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Entries during 2009-12
Q. I just wanted to thank you for all the great information on Airfarewatchdog (and watchblog). I emailed you awhile back about a delayed flight out of Gatwick (6 hour delay). You told me to pursue the airline, which I did. But after going through the hoops with US Airways, I had about given up, although they did end up offering me a (useless) $600 voucher.
A. Yes, we had read about this company, and thank you for reminding us to share it with our readers.
Q: Is it common for travel agencies like Travelocity to call in the middle of the night to confirm payment?
I purchased three tickets from New Jersey to New Orleans on Continental, through Yahoo Travel, which is powered by Travelocity, using a credit card belonging to my father, who lives in Brazil. The credit card went through, but I was still waiting for confirmation, which is normal when you use international credit cards.
At 11:14 p.m. ET on the day I made the purchase, a lady, who never identified herself, called me to speak to my father-in-law. I told her that it was late at night, it would be hard to get a hold of him at that time. Little did I know they had called him in Brazil already, where the local time was 2:10 a.m. Thinking it was a prank call, my mother-in-law answered but hanged up on the caller.
The lady, who was very rude, said that unless she spoke to my father-in-law at that exact moment, she would cancel my flight reservations. I told her that I'd have to call her back at a more convenient time. She then said my reservation was being cancelled and hung up on me! About 5 minutes later, I received an email confirming this.
I called Yahoo Travel, and they wouldn't confirm they called me. They did say that they had notations in their system saying someone tried calling me and that I would not provide the required credit card information and that I was rude to the caller. I told them what time I was called, and they just said, "Sorry. We apologize for calling you so late, but we really needed the information." This lady obviously only looked at her local time, which happened to be in India. It was about 10 a.m. in India at the time of the call, and apparently she didn't bother to check the local time in Rio de Janeiro or my local time in New Jersey. Besides that, they just told me, "Maybe we can help you book another flight?"
Obviously, I did not book another flight with them.
I have written to both Yahoo and Travelocity. What else should I have done? I can't believe a company would call someone in the middle of the night! I don't even know what to do next. I obviously lost the rate I had locked and a lot of sleep.
A: This is what happens when companies outsource. Delta Airlines is no longer outsourcing calls to India after years of complaints. United Airlines has also cut back. With so many people out of work in the U.S., I think it’s a crime that we are sending these jobs overseas. Bad policy, bad service. You did the right thing by complaining to Yahoo Travel and Travelocity. Maybe they’ll wise up and stop outsourcing. Meanwhile, many airlines offer decent fares from the New York/New Jersey area to New Orleans. In fact, US Air last I checked has a $168 round-trip, year-round fare and there are frequent sales on that route, so I think you’ll be able to find a deal.
Q. We have tickets to fly British Airways to London in mid January and are obviously concerned about this strike. Do you imagine this strike will continue very long? Also, we didn't buy trip insurance but are considering doing so now. Wouldn't an incident like this be covered by trip insurance?
A. I'd be surprised if they don't work something out, since a strike at this time of year would be devastating financially for BA. But if your flight is cancelled because of the strike, BA is offering full refunds, and may try to book passengers on another airline, subject to availability of course.
Travel insurance companies will not issue new policies protecting against a strike on BA, now that a strike has been voted. Insurers will, however, cover non-refundable losses, such as a non-refundable hotel reservation or other expenses, in the event that a passenger's trip is cancelled or delayed.
Q. We hope to spend some time in the spring of 2010 in France and Switzerland. What’s the cheapest way to get from Avignon to Geneva or Zurich? What is the fastest way for the same trip? There will be four senior adults traveling together. All suggestions will be appreciated.
A. Your best bet is to take the train rather than flying. Avignon to Geneva by high speed rail takes about 3 1/2 hours, and flying would probably take longer when you consider travel time between the city centers and the airport, plus security check in times. There are all kinds of discounts available for rail travel, and you’re better off buying directly online using the French rail system’s web site at www.sncf.com. They offer online specials as well as senior discounts. In general, even though there are many discount airlines in Europe, when you’re traveling a relatively short distance rail travel is the way to go. It’s more convenient than air travel and if you work the discounts and factor in transportation costs to and from the airport, prices are often comparable. You might also consider a rail pass from Eurail.com if you’ll be traveling a lot by train. Again, there are senior discounts for these.
