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Entries during 2009-01

Int'l Fares not necessarily equal in the reverse

Q. I was wondering if you knew what the deal is with airlines charging twice as much for the same routes when flying from the US to Europe. I just scored a great price to Florida from Geneva, Switzerland this March ($616) so decided to do a search to see how much it would cost for my father to make a trip here in June. Surprisingly, a Bay City, Michigan to Geneva, Switzerland return trip leaving June 8, 2009 is a little over $1400 according to Kayak.com, however the same routes, same dates, same airline, going in the other direction (Geneva to Bay City) is almost half the price, $749. What gives? Any thoughts?

A. Until we truly have a global economy, prices will always vary from country to countr, depending on the comparative value of currency and local economies. It's similar to when folks from one country flock to another to stock up on luxury goods for half the price they'd find at home. The same applies to airfares.

Different Strokes for Different TSA Folks

Q. I travel weekly between Detroit and DC's Reagan National, and I thought I had worked out all the idiosyncrasies of TSA screeners and developed a good routine for getting through security fast.  I put my keys, change, and cell phone into my briefcase and run it through the X-ray, but I never remove my belt or watch, since they don't set off the detectors.  I never take my see-thru bag out and nobody ever complains about that.
 
Last week, I did the same, but I set off the detector.  I got the usual 'you are an idiot' look from the screener, so I backed up and put my belt in a dish and tried again.   This time my watch set it off.  Now I did feel like an idiot.  I wear this particular watch because it is titanium and weighs almost nothing.  So, my question is, do they randomly vary the sensitivity of the detectors?  This week I went back to my old routine, and went through with no problem.  A related question:  I flew through another airport this week also, and I took my shoes off and put them in a tray along with my jacket, which always work in Detroit.  This time I was reprimanded because shoes must be directly on the conveyor.  What's up with that?
 

A. It's happened to us too. Different equipment with different levels of sensitivity, much like anything else that can be calibrated and adjusted. As for the shoes, we've always tossed ours in the baskets, so the conveyor-belt-only rule is a new one for us. Maybe the TSA folks in DCA have sanitary objections to dirty old shoes sharing the same basket as cellphones and coats and keys? Which, now that we think about it, is a little blech maybe. Regardless, chalk it up to TSA inconsistency.

Traveling with Liquid & Gel Medications exceeding 3 ounces

Q. So, I have a "friend" who recently spent a long weekend in Belize after finding one of those $160 round-trip tickets through Airfarewatchdog late last fall. This friend, who -full disclosure - works at Airfarewatchdog, and happens to love dogs, foolishly posed for a pic alongside a scrappy scabby beach dog. What was my friend thinking? I'm not sure! But after contracting ringworm (in his beard! Eww) my friend has learned his lesson. Now my friend has been prescribed a massive tube of cream that most certainly exceeds 3 ounces. Is this something the TSA will allow in his carry-on for an upcoming flight? Or will my friend have to check it? Should he ask the doctor for tiny sample size tubes?

A. While we're glad you were able to snag one of those great fares to Belize, sorry to hear about your sad fungus fiasco. But good news! According to the TSA site, travelers with medical conditions may bring gels and liquids related to their condition, just so long as these items are declared if they exceed 3 ounces and are not contained in a one-quart plastic bag. So it should be no problem. However, given all the many reports of TSA inconsistencies, it's probably a good idea to bring along a note from your doctor, even if your medication is labeled, just to be on the absolute safe side. Especially if traveling overseas.

You can find more on this over on the TSA's site. Good luck!

Vintage AFWD Shirts

Q: I would like to buy your old t-shirt style with the dog on the building in meds Large and x-large. Also your new type t-shirt with the just the dog on the front in x-large, large and medium. Would that be possible? I bought two before I really like the shirt. I love the quality of the shirt/ feel and the design. Will you be offering other images on your shirts in the future?

A: No and yes. Unfortunatley we're sold out of L and XL our Broswer "King Kong" t shrits in men's sizes and will not be reprinting them (all our shirts are limited editions), but we do have a selection in Women's sizes. More info on AFWD shirts here.

Disappearing airfares

Q: I read somewhere, perhaps on your blog, that airfares are updated 3 times during the week, and once on Saturdays and Sundays at around 5 PM. So please explain this: last Sunday, I was looking for a one way fare from the New York City area, any airport, to Phoenix for travel on February. After much searching, I found a fare on Continental for $109 one way, for their first and last flights of the day. I had to confirm this with my husband, who was not at home at the time. A couple of hours later, I went back to Continental.com and the $109 fare was nowhere to be found. Instead, there were fares over $200! This was around 2 PM ET. So how do you explain this?

A: It's true that airlines do not file new fares on weekends until about 5 PM. However, what you encountered was seat availability. All the seats at the lower fare must have been sold out between the time you saw the fare and you checked with your husband and went back to book. When you see a strikingly low fare, you've got to jump on it. You have time to continue searching for your flight, and who knows, Continental may open up more seats at the lower fare.

NYC to DC: Plane, Train, or Bus?

Q. My girlfriend and I are flying from Phoenix to New York City in mid-May, and we'd ilke to visit DC for a few days too. What's the best way to go about this? Train? Bus? Plane?

