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Q. My flight was canceled and I was told that the airline could not get me on another flight to my destination until tomorrow, because all the flights were full. How do I get home?
A. Flights are more full these days due to the capacity cuts over the past few years. It can be a major hassle to rebook a flight after it has been canceled, especially at peak travel times when most flights are at or near full capacity. Acting fast is essential and being proactive to change routing in advance of a major storm can help you get to your destination as planned.
One suggestion is to call the airline while waiting in line at the airport to try and get ahead of the line for rebooking. Also, if you are flying out of a hub or there are flights going out to other destinations from where you are, look into other routings. We have a handy list of links to airlines' route maps here. Sometimes you may be able to piece together an odd routing that the airlines' system won't come up with by simply inputing A to B. Have a look at the departure board at the airport and see what flights are actually leaving and see if you can work out a connection. It may mean an extra stop, but it may get you home the quickest.
Also, look into nearby alternate airports and taking ground transportation. A little creativity during flight cancelations can sometimes help you get you where you want to be sooner.
Q. I flew recently and there were two "service animal" pets in the cabin and they were not in their cages. I seriously doubt they were service animals. Anyone can now buy a service animal "vest" online, and in fact I have a friend who has done this (actually, an ex-friend) even though she has no "disability" other than being a nervious wreck who should probably just take Xanax instead. I am severely allergic to pet dander and had a horrible asthma attack. Delta tried to buy me off with a form letter and a $50 credit. What are my rights?
A. Unfortunately, there's no federal or other certification process to prove that people have disabilities that would prevent people from scamming the service animal policies of the airlines (or indeed, of any common carrier--the same thing applies to trains, subways, and buses). And yes, people do scam the system. You basically have no rights at all, other than to ask the airline to put you on a pet-free flight, but that's often unworkable or inconvenient. You should certainly ask the airline to note in your record that you're allergic to pet dander and hope that they will alert you to any pets that have been confirmed on your flight.
Q. What is the best way to activate the travel insurance I purchased? Due to an unexpected illness, a person in my party cannot take the trip. We are two weeks out from the travel date.
A. First, congratulations for purchasing travel insurance. The most common reason for making claims on such insurance is indeed sudden illness, either experienced by the person buying the insurance or by someone in the traveling party. In order to file a claim, under the fine print of most policies the person who is ill must seek medical attention before the date of travel. You cannot simply tell the insurer that you or your traveling companion is ill and leave it at that. Create a paper trail showing a diagnosis and that medical treatment was sought.
Above image via Shutterstock
Q. Do airlines decrease and increase the number of seats available at advertised sale prices? I ask because last week I saw a sale advertised on an airline web site and went to find seats for my dates of travel but was unsuccessful. However, the next day my cousin, who was making the same trip to attend a wedding, found seats at the sale fare on the exact same flights I searched the day before.
A. There are many reasons why a sale fare might be unavailable one day but available the next. Airlines not only adjust fares, but also the number of seats available at those fares. And if someone has a sale fare on "hold" but doesn't buy it, the sale seat will go back into inventory. So it pays to be diligent and persistent.
Above image via Shutterstock
Q. I booked tickets for both myself and my mother for travel to India. My mother got sick two days before traveling and was admitted to the hospital. I was hit with $200 cancellation fee and denied a refund. I booked the ticket through CheapOair. Shouldn't I be entitled to a full refund?
A. I'm assuming you didn't buy travel insurance. If you booked with a credit card, there may still be hope! Some cards do offer protections for trip interruptions, delays, even lost luggage. You may find you're covered for the full cost of the trip as this explains.
Q. We are thinking of traveling to Boston in August for vacation. Where do you recommend we stay? What are the must see things to do? Is there a need for a rental car? All I know for certain is we will definitely catch a baseball game.
I do have a soft spot for just walking around Back Bay, the South End, and Beacon Hill.. it’s a beautiful city. And I really enjoy having dinner or just drinks at the Top of the Hub, atop the Prudential Building in Back Bay. But other than that, enjoy the Sox!
Q. We lost a $400 Southwest gift card at the airport. We have the card number and know it wasn't used. Southwest says they are sorry for our loss but claim there is nothing they can do. Do we have any options?
A. As long as you have a record of the card number, it seems like you should be able to apply the gifted amount to bookings, at least online. Still, it's better to choose an email card rather than those plastic gift cards. Not only does an e-gift card reach the recipient faster (under 12 hours according to Southwest.com), there are no shipping fees as with a physical card.
Q. My sister-in-law has two long-haired cats. She always travels with them, bringing along a friend who can take the second cat. They of course are put under their seats. I am highly allergic to cats, and if I were to be seated near these cats, I would develop serious breathing problems. A long flight could become a devastating health problem. I also wonder about the re-circulated air? What is my recourse?
A. I honestly don't think you'd have a problem asking to switch seats with a passenger who isn't allergic (or maybe one who even loves cats!). You'd just ask the flight attendant to reseat you, or offer to buy the accommodating passenger a cocktail or two. I wouldn't worry too much about re-circulated air, but if you develop a problem you can ask the flight attendants to ask the captain to increase the amount of fresh air into the cabin (the cockpit can adjust the ratio of fresh to re-circulated air, which is any case is filtered).
Cat image via Shutterstock
Q. We have a 23-hour layover in Hong Kong on our way back from Bali to Vancouver in February 2015. What would you recommend seeing and doing in this amount of time? We love to walk, swim, see beaches, hike, bike, eat Chinese food, see museums, and shop.
A. I've always felt that Hong Kong has the best Chinese food in the world, especially seafood dishes and dim sum, so eating is a must. I had some of the best dim sum ever at the Hotel Icon's Above and Beyond restaurant in Kowloon. To get oriented, you might consider taking a hop on/hop off bus tour with the Big Bus Company. Day and night tours are available (there have been a few route changes due to the recent street demonstrations, but chances are they'll be over by the time you visit). Splendid Tours also offers a variety of sightseeing options, including an airport transit tour (leaving from the airport) that lasts 8 hours. The city has managed to retain a lot of green space, and hiking is a popular activity with locals and visitors, and February is a good month to hike since the weather is cooler. The Peak Circle Walk affords some great views of the city, and the Dragon's Back trail is also very popular. As for museums, the Hong Kong Museum of History is the number 3 rated attraction on TripAdvisor.com. For more suggestions, check out TripAdvisor's list of top things to do in the city. If you're interested in art at all, the city now has a huge number of galleries showcasing established and emerging local artists, and gallery hopping is one of my favorite ways to spend time while visiting.
Above image via Shutterstock
Q. I noticed recently on Airfarewatchdog that I could fly on Southwest from Washington to Dallas for $49 each way and also from Dallas to Phoenix on Southwest the same dates for $49 each way or $198 round-trip. But Southwest was selling Washington to Phoenix as one fare for $358 round-trip. So why can’t I just buy two separate fares for the $98 each way and fly that way? Why doesn’t Southwest’s computer system price the cheapest fare?