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Entries by George Hobica
Q. Boy am I dumb. I booked a one-way fare on Expedia (on Delta Airlines) from Seattle to Albuquerque for $160—pretty good fare, I thought! The problem is that I thought I was making it for Tuesday, July 6 but it was actually for Tuesday, June 29! Big surprise for me when I showed up at the airport. I ended up taking a Southwest Airlines flight, as that was the best walk-up option.
As for the $160, Expedia says that I never cancelled the flight—this is a “no-show.” They say that this is Delta’s deal, not theirs. Delta says there’s a $150 change fee, and that doesn’t leave me with a lot.
Is there any way I can spin this into a $160 credit voucher with Delta? Or is a “no-show” a ticket to “good-bye money”?
A. Or maybe “bad buy” money. I’m afraid you’re out of luck here. Some airlines will negate the value of your non-refundable ticket in its entirety (i.e., it has no value) if you fail to cancel and don’t show up for your flight. It’s a really good idea, when booking a ticket online, to call the airline’s 800 number and double-check the dates. Keep in mind that many airlines will allow you to cancel or change a reservation if you do so within 24 hours of booking. If you have “fat fingers” it’s wise to book with those airlines. For a list of these carriers, please see our chart.
Q. Quite by accident, I came across the news that American Airlines is raising its checked baggage fees in February, this time to $25. I didn't see that mentioned on Airfarewatchdog, but I was out of town recently and might have missed it. Can you publish an updated baggage fee chart?
A. We’ve been writing about these increase fees extensively, and we have indeed published an updated baggage fee chart. You can find it here (or you can always google “airline baggage fees” and it should be the very first search result). Many airlines have raised the first and second checked bag fees for domestic travel by $5 dollars. Only Southwest Airlines, of the major U.S.-based carriers, does not charge a fee for the first two checked bags. You can save $2-$3 on Continental, Delta, United and US Airways by paying the fee online, but American does not offer this discount.
Q. I want to book a one-way flight from Burlington, VT to Philadelphia in with no connection. The nonstop flight costs $450 but if I book a one-way flight to Richmond via Philadelphia the price is $69. I called the airline’s 800 number and was told I could get off at Philly and just not take the second leg to Richmond (they also told me they would refund me the difference which I know is not true). Not trusting this answer, I went to the Burlington airport in person. The airline agent was very helpful and said I needed to do a couple of things to make this work: don’t check bags and don’t book a return flight on the same reservation as they would cancel my return if I didn’t complete the outbound. Why in the world would they price this so differently? And is the information I received accurate?
A. I’m really surprised that an airline employee would advise you to use what the industry refers to as “hidden city ticketing.” As far as I know, it’s against most airlines’ policies, and US Airways labels this as an “inappropriate booking practice” on its web site. The only airline that flies from Burlington to Philadelphia nonstop is US Airways, and since they have a monopoly on that service they can charge whatever they think the traffic will bear. Were you to buy this fare from a travel agency, US Airways might charge the agency the full $450 fare by issuing a “debit memo.” Also, were you to do this often, you might find yourself kicked out of the airline’s frequent flyer program, so it’s best not to enter your membership number.
Q. We are traveling to Florida in April 2010 from Philadelphia to Orlando most likely wth Southwest Airlines. The flight per person each way is currently $87.00. Is there any promo codes available for us? We are staying with relatives so I don't need a car or hotel.
A. We don't know of any Southwest promo codes at present, but last year they had quite a few, including a 50% off deal to Orlando, Salt Lake City, Buffalo and other cities. We list all promo codes the airlines come up with in the Airfarewatchblog, and you can sign up for Southwest's email stream here.
Q. With more and more airlines charging a fee for advance seat assignments, what advice do you have if you want to avoid the fee but still want a particular seat? I travel by myself, with only carryon baggage. I prefer a window seat, in the back of the plane. Last reclining row, and NEVER over a wing (bad view). I love to get to the airport early, and am usually one of the first on the plane as I don't care how quickly I get off. What are the chances of me getting my preferred seat without paying the fee? And what are the chances if I want a more popular seat (bulkhead aisle)? Even saving ten dollars helps, even if I just get to park a little closer :)
A. Well luckily, most people don't want seats near the last row, so you may not have that much competition. Did you know that seats over the wing tend to experience less turbulence? And most people want to be at the front of the plane so they can get out quicker, or they want exit rows, which are often over the wings. It really depends on how full your flight is. Remember, too, that if you're a loyal frequent flyer, with some airlines you may get precedence in seat selection, no matter how much you pay for your flight. So it pays to fly the same airline exclusively.