Q. Several years ago I read in the New York Times that airlines were considering offering flights where some passengers would stand rather than sit, presumably allowing airlines to cram more people into their planes. Has this concept moved forward, or was it just a hoax?
A. As far as I know, no airline yet offers this “product” but two airlines are considering the idea. Shanghai-based Spring Airlines intends to pursue it with Chinese regulatory authorities. Spring argues that passenger demand in China is growing faster than its ability to receive new aircraft deliveries, and that Airbus has indicated that standing passengers can be flown safely. Ryanair (of course) has been reported to seek similar approval from the Irish Aviation Authority.
What about you? Would you be okay with standing for the duration of a flight? Short commutes would be one thing, but we imagine red eyes would be a bit of a drag. Call us when someone outfits a plane with beanbags and Snuggies.
Q. I am going to Manchester, England at the beginning of March and am wondering why the fares are so high. I can't find anything for less than $730 and in October I only paid $620 on the same route. Usually it has been the other way around—fares go way down in winter. Any suggestions?
A. As we’ve noted before, dead-of-winter fares to Europe have remained stubbornly high, compared to previous years, perhaps a result of the airlines eliminating flights and flying smaller planes to cut capacity and boost fares. Our feeling is that you have nothing to lose by waiting until January to see if the airlines re-think this and start offering some better fares. You might want to look into flying to Dublin and catching a cheap flight from there to Manchester.
Q. When will fares to Europe come down for winter travel?
A. The short answer? We don't know. We're not so keen on the fare predicting. We do know that in previous years, we've seen insanely low low fares for January and February travel, often as low as $230 round-trip, including taxes, to some cities, like Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Dublin, Shannon, and Barcelona. But somehow, with all the capacity cuts that airlines have made, we think it's pretty unlikely that we'll be seeing fares like that anytime soon.
But again, you never know. We suggest signing up for a fare alert to your favorite destination. It may turn out that you could save money by flying out of New York, should fares from NYC to your preferred destination suddenly become super cheap, while they remain bonkerstown expensive from your home airport. By signing up for fare alerts to your destination, you'll receive our best fares to your chosen city, departing from all over the US & Canada, so you can weigh your options.
Q. I've been reading the Q&A extensively to prepare for my upcoming trip to New York in January and you helped me find a great round trip fare. My question now is regarding trips to Europe. In mid June, I am planning on seeing a friend in Amsterdam for about two weeks. I'm pretty flexible as to dates and locations. I've read conflicting things about Amsterdam. Some people say it's the cheapest place to fly into, some say the most expensive. It doesn't matter to me where I fly into, as long as I can get the cheapest round trip fare possible. I'd like to see different parts of Europe anyway.
I'm in Portland, Oregon but I am planning on using frequent flier miles to get to the East coast to find a cheaper flight onward to Europe. My main questions are: when should I buy the ticket (I was thinking sometime around March) and what would be the cheapest combination of cities? I understand flying between European cities is ridiculously cheap using Easyjet or Ryanair. I've been checking out studentuniverse.com for cheap international tickets, but the fare you guys helped me find to New York was much cheaper than anything they were offering.
A. There’s no way to predict when a cheap fare to Europe might pop up. It might turn out that you’ll find a bargain directly from Portland to Europe, allowing you to save your frequent flyer miles for another time, so don’t count that possibility out. Last year, we found that flights to Amsterdam were indeed more expensive than to other European cities, such as Dublin, Shannon, Madrid, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Berlin, Geneva, and Zurich, so we’d suggest that you set up airfare alerts both from Portland and New York to these cities (to find airfare alert sites, do a web search for “airfare alerts”). As to when to start looking, we’d suggest as early as January. One strategy that’s worked in the past is to find a bargain flying from New York to Dublin and then onward on Ryanair. Be sure to check individual airline sites such as Aerlingus.com, which often sells fares at lower prices than you’ll find them via third party sites. Another useful source is 1800flyeurope.com. Although we found many fares as low as $350, including taxes, round-trip to Europe last spring, this year we suspect that fares will be higher on average, since the airlines have cut a considerable amount of capacity from their schedules. One final note, fares tend to be more expensive for travel from mid June onward, so if it’s at all possible, plan your trip for early June or before.