Sorry, Ontario, you won't have JetBlue after Sept 3, 2008, and will cut seat capacity by 10 percent and has no plans to grow capacity in 2009. Read the press release. If you've already purchased seats on the New York JFK to Ontario nonstop route for travel after Sept 3, you can get a refund, or ask the airline to switch you to Long Beach or Burbank.
Starting Sept 1, ExpressJet will no longer be flying as an independent carrier and will go back to serving as a regional affiliate for Continental Express, serving over 150 destinations.
Meanwhile, they're having a goodbye sale for travel August 13 to September 1, with a 14-day advance purchase and a $50 change fee, should you need to change travel dates. All fares can be bought one-way, with no round-trip purchase required.
In what is perhaps a harbinger of worse things to come, Midwest Airlines is cutting service to the following cities on Sept 8:
Midwest Connect, their regional jet service, will discontinue flights to:
Milwaukee-Orlando service will become seasonal, operating from October to April only.
Previously, the carrier eliminated service to Austin, Charlotte, Colorado Springs, and Duluth.
Midwest has asked its employees for substantial pay cuts. We suggest that you purchase flights on Midwest with a credit card and complete travel on such purchases no more than 60 days from time of purchase, in order to be protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
As Ben Mutzabaugh reports in his USAToday "Today in the Sky" blog, "You may want to hurry to the baggage carousel the next time you fly to Atlanta. That's because 'baggage theft has been a problem at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in recent years,' The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (free registration) reports. The paper says eight people have been arrested between mid-May and the end of June for stealing fliers' luggage from the baggage-claim area.
You may remember that in the good old days, airlines had security people comparing luggage tags with baggage checks. Where'd they all go? Well, someone has to pay those security people, right? And maybe the airlines don't feel like doing that anymore.
So ship your luggage instead, or be the first out the door when your plane lands and sprint to the baggage claim area.
Every week, we hear a new sad tale about how someone thought they were covered by trip insurance, but later found out that a hidden loophole allowed the insurer to refuse coverage.
How about the woman who bought the bike tour through Holland but when the biking tour company cancelled because there weren't enough participants, her request to cover her non-refundable airfare to Europe was denied (reason: failure of a tour company to operate a tour is not covered). Oh, and she had to still pay her insurance premium.
How about the woman whose mother was diagnosed with cancer just before a trip? She claims that because her mother wasn't a US citizen and lived outside the US, the insurer denied coverage when she was forced to cancel her trip (her mother wasn't traveling).
Or did you know that some policies deny coverage for all amateur sporting events and training? So when a mother learned that her teenage son was seriously injured during football practice and decided to cancel her trip, her insurer refused to cover her (again, the son wasn't the one traveling).
Why was YOUR travel insurance claim denied? Tell us by leaving a comment. We'll compile a list of the 25 most surprising reasons for coverage denial so that other travelers will be forewarned.
People who never before considered travel insurance might look back on this turbulent summer as the one that pushed them over the edge. And if you’ve shopped around for an airline ticket lately, you can’t help but have noticed that somewhere in the process your airline has offered to sell you what looks to be a fairly cheap insurance policy, usually for $9, $12, $15 or a similarly affordable amount, per trip.
Should you bite? Not until you read the policy carefully, and getting a copy before you buy requires quite a bit of mouse clicking.
All airline-sold policies, such as this one sold by Northwest, have one serious flaw: they don’t cover the airline’s default. And most don’t cover pre-existing medical conditions under any circumstances.
Some may not even cover airline-caused delays in their trip interruption clauses.
And in any case, travel insurance, whether bought from an airline or online travel agency, or the insurer directly, often is less protective than it sounds.
Trip interruption, for example, is very narrowly defined. Usually, it covers only an interruption after your trip has begun, so if you’ve put down a $1000 deposit for a trip and a month before departure the airline “interrupts” your plans by announcing that it no longer serves your origin or destination cities, then you’re on your own. Same thing for trip cancellation: you can cancel your trip for a limited number of covered reasons, but if the airline cancels your route, that's not covered. Interesting loophole in one policy we saw: if a family member (say, your son) gets injured in an amateur sporting event (say, a football game) you won't be covered if you decide to cancel your trip.
