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Entries during 2007-09
Q. My wife booked a trip on US Airways through Travelocity, and wasn't given the option of selecting her own seat. When she checked in, she realized she'd been given the worst seats on the plane, at the very rear, by the toilets. She says she will not use Travelocity in the future. What should she have done and when?
A. Hmm...I'm guessing she bought her fare close to flight time, or on a very heavily booked flight. It was probably US Air that wouldn't assign seats, because the flight was oversold. There's really not much you can do in a situation like that, but hey, it never hurts to ask an agent if they can assign you a different seat.
Q. I have another question in response to last week's lap-baby Q&A: Several years back, my wife and I were flying to Europe with our 1 year old daughter. We used our frequent flier miles to upgrade to business class, but were told our daughter's fare would be 10% of business fare, which came to $600! I asked United if we could just pay the 10% of the original coach fare, since neither fare came with an actual seat, but they declined. I later mailed United a complaint about the charge and they did send me a voucher for most of the amount. Anyway, is this standard practice?
A. Fortunately, it is not. And that's probably why United was so quick to send you a voucher. Sure, you may have been upgraded to business, but hey, your lap is just as no-frills as it would have been in coach. So unless they're doling out mini-jars of Gerbers foie gras and Tiffany's baby bottles of Dom Perignon 1953, we don't understand how they'd justify such a charge.
Glad to hear you were given a voucher, and you'll be pleased to hear that United no longer charges for lap children.
Q. I plan on flying home for Thanksgiving this year with my one-year old daughter. This will be my first time flying with a toddler and I was wondering what I should expect to spend for her fare. What's the norm?
A. Of course it varies according to airline, but can be anywhere from $10 to 10% of the adult fare for international flights.
Personally, we think it's a little silly to charge for babies/toddlers. After all, your kid isn't taking up a seat, and certainly isn't partaking of the free food and booze. Is the little tyke responsible for consuming extra jet fuel? We think not.
On a fare of say, $1200, you'll be billed $120 or more for the privilege of holding the child in your lap for 10 hours (on a business class fare of, say, $5000 you'll pay $500). Domestically, SkyBus, never to miss the chance to line their pockets, charges a $10 "administrative fee" for lap children. Is that to compensate for the oxygen your infant will be breathing during the flight (there is no charge if you stuff the junior in the overhead however….just kidding).
Q. Is Airfarewatchdog legit? Sometimes I have trouble finding the fares you list and begin to wonder.
A. Yes Virginia, we are legit. Just read this comment from our message boards. Or ask our moms.
Oh, and speaking of the message board, feel free to post on whatever topic you like. Or, let us rephrase: travel related topics. Not so much on your predictions for the next season of Lost, or how many grams of fat are in ham & cheese Hot Pockets, or anything as far out as that. You know. Travel stuff. Fare related stuff. Airlines, sales, and other chit-chattable stuff.
Q. Due to a family emergency, I was recently forced to cancel a flight I'd booked. The thing is, I dipped into my frequent flier miles to purchase the ticket. Since I didn't use them, I expected them to just be deposited back into my account. When I phoned the airline, I was told there'd be a $50 fee to do so! Is this common or was I duped?
A. Well, both. The majority of airlines do charge a fee when you need to cancel a flight purchased with frequent flier points, and ask to retain those unused miles. Who charges what? Well, Delta charges $75, United, US Airways, and American all charge $100, Northwest and Continental take $50 (unless you're Platinum Level, in which case it's free), and JetBlue charges TrueBlue members $45 to prolong their trip and an additional $45 when it comes time to rebook.
So let's say you used your points for a ticket that would have sold for $200 RT, and seven days before you fly, then decide not to use it. By the time you cough up those hefty fees ($100 for the last minute request, $100 to redeposit the miles...) you may have been better off just purchasing a new ticket! Seems like a lousy way for a business to reward their best customers.
Q. I've enrolled in several different frequent flier programs over the years and somehow have never managed to save what it takes for a trip to Europe. Is there a frequent flier program that allows my wife and I to combine our earned miles into one account?
A. As it stands, there aren't any domestic carriers that offer such a program. However, since you're interested in travel to Europe, you may want to check out the British Airways Executive Club, which allows a Household Account, good for up to 4 family members. You might also consider the Family Club from Japan Airlines, which is similar.
Q. In your experience, do airlines ever offer last minute discount rates over Christmas?
A. In the past, airlines have offered these discounts, especially for off peak holiday travel, such as Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day departures and New Year's Day returns. These deals are becoming less generous and more scarce these days, as overbooked flights become the norm. We suggest searching in early to mid November when these fares tend to pop up, that is if they pop up at all this year.
Oh, and should you feel like spending your holidays abroad this year, you might want to check out this deal on Continental's BusinessFirst to Europe.
Q: Since when have the airlines charged to go standby on the same day, either for a later or earlier flight? I was charged $75 recently on United to do this. Do all airlines have the same policy?
A $75 fee applies to restricted Delta Shuttle fares when changing to a peak flight time.
Fee depends on the ticket type. Economy fares incur a $100 fee, "Classic" fares a $50 fee; more expensive "Classic Plus" fares have no fee. There is no free standby, only confirmed same day changes. "Summit" frequent flyers can confirm a same day change for free.
A confirmed same day flight change costs $40.
Q. My sons and I are planning a trip to Atlanta next month to visit relatives, and I'd like to take a drive down to the Savannah area and tour historic homes. This will probably be of little interest to my 9 and 12 year old. Anything a little less "magnolias and doilies" in this area that you might know of?
A. Ooof, magnolias and doilies, eh? You may try reviving them with a trip to the Pirate House for dinner. Formerly an inn for pirates and other seafaring types as far back as the 1730s, it's one of the oldest homes in Georgia. There's even a secret tunnel connecting the inn to Savannah's port, used by pirates whenever they needed to make a quick getaway.
And you could also visit nearby Cumberland Island, a private wildlife reserve complete with wild horses and untouched dunes. If you'd like to stay the night, check into the Greyfield Inn, the only available lodgings on the island.
And if they're still complaining about how you forced them to tour of homes for 5 hours, pull out the big guns, by which we mean alligators. Okefenokee Swamp is just a few hours south, with park access in both Waycross and Folkston. Depending on water levels, you can even take them for a little boat ride.
Q. My boyfriend and I will be traveling to Marrakech next month and have been hunting online for accommodations. We contacted one riad/hotel in particular who then asked us to pay for the entire duration of our stay upfront, before arriving. Of course I expect to be asked for a deposit, but am I correct in being suspicious of paying all in advance?
A. That does sound a tad shady and we'd advise against it. If you suspect your hotel may not be a legitimate business, try sussing things out on a site like traveladvisor.com. Read the reviews (and that's reviews, plural, mind you), view the photos posted by previous guests and, if you're still not convinced, contact other commenters. Also helpful are photo sites like flickr.com, where you can try searching for your hotel by name and checking out the vacation pics of other guests.
If it weren't currently closed for renovations, we'd suggest you ask for room 414 at the Hotel La Mamounia, which served as the location of Doris Day and James Stewart's room in 'The Man who Knew Too Much."
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