in your wallet or purse. The Citibank Aadvantage Visa Signature card is neither the worst nor the best in what it offers compared to other cards. Compared to the Chase Sapphire card or the United Explorer Platinum card, it's middling, although it offers more protection than, say, the Hilton HHonors card from American Express. Its definition of  "family" member is more restrictive; and it doesn't offer trip delay coverage or reimbursement for carryon luggage or electronic items lost in checked bags. 

Official contract: If you have this card, sign into your Citibank account and search for your specific coverage.

Who is covered?

The cardholder, traveling companions, spouse, domestic partner (some credit card issuers exclude these), and immediate family members, which means unmarried children under 19 or under 23 if a full-time student.  (In contrast, the Chase Sapphire Card includes a much more extensive definition of family).

What is covered?

A qualifying trip (round-trip only) charged entirely to the card.

Trip cancellation

What is covered?

Sickness, injury or death which results in medically imposed restrictions before your trip begins or a loss or theft of checked baggage. The injury must be verified by a physician. Weather events, mechanical delays and anything else is not covered.

What is not covered? 

Pre-existing conditions and anything not specified above.

Trip interruption

What is covered?

Similar to trip cancelation—sickness, injury, etc. If you need to interrupt your trip after departure, coverage kicks in.

What is not covered?

There is no coverage for severe weather, which some cards such as the Chase Sapphire card do cover.

Lost baggage

What is covered? 

Bags lost or stolen when checked only up to $3,000 (only $2,000 for New York State residents for some reason). There is no coverage apparently for carry-on luggage (some credit cards, notably American Express, provide this). You have 45 days to make a claim. Coverage is secondary to the airline's liability, which by U.S. law for domestic travel is no more than $3,400.  For international travel, airline liability is much less, so presumably if the airline only pays $1000 and your loss is $2000, the card will pony up the remainder.

What is not covered?

Electronics, cameras, jewelry, computers, and the like.

Delayed baggage

There is no coverage for delayed delivery of checked baggage. Some other credit cards provide this.

Trip delay

There is no coverage for trip delays. Some other cards provide this, usually just $100 per day for up to 3-5 days.

Capital One Venture Rewards Card

American Express

Chase Sapphire Card

The United Explorer Visa Platinum Card

You might also like: Miss Your Connection? Here's $500 from AirCare


Watch out for larceny in the air



To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Miss Your Connection? Here's $500 For Your Pain

Posted by George Hobica on Saturday, May 17, 2014

Air travel mishaps—misconnections, delays, lost bags-- happen every day, and although there's travel insurance to protect you against some things, and government regulations or airline policies offer compensation for certain problems like lost bags and involuntary bumping, for many scenarios you're on your own. For example, there's no government or airline compensation if you suffer a long tarmac delay or a misconnection (the airline might get fined if they don't offer to deplane you after three hours, but none of that sees its way into your pocket). Or if your flight is delayed, nothing is owed you. Travel insurance may cover you in certain scenarios, but there are loopholes large enough to fly a 777 through, and if you collect something for your trouble, there are daily or absolute compensation limits that are usually inadequate, forms to fill out, and denied claims.

But now an innovative new company, from the people who started TravelGuard travel insurance (now part of AIG insurance), is aiming to cover snafus not covered elsewhere, with minimal effort on the part of the insured.

AirCare, from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, is a fixed-benefit flight protection plan that compensates passengers for many of the air travel inconveniences that fall through the cracks.

What's covered

For $25 per trip, AirCare will pay you:

  • $1000 if you're stuck in the plane ("tarmac" delay) for more than two hours
  • $1000 if your luggage is lost or stolen
  • $500 if a flight delay causes you to miss a connecting flight
  • $500 if your checked luggage is delayed more than 12 hours
  • $50 if your flight is delayed more than two hours

True, airlines are responsible to reimburse you for lost or delayed bags, but they'll depreciate the value of the contents and require receipts. With AirCare, there's no depreciation of contents. And compensation is in addition to whatever you might eventually collect by complaining to the airline or from a travel insurance policy. And if there's a misconnection, airlines will put you on the next flight if there are seats, but often there aren't. And they won't pay for hotel rooms if you're stuck overnight. $500 could come in handy. I just wonder if crafty travelers will game this by booking those 38-minute connecting flights at Atlanta on incoming flights that are late 90 percent of the time. I hope not.

