Alaska Airlines has released their latest batch of Web Specials. Valid travel dates vary by route, so check our fare details for more info. Seats are limited and may not be available on all flights or all days. Some markets may not operate daily service. All fares require immediate purchase.
It happens to hundreds of airline passengers every day. They arrive at a destination far from home, but their bags don’t.
The bags aren’t necessarily “lost” –they’re “delayed.” But for these hapless travelers, they’re as good as gone.
They’ve arrived in Salt Lake City for a week of skiing, but their ski gear and clothes didn’t. They’ve touched down in Athens for a cruise wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shorts (so much for complying with dress codes in the dining room). They’ve landed in New York City for an important meeting later that day; imagine the impression they’ll make since their business attire was in that delayed bag. Then there are the wedding dresses and funeral clothes that never showed up in time.
In past years, the airlines were largely unsympathetic. They might offer a paltry $25 or $50 a day for “essentials” and perhaps a toothbrush and essential toiletries. This was clearly not enough. And although some airlines handled such situations on a case by base basis, passengers had to beg and wheedle and cajole to get reimbursed for clothing and equipment needed to enjoy their trip, or to dress for the weather or the occasion at their destination.
That’s all changed thanks to a directive from the U.S. D.O.T. to all airlines. This notice, issued last October, informs airlines that they cannot place arbitrary limits on compensation, not only when bags are lost, but even if they are merely “delayed.” Read the directive in full.
As a result, airlines have been fined and some have changed the language on their websites dealing with delayed bags. For example, I found this on Delta.com:
“Delta requires that receipts be presented for all reasonable expense reimbursements incurred due to the delay of a passenger's bag. Reasonable expenses generally are $50 for the first 24hrs and $25 per day for the next 4 days the bag is delayed. The guidelines for reasonable expenses are NOT daily limits or a cap and additional expenses may be incurred and should be handled on an individual basis up to the limit of liability [emphasis added, limits, by the way, that Delta doesn't specify--more on that below]. Any disbursements will be deducted from the final settlement if the bag is not located.”
Clearly, $25 or $50 per day is not enough to salvage a wedding, a ski trip, or an important business presentation. And the D.O.T. has made it clear that there are circumstances where passengers are entitled to dress appropriately at their destination, and replace needed sports and other equipment and supplies.
The U.S. D.O.T. directive refers to the maximum $3,300 in liability that airlines face for wholly domestic U.S. trips. A lower level of compensation applies to international trips, usually governed by the Montreal Convention, which is currently 1,131 “Special Drawing Rights.” (The value of an SDR is calculated daily, but as of this writing one SDR is equivalent to $1.55). But the D.O.T. is going after foreign airlines as well.
In January, for example, the D.O.T. fined Alitalia $80,000 for “violations...of Article 19 of the Montreal Convention and the statutory prohibition against unfair and deceptive trade practices, 49 U.S.C. § 41712, in connection with monetary claims resulting from delay [emphasis added by me] of checked baggage on Alitalia flights to or from the United States. It directs Alitalia to cease and desist from future similar violations of Article 19 and section 41712. The consent decree continues, “Article 22 of the Convention currently sets the liability limit for damages associated with lost, damaged, or delayed baggage at 1,131 Special Drawing Rights for each passenger. Article 19 provides that a carrier is liable for damage caused by delay in the carriage of baggage, except to the extent that the carrier proves that it took all reasonable measures to prevent the damage or that it was impossible to take such measures. Further, Article 26 states that any contractual provision tending to relieve a carrier of liability or to fix a lower limit than that which is laid down in the Convention is null and void.”
So bookmark (and tweet and share) this page. And the next time your checked bag is delayed, don’t settle for showing up at the wedding in your gym clothes.
On Oct. 9, 2011 the U.S. D.O.T. issued this directive to all airlines flying into the U.S. It clearly states that in the event of not just lost checked baggage, but also delayed bags, airlines must not place "arbitrary limits" on monetary compensation. It notes that the maximum liability is $3,300; however this applies only to domestic U.S. travel. Limits on international travel are less. In the past, airlines have offered no compensation at all for delayed bags (or very little--$50 a day for instance) or offered frequent flyer miles or vouchers for future travel in compensation, but only when passengers asked for redress. The D.O.T. has begun levying heavy fines on airlines who flaunt this directive.
