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Fare of the Day: San Diego to Honolulu $311 RT including all taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, July 25, 2011

Fly from San Diego to Honolulu for $311 round-trip, nonstop, including all taxes, on Hawaiian Airlines.

A little bit cheaper than the San Diego-Honolulu fare we tweeted about last week, this one is also for December travel, though earlier in the month. A few November dates are available as well. Valid for Monday through Thursday travel. No minimum stay.

For booking info, see our fare details.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

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Our top 10 tales of TSA tomfoolery

Ten epic tales of TSA tomfoolery

By George Hobica

Airfarewatchdog.com

Look, we all know that folks at the Transportation Security Administration have a tough job, they're there to protect us, and all that. But they could probably do a better job. Judging from recent events, it seems they think the real threat to national security isn't, say, a shifty businessman scamming his way onto a transcontinental Virgin Atlantic flight using a stolen and expired boarding pass (for the wrong date and flight, no less), as Nigerian national Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi did just a few weeks back (amazingly, law enforcement stopped him but let him go, only to arrest him when he pulled the same stunt on a subsequent flight).

No, the real danger comes from people like Jean Weber's 95 year-old, wheelchair-bound, Depends-wearing mother, who, just a few days before Noibi's joyride, attempted to board a plane from Florida to Michigan to see her family, perhaps for the last time before possibly dying of leukemia.

Agents in New York couldn't be bothered to read the boarding pass of a man that had no business boarding a plane to California, but their counterparts at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport had all the time in the world to ruin the day of a very old, very frail and frightened woman, pulling her aside for 45 minutes of additional screening and forcing her to remove her undergarments.

When it comes to the TSA, one thing's for sure – they sure have no idea how to get the traveling public to like them. Since their creation in 2001, barely a week goes by that we don't hear yet another tale of agency dysfunction – often of the most hilarious kind. Here are ten memorable stories from recent years.

 

#1 DIPLOMACY IN ACTION Meera Shankar is India's ambassador to the United States. Shankar was invited to Jackson, Mississippi as a guest of Mississippi State University, where she met with Mississippi's Lieutenant Governor and gave a speech. As a souvenir, she took home an unhappy memory. While passing through security on her way out of town, Shankar was pulled aside for a very thorough -- and, despite her requests for privacy -- a very public pat down. Agents told the media afterwards that Shankar was singled out due to the fact that she was wearing a sari. Isn't that what all the terrorists wear? No? A shaken Shankar told her hosts that her first visit was probably going to be her last.

#2 THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS NIPPLE RING When you head for the metal detector, maybe you want to remove your body armor. At least that's what Mandi Hamlin discovered, when she tried to board a plane out of Lubbock, Texas back in 2008. After metal was detected in her chest area, an agent informed her that if she wanted to get on the flight, she'd have to remove whatever was going on underneath her clothing. Which happened, by the way, to be nipple piercings. Hamlin requested a visual check, but the agent refused, instead handing her a pair of pliers. So she could remove the piercings. From her breasts. In the middle of the airport.    

#3 WHAT'S IN THE BRA, MA'AM? What is it with the TSA and breasts? Nancy Kates discovered in 2008 that wearing the wrong bra to the airport can cause serious trouble. Being rather, well, gifted in the frontal region, Kates wears a sturdier sort of bra than most, with enough wire in it to set off a metal detector. An agent pulled her aside for one of the TSA's patented special gropings. Like many women who object to being fondled in public by strangers, Kates objected. After a protracted battle with the staff at the checkpoint, she finally agreed to take off her bra for close inspection. She ended up missing her flight. 

#4 OH, RIGHT, THAT – OOPS. When they're not digging around in your undies, they're snoozing on the job. TSA guard Ruben Hernandez wandered away from his post at Newark Airport in January 2010, long enough to allow loverboy Haisong Jiang, 28, to sneak through security to allow for some more facetime with his departing girlfriend. The best part? After the TSA realized security had been breached, they waited a whopping 80 minutes to contact the airport police, even though they had no idea who had gone through or why. Subsequently, Newark's Terminal C was shut down for six hours, stranding 16,000 people, causing 100 flights to be delayed and nearly 30 to be cancelled. Not to mention the financial hit to Continental Airlines. Hernandez was put on leave, and Jiang, a graduate student at Rutgers University, received a slap on the wrist.

#5 WONG FLIGHT If you were paying attention, you know that the case of the Nigerian national on the Virgin America flight wasn't a one-off screw-up. Not at all.  Back in March, a Maryland man was caught onboard a Delta flight about to depart New York's JFK. How'd he get on? With a stolen boarding pass. The man, Ronald Wong, who reportedly suffers from psychiatric problems, had done this before – six days before his botched attempt to get a free ride out of New York, Wong successfully scammed his way onto a San Francisco-Denver flight, without any ticket at all.

