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Entries during 2007-11
Q. I'd like to take a trip with my husband to Antarctica next spring. What's the best way to go about booking such a thing?
A. There are plenty of cruises that make the trip. You might want to start by searching the directory of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. You'll be spending most if not all of your time on a boat, so it's important to find the one that suits you best, be it a cushy traditional cruise or a smaller ship that allows you plenty of time ashore. As with planning any trip, do your homework and search online for travel blogs and passenger reviews of the cruise you're considering. California based Cheeseman's Ecology Safaris, posts their logs from previous trips, with photos, ect. to give potential travelers an idea of what to expect.
Q. Why don't I ever see any flights shown from Tucson to Boston? I only ever see Phoenix to Boston listed.
A. Most of the time, If you don't see a route listed on your city page, it's because the fares for that particular route seemed a little too steep for us. If you fly out of smaller airports, like Tucson, where there are fewer airlines competing, then fares may be a tad higher, at least to some markets, such as Boston. Phoenix, being a larger airport with more flights, more airlines, and more competition, will have consistently lower fares as a result. But don't worry. We're on the lookout!
Q. Is there a shuttle bus from LaGuardia, NY airport to JFK, NY airport? If so, what is the cost, and how long does it take?
A. There's the New York Airport Service which costs $13 and takes about 45 minutes. These leave every half hour and can be caught right outside the terminal, along with other ground transportation.
And if you're in a rush, you can always get a cab from the taxi dispatcher. From LaGuardia to JFK, you're looking at a fare of $25 to $29, and it should only take you about a half hour to get there.
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.
Categories: Air Travel
Q. What is the responsibility of the airline when they change the dates of my flight?
A. Unfortunately, none. Even if it ends up costing you financial hardship, there's no law against it. There should be, but there isn't. You might ask the airline to put you on another airline that serves the route when you want to fly, at no additional cost. But chances are they won't. Usually when this happens, alternate airfares bought at the last minute cost more than what you paid originally. Plus there's often additional hotel expenses if you're traveling back home rather than from home. This is why we encourage everyone to have travel insurance. In the meantime, we should all write our legislators and ask for some kind of regulation that protects consumers.
Q. I'll be in London next week on business and am considering a side-trip to Paris. I've checked into Ryanair and EasyJet but this is all so last minute, and the fares were kind of steep. Could I do better?
A. You sure can! Eurostar recently launched new faster service between London and Paris, with a travel time of 2 hours and 15 minutes. And we were able to find last minute fares for about $$80. That's a far better deal than what you'll find for last-minute trips on Ryanair or any of the budget airlines. But here's the trick: Don't book your ticket at the train station, get it online at Eurostar's US site, where the fares are a tad cheaper for those paying in dollars.
Another reason for taking the train: Once you factor in your travel time to one of London's fringe airports like Luton or Stansted, plus the arduous process of checking in and waiting in line again and again, your travel time will surely exceed the 2 hours and 15 minutes you could have spent comfortably on the train.
As airline folk, it's hard for us to say, but in this case taking the train is your best bet.
Q. My husband and I will be traveling to Paris on Air India next month and he's concerned about the inflight meal. In addition to his sensitive stomach, he's not much for Indian food. I'm sure there would be something mild available for people with dietary restrictions but he isn't convinced, and now he's considering bringing his own snacks. Can you shed any light?
A. Well, first of all, it's always a good idea to toss a snack or two in your carry-on. These days you never know when you might sit on the tarmac for hours on end (cough cough, JetBlue, cough cough). As far as your meal concerns go, I wouldn't worry. Most airline food, even cuisine as notoriously kicky as Indian, is blanded down to suit the general palate. Also, Air India is actually very good about meeting the various dietary needs of its passengers, with plenty of options - even in coach.
If you need a visual aid when relaying this to your husband, you can check out airlinemeals.net, one of our favorite sites, for images and info on inflight meals served by every airline under the sun, with ratings and comments from passengers. Very entertaining stuff.
Q. I am getting married in April and have booked flights to my (domestic) destination. My question is, can I carry on my wedding dress? I do not want to pack it in a suitcase, for obvious reasons, and also would not feel confident that my dress will arrive wrinkle free if packed in a garment bag. I have only one day before the wedding from arrival, so I need to make sure that my dress is perfect as I will not have time for a cleaning. Can I make arrangements ahead of time with the airline ( I am flying Skybus, good luck to me) or would I be able to hold it the whole time? Are there special rules and leniency for a stressed out bride?
A. This could be a problem. You'd have to put the dress in the overhead, where it would take up a ton of room. So the flight attendants may object, not to mention the other passengers. And since Skybus charges for checked luggage, people really fill those overheads. Perhaps you could arrange in advance to have the dress pressed upon your arrival. But we think with the right packing job ( think sturdy boxes or even trunks, garment bags, and a generous amount of tissue) you may not even need it. Sure, you could end up paying more in oversized baggage fees then you did for your actual ticket, what with their $10 fares, but hey, it beats having to wear it onboard!
Q. On a recent trip to South Africa, my wife and I purchased a bracelet worth about $400 as a gift for our daughter. It was wrapped up and tucked out of sight in our checked luggage, but we arrived home to find it had been stolen. I've been round and round with the airline, who insist they aren't responsible. What, if anything, can I do here?
A. All airlines exclude liability for valuables like cash and jewelry, no doubt because those are the first things that get stolen by baggage handlers and security people. You could file a claim with your homeowners insurance, but that would increase your premium and may even result in loss of coverage if you've made too many claims in the past, so I wouldn't go that route. Just remember not to check valuables next time, always keep them on your person, and just be thankful that it wasn't an even bigger loss!
Q. I was told once by Air Canada that rule 240 does not apply to Electronic tickets holders, only those who hold paper tickets. I felt that was an excuse, and an easy way for airlines to get out of the rule 240. Can you clarify this? Thanks!
A. Some airlines may limit their Rule 240 coverage to paper tickets, but not Air Canada. We spoke to a reservationist this morning who assured us that their Rule 240 is valid for both paper and electronic tickets.
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