By the way, these benefits are cumulative. If your flight is delayed and then you're stuck on the tarmac for two or more hours, you get $1050. Miss your connecting flight as a result, and it's $1550.

Of course, there are more things that can go wrong in a flight besides these. AirCare doesn't cover you merely if your flight is canceled, it should be noted; or if the airline announces a schedule change far in advance of departure, for instance, requiring you to purchase an overnight hotel stay in a connecting city Also, it currently applies only to domestic flights, not international ones.

How it works

AirCare automatically tracks your flight. Miss a connection? AirCare will know, and you immediately get $500. Then they'll help arrange (but not pay for) same-day travel on any airline. To start a claim for delayed bag delivery, you just send a picture of your baggage claim form to start the claims process. Same process if your bag is lost or stolen. And if you're stuck in the plane, AirCare will have tracked your trip in real time and automatically transfer $1000 into your account. It won't get you in the air faster, but it will help ease the pain. Also included is a travel assistance concierge service to help find hotels, rental cars, and alternate flights if something goes awry with your travel plans.

It would be nice if one day a travel insurance company covered all possible pain points of air travel, but that's unlikely. According to AirCare CEO John Noel, however, the company is considering other ways, beyond the five restitutions planned so far, to compensate passengers for things that can go bump in the fight. If it does, we may one day fly much friendlier skies.

Further reading: What are your "rights" when you fly?

Follow us on Twitter @Airfarewatchdog





To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

British Airways A380 Flight Simulator

Posted by George Hobica on Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I don’t play video games, and probably I never will now that I’ve landed an Airbus A380 at airports all over the world in a flight simulator. Because really, what video game could ever compare with manning the joystick in a multi-million dollar sim?

I knew that my first flight “sim” experience would be exciting, which is why I flew all the way to London’s Heathrow Airport and the British Airways training center, but it wasn’t prepared for how thrilling it would be. BA will be launching its A380 service between Los Angeles and London and London and Hong Kong later this year, and I was one of the lucky few to grab a slot for a couple of hours in their new A380 sims.

For those of you who have never taken the controls of a sim, these sophisticated machines are enclosed cockpits resting on moveable mechanical legs that, as the name implies, simulate flight and are used for flight crew training purposes. The controls, video displays, seats and other features are identical to a real cockpit, and the windows are actually video screens that can be programmed to show airport terminals, taxiways, runways, topographical features, and weather conditions. The sim pods tilt, lurch and even rumble to recreate real-life take off and flight conditions, and speakers broadcast sounds (jet and wind noise, landing gear and flap movement, even the sound and movement of the tires bumping along the taxiway.).

Under the guidance of an experienced BA captain, I took my sheepskin-upholstered seat and got a tour of the controls. At my left hand was a joystick; at my right the four levers that controlled the mighty jet’s engines; at my feet, pedals used to slow down or brake the plane on the ground. Other controls worked the flaps and landing gear and switched the auto pilot off and on. I was surprised to see that this plane has no “steering wheel.” The joystick controls all directional movement on the ground.