Here's the D.O.T. notice in full:
This notice is intended to give guidance to air carriers on their policies relating to the reimbursement of passengers’ expenses in cases where baggage has been lost, damaged or delayed. We have learned that a number of airlines have adopted policies that purport to limit reimbursement for such expenses in a variety of ways.
These policies may be contained in contracts of carriage or, more often, in informal printed advisory handouts available from ticket counters or carrier agents. For example, we are aware of one such advisory handout that denies any reimbursement “for necessities” where the baggage is “expected” to reach the passenger within 24 hours of filing a delayed baggage report and limits reimbursement to actual expenses up to a fixed maximum amount per day after the first day. Also, some carriers may be providing reimbursement to passengers for incidental expenses incurred only after the outbound leg of a roundtrip.
The Department’s baggage liability rule, 14 CFR Part 254, contains no such limitations, and it is the enforcement policy of the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (Aviation Enforcement Office) to consider any arbitrary limits on expense reimbursement incurred in cases involving lost, damaged or delayed baggage to violate Part 254 and to constitute an unfair and deceptive practice and unfair method of competition in violation of 49 U.S.C. § 41712. Section 254.4 states that an air carrier “shall not limit its liability for provable direct or consequential damages [emphasis added by D.O.T.]” relating to lost, damaged or delayed [emphasis added by Airfarewatchdog.com] baggage to less than $3,300 per passenger. To meet the requirements of Part 254 and the requirements implicit in 49 U.S.C. § 41712, carriers should remain willing to cover all reasonable, actual and verifiable expenses related to baggage loss, damage or delay up to the amount stated in Part 254.
Carriers should, therefore, review their contracts of carriage and any supplemental printed materials with respect to provisions for reimbursement of direct or incidental expenses related to baggage loss, damage or delay. These should not include terms setting arbitrary limits on reimbursement, apart from those set forth in Part 254. If appropriate, carriers should promptly modify any printed documents, such as internal procedures and guidance and consumer informational materials, to conform to the Department’s rules and this guidance. After 90 days from the date of issue of this notice, the Aviation Enforcement Office will pursue enforcement action in appropriate cases where unlawful reimbursement policies are not corrected. Questions regarding this notice may be addressed to the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (C-70), U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, Washington, D.C. 20590.
Airlines are notorious for having multiple types of seating products on their aircraft. This happens most often in business class since many airlines have eliminated a first class cabin altogether. But, there are still several airlines with first class seating on international aircraft that are in the transition process to new cabins resulting in a variety of first class seats available in the market. Airlines are not trying to be sneaky, but it typically results when an airline starts updating their seats aircraft by aircraft or they merge with another carrier. They are quick to advertise one premium offering, but the availability and deliverability of that offering varies based on the type of aircraft you are flying. This chart is not meant to be comprehensive, rather it should serve as a guide to help you choose your next flight. Some aircraft within a fleet type have multiple configurations so be sure to ask when making the reservation.
Preferred First Class Version
Beware First Class Version
These first class seats are fully flat and much wider than the standard first class seat on Air France. This is the newest incarnation of the airline's first class product.
While these seats are certainly spacious and lie completely flat, they are not as wide as those on the A380. Still, these are excellent seats; just not the newest of AF's fleet.
These first class seats are fully flat and in a 1-2-1 configuration. The window seats are more private and feature a large table with work space.
These feature the airline's more restrictive recliner seats wtih limited foot rest. Luckily, these are used mostly on transcontinental flights between New York-SFO/LAX.
These first class seats are brand new and the widest and most spacious in the airline's fleet. Soon all first class seats on BA will be lke these, but this aircraft is the first to be equipped with them. They feature small closets for storage and electric window blinds.
The airline is updating its first class product, but not all aircraft have been outfitted with it. At present, 70% of these planes have it. Those without the updates still have fully lie-flat and extremely spacious seats, but they are not as fancy as the latest incarnation.