#6 A LITTLE DRINK WON'T KILL YOU Attention, mothers with newborns – pumping a little milk before you travel could end up wasting more time than it saves. Elizabeth McGarry, a New York mom on the go, tried to board a flight from JFK late last year with three bottles of expressed breast milk in her carry-on luggage. To prove that the expressed milk posed no threat to national security, TSA agents insisted that McGarry take sips from all three bottles. "I'm all for random searches," McGarry later told the New York Post, "but I do think the number of Caucasian, lactating mothers who have passed through Al Qaeda training camps is negligible."

#7 THEY'LL NEVER MISS IT The stories of theft from baggage by TSA agents are legion and legend, but the tale of Persad Coumar and Davon Webb, both employed at New York's JFK, is particularly memorable. Coumar and Webb, both TSA agents, were arrested for stealing $40,000 in cash out of a Buenos Aires-bound bag that contained nearly $200,000 in loot. It was the perfect crime, they thought – after all, Coumar told his partner, the money probably belonged to a drug dealer that was never going to report the loss, right? Unfortunately, they couldn't keep their mouths shut, and a colleague ended up turning in the less than savvy twosome.   

#8 SHE'S JUST FAKING IT, IGNORE HER All Lona Dunlap wanted was to get the hell out of Pasco, Washington. Unfortunately, she had the audacity to try to pass through security at Pasco's pint-sized airport back in 2008 while wearing a foot brace, which she was wearing not as a fashion statement, but because of a sprained ankle. Going against regulations, Dunlap was not only forced by screeners to remove her brace, she was also required to prove that she needed the thing to walk. And how was she required to prove it? By walking on the sprained ankle. Because, obviously, she was faking the whole thing, and the brace was actually a bomb.

#9 IT'S IN THE BAG. OR WAS. It's not bad enough that 61 year-old Tom Sawyer of Lansing, Michigan got bladder cancer, meaning that forever and always he pees out of a hole in his abdomen and into a bag. It's not bad enough that back last November, a TSA agent at Detroit's airport roughed him up, causing the bag to burst all over his clothes, and Sawyer to board his flight with wet pants. The real stupidity? After a huge amount of media attention that you thought might have caused supervisors at the Detroit airport to train their people how to identify a urostomy bag when they saw one, Sawyer managed to get roughed up again earlier this month by an agent in Detroit, who started squeezing the bag in public, despite Sawyer's protestations.

#10 SPEAKING OF LEAKAGE They can't figure out the difference between a terrorist and a guy with a bag of pee stuck to his stomach, so who was really all that surprised, back in 2009, when someone at the TSA spilled classified secrets on the internet? An agency training manual, marked "NO PART OF THIS RECORD MAY BE DISCLOSED TO PERSONS WITHOUT A NEED TO KNOW," was embarrassingly leaked to, well, a lot of persons without a need to know. Information revealed in the leak included the list of countries that the government considered shady enough that all passport holders would be held for selective screening, such as Lebanon, Cuba and Sudan. Well, unless an old lady in Depends happens to be in line at the same time. Then they can sail right through.

Las Vegas Sale from Alaska Airlines

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, July 25, 2011

Save on flights to Las Vegas with the current sale from Alaska Airlines. Travel is valid for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from July 27 through October 23.

Tickets require a 7-day advance purchase. Seats must be booked by July 27. No minimum stay required.

Exceptions: travel between Fairbanks or Anchorage and Las Vegas is valid September 26 through October 23, and between Portland and Las Vegas from July 27 through August 31.

Fares include:

Medford to Las Vegas $184 round-trip

Pasco to Las Vegas $184 round-trip

Portland to Las Vegas $128 round-trip

Redmond to Las Vegas $184 round-trip

Walla Walla to Las Vegas $184 round-trip

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Chart: Airline fare drop refund policies

By George Hobica

Airfarewatchdog.com

What happens when you buy an airfare and then discover that sometime before take off the fare has dropped in price? Well, if the fare difference applies to the exact same dates of travel, exact same flight times, and exact same "fare bucket" (you know, those wacky fare codes like Q and K and T and Y), then some airlines will give you a fare drop refund. But many will not. And even most of those that will issue a refund are going to charge you a fee for doing so. Only three four U.S.-based airlines, as you can see from the chart below, will issue a refund (always in the form of a credit for future travel, not in cash) in full; the others charge anywhere from $75 (for a domestic fare) up to $250 (for an international one), which often wipes out any savings. And as you can also see from our chart, if you're flying on a non-U.S. airline or on a no-frills U.S. carrier such as Allegiant or Spirit, then you're out of luck. (Note: This information applies to non-refundable fares only; fully refundable fares can be rebooked at any time, almost always without a fee, if the fare goes down.)

 

 

Refund for fare drop after booking?

Charges/fees on domestic fares 

Charges/fees on int'l fares

The details

Browser says:

Aeromexico

No

N/A

N/A

N/A

A media relations rep stated that no airlines issue fare drop refunds. Not true, obviously.

Alaska

Yes

No

No

Refund is given as credit in form of electronic voucher, good for travel up to one year

Woof! One of the simplest and best policies in the industry, hands down. If only Alaska went everywhere we needed to be.