After watching a typical take off and landing performed by my instructor, it was my turn. Where would I like to go? Tokyo? Manhattan? Hong Kong? I released the brakes, and we were “towed” out to the taxi way. It was now my job to slowly position the aircraft for take off. After giving the engines a bit of thrust I placed my left hand on the joystick, which is used to steer the plane while on the ground, and was surprised at how sensitive it was. Only minute movements are necessary, and had this been an actual take off someone on the ground would have assumed I was inebriated as I swerved back and forth.  The simulator’s speakers broadcast engine noises and the simulator pod rumbled a bit as we passed over “imperfections” in the taxiway. Once at the head of the runway, I applied the brakes and then placed my right hand on the four throttle levers, pushing them forward in unison. And away we flew.  As we ascended, the simulator tilted and banked. (In fact, the motion was so real that after a few such take offs one member of our party became a bit airsick.)

Outside the “windows” we could see a computer-generated view of greater London. The computer was programmed for a bright sunny day, but with a quick adjustment the “weather” could be switched to turbulent, cloudy, or rainy. And yes, simulated windshield wipers switched on when the rain started “pelting” our craft.

In minutes, we were descending into Hong Kong, my first port of call. I didn’t crash the plane, thankfully, but it was exactly a smooth landing. I was more successful upon subsequent landings at New York’s JFK and LAX.

One thing I learned was that there’s no such thing as a completely automated take off or landing, even when using the autopilot. Planes do not actually take off and land by themselves, much less position themselves for take off, or bring themselves to the gate.

Does this all sound like fun? That doesn’t begin to describe it. I was giddy, as in joyfully elated. The two hours passed in a flash and all too soon we were back on the ground, literally and figuratively, in London. I’d do it again and again, given the chance.

The British Airways Flight Training website describes the airline’s flight simulator experiences as “the thrill of a lifetime” and that’s no exaggeration. Currently, simulator flights are available in Boeing 737-400, Boeing 757-200, and Boeing 767-300 aircraft (training on the Airbus A380 and other models in the fleet may become available in the future). A one-hour “flight” costs £399 (about $465) or £1197 (about $1800) for a three-hour flight. Gift certificates are available as well. I can’t think of a better present for anyone who ever dreamed of being a pilot. Or for the video game geek on your holiday shopping list. Or for anyone, for that matter.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

We're all ears! How can we improve Airfarewatchdog?

Posted by George Hobica on Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We’re always under construction. We recently relaunched our mobile site (did you notice? it’s faster and easier to use!) and, yes, finally we’re working on an iPhone app. But what else can we do to serve you better?
We'd love your feedback in the comments below. Can we better Tweeters @airfarewatchdog? What new features would you like to see? What do you like most/least about us? Don't be shy! We're listening.


To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Airline fee chart

Posted by George Hobica on Friday, March 14, 2014

Here we list, airline by airline, fees for ticket changes (non refundable fares); booking fares in person or by phone, kids flying solo, bringing a pet into the cabin, and booking fares other than online. As you can see, Southwest has the lowest and fewest fees, followed by other low cost carriers such as Airtran and Spirit. Note that most of these fees, unless otherwise noted, are for domestic flights; fees for international services may be higher. 



Ticket change fee (non-refund fares, domestic routes; higher for international travel) plus/minus any applicable fare difference

Same day change fee

Reservation by phone fee

Unaccompanied minor fee (each way)

Bag Fees (each way, domestic routes; may be lower or higher for some international routes)

In-cabin pet fee (each way)

Frequent flyer fees

Seat Selection Fee At Time Of Reservation

Name Change Fee

Priority Boarding Fee

Other Fees


Non-refundable ticket change fee: $150


Same day change fee: $50

Reservation by phone fee: $15

Unaccompanied minor fee: $50

Carry on bag: Free

First checked bag: $25

Second checked bag: $35

Additional bags fee: $75 each

Overweight bags: $75

Oversize bags: $75

(waived for business class, active duly military, and elite frequent flyers)

In-cabin pet fee: $75

"Last minute" ticketing: $0

In phone/in person ticketing: $15

Date/itinerary change: One free allowed, additional $150

Redeposit Miles: $150

Same day change fee: $25

Seat Selection Fee:  $10-$30

Priority Boarding Fee:  $10

Name Change Fee: Not offered

Other Fees: additional $75 each way for bikes, surf boards and other sporting equipment over 50 pounds


Non-refundable ticket change fee: $125 Fee for changes made less than 60 days prior to ticketed flight departure. $0 for changes made 60 days in advance.