Spirit Airlines, for example, sells insurance for $12 per domestic flight, which seems very reasonable. There’s one major problem however: you’re not covered if Spirit should go belly up.
Compare that with a policy bought directly from a major travel insurance company.
AIG Travel Guard's “Essential” plan costs about $24, depending on various factors, for a typical domestic trip by air, but as with Spirit’s insurance, there’s no coverage for default. For that, you’d need to upgrade to an Essential Expanded policy, and then to abide by a "14 Day Wait" clause, which means that the airline would have to default more than 14 days after the date coverage went into effect.
For full default coverage with fewer (but by no means no) loopholes, you need to buy AIG Travel Guard's more expensive standard and then add an upgrade that includes coverage not only for situations in which the airline might suddenly disappear, but also acts of terrorism and pre-existing medical conditions.
Bottom line? To be really protected, a better insurance policy covering a typical trip by air (and just the air travel portion, not hotels or a cruise) might cost more than $40. A far cry from Spirit’s $12, but look at the differences in the two policies.
Spirit's can be called, politely, minimal. There's a flat $300 for cancellation or interruption -- read on, you'll see this is absurdly low -- $500 for travel delays (doled out at amounts of up to $100 per day), a $500 reimbursement for loss of baggage or travel documents, and a $100 pay-out for baggage delay.
AIG's "My Travel Guard" policy, on the other hand, covers the entire quoted trip cost in case of cancellation or interruption, $1,000 in case of stranding for return air, $500 for unreasonable delays (maximum of $100 per day), $10,000 for medical expenses in the case of accident or sickness, $100,000 for emergency evacuation and -- how grim! -- the repatriation of remains, $500 compensation for loss of baggage, $100 for baggage delay, plus, the option to purchase a plethora of upgrades.
WHY DO I EVEN NEED ADDITIONAL INSURANCE?
Many people believe that additional coverage isn't necessary, that they already have plenty.
While Travelocity's plan is flimsy like Spirit's, you've got to give them credit for at least one thing -- addressing the matter of whether or not purchasing the coverage they sell is even necessary. Points to remember: People tend to think their credit cards include ample coverage. You may be right, but you may be wrong. Additionally, does your health insurance cover you outside of the United States? Does it include an emergency evacuation plan?
One notable point at which Travelocity stumbles, though, is with its trip cancellation policy (that is, if you have to cancel for some reason.)
Travelocity will refund the full cost of the trip, sure -- up to $2,000, as it points out incessantly throughout one policy document (note that it says "total trip cost" in one place and "total trip cost up to $2,000" in others. Other policies only cover up to $500 per flight domestically or $800 for international travel.
AIG's policy, detailed above, covers the entire quoted trip cost at the time of purchase. Even AirTran's otherwise fairly flimsy policy, sold via a company called Stonebridge, does not state a limit.
There are other important differences between Travelocity's policy and a typical travel insurance policy directly from the source. However, essentially you're seeing a pattern here. Like elsewhere, say, at Orbitz, insurance purchased from a third party is always going to be cheaper than if you bought directly, but the policy will always be relatively weak -- no matter which agency's name is attached to the plan that the third-party is selling. (In Travelocity's case, it's selling through BerkleyCare, a division of AON).
MEET THE RENT-A-PLAN
It's easy to find the holes in third-party coverage -- sometimes you don't even have to look through the policy document, which is nearly always readily available for your reading pleasure.
Things get a little more blurry when you're looking at the policies sold by the major carriers. These policies are typically a little more meaty than those sold by lowfare airlines and online travel agencies.
American, Continental, US Airways and United all partner with AccessAmerica, and in American's case, not only do the plans seem like they're for real, better still, they sell for as little as $16-17 per trip for an average domestic trip. American’s “Comprehensive Trip Protector” sells for 6.25% of your total ticket cost. And while it includes things like $500 for baggage delay coverage, which is along the lines of what you'd get directly from a major travel insurance company, the maximum trip cancellation/interruption protection is $3,000 per trip, and emergency medical transport to $50,000. Plus, there’s no protection from default (not that we expect American to cease flying anytime soon, so maybe it’s an irrelevant point.)