United has a new first class suite that goes completely flat and has plenty of storage space. United was one of the first domestic airlines to have lie-flat seating in first, and these planes feature its second incarnation of this comfortable seat.
Only half of the 777s in the pre-merger United fleet feature the upgraded first class seat. The other half has the original, lie-flat version, which is comfortable but basic. It has worn fabric and smaller entertainment screens.
These are Emirates' famous first class suites with doors that fully close to give them ultimate privacy. As some of the most exclusive first class seats on the market, these are the cream of the crop.
The B777-200s are used on short to medium-haul routes and feature older recliner style seats while the A330 has lie-flat seats, but they are much closer together than other aircraft. The airline will not install these suites on all aircraft. The airline will not install these suites on all aircraft, but eventually all flights to the USA will have the new suites.
These are Korean Air's newest first class suites that feature the most personal space and a lie-flat seat. They are also available on some, but not all B747-400s so it is best to check in advance if traveling on that aircraft.
These planes have angled recliners that are not as comfortable as other first class products. Luckily, they are only used on short to medium-haul routes or those that are heavily leisure focused like flights to Hawaii.
Like most other airlines that fly this Airbus behemoth, the first class product is the newest around. The seat width on this aircraft is a time and a half bigger than other first class seats on Lufthansa.
First class on these Airbus planes has a slightly shorter distance between seats than the B747-400 and Airbus A380, but is not noticeable enough to avoid completely. The seats are the airline's older version and lie flat, but are not as comfortable.
This aircraft features the airline's new first class suite with large privacy dividers and plentiful storage space and a fold-out seat for a guest to join for a meal.
These seats are very comfortable and lie completely flat. However, the lack of privacy walls around the seat removes the sense of privacy and personal space that the suite on the A380 offers.
The A380 has the airline's first class suite with walls that ensconce passengers in total privacy in the widest seat in the air. The B777-300ER also features the same incredible wide, lie-flat seat (or shall we call it a sofa), but it is not the same suite product that the A380 has.
This is the airline's angled, lie-flat seat. It is very comfortable, but not as spacious as the A380 or B777-300 models.
To learn more about George Hobica, visit his profile on Google+
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) maintains a complex system of rules for transporting both carry-on items and checked bags on flights. Some objects are prohibited on planes at all times, while others may be checked and not carried, or vice versa. Confused? "When in doubt, leave it out," says the TSA.
If only it were that simple. Packing the wrong thing in your checked bag has the potential to ruin your trip—especially if that bag gets lost, broken, or roughed up by baggage handlers. A simple rule of thumb: Pack anything of value or importance in your carry-on bag, in case your luggage gets lost by the airline. But there's more to keep in mind. Below, in no particular order, are 10 things that you should always leave out of your checked bag.
Jewelry and Valuables
Of course, it's not probable that your checked bag will be lost by an airline. According to a report by SITA, a company that gathers statistics for airlines, .012 percent of passengers' bags were reported damaged, lost, or delayed in 2010. But if you happen to fall in that .012 percent and your checked bag contains an antique watch, a family photo album, or your wedding ring, you're in trouble.
Most carriers require passengers to submit claims forms when bags are lost. Your airline will then tally the depreciated value of the contents of your missing suitcase—if your claim is accepted, that is. Airlines will pay no more than $3,300 per passenger for bags lost on domestic flights. All in all, it's unlikely that you'll receive compensation equal to the full value of your lost possessions.
We recommend leaving jewelry and other valuables at home when traveling, but if you must bring these items on the road, be sure to store them safely in your carry-on bag. Identification, Passports, Boarding Passes, and Essential Documents
All necessary documents, whether they're work or insurance papers or other sensitive information, should be kept with you in your carry-on bag. But there is another solution—back it up. If you plan to put papers of importance in checked luggage, keep copies (either hard photocopies or copies on a flash drive) on your person.
Bottom line: Any important documents you've packed in your checked luggage should be photocopies, not originals. And any documents that include sensitive or private information should be kept out of your checked luggage altogether.