Same day change fee: $25

Reservation by phone fee: $15

Unaccompanied minor fee: $25 – $50

 Carry on bag: Free

First checked bag fee: $20 ($25 effective Oct. 30, 2013)

Second checked bag fee: $20 ($25 effective Oct. 30, 2013)

Additional bags fee: $50 ($75 effective Oct. 30, 2013)

Overweight bags: $50 for 51-100lbs

Oversize bags: $50-$75

Gate check: $25

(1st/2nd bag fees waived for elite frequent flyers, flying within Alaska, active military)

In-cabin pet fee: $100

"Last minute" ticketing: $0

In phone/in person ticketing: $15 (for Alaska flights); $25 (for partner flights)

Date/itinerary change: $75 if made online; $100 if made via phone agent

Redeposit Miles: $75 if made online; $100 if made via phone agent

Same day change fee: $25 (only if same award seat is available within six hours of flight)

Seat Selection Fee: None.

Priority Boarding Fee: not offered.

Name Change Fee: not offered.

Other Fees: Paid upgrades 24 or fewer hours before flight: $25-$200 per flight; Left on board item return fee, $20.


Non-refundable ticket change fee: $50 per segment ($75 per segment effective Oct 30, 2013; waived if you buy "TripFlex")


Reservation by phone fee: $15

Unaccompanied minor fee: service not offered

Carry on bag: $10 to $75 depending on when and where purchased and route flown

Checked bag fee: $15 to $75 depending on when and where purchased and route flown

Overweight bags: $50 for 41-70 pounds; $75 for 71-100 pounds

Oversize bags: $75 if overall dimensions over 80 linear inches.

In-cabin pet fee: $100


Does not have a frequent flyer program

Seat Selection Fee: Up to $75

Priority Boarding Fee: $5

Name Change Fee: $50

Other Fees: Waive cancellation/change fees: $11.50 (TripFlex)


Non-refundable ticket change fee: $200


Same day change fee: $75


Reservation by phone fee: $20

Unaccompanied minor fee: $150

Carry on bag: Free

First checked bag fee: $25  (free to most international destinations)

Second checked bag fee: $35

Additional bags fee: $150 each

Overweight bags: $100 for 51-70 lbs; $200 for 71-100 lbs

Oversize bags: $200

In-cabin pet fee: $125-$175


"Last minute" ticketing: 20 days or less incurs $75 charge

In phone/in person ticketing: $25 by phone/$35 in person

Date/itinerary change: $150 (MileSAAver Award tickets for which the only confirmed change is to the date and/or time will not incur the change fee)

Redeposit Miles: $150 (all additional award tickets returning to same account at same time are $25 each)

Same day change fee: $75 (free if award seats are available in the same category)

Seat Selection Fee:  Free, unless you choose "Preferred Seats: $4-$99 per flight; "Main Cabin Extra" seats $8-$159 per flight.

Priority Boarding Fee: Group 1 boarding $9

Name Change Fee: Not offered.



Non-refundable ticket change fee: $200 (up to $450 on some international fares)


Same day change fee: $50


Reservation by phone or ticket office fee: $25-$35

Unaccompanied minor fee: $100

Carry on bag: Free

First checked bag fee: $25 ($0 to international destinations except Canada and Caribbean)

Second checked bag fee: $35 ($40-$100 for some international destinations)

Additional bags fee: $125 for third bag; $200 each for bags 4-10

Overweight bags: $90 for 51-70lbs; $175 for 71-100lbs

Oversize bags: $175-$300

(These fees may be higher or lower for some international destinations and are waived for some elite level frequent flyers, active military, American Express SkyMiles Cardmembers, etc).

