Airfarewatchdog

Travel Q&A

You can submit your own question to us at askgeorge@airfarewatchdog.com. We will try to answer as many as possible.

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Entries during 2008-08

I'm within the sale period but still can't find the fare!

Q. Today's newsletter lists a fare from Calgary to Toronto for $199 round-trip, but I can only find fares for $300 round-trip and higher. My dates fall between the sale period, so what am I doing wrong?

A. One important thing to keep in mind: Sale fares aren't necessarily available on every day of the week during a given sale period. A certain sale may begin on November 2 and end on November 12, but the actual sale fares may only be available for travel on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.

Read over our Frequently Asked Questions for more fare finding tips that'll help you better navigate airfare sites and sales.

The Best in Bereavement

Q. I would like to either pay or use miles/points for a flight to see a relative who is terminally ill.

However, if she passes away before my flight leaves, I would prefer to cancel my flight arrangements.

Would all of the airlines allow me to cancel my flight and apply the cost or miles/points to another trip on the same airline, but to another city within a certain amount of time?

A. Many times, the fee deducted for changing/canceling your ticket is so high, it leaves you with barely anything left to apply towards another flight. For a quick look at which airlines are charging what for ticket changes, visit our fee chart.  As you can see, Southwest charges nothing for these changes, and will issue a credit for the amount of your original flight, good for one year. Bought it in miles? No prob. Southwest will re-bank those miles right back into your account. If only other airlines were as hassle free, give or take a few dress code crackdowns.

A ticket by any other name can be quite a pain

A. My Partner and I are traveling to Thailand in October on Thai Airways. Our fares were booked and paid for 3 months ago. Seeing as we're only 5 weeks away from traveling, we decided to pull our passports out (covered in dust) to make sure they were valid which they were. My passport is in my maiden name and I'd realized that I booked the ticket in my married name. I divorced 8 years ago but, kept my married name for the kids sake. I have spoken to the travel agent and they say I have 2 options. I can pay more to change the name on my ticket or change my passport to my married name, which I refuse to do. This was an honest mistake. Do I have any other options?

B. In this post 9/11 era, the name on the ticket must match the one on your passport. Call Thai Airways directly (at 1-800-426-5204) and ask for mercy, and ask nicely. They are generally pretty accommodating about these sorts of flubs, much more so than a domestic carrier might be. Even if they can't change your name over the phone, perhaps they'll be able to promise to do so, once they see your ID, when you check-in. This may even be worth a trip to the local Thai Airways office if they have one in your area.

Close but no Cigar

Q. A friend would like to celebrate her 60th birthday with a trip to Cuba in October. She lives in Delray Beach, Florida. What can you suggest?

A. Birthday or no, Uncle Sam still frowns upon- nay, strictly prohibits - casual jaunts down to Cuba.  Get busted breaking the law and you we mean your friend could face some hefty fines. However, if she has family in Cuba, or is engaged in some sort of educational, religious, or humanitarian endeavor, she can apply for a license from the US Government here.

There's been quite a bit of fuss recently over Florida travel agents who specialize in charters for Cuban-Americans. And meanwhile, in Canada, low cost carrier Sunwing Airlines will begin flights from Windsor, Ontario (conveniently south of Detroit) to Varadero, Cuba starting December 18. Just saying.

DIY'ing Domestic Stopovers

Q. Living on the west coast, I usually have to fly to New York before I head to Europe. I love New York and would like to stay over for three or four days. Are there any airlines that would allow me to "layover" for a couple of days, retrieve my luggage, then re-check it when I'm ready to continue and do all this at a reasonable round-trip price, or should I just book two separate trips?

A. While stopover arrangements like this certainly aren't unheard of (Air New Zealand often allows for stopovers in the Cook Islands, Cathay Pacific sometimes allows stops in Hong Kong, Icelandair often runs free stopover deals in Reykjavik for Euro-bound passengers...), it's not something we see much of from American carriers, and especially when we're talking about domestic stopovers. Well, unless you graciously choose to count sleeping overnight on the floor at O'Hare as a "domestic stopover" rather than a cancelled flight. Shop around. Try searching multi-city itineraries on a few booking sites and see if you can beat the cost of booking two separate trips.