A. We'd choose Amtrak over flying between NYC and DC, any day, hands down. You can leave straight from Manhattan's Penn Station to DC's Union Station, both of which are incredibly convenient and easily accessible by public transport. By the time you factor in airport traffic, check-in, security lines, both trips will run you about the same in travel time, but we find the train to be, well, way less annoying. Relaxing, even! Sure, Penn Station has all the charm of a gas station toilet, but, eh. Can't win 'em all. Union Station on the other hand? Pretty snazzy stuff!

 

Refunding fare differences on Allegiant?

Q. I booked my flight to Orlando on Allegiant for $159 round-trip, and not even 12 hours later, the price of the same trip was down to $59 round-trip. Needless to say, I'm a little frustrated. Is there something I can do?

A. Some airlines do refund the difference for a price drop (and charge a fee for doing so, which sometimes negates any savings...) but Allegiant is not one of them. From their website:

What if the fare drops on a ticket after I have already purchased it?
The desire for the lowest possible fare is understandable; however, Allegiant Air unfortunately cannot refund or credit fare differences after a reservation has been made. When the original ticket is purchased, via the web or by a reservations agent, the purchaser of the ticket is prompted or asked if they agree to the following terms and conditions in order to purchase the ticket: "All tickets are non-refundable, one-way, and ticketless". This is because Allegiant Air unfortunately cannot control when a passenger will book their flight. Allegiant also does not have advance knowledge of when specials will be offered. The fluctuation in a fare may also be caused by cancellations, and since Allegiant does not overbook its flights, a seat may become available at a lower price.

For future reference, Delta, United, American, US Airways, and Continental all have some sort of refund policy to address such fare decreases.

Airfarewatchdog Feeds for RSS

Q. I've used Google Reader for a long time with no trouble, but for some reason I cannot figure out how to add the Airfarewatchdog blog. Can you please give me a direct RSS address I can enter into my reader? Thanks.

A. Sure thing, here you go:

feed://www.airfarewatchdog.com/rss/blog/

And don't forget, you can also add specific cities to your feeds as well, and receive fare updates via your RSS reader. Just click here for a list of city feeds.

Have no idea what any of this means? Uh-oh. Better read our guide to RSS feeds.

I love your site, but...

Q: I love your site... it e-mails me deals form my favorite airports and destination each day, but my dad told me about Kayak.com, and it's almost always had better deals than the ones you post. I was able to get tickets on Northwest from CMH to HNL for $478+Tax/fee ($538 total) RT this morning. I've been tracking this since August of last year on your site, and just two weeks on Kayak. I'm not sure what they do different, but I thought I'd give you a heads up so you can figure it out and improve your site. Again I love your site. Thanks Ryan

A: Ryan, glad you love us....or do you? :)  We did see that Columbus, OH to Honolulu fare, but since it's only valid for travel through Mar 4 with a 14-day advance purchase and is about $540 RT including tax, I guess we didn't think it was all that stellar. Truthfully, it's not a bad fare, but we've seen that route lower. When we first started Airfarewatchdog.com, we made a commitment to only list fares that were at or near their historical lows, unless there were other things about the fare that made it special, such validity over 330 days of travel, no advance purchase, etc. So, for example, we have seen fares to Honolulu from the West Coast for long travel periods at $200 RT plus tax, and from everywhere on the East Coast the the Midwest from $300 RT plus tax.

Probably those days are never coming back, and we should rethink what a good fare is these days. It's really a judgement call, and we prefer to not alert people to fares that they'll discover later could have been purchased for less. Had that fare only had a one day advance purchase, for example, as many fares right now to Cancun do, we probably would have alerted people to it. Or had it been good for more days of the week than Tue/Wed. So you see our dilemma. Anyway, thanks for writing and glad you love (like? :)  our site!

Who pays the hotel bill for scheduling blunder?

Q. We used Delta Skymiles to book flights from Savannah to Fairbanks and then Vancouver to Savannah for an Alaskan cruise tour.

While checking Delta's site two days ago, I noticed that they'd changed our Vancouver-Savannah flights, and there was a misconnect in the schedule, meaning that we arrived in Atlanta at 10:36pm but were scheduled to depart Atlanta for Savannah at 10:35pm...which is one minute before we even arrive.

I immediately phoned Delta, who concurred there was a misconnect, but they were unable to get us from Vancouver to Savannah on the original booked date. They could do it the following day only, necessitating an overnight stay.

When asked, Delta said that in the even of a schedule change, they aren't required to do anything to assist with accommodations.

Is that true? Shouldn't they provide a hotel?

A. If you hadn't caught the error, and you were to end up stranded in Atlanta, it seems to us that they'd be obligated to put you up for the night. At least that's what it sounds like, according to their contract of carriage which states:

C.  Schedule Changes, Delays, & Flight Cancellations within Delta's Control
 
When, as a result of factors within Delta's control, you miss a connection due to flight delays,
your flight is cancelled, or a substitution of equipment results in a change in the class of service
that you purchased or prevents us from transporting you, Delta will provide you with the
following:
.....
 
.....(b) Hotels
 
If overnight accommodations are available at Delta contracted facilities, we will provide you
with a voucher for one night's lodging when the delay is during the period of 10:00 pm to
6:00 am.   Delta will provide free public ground transportation to the hotel if the hotel does
not offer such service
.
 

That said, since you did catch the error prior to beginning the trip, they'll probably argue that you have full knowledge of the overnight stay, and by using the ticket, you are agreeing to the conditions of the itinerary. Not exactly fair, but that may be their reasoning.
 

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