In-cabin pet fee: $125

"Last minute" ticketing: $0

In phone/in person ticketing: $25

Date/itinerary change: $150 (warning! no changes/cancelations are permitted within 72 hours of departure; all miles forfeited)

Redeposit Miles: $150 (no changes/cancelations are permitted within 72 hours of departure)

Same day change fee: $50

Seat Selection Fee: $9-$59 for "preferred seats" per segment.

Priority Boarding Fee: $10 per flight.

Name Change Fee: Not offered.

Other Fees: $9-$180 per segment for "Economy Comfort" seating.


 Non-refundable ticket change fee: $50-$100

Reservation by phone fee: None

Unaccompanied minor fee: $100 on "Basic" fares, $50 otherwise; free for frequent flyer minors with "status"

Carry on bag: Free on all fare types except "Basic" fares if fare purchased at or by phone from Frontier directly; $25 for "Basic" fares; up to $100 if paid for at departure gate.

First checked bag: $20 – $25

Second checked bag: $30

(Above fees are waived on certain fare classes and for frequent flyer members with status)

Additional bags fee: $75 each

Overweight bags: $75

Oversize bags: $75

In-cabin pet fee: $75 – $125

"Last minute" ticketing: $0

In phone/in person ticketing: $0

Date/itinerary change: $75 (if changes are made within 7 days before departure, otherwise free)

Redeposit Miles: $75

Same day change fee: $25-50 depending on ticket type

Seat Selection Fee: $5 to $100 per segment; free on higher fare classes.


Priority Boarding Fee: included in above.

Name Change Fee: Free on some fares, $50-$100 on lower fare classes.



 Non-refundable ticket change fee: $75-$150 depending of cost of ticket. Changes made 60 days of more prior to departure cost $75 no matter the fare. (If reservation not cancelled or changed prior to departure, entire fare is forfeited).


Same day change fee: $50. Standing by for one flight prior is free.


Reservation by phone fee: $20

Unaccompanied minor fee: $100

 Carry on bag: Free

First checked bag: Free

Second checked bag: $40

Additional bags fee: $75 each

Overweight bags: $50 for 51-70lbs; $100 for 71-99lbs

Oversize bags: $75

Pet flight fee: $100

 "Last minute" ticketing: $0

In phone/in person ticketing: $20

Date/itinerary change: $50-$100

Redeposit Miles: $50-$100

Same day change fee: $50

Seat Selection Fee: "Even More Space" seats with extra legroom: $10-$90 per flight.

Priority Boarding Fee: Included in above.

Name Change Fee: Not offered.



Non-refundable ticket change fee: $30-$200

Reservation by phone fee: $15-$35

Unaccompanied minor fee: $35-$100


Carry on bag: Free  (but officially a 25-pound weight limit)

First checked bag: $17-$25 (free to some international destinations)

Second checked bag: $17-$35 (free to some international destinations)

Additional bags fee: $25 inter-island, $100 otherwise. (May be higher to some international destinations).

Overweight bags: $25-$200

Oversize bags: $25-$100 (higher for some international destinations)

In-cabin pet fee: $35-$225


"Last minute" ticketing: $0

In phone/in person ticketing: $15-$35

Date/itinerary change: $30-$50

Redeposit Miles: $30-$150



Seat Selection Fee: "Preferred Seats" $35-$75 per flight.

Priority Boarding Fee: not offered.

Name Change Fee: Free for Coach Plus fares



Non-refundable ticket change fee: $115-$125


Same day change fee: $25 to stand by for earlier flight.


Reservation by phone fee: $10

Unaccompanied minor fee: $100



Carry on bag: $25-$50 ($100 if you pay at the gate, applies to all bag fees)

First checked bag: $20-$45

Second checked bag: $30-$55

Additional bags fee: $75-$100 each

Overweight bags: $25 for 41-50lbs; $50 for 51-70lbs; $100 for 71-99lbs.