After Northwest's announcement this week that they'll be jumping on the first-checked-bag charge bandwagon, it seems as if increased luggage fees are here to stay. Finally, after all these years of reading about shipping your luggage in advance (and shrugging it off as too involved and possibly too expensive), you're ready to play.
But is sending your worldly possessions ahead cost-effective? It all depends.
However, you can generally expect shipping ahead to be more secure, not to mention convenient, considering the long lines at the counters this summer. Also not to mention: You're far less likely to have your bag "mishandled" (that's the fun word the Department of Transportation uses) by your airline or the TSA. And if any of these shippers lose your bags, which is unlikely, at least they'll be sorry.
Furthermore, airlines won't insure many types of articles, such as electronics, business items (such as samples), and other valuables.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
If you opt to send your luggage separately, you've got options. Many options.
First of all, you can treat your bags as if they were any other package, dropping them off with FedEx, UPS or your friendly neighborhood post office. In fact, you don't need a bag or suitcase at all (see tip below).
Should it feel odd to you, shipping your personal effects across the country as if they were an unwanted sweater or pair of shoes heading back for the warehouse, there are multiple luggage shipping services for you to choose from, with names like Luggage Free, Luggage Concierge, Sports Express, The Luggage Club. (You are sensing a trend, here, yes?). They are very expensive (see chart), but they do provide door to door service and packaging.
We've chosen two services - Luggage Free and Luggage Concierge - pitting them against traditional shipping methods and, of course, what it would cost to put your bags on board two very different airlines - Delta and Southwest.
As you can see from the chart, Southwest has moderate luggage fees compared to older legacy carriers such as Delta. And FedEx Ground is your best bet if you don't want to schelp your belongings yourself.
Rates based on round-trip shipping
45 lb bag Hartford
55 lb bag Philadelphia to Los Angeles
75 lb bag
Salt Lake City to Washington
1 oversize bag (65 linear inches) at 75 lb
to Fort Lauderdale
1) Whether it's overpaying for cheap boxes at the post office or paying your luggage concierge to pack it in feathers (or whatever), remember to protect your belongings.
2) If you can't ensure that you're going to be at your destination when your luggage arrives, make sure someone is there to sign for it (such as the bell desk at your hotel, or the receptionist at the branch office).
3) Staying in one place at the other end? Ditch the suitcase - it is added weight you don't need to be paying for. At the end of your trip, just repack in the original boxes and ship home.
4) One of the benefits of using a dedicated luggage service is that where necessary, packaging tends to be included in the charge - not generally the case when shipping via usual methods.
5) Some hotels do charge a fee for storing your luggage, but chances are your parents and office receptionist won't. It's a good idea to call your hotel ahead of time and let them know you're expecting something.
Hey friend, old buddy, old pal! Shave off a whole $15 one-way, or $30 for round-trip, from your next JetBlue ticket by using their new Friends and Family Sale promo-code FF1508.
This deal is good for travel September 3 through December 16 and must be booked by 12 midnight MT on July 17. Steer clear of blackout dates: October 9 through 14, November 8 through 10, and November 25 through December 1.
And this offer isn't valid for travel between BUR-LAS, SLC-LAS, LGB-LAS, LGB-OAK, LGB-SJC, LGB-SMF, BOS-JFK, BOS-IAD, and JFK-IAD. You must book here.
The rest of the fine print (to be read in your best high-speed Micro Machines/auctioneer voice):
Discount will be deducted off of base fare. If Discount travel is changed outside of this window or cancelled, discount will be forfeited and you will be responsible fare difference plus $100 change/cancel fee per person. Cancellations are for a JetBlue travel credit only, which is valid for one year. If a reservation is not changed or canceled prior to scheduled departure, all money associated with the reservation is forfeited. Discount may be used only toward newly-booked travel and may not be applied to existing travel or changes to travel. Discount may not be redeemed for cash. Discount may be used only for flight purchases made via jetblue.com. Discount code is transferable. Discount may not be used in conjunction with other special offers or towards the purchase of a JetBlue Gift Card, Getaways vacation packages, JetBlue Cruise or already booked flights. All fares must be purchased at time of reservation, and are one-way, and nontransferable. JetBlue reserves the right to deny boarding to passengers without proper documentation. DIRECTV(r) service is not available on flights outside the continental US. Other restrictions apply.