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Entries for the 'Air Travel' Category
Q: Am I better off buying airfare for my upcoming cruise through the cruise line or on my own? My initial check seems to show that the cruise line isn't offering any bargains.
A: Airfares bought through a cruise line as part of your cruise package are sometimes more expensive that what you might be able to arrange on your own. However, should there be a problem with your flights and you miss the boat, the cruise line will arrange, in most cases, to fly you to the next port of call on the itinerary at their expense, or if enough passengers are on the delayed flight they might even hold the ship. If you buy airfare on your own, you are on your own, and it's a good idea to buy travel insurance.
And it's also a great idea to arrive at your port of embarkation at least a day before the ship leaves in order both to see some of the departure city and more importantly to build in some insurance in case your flight is delayed or cancelled, especially in winter. You might also want to overnight in the final city on the cruise in case the ship is delayed due to engine problems or other unforeseen circumstances.
Q: want to use my frequent flyer miles on American Airlines for a couple of friends and myself, but when I try to search for an open jaw flight, I can't do it -- the form restricts me. Do you know if it's possible to use frequent flyer miles on an open jaw?
A: An open jaw ticket, for those who don't know, involves flying from Airport A to Airport B and then back from Airport C to Airport A. As we read Aadvantage's rule book, open jaw ticketing is allowed but you must do so by phone by calling AAdvantage Reservations at 1-800-882-8880. There may be some restrictions on routing. Other airlines including United (see rules) also permit open jaw reward travel, but they may require that you book by phone and may charge a phone booking fee, generally around $15 per booking. American states that "When multiple awards are claimed at the same time, each additional award is subject to a fee of $25.00 USD" so it looks like you'll be hit with a $25 fee for each of your friends.
A good site for international fares?
Q. Have you heard of a site called Lessno.com? I found some really low international fares on their site, but I've never heard of them.
A: According to Bo, our fare analyst who specializes in international fares, they do indeed have some really great fares, both in economy and business class. They also have a 7-day flexible travel search. If you've bought a ticket from them, please tell us your experience by using the comments link below.
Q: I'm taking the family on a Colorado vacation in April '08. We want to travel into Durango but return out of Grand Junction. Do you have any suggestions on how to find the best airline fares for an itinerary like this. We can use Albany, NY or Burlington, VT for departing airports.
A: Near as I can make out, for your routes and dates, there is no fare "penalty" for buying what they call in the industry an "open jaw" ticket (leaving from and returning to the same airport, Albany in your case, but flying into and returning from two different airports).
Q: My friend and I were staying in a two-star, but not inexpensive, hotel in Paris. We each asked for separate 6 AM wake up calls (we were staying in separate rooms). Mine came at 8 AM, his never came. As a result, we missed our onward flight, had to eat the cost of the non-refundable fares, and buy new fares, costing us about $800 total. Shouldn't the hotel compensate us? By the way, there were no alarm clocks in the rooms.
A: Ideally, yes, but you should never, ever rely on a hotel wake up call! What if the power goes out and the automated system is down? Or the front desk forgets to call, which has happened to us in the past. Always, always travel with a lightweight travel alarm and bring extra batteries for it just in case. As for compensation, the most the hotel might offer, if you ask, is a free room night or two on your next stay, so I would go that route. But do you really want to stay there again?
Q: I'm expecting my first grandchild next year. Is there any way I can get a great fare that will get me there just before she delivers? Would it be better to book the flight now and change it to coincide with the baby's arrival?
A: There are several ways to approach this. One is to try to find a low fare on Hotwire.com, since their last minute fares are quite good. You may not learn the exact departure time or airline until after you pay for the flight, but you can choose the departure day.
In the event that you are over 65, Southwest is a good choice, because despite their recent fare simplification to three basic fares (Wanna Get Away, Business, and Business Select) they do still offer senior fares which can be booked at the last minute for really low prices. (For example, we checked Austin to Birmingham for same day travel recently, and found that the Wanna Get Way fare was sold out, and the lowest business fare was $268, but the last minute Senior Fare was $165 one way.)
Even if you're not over 65, Southwest is still a good choice. If you book a trip while a sale is in progress, far in advance, and need to change it to coincide with the baby's arrival or for any other reason, Southwest will not charge the $50-$100 change fee typical of many airlines.
Instead, they will take the value of your fare and apply it to another fare within a year of the original purchase date. The only caveat is that if there is no fare sale that applies to your new dates of travel then your new fare may be higher than your original fare. But at least you're not socked with a $100 fee.
Q. I recently found a round-trip flight on Orbitz from OAK to IAD for about $400. The outbound trip was listed as first class on US Airways and my inbound was in economy with United. Thinking this wasn't bad for one-way of first class, I went ahead and booked it. Three days before I was scheduled to fly, Orbitz notified me that there had been some sort of computer malfunction and they could only offer the economy ticket on US Airways.
The whole reason I purchased the $400 ticket was for the first class segment. Otherwise I would have gone with a lower fare in economy, which is where I ended up flying anyway. Is this a bait and switch tactic? Orbitz said there was nothing they could do aside from offer me a $50 credit. Anything I can do?
A. Orbitz should definitely honor the ticket. What happened to their customer care commitment? If you bought an HDTV online and they switched it to a regular TV at the last minute, would that be acceptable? We're going to call Orbitz and see if they'll fix this. So stay tuned!
Q: What's your personal favorite site for searching airfares? I’m partial to Kayak.com, but sometimes I use Travelocity and Orbitz. Is there one site that’s best for last minute deals? What about Mobissimo?