Oversize bags: $100-$150

In-cabin pet fee: $100

"Last minute" ticketing: up to $100

In phone/in person ticketing: $25

Date/itinerary change: $110 (not permitted within 24 hours of departure; Refunds are allowed for reservations made 7 days or more prior to your departure, provided that you make the refund request within 24 hours of your initial reservation.)

Redeposit Miles: $ 110 (not permitted within 24 hours of departure)

Same day change fee: $25 (only for an earlier flight) 

Seat Selection Fee: $1 to $50

Name Change Fee: Not offered.

Other Fees: $75 for bikes; $10 for airport agents to print boarding pass.


 Non-refundable ticket change fee: Free


Same day change fee: None but any fare difference will apply


Reservation by phone fee: Free

Unaccompanied minor fee: $50

Carry on bag: Free

First checked bag: Free

Second checked bag: Free

Additional bags fee: $50 each for 3-9 bags; $110 each for more

Overweight bags: $75

Oversize bags: $75

In-cabin pet fee: $75

"Last minute" ticketing: $0

In phone/in person ticketing: $0

Date/itinerary change: $0 (but any fare difference will apply)

Redeposit Miles: $ 0

Same day change fee: Depends on type of award and possible point difference 

Seat Selection Fee: None

Priority Boarding Fee: Early Bird check-in $12.50; "Upgraded boarding" $40

Name Change Fee: Not offered.



Non-refundable ticket change fee: $200


Same day change fee: $75


Reservation by phone

fee: $25

Unaccompanied minor fee: $150

Carry on bag: Free

First checked bag fee: $25

Second checked bag fee: $35

Additional bags fee: $100 each (up to $200 on some international routes)

Overweight bags: $100 51-70lbs; $200 71-100lbs (up to $400 on some international routes)

Oversize bags: $100 (up to $200 on some international routes)

In-cabin pet fee: $125-$250

"Last minute" ticketing: $75 if booked within 21 days of departure (Free to $50 for frequent flyer members with status)

In phone/in person ticketing: $25

Date/itinerary change: $75 if made 21 or more days prior to travel; $100 if made less than 21 days (lower or no fees for frequent flyer members with status)

Redeposit Miles: $200 (free to $125 for frequent flyer members with status)

Same day change fee: $75

Seat Selection Fee: None, unless you choose an extra-legroom seat.

Name Change Fee: Not available

Other Fees: "Premier access" fee (priority check-in, TSA lines, and boarding) $9 and up per flight.

US Airways

Non-refundable ticket change fee: $200 (up to $450 on some international fares)


Same day change fee: $75-$150 depending on destination to move to an earlier flight within 6 hours of your original time.


Reservation by phone fee: $25

Unaccompanied minor fee: $100

 Carry on bag: Free (but a 40-pound weight limit)

First checked bag: $25 (free for some international flights)

Second checked bag: $35 ($100 for trans-Atlantic, free for trans-Pacific and Brazil)

Additional bags fee: $125 for the third; $200 for fourth-ninth bags

Overweight bags: $90 for 51-70 lbs; $175 for 71-100lbs.

Oversize bags: $175

In-cabin pet fee: $125

"Last minute" ticketing: $75 if ticketed 21 days or less

In phone/in person ticketing: $30 for domestic travel/$40 for international travel+

$25-50 award processing fee


Date/itinerary change: $150

Redeposit Miles: $150

Same day change fee: $75

Seat Selection Fee: None unless you choose a "Choice Seat" (see below)

Priority Boarding Fee: from $10 per flight

Name Change Fee: Not offered.

Other Fees: "Choice Seats" $5-$99 each way depending on flight; "GoFirst" Upgrades $50-$250 per flight (within 24 hours of departure).

