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Entries during 2016-02

Excessive Rules for Pets?

Q. I recently flew to Florida and brought along my 7lb dog. I spent more on my pet's ticket than I paid for mine. He had to stay under the seat in his carrier, and the airline counted him against my carry-on allowance. How is it that a baby can fly for free, sit on your lap, and the parents are allowed to bring several huge baby bags? They even get to board first!

A. It does seem unfair, doesn’t it? But a handful of incidents over the last few years may help to explain why airlines charge such fees. A service animal pooped twice in the aisle, causing an emergency landing, which is very costly for an airline. In another incident, a pet escaped its cage and bit a flight attendant and another passenger. As you can imagine this probably led to a law suit and a hefty financial settlement. So although I’m sure your pet is the best behaved animal in the world, there are costs associated with having pets on planes. Some passengers are allergic and if an allergy results in an emergency landing or a claim against the airline, there are costs involved.

Boarding Procedures

Q. How are the boarding zones determined? I always seem to end in the very last zone to board.

A. Procedures will vary slightly by airline, but generally, the airlines board passengers who need help and families with young children earlier. First and Business Class next. After that, frequent flyers with elite status and those who've paid extra for early boarding and premium economy seats. Passengers who are holders of the airline's issued credit cards are also often given earlier boarding privileges. After that, depending on the aircraft and the airline's policy they will board back to front, but this can also vary.

Transportation Options from Heathrow

Q. My family and I (4 people in total) are traveling to London in early April and while planning our itinerary. After reading numerous books and blogs about how to get to central London from Heathrow, I am still confused about my options. Can you please clearly list my options for getting to the city? I did read taking a taxi into is quite expensive, and they charge by person? Hope this is not true.

Also, we are also planning day trips to Oxford and Cambridge and decided to travel by train. I noticed during my search for tickets that the fare to Cambridge is far more expensive than Oxford. Is there any reason why?

A. The cheapest way to get to London from Heathrow is the Tube. It takes about 45-60 minutes. Get an Oyster Card (a stored value card) if you’re going to be using the Tube or buses a lot while in London. You’ll save money that way. The fast trains to London Paddington Station will be almost as expensive for a party of four as a taxi would be, since you’ll still probably have to take the Tube to your final destination unless your hotel is within walking distance of Paddington. I’m not aware that black cabs charge for each passenger. But the Tube will definitely be cheaper than a taxi and almost as fast if there’s traffic.

As for Oxford, you might consider a coach instead. It’s not quite as fast or comfortable but often cheaper. If you buy an advance purchase non-refundable fare (either train or bus), it’s going to be quite cheap and train and coach fares vary depending on time of day and date.

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