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Entries during 2011-07
Q. I'm flying from Los Angeles to Brisbane on a Qantas flight departing at 11:50pm. I now need to book a flight from Bellingham or Seattle to Los Angeles to connect to my Quantas flight. If I arrive in Los Angeles at 7:37pm, is it enough time to make my Quantas flight? How much time should I leave between flights in order to arrive in plenty of time to check in for my 11:50pm flight?
A. Given all the things that can and do go wrong in the course of a trip, we're not so sure we'd cut it so close. What if your flight to Los Angeles is cancelled and there are no empty seats for the rest of the day? And what if your Qantas fare is non-changeable/non-refundable? Miss your flight to Brisbane and you might have to buy a whole new ticket on the next available flight, if there's availability.
I'd suggest arriving in Los Angeles the day before, just to allow yourself a little wiggle room. And if nothing goes wrong and you make it to LA with plenty of time to spare, you can always drop in on your long lost cousin Gertrude, or grab some In-and-Out Burger and loaf around Hollywood Blvd. Or something.
Q. I just returned to Seattle from Reno and my flight back on Saturday night on Alaska Air/Horizon was cancelled. The airline was unable to get me on another plane until Monday morning. Alaska Airlines put me up in a hotel and covered meals, but shouldn’t I also get compensation—at least reimbursement for my ticket since they definitely didn’t get me home within 24 hours? I’m a little irritated because I have a sneaking suspicion that they didn’t get me on another plane because I wasn’t complaining loudly and being unpleasant—I didn’t see anyone else from that plane at the hotel after Sunday morning.
A. That is a long time to be spending away from home. I'm surprised they couldn't re-route you, even if through Chicago, Atlanta, or another major hub. Alaska is one of the few airlines that still has a Rule 240 in its contract of carriage, meaning that they will put you on another airline if there is a flight irregularity within their control. I would definitely ask for a voucher good for future travel... maybe $200? Also, there's no law or rule saying that the airline is even required to put you up in a hotel or provide meals, and many won't step to the plate. So Alaska at least did that for you. By the way, those who complain in an unpleasant manner are usually the ones who get the least compensation. Maybe you didn't see the other "loud" passengers at the hotel because Alaska didn't give them hotel rooms.
*Follow up: This reader did indeed ask for compensation, and Alaska apologized and gave her a travel voucher for $300. So it's always a good idea to ask.
Q. I use Orbitz frequently for researching airfares (but then book direct on the carrier site—shame on me!). I often see fares with warnings on them saying that there are only “three seats left at this price” or two seats left or whatever the case may be. Are these real alerts, or are they pure marketing to get you to buy now instead of waiting?
A.They're probably real warnings. Airlines offer a small number of seats in each "fare bucket" (they are often over a dozen different fare levels on each route on any given day). However, airlines adjust the number at each price level throughout the day and week, so if you search again, you may find a different story. By the way, I can see why people search on Orbitz and then book on the airlines' sites directly, but often online travel agencies such as Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity will alert you that the best deal is flying out on one airline and returning or connecting on a second airline. Airline websites might show you higher fares because they want to keep you on their own planes for the entire trip.
Q. I booked a flight to Honolulu with a tight connection in San Francisco. Is there any way to predict if my inbound flight to San Francisco and my outbound to Honolulu will be on time?
Q. What type of documentation does a grandparent need to take her grandchild on a plane trip. Also, what type of documentation would be needed if only one parent is flying with a child when the parents aren’t married? I always insist on a letter from the other parent and I make sure that it is notarized. The kids tell me I am going overboard, but I would hate to get them there but unable to get them back without the proper documents. I also make them fill out a medical form in case of emergencies.
A. Doesn't sound overboard to us, not one bit. You should always travel with a notarized letter of parental consent, when traveling with children who are not accompanied by both their birth parents, especially when traveling to a foreign destination. In this day and age it can save you lots of grief and prevent the trip from being a no-go situation.
Q. I have been tracking fares from Chicago to Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey for the last few months. While I frequently see great deals to New York and New Jersey, in fact some amazing deals, I have yet to see an actual deal on flights to Philadelphia. I don't understand the discrepancy. The airports are only a couple hours apart and I could easily fly into Newark or New York instead of Philly so why is it so much more expensive to fly there? This is driving me a little nuts!
A. Part of the reason is that Philadelphia is a US Airways "fortress hub," meaning that US Airways is a predominate carrier there. True, Southwest now serves Philadelphia, and that has helped a bit, but New York's two major airports (LaGuardia and JFK) are served by almost every U.S.-based airline. Newark is a Continental Airlines hub, but Southwest recently started flying there and introduced some amazingly low airfares. One workaround is to fly into Newark and hop on the train to get to Philadelphia. The trip takes about an hour. You can also take one of the many discount bus services, such as Bolt Bus, between the two cities.
Q. Why do airlines charge more if you stay longer than 30 days? My husband and I are flying Lufthansa overseas this summer. My ticket is $566 more than my husband's, because he's staying just 3 weeks and I'm staying for 5 weeks. I would think to encourage tourism the price would decrease the longer you stay, but apparently not?
Of course, there are exceptions! Just look at this Fare of the Day, which works out to be a real bargain for lengthy stays!
Q. I paid for a flight from Nuremberg to Toronto. The airline had a stop in Frankfurt. When i checked in at Nuremberg, they told me they were not flying to Frankfurt, instead they gave me a ticket on a train to Frankfurt instead (train ticket costs 2 Euros). I had to lug my luggage to the train station, do a train transfer, and took almost twice as long to get to Frankfurt than the plane would.
Q. I received an airfare alert recently of a great fare from Houston to Tokyo on Delta for $456 roundtrip including taxes. I live in Dallas, and the fare from here to Tokyo was almost $1000 roundtrip with tax on the very same dates. However, searching further I discovered that on those dates I could fly Dallas to Houston for anywhere between $100 and $200 roundtrip. So doing the math—well, you see where this is going. My question: why didn’t any of the fare search sites I looked at, and I queried about a dozen of them including Travelocity, Kayak, and Orbitz, tell me how I could combine the two fares and save almost $500?
Q. I volunteered to give up my seat when my flight was overbooked and was given a free round-trip ticket in compensation. But now I’m finding that the ticket is hard to use because of restrictions, and it was only valid for a year and will expire soon. Can I trade it in for a voucher that will last another year, or shouldn’t I bother calling the airline to ask this favor?
A. It’s usually better to ask for a cash payment in situations like this, or at least a voucher in a set amount (such as $200 or whatever) rather than a free ticket. Often these free tickets are the equivalent of frequent flyer tickets or fares, which are capacity controlled. You can certainly ask the airline to extend the voucher. Miracles do happen.