Virgin America

Non-refundable ticket change fee: $100


Same day change fee: $25-$50


Reservation by phone fee: $20

Unaccompanied minor fee: $75-$125

Carry on bag: Free

First checked bag: $25

Second checked bag: $25

Additional bags fee: $25 each

Overweight bags: $50 for 51-70lbs; $100 for 71-100lbs

Oversize bags: $50

In-cabin pet fee: $100

"Last minute" ticketing: $0

In phone/in person ticketing: $20

Date/itinerary change: $100

Redeposit Miles: $100

Same day change fee: $25-$50

Seat Selection Fee: None.

Priority Boarding Fee: $30

Name Change Fee: Not offered

Other Fees: Last minute (6-24 hours before flight) upgrades $39 to $399 each way.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Airfare Tips

Confessions of an Airline Revenue Manager

Posted by George Hobica on Friday, February 21, 2014

Every airline employs a cadre of fare revenue managers. These are the folks who adjust airfares throughout the day, depending on route, season, demand, supply and other factors. They're a notoriously tight-lipped bunch, but, on condition of anonymity, we got one to explain how the fare game works.

Is there a best time of the day or best day of the week to buy airline tickets?

No. We constantly read stories from pundits who proclaim that Tuesday nights are the best or Saturday at midnight is the lowest time for airfares, but that is not entirely true. Each airline loads fares at different times of the day every day. To say that there is one time of the day or one day of the week that is better than another is false.

Plus, fares are so dynamic since they are based on market conditions and the actual number of passengers who are currently booked on a specific flight that they can change rapidly at any time. Many airlines tend to announce sales on a Monday leading other airlines to match certain fares the following day, but this is not a hard and fast rule. It truly varies from airline to airline.

How do airlines post “mistake” airfares and what are the consequences?

Quite simply, it’s human error. A revenue manager might attempt to do a global reduction on all North America fares for example and lower all fares by more than he intended. We have warnings and systems in place to catch these “fat finger fares” but they don’t always work and it takes a while to correct them. The consequences vary depending on the damage done. Usually you get one mistake and a warning. However, I heard through the grapevine that the guy responsible for that Dec. 26 Delta fare glitch got fired immediately. It probably cost the airline over a million dollars in lost revenue.

What is your role as a revenue manager?

Each airline has a complex computer system based on algorithms that can maximize the profit on each flight based on the types of fares offered on that specific flight. On one flight, there could be as many as two dozen different fares based on different factors such as advance purchase or how many days you stay at the destination. The computer knows that, by releasing (for example) 5 seats at a very low price, 10 seats at a slightly higher price and 20 seats at a slightly higher price, it can maximize revenue as the flight fills up.

On a full flight, we no longer want to offer that el-cheapo fare because it is based on supply and demand. The computer adjusts fares all the way up until the departure time, but as a revenue manager, I can go in and adjust things based on information that the computer may not know. For example, are there specific events taking place at a destination? Are there certain conditions at the departure airport that will allow more than the desired amount of seats to go empty such as weather?

How often do fares change?

Most of the time you will see the same fares for a few days unless they sell out. The biggest changes happen at 21 days, 14 days, 10 days, 7 days and 4 days, typically when advance purchase restrictions knock fares up a notch. The majority of fare changes aren’t really changes on our part: they happen because people are purchasing up inventory at the lowest published fare or the advance purchase restrictions are kicking in.

Why is it that sometimes I can wait until the last minute and find a cheap fare, but other times the fare goes up?

Well, most of the time the fare will go up because the flight will be filling up or the advance purchase restrictions will be kicking in. But on routes with significant competition -- New York to Los Angeles for example -- airlines may have sales or "dump seats" at the last minute to fill the plane if it's not particularly full. It also depends on the day of the week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are often the cheapest days to fly because we carry fewer business passengers those days.

Why do airlines advertise sales and then I can never find the tickets available at the stated price?

When an airline puts seats on sale, not every item in the store is for sale, just a percentage. Plus, not every flight on a given route may offer seats for sale. A popular 6 p.m. flight may not have anything on sale since people are willing to pay full price for it whereas the early bird 5 a.m. flight may have more seats on sale. When airfares go down, jump on it. The limited capacity of seats will dwindle as time passes.