A: There really isn’t one “magic bullet” Web site, even though travel techies have been trying to build one for years.
One of the problems is that low fare leader Southwest Airlines, now the largest US carrier based on domestic passengers boarded, doesn’t release its fares to any site other than its own. That’s also true of Allegiant Airlines. Plus, those Spirit Airlines special fares, which you can sometimes actually book, only appear on Spirit’s site. And I often see that airlines save their best fares for their own websites or they offer promo code discounts if you book on these sites (even Kakak omits these).
When I'm booking my own travel, I'm usually flexible in my dates, so I start my search with Hotwire.com, Kayak or ITA Software, which have very good flexible date search functions. Cheapair.com has a good flexible search, too, but only for domestic and US-Canada round-trips, and it's an especially clean and easy to use site. I also like Orbitz, although lately its flexible search has been shut off and on and off again. If I’m looking for a flight between two foreign countries, I use Mobissimo.com. As for last minute deals (when you have less than a 7-day advance purchase), I suggest using the name your own price (bidding for travel) feature on Priceline.com.
Q: I will try to briefly describe my son's 24 hour delayed flight to Nice, France via Paris.
I am trying to get some compensation from Air France... just wondered if you thought I had any chance or have a leg to stand on.
I find it hard to believe that everything has to be done through regular mail with them. There is no customer service except via mail. Of course I'm sending everything certified receipt.
Flight booked on Air France- departing Logan, July 12 at 5:30 PM - (arriving in Paris and connecting to Nice). Plan to leave our home in Sharon, MA at 2PM. Just before leaving, Brad checks his email for one last time- there is an email from Air France: flight is delayed until 3:00 AM. (I suppose we are to be thankful we did not arrive at the airport to find that news. Both by phone and in the email we were told that it was 'technical difficulties').
Awaken at midnight, prepare to leave for the airport, check email- None! But Brad decides to check the Air France website for the heck of it... flight is postponed until 9:00 AM! Not even an email this time!
Try calling Air France- either the 800 number or to find someone at Logan. No one is available.
Awaken at 6:00 AM to try to confirm that the flight will indeed be taking off at 9:00. No one answers phones at Air France till 7:00 AM
Finally found out that it will leave at 5:30 PM, a full 24 hours later
(no email, no phone call).
Arrive at Logan at 2:30 PM. Brad goes inside-lines are horrendous. We call Air France from the car and they tell us on the phone that the flight left at 9 AM that morning! We tell them that it is on the departure board for 5:30 PM.
Brad lost a full day of his trip. Lost a confirmed reservation for Friday night in Nice. Lost a full day wages for the Thursday that was never a travel day. Planned to leave for the airport three separate times.
Wonder what they'll do, if anything, to compensate us. What do you think?
A: I think that Air France is one of the worst airlines in the sky. Readers may recall the case of the couple celebrating their wedding anniversary with a flight to France from Washington. They were caught in a horrendous traffic jam, and arrived at the airport 60 minutes before departure, only to be told by Air France that they could not be boarded because they were late for check in, and although there were coach class seats on the next flight out that day, they'd have to buy full fare economy tickets to get on board, at $2400 each. And Air France wouldn't even apply the cost of their original fares to the new fare, or refund their fare if the decided not to fly, which in the end they decided not to do.
I tried going to bat for them, but both Air France's public relations department and their New York-based PR agency were useless (basically, their modus operandi is to ignore problems rather than fix them).
I advise consumers to avoid Air France at all costs until they get their act together. They are an incredibly arrogant airline.
You should also report the airline to the FAA using this page of their Web site, and send Air France a copy. You should continue to pursue this with them and they may be shamed into action, but they'll probably just offer a voucher good for future travel, which at this point is probably useless to you.
Q: I was slated to fly from Boston to Rome (nonstop) to meet my friend from Indianapolis who was waitng for me there. I arrived at the airport about 2 1/2 hours ahead of my scheduled 6:15 pm take-off. After waiting for almost 2 hours in a huge line, the folks at Alitalia closed off the ticket/boarding pass gates. We were told that they would be with us shortly. After about a half hour, the staff then announced that their was no more room left on this flight! I was bewildered because I had purchased my ticket in April and here it was late June?? I was amongst about 10 or so people who were shut out of this flight because "We overbooked this flight". After unsuccessfully trying to put me on a 9:45 pm flight on Lufthansa, my options were: 1) Take a flight the next night at 6pm to Milan and then change planes after a layover to Rome; 2) Wait 2 nights and fly Boston to Rome on a similar flight. I opted for the 1st option because of my friend who was waiting for me in Rome. Alitalia then gave me a 125 euro ($168 USD) voucher to use on my next flight on Alitalia for all my troubles. They're awlful presumptuous to think that I'd ever want to fly with them again!! My question is, is this common practice for some airlines to conduct this type of business? Can they be held accountable for this?
A: Alitalia pulled a fast one here. According to Bill Mosley, aviation spokesman for the US DOT, bumping compensation rules apply to all flights originating in the US, no matter where they're headed. Those rules stipulate compensation ranging from $200 to $400 per passenger, depending on the cost of the ticket and the length of the delay. You would be entitled to the full $400, an amount which, unfortunately, has not changed in many years and is in woeful need of an adjustment for inflation (Congress is currently considering an overhaul of these rules; write your representatives and urge them to follow through). You should file a complaint with the DOT and go back to Alitalia and explain that they are not following the rules.