AirTran

Yes

No

No

You'll receive credit for future travel. Business class tickets can be changed with no charge.

The airline used to charge a $75 change fee but with the purchase by Southwest Airlines they're aligning their policy with the new owners.

Allegiant

No

N/A

N/A

"The airline unfortunately cannot refund or credit fare differences after a reservation has been made."

Well, that's what you get when you want to fly for almost-free, right?

American

Yes

$150

$250

The airline will issue a "rollover credit" good for future travel, in form of a travel voucher.

This isn't a widely publicized policy, but it does work.

British Airways

No

N/A

N/A

N/A

Refunds tend to be more of an American thing.

Delta Yes $150 $250 Voucher for future travel.  

Emirates

No

N/A

N/A

N/A

Buy it you fly it.

Frontier

No

N/A

N/A

N/A

It's hard to keep up with this airline with all its policy changes. But yes – no on refunds.

Hawaiian

Yes

$100

$100

Credit will be issued if you meet all their requirements (and if the amount is more than $100).

The policy's as strict as the other majors, but at least Hawaiian tends to be easy to work with.

JetBlue

Yes

$75 if after two weeks

$75 if after two weeks

Will credit the difference if within two weeks of original booking.

No formal claim process or anything – just rebook online.

Lufthansa

No

N/A

N/A

N/A

The airline is moving towards a low-cost, low-rewards model.

Singapore Airlines Yes, except for heavily discounted fares (i.e., those with no changes or refunds allowed) N/A Depends on the change penalty for the fare in question Credit issued in same form of payment used to buy ticket Even fully refundable fares incur a $25 fee to reissue at the lower fare

Southwest

Yes

No

N/A

Simply rebook your fare and receive credit for the difference to your account.

Customers love this simple policy, and so do we! 

Spirit

No

N/A

N/A

No means no!

(What, you were expecting Champagne?)

United

Yes

$150 administrative fee

$150 administrative fee

Receive a voucher for any remaining difference after paying the fee. A voucher that will invariably be a pain in the butt to cash in and will also not retain any value if you use only a portion of it.

Basically, like Alaska's policy, except designed to never pay out, thanks to the $150 fee. Also, you have to call to claim. So, enjoy that. (Until a few years ago, United refunded in full, but that was then).

US Airways

Yes

$150

$250

They'll give you vouchers for the difference, providing the fare you find meets their terms.

Claims can't be made online – everything needs to be done over the phone. (Be nice, or the agent might slap you with a call center fee, too.) As with United, US Air used to refund in full.

Virgin America

Yes

$75

$75

Credit is held in your account for 12 months for future travel.

Those fancy exit row fares can sometimes drop quite a lot before travel, so if you booked one of those, check back at least once and see – you may qualify for a credit.

Fare of the Day: Columbus to London $679 round-trip, including all taxes

Fly from Columbus to London for $679 round-trip, including all taxes, on Air Canada.

This fare is valid for Monday through Wednesday travel, departing from late August through December 20. Tickets require a Saturday night minimum stay, with an allowed max of 12 months.

For booking info, please visit our fare details page, as well as our London Heathrow page for a list of all current fares.

Fare of the Day #2: Los Angeles to San Salvador $228 RT including all taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fly from Los Angeles to San Salvador for $228 round-trip, including all taxes, on Continental.

This fare is valid for travel 7 days a week when available, from August through November. Probably won't last long, so grab a seat while you can!

For booking info, see our fare details.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Fare of the Day: Detroit to San Francisco $200 RT including all taxes, Labor Day travel

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fly from Detroit to San Francisco for $200 round-trip, including all taxes, on American Airlines.

This fare is valid for travel 7 days a week, with a 330 day travel period from early September onward.

Tickets require a 10-day advance purchase. For booking info, see our fare details.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Fare of the Day: Denver to Ft Lauderdale $176 RT including all taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fly from Denver to Ft Lauderdale for $176 round-trip, including all taxes, on American Airlines.

This fare is valid for Tuesday/Wednesday travel, with a 330 day travel period beginning in September. Fares require a 21-day advance purchase.

Seats are scarce, so move quick. For booking info, see our fare details.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Fare of the Day: Denver to Charlotte $167 RT including all taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fly from Denver to Charlotte for $162 round-trip, including all taxes, on American. Labor Day weekend travel! Other dates also available.

This fare is valid for Tuesday/Wednesday travel, with a 330-day travel period. No minimum stay required.

Seats are limited. For booking info, see our fare details.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

New Service, New Sales from JetBlue

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, July 18, 2011

JetBlue is beefing up service with new routes and additional flights along existing routes. Their current batch of discounted new flights includes:

New York, to Liberia $352 round-trip, service starts November 17

San Juan to St. Maarten $141 round-trip, service starts November 17

San Juan to St. Thomas $91 round-trip, service starts December 15

San Juan to St. Croix $88 round-trip, service starts December 15

Hartford to San Juan $284 round-trip, service starts January 5

Rules and restrictions will vary by route. Be sure and consult our fare details for booking info.

Some airlines may be matching along certain routes.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

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