Why are there so few award seats out there? Each time I try to use my miles, I can't.

This is really a false assumption. There are a lot of award seats out there. We often give away 10-15 percent of our seats as award seats. We are operating a business, and our shareholders wouldn't like it if we passed on top-line revenue. If you are flexible with dates or flight times, there are lots of award seats out there. If a flight is not filling up as we may expect, we can open up award availability as the departure date approaches, so you’ll sometimes do better searching a day before travel or at the very last second.

Above image via Shutterstock

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

What to do when your flight is canceled

Posted by George Hobica on Friday, February 14, 2014

The standard advice is to "call your airline" and check online. Or sign up for text alerts from your airline.

But that doesn't always work.

Yes, you can get a full refund, even on a non-refundable fare, and even if your flight is just severely delayed.

But what if you really need to get there? Or get home?

It's more effective to Tweet your airline, if they're good responders like @AmericanAir and @DeltaAssist. Calling your airline you might be on hold for an hour or more. You can also have your airline call you back. Here's how to do it with United for example.

You can take my recent tale of woe as an example. I was booked on a connecting flight from LaGuardia to LAX leaving this past Thursday morning (Feb. 13). As of Wednesday night, it wasn't canceled. I requested American to text me if the flight was canceled. I didn't receive a text. And even though I was magically anointed an American Airlines "Platinum" frequent flyer thanks to a recent promotion, I wasn't automatically rebooked on another flight of American's choosing. I was pretty much thrown under the plane.

On Wednesday night, it really looked like I'd be canceled, judging by the weather conditions. It also looked like, according to, that the inbound plane that would be serving my outbound flight had been canceled but that isn't a sure sign that my flight the next morning would be canceled.  I noticed that there were seats on a flight later in the day from JFK to LAX nonstop.  I considered booking a frequent flyer seat (or buying one) on that flight. However, if my flight wasn't canceled I'd be stuck with two seats/fares. Had I been an "Executive Platinum" American frequent flyer member (a very high rank) I could have booked the nonstop and rebanked my miles on the JFK LAX without the usual $150 penalty but I'm just a "platinum"... so I didn't risk it.  

As it turns out, I should have because my flight was canceled and that JFK-LAX flight ended up flying. 20/20 hindsight.

So now I'm stuck flying out on Sunday morning Feb. 16 JFK-LAX nonstop (which is better than a connecting flight from LGA-LAX but still).  I rebooked using @AmericanAir on Twitter.  They were very helpful (they could have made me take a less expensive and less desirable connecting flight since that is what I originally bought). As of Thursday morning, there were no seats of any kind between NYC/Newark and the LA area. Everything was booked or canceled.

But during the day on Thursday, seats did open up, a seat here, two seats there, and those flights ended up actually flying later in the day.  By the time I found them and waited for an agent to book, they were gone.

My mistake was not grabbing one of those seats myself on a 24-hour hold, which American allows you to do without payment. Then I could have called American and asked them to re-ticket me, switching my Feb. 16 flight to one available earlier. Unlike other airlines, American doesn't require payment when holding a reservation for 24 hours. That's a big difference.

Or I think I would have had better luck grabbing one of those "whack a mole" seats had I been at the airport, perhaps even if I had taken my original boarding pass to get through security and hung out in the American Airline Admirals Club (where the agents are more helpful and the lines shorter). If I had been really desperate to get home yesterday, it might have been worth a try.

The advice is always "don't go to the airport" but I think if you're desperate, do it.

As I write now at 12:30 a.m. on Friday morning there isn't a single American Airlines seat available NYC-LAX on Feb. 14, and just 5 seats all day in first class the following day, Feb. 15. But it's likely that flights will open up as the day progresses, so there's still hope.

Above Image via Shutterstock

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

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