Rebooked on different airline: whose fees apply?

Q. In May I booked a flight with Frontier, which has no 2nd bag fee. I arrived in my destination city without any hassles.

However, coming back two weeks later, Frontier had cancelled my flight and I was switched to a different airline, where I was asked to pay a fee for checking two bags. I screamed bloody murder and told them I had contracted with a carrier that had no second bag fee. And I brought two bags in reliance on that understanding. Finally, the attendants on airline number two told me they'd waive the fee because their second bag fee didn't formally go into effect until June. Am I missing something or could they have really charged me this fee?

A. You said it: The bottom line here is that you initially contracted with an airline with no second bag fee. If Frontier passes you over to an airline who insists on charging you a second bag fee, then Frontier should have taken care of this charge for you. There's also the little matter of you traveling prior to the start date of airline number two's new bag fee, which makes you doubly exempt.

Rebooked on different airline: Whose rules apply?

Q. Back in May, I booked a flight on Frontier, which had no second bag fee. I got to my destination without any hassle. However, coming back two weeks later, Frontier had cancelled my flight, and switched me over to a different airline which had a 2nd bag fee. I screamed bloody murder and told them I had contracted with a carrier that had no second bag fee and brought two bags in reliance on that understanding. The attendants on airline number 2 told me they would allow me to check my two bags, free of charge this time, because their second bag fee didn't formally go into effect until June.

Can they really get away with applying their bag fees to passengers passed off from other airlines?

A. Bottom line: You booked a ticket that included no 2nd bag fee. If airline number 2 had insisted on charging you the fee, then Frontier should have taken care of the charge for you. And if this is all prior to the start date of airline number 2's second bag fee, then there's no reason why they should have expected you to pay it at all.

Is it possible to transfer bags between different airlines?

Q. I'm traveling from Lubbock to Boston at the end of the month. The first leg of my trip is a round-trip ticket from Lubbock to Austin. From there, I booked a round-trip on JetBlue from Austin to Boston. Is there a way I can check my bags and have them transferred between two different airlines? Or will I have to go to baggage claim and recheck my suitcase during the layover?

A. Some airlines may have what is known as an inter-lining agreement witih other carriers to accept their transferred baggage. Typically, Inter-lining agreements are more common among legacy carriers, and not so much with the new crop, like JetBlue. Another variable to keep in mind: Inter-lining agreements are directional, meaning -for example- that Singapore Airlines may pass your bags over to Air Canada, but Air Canada won't necessarily pass your bags over to Singapore Airlines on the return. Give both your airlines a call and ask about those inter-lining agreements.

 

Taking the Bike Along

Q. My husband will be competing in a Triathlon in Chicago next weekend and booked a trip with United. The problem is his bike. Is it true that it will cost $250 to check it? That makes the trip almost impossible. Any ideas? We're considering taking the train instead.

A. United recently upped the fee on bicycles from $100 to $125 as of June 13. Tickets purchased before or on June 13, for travel before August 18 can still get away with the $100 fee. Everything after June 13 for travel on or after August 18 is stuck with the $125 fee. And yes, that's each way, so you're looking at a total of $250 round-trip. Quite a whopper. You'd probably be better off shipping the bike.

When your fare drops: the who & how of refunding the diff

Q. For our anniversary, my husband and I purchased two tickets to Auckland on Air New Zealand. At the time, we purchased what was the cheapest fare, but now I see that fares for the very same trip on Air New Zealand have dropped by several hundred dollars. I called Air New Zealand to ask about a credit or refund for the difference but was turned away. Is there something we can do to recover the difference?

A. Unfortunately, Air New Zealand does not offer any such deal. The price you pay is the price you're stuck with.

But, hey, you're not crazy for trying. A number of US airlines (Midwest, United, Southwest...) do offer vouchers for the difference in price, should fares drop after you book. Sometimes these vouchers come with fees which can sometimes cancel out the difference (tricky, tricky!), but it doesn't hurt to check.

Of course there's also Yapta.com, which -if you register your trip- will alert you if the fare drops. Also, Orbitz.com offers a price guarantee of sorts, good only if someone else books your exact itinerary at a lower price.

 

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