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Entries by Jason
Q. Aloha Watchdog! Our family is hoping to fly to either Kauai or the Big Island from SFO in August of 2010. What time of year do airlines usually have big airfare sales to Hawaii? Mahalo!
A. And a big Aloha to you too! One of the most predictable thing about airfare sales is that they're unpredictable. If only we could say, "The week after the cherry trees blossom on the East Coast has always been the time of year that we've found the lowest fares for travel to..." In fact, the airlines use the element of surprise to try to undercut and undersell each other all the time with unadvertised sales and price reductions. Signing up for our alerts or visiting the website often is one of the best ways you can keep on top of what's going on with your route. You'll be able to keep an eye on both prices and fare periods. Then, when you see your period of travel coming up, you'll be coiled up and ready to pounce on a great price, like the sale fare predator we know you to be!
I'm planning a conference and am wondering if there are any typical trends about the cheapest days of the week to fly. I know the middle of the week is usually better, but what about Friday and Saturday? Which of these are cheaper? Any strategies to consider as an event planner if I'm trying to provide attendees with a good hub city for an event?
It would be nice if you could keep track of and periodically report not only luggage fees, but also pet in cabin fees and other assorted hidden costs. The charge to bring a cat on board in a carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you can be more than the human fare.
Your wish is our command! Actually, we've already done that and would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the links to all our handy-dandy fee and comparison charts are on the Airfare Watchblog page and right here on the Travel Q&A page. (Scroll down, look on the right hand side of the page for the list, and then click on the link for the chart that you need.) You can pick from our Frequent Flyer Fee Chart, our Baggage Fee Chart, our Miscellaneous Fees Chart, our Shipping vs Checking Luggage Chart, our Rule 240 Chart and our Flexible Date Search Comparison Chart!
Q. I no longer need to search between certain cities and am wondering how I discontinue a search between New York and Miami. I would like to change cities. Please advise how.
A. We'd like to suggest to all of our loyal subscribers that the timing is perfect for an early "spring cleaning" of your account settings. With all the great sales currently happening and vacations on everyone's mind, here are some tips and suggestions so that you'll get the info that you want.
Q. Why is it that with most of the fares you list , you have to book thru Travelocity or Orbitz etc. and not for example on the United website.... The exception is Southwest, which you do link to. By the way, thanks for having such a dreamy site.
Q. Just a quick note to thank you for the alert in October about Atlanta to Belize City for $200. We are just returning from our trip and had an incredible time!!!! I tell everyone about your website and review it daily - checking 5 different airports as well as the Top 50 Fares, and the Fare of the Day, plus several international locations! Thus far, we've traveled to Anchorage, Honolulu and Belize for $200 each - including all taxes! YOU ROCK !!! I'm anxiously awaiting your next email alert to determine our next travel destination. My bags are packed!
A. We could all learn a lesson from you about using Airfarewatchdog to its best advantage. One of George's fellow panelists at the LA Times Travel Show last week gave the following piece of advice, "Let the bargain inspire your trip." And you are obviously Exhibit A for how well that can work. We salute your free-spirited adventurous approach to travel, which also happens to be saving you a boatload of money on your vacations!
Q. We've been receving a lot of questions like the following three, lately:
I have over 100,000 miles in my frequent flyer account, which will disappear if I don't have any activity by the 24th of May this year. Short of taking a flight, is there anything else I can do to save these miles? A person at their call center said that the cheapest way to save them is to buy 1,000 miles at a cost of $52, which will take care of the problem. Is buying the miles the best way to go?
A. Apparently, there's something in the air. And apparently, it's not our subscribers who have been racking up frequent flyer miles. George blogged about the least painful way to keep your miles from going kaput last summer and the advice was so good that we're going to revisit it. The airlines are not doing a very good job of keeping you all abreast of the status of your miles and their imminent expiration. And why would they? If you lose your miles, they don't have to ante up to fly you or upgrade you.
Painlessly Preserving Your Miles
Q. Are there REALLY any last minute deals for travel? I have tried numerous sites and all of the costs are enormous. My wife and I were just looking for someplace warm for two days. Any suggestions would be appreciated. By the way do you always need to purchase at least 7 days in advance?
A. Other than the airlines' weekend fares, which typically only require a one day or no advance purchase(such as United's E-Fares or the Midwest fares in the blog), your best bet for last minute travel is the "Name Your Own Price" feature on Priceline. In our experience, their last minute fares simply can't be beat. True, you won't know your exact departure and arrival times or the airline you'll be flying, and there might be a connection involved. But the savings are typically up to 60% off what you'd pay otherwise. If you can live with a little suspense and mystery, this is the way to go. We use it quite a bit, and just last May managed to book a last minute (as in, before bed, night before) weekend from NYC to San Fran for just $160 round-trip, taxes and all. Not bad!
Q. I have a close friend who is 76 years old. He used his United Frequent Flyer Miles to book two tickets to Ft. Lauderdale within 21 days of the flight. United charged him $75.00 each to book. No problem there...Then, just two days before the flight, he had a stroke and was rushed to the Hospital. He spent 10 days in the hospital and another 10 days in ReHab. Prior to the flight, His wife called United to cancel the flight and asked that the points be placed back into his Bank. His Doctor faxed a letter to the airline as per instructions by the agent that cancelled the flight for her. United charged them an additional $150.00 per ticket (on the credit card they held from the original $150.00 booking fee) for placing the points back into his bank. They are now out $450.00. In talking with United, They claim that they do not have someone's health as an excuse for cancelling and that is why they charged the extra $150.00 per ticket. This is an older couple who live on a fixed income. The $300.00 charge under these circumstances is excessive and unreasonable. Can you help?
A. We recommend that you contact the consumer advocate reporter for your local news station, as well as the Ombudsman at Conde Nast Traveler. The Ombudsman will advocate for consumers with travel-industry related problems such as yours and write about the process in the magazine:
Ombudsman, Conde Nast Traveler
4 Times Square
New York NY 10036
Quite often, the threat of looking heartless, greedy and unnecessarily punitive in print or on TV can resolve such problems quickly! Good luck and please let us know how it turns out.
Also, see our blog post on this for some additional advice.
Q. I'm very upset. My boss closed his business suddenly, and I'm going in for unemployment on Monday. Prior to this, I had arranged a trip and now I hold tickets for airfare and a trip that I can't afford right now. Is there a hardship plea I could make to an airline supervisor? I have the "pink slip" letter from my boss as documentation.
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