Q. What's the deal with Y-Up and Q-Up fares?
A. These are restricted (as in there is a cancellation/change penalty) economy class fares that are cheaper than full fare economy class, and seated in first or business class.
These fares can be especially handy for business travelers looking to skirt office policy against buying business class fares.
Q. I am going to Jamaica with my girlfriend this weekend. At the time I booked the flight, I was kind of rushed and distracted and I booked it for the evening. In the fullness of time, I realize that we will not be making it out of the airport and to our rental car before 8:30pm (flight arrives at 7:30). We then have to drive for 2 hours. Anyway, long story short, I would like advice on the best way to minimize cost of changing the flight time. Not date, just time. Are airlines often willing to do this at a nominal fee if there are seats available? How does one go about asking them to do this--does it matter?
A. Airlines usually charge for a confirmed same day flight change and they're often higher for international travel than for domestic. For example, US Airways charges $50 for flights in the US and to Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, and changes are only allowed to earlier flights, not later. However, if you wish to take your chances and fly standby for the later flight, there may be no charge. You're taking a chance with standby, since the earlier flight may fill up.
Q. Our son and daughter-in-law are moving from Portland OR to Hartford CT for 3 years while he completes his medical residency there. We plan on flying to see them at least 3 - 4 times a year. Is there any way we can get reduced airfare for traveling the same route frequently or advance purchasing several tickets all at once?
A. We don't know of any airline that offers a discount for frequently traveled routes. What we'd suggest is maximizing your money spent on airfare instead. You could pick a single airline to travel with, and open a frequent flyer account, plus a credit card affiliated with that particular frequent flyer program. Charge your trips on that card, and use it for online shopping from the airline "shopping mall" (more on that subject here) to rack up extra miles. This way, you'll be able to rack up enough miles for free trips pretty quickly.
Q: I read somewhere, perhaps on your blog, that airfares are updated 3 times during the week, and once on Saturdays and Sundays at around 5 PM. So please explain this: last Sunday, I was looking for a one way fare from the New York City area, any airport, to Phoenix for travel on February. After much searching, I found a fare on Continental for $109 one way, for their first and last flights of the day. I had to confirm this with my husband, who was not at home at the time. A couple of hours later, I went back to Continental.com and the $109 fare was nowhere to be found. Instead, there were fares over $200! This was around 2 PM ET. So how do you explain this?
A: It's true that airlines do not file new fares on weekends until about 5 PM. However, what you encountered was seat availability. All the seats at the lower fare must have been sold out between the time you saw the fare and you checked with your husband and went back to book. When you see a strikingly low fare, you've got to jump on it. You have time to continue searching for your flight, and who knows, Continental may open up more seats at the lower fare.
Q: I love your site... it e-mails me deals form my favorite airports and destination each day, but my dad told me about Kayak.com, and it's almost always had better deals than the ones you post. I was able to get tickets on Northwest from CMH to HNL for $478+Tax/fee ($538 total) RT this morning. I've been tracking this since August of last year on your site, and just two weeks on Kayak. I'm not sure what they do different, but I thought I'd give you a heads up so you can figure it out and improve your site. Again I love your site. Thanks Ryan
A: Ryan, glad you love us....or do you? :) We did see that Columbus, OH to Honolulu fare, but since it's only valid for travel through Mar 4 with a 14-day advance purchase and is about $540 RT including tax, I guess we didn't think it was all that stellar. Truthfully, it's not a bad fare, but we've seen that route lower. When we first started Airfarewatchdog.com, we made a commitment to only list fares that were at or near their historical lows, unless there were other things about the fare that made it special, such validity over 330 days of travel, no advance purchase, etc. So, for example, we have seen fares to Honolulu from the West Coast for long travel periods at $200 RT plus tax, and from everywhere on the East Coast the the Midwest from $300 RT plus tax.
Probably those days are never coming back, and we should rethink what a good fare is these days. It's really a judgement call, and we prefer to not alert people to fares that they'll discover later could have been purchased for less. Had that fare only had a one day advance purchase, for example, as many fares right now to Cancun do, we probably would have alerted people to it. Or had it been good for more days of the week than Tue/Wed. So you see our dilemma. Anyway, thanks for writing and glad you love (like? :) our site!