Cash and Credit Cards
All checked bags are screened electronically, but select checked bags are opened by TSA agents and screened by hand. When packing a checked bag, be aware that a security agent—a stranger, essentially—may be rummaging through your things at some point. There have been reports of TSA workers stealing electronics, money, and other valuables from passengers' bags; as expected, such occurrences are rare. But as a precaution, your cash, checkbook, and credit cards should be kept with you in your carry-on bag.
There's always a chance that your suitcase could get damaged en route, too. If a busted zipper befalls your bag, any packed cash will be easy pickins for thieves. Laptop and Electronics
Take it from the TSA. A representative from the agency offered this advice for flyers: "Electronics ... should be packed in carry-on luggage because they are typically fragile, expensive, and more prone to breaking if transported in checked baggage." The threat to your electronics is two-fold: you need to protect your devices from burglary (see above) as well as breakage. No matter how many beach towels you've wrapped around your laptop, it's still at the mercy of baggage handlers and bumpy flights while in transit. Lighters, Matches, and Flammable Items
The TSA has a handy checklist of prohibited items on its website. Some of the objects on the list are as obscure as they are obvious: gun powder, hand grenades, tear gas, vehicle airbags (packed to protect a checked laptop, perhaps?). But items of note include lighters, matches, and flammable objects, which anyone going on a camping trip (or travelers who smoke) might need to pack.
Lighters without fuel may be packed in checked luggage. However, lighters with fuel may only be packed in checked luggage if they're in a Department of Transportation-approved case; an example of this is the Zippo Air Case. Matches are prohibited in checked baggage, and flammable items, such as paint or liquid fuel, should be avoided as well.
All of Your Clothes
If your luggage disappears into the mysterious black hole of missing checked bags, you'll thank your former self for putting a clean pair of underwear and some socks aside in your carry-on bag. An entire outfit—enough to get you through a day or two at your destination in case your airline loses your suitcase—is even better. Other daily essentials, like a toothbrush, a comb, key toiletries (though liquids must be in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces), and whatever else you might need if your bag gets lost should be placed in your carry-on as well.
There's a theme here. If you can't live comfortably without it, don't pack it in your checked bag. That old cliche, "better safe than sorry," should be lingering in the back of your mind when you're organizing your luggage. Accordingly, prescription drugs are best kept on your person.
Passengers are permitted to bring liquid medications onto planes, even if they exceed the 3.4-ounce limit for carry-on liquids. But you'll need to officially declare your oversized liquid medications when going through the checkpoint. Tell a security officer stationed at the checkpoint that you're carrying liquid medications, and hand them over for inspection. It helps to have a doctor's note or a medical ID card, but it's not required. The TSA also suggests that travelers label medications to facilitate the screening process. Breakable Items
Don't blame it all on the baggage handlers. Sure, they've been known to bust up a prized possession or two. But baggage handlers, under pressure to load hundreds of bags onto a plane in a short amount of time, are just trying to get your flight off the runway—with your luggage onboard. Sometimes this necessitates a good throwing arm. (Read more in Confessions of an Airline Baggage Thrower.)
Fragile items should always be packed in your carry-on bag. If you must bring home that bottle of red you picked up in Bourdeaux, use a product like the VinniBag, which will protect the contents of your bag in case the bottle breaks.
If you ducked the digital trend and snap travel photos on a camera that takes film, steer clear of storing undeveloped rolls in your checked bag. The X-ray machines that the TSA uses to screen checked bags can damage film. Instead, put your film in your carry-on bag and ask the TSA agent at the security checkpoint to inspect your film by hand. The TSA suggests that travelers pack film in clear canisters or clear plastic bags to expedite the inspection process, but this isn't required.
Food and Drink
According to the TSA, flyers should avoid putting food and beverages in checked bags. Passengers aren't prohibited from storing chow in checked bags, but it's a wise suggestion nevertheless. Bottled drinks are likely to explode or crack in transit, thus ruining the cashmere sweater tucked in your bag. And if your flight is delayed or your luggage gets lost for a while, your packed food might spoil.
If you're traveling internationally, you may be prohibited from bringing food to your destination. Each country has its own rules about what kinds of foods can be brought across borders. Check the embassy website of the country you're visiting for more information.