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Entries during 2010-02

"Bad Weather"

Q. My wife flew from Philadelphia to Las Vegas on Delta to meet my sister. While my wife was diverted to Los Angeles due to weather, or so the passengers were told, my sister flew from San Francisco to Las Vegas without a problem landing, about 10 minutes after my wife was scheduled to land.

After landing in Los Angeles, the passengers were told that they would have to spend the night in LA, and since the problem was weather related, Delta was not responsible for the hotel charges.

There was a rumour circulating among the passengers that the Delta pilot was not certified to land in that particular circumstance- wind, or rain, they were never told the specific reason. Is that rumour possibly true?

A. The rumour about certification does not ring true.  Pilots should be qualified to fly their aircraft in all conditions including bad weather.  As for the suspicious weather claims, you may find this article interesting and inspiring!

Connecting at JFK this Spring?

Q. When I booked a flight from San Juan to St Louis a few months ago, we were to have a layover at JFK of about 2 1/2 hours. Since then, we've been informed by our airline that the departure time of our flight from San Juan has been changed. In fact, it's changed several times. Do we have any right to expect the airline to switch us to a better flight to ensure we make our connection?  As it stands,  there is currently a one hour layover at JFK. I'm not sure that will be enough time to make our flight, and in the past we've had horrible luck departing SJU on time, no matter which airline we fly. I fear if we miss our connection, we might be told there are no more flights to St Louis that night, that they cannot ticket us on another carrier, and then being told we shouldn't have booked a flight with such a small window to connect! Guess I'd like to be armed with every piece of knowledge I can get ahead of time.

A. You should certainly ask for a longer layover, and without having to pay a change fee. If you don't like the answer you get, try again and then again. One thing to consider here is that JFK will be closing its longest runway for 120 days, from about March 1. This runway handles about 30% of JFK's traffic, so there will probably be some delays, and this may be one reason why your flight has been rescheduled so many times.

Keeping Track of Baggage Fee Hikes

Q. Quite by accident, I came across the news that American Airlines is raising its checked baggage fees in February, this time to $25.  I didn't see that mentioned on Airfarewatchdog, but I was out of town recently and might have missed it.  Can you publish an updated baggage fee chart?

A. We’ve been writing about these increase fees extensively, and we have indeed published an updated baggage fee chart. You can find it here (or you can always google “airline baggage fees” and it should be the very first search result). Many airlines have raised the first and second checked bag fees for domestic travel by $5 dollars. Only Southwest Airlines, of the major U.S.-based carriers, does not charge a fee for the first two checked bags. You can save $2-$3 on Continental, Delta, United and US Airways by paying the fee online, but American does not offer this discount.

Airline advises passenger to book Hidden City Ticket? Wait, what?

Q. I want to book a one-way flight from Burlington, VT to Philadelphia in with no connection.  The nonstop flight costs $450 but if I book a one-way flight to Richmond via Philadelphia the price is $69.  I called the airline’s 800 number and was told I could get off at Philly and just not take the second leg to Richmond (they also told me they would refund me the difference which I know is not true).  Not trusting this answer, I went to the Burlington airport in person.  The airline agent was very helpful and said I needed to do a couple of things to make this work: don’t check bags and don’t book a return flight on the same reservation as they would cancel my return if I didn’t complete the outbound. Why in the world would they price this so differently? And is the information I received accurate?

A. I’m really surprised that an airline employee would advise you to use what the industry refers to as “hidden city ticketing.” As far as I know, it’s against most airlines’ policies, and US Airways labels this as an “inappropriate booking practice” on its web site. The only airline that flies from Burlington to Philadelphia nonstop is US Airways, and since they have a monopoly on that service they can charge whatever they think the traffic will bear. Were you to buy this fare from a travel agency, US Airways might charge the agency the full $450 fare by issuing a “debit memo.” Also, were you to do this often, you might find yourself kicked out of the airline’s frequent flyer program, so it’s best not to enter your membership number.

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