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Entries during 2009-03

Where are the good deals for next fall?

Q. I need to fly to the Seattle area around September 1. I see a lot of good deals for travel to Seattle, but most of them limit travel to no later than August 14. When will travel dates be extended past September 1?

A. The airlines release fares and determine fare periods. The release dates are top-secret and not for prying eyes like ours here at Airfarewatchdog. All we can promise is that as soon as we know, we'll post it on the website and shout it from the mountaintops - or at least our newsletters! Stay tuned.

D.I.Y. International Connections

Q. I need to book airfare from Miami to Madrid, then a connecting flight from Madrid to Jerez. My sister did some digging for me and it appears that we will need to clear passport control in Madrid before continuing on to Jerez. Based on this information, how much time would you recommend we allow between connecting flights?

A. You never know what may come up with international travel, especially if the airline that flies you to Madrid doesn't have an interlining agreement with the airline that flies you to Jerez - in which case, you'll have to collect your luggage and re-check it, once you're done waiting in line at customs. The Madrid airport is pretty big, and you might want to to read the Skytrax user reviews to get an idea of what other travelers have dealt with when passing through Madrid.

Booking a flight straight through to Jerez would certainly more expensive, but much less of a hassle. Another benefit is that if it's one itinerary under the auspices of one airline entity, they are responsible for any delays or missed connections. Still, if you're intent on spending as little as possible, definitely go with booking onward with the local budget airlines or even trains. Just be sure to leave plenty of time - PLENTY! The last time we made a similar trip, we decided to play it extra safe and just stay overnight in our connecting city before traveling on.

Swap vs Swindle: Your Money on the Go

Q. What is the best place to get money exchanged? I'm traveling from the US to the UK and don't want to pay high fees to change my dollars to pounds.

A. You can often get away with just using your bank card to make withdrawals at any ATM, depending on how much your bank charges for foreign withdrawals. Some banks don't charge a fee for this. Otherwise, a credit card with low foreign surcharges (such as Capital One) is a good option too. Stay away from airports and hotels, which tend to have the worst exchange rates.

We also encourage you not to rely entirely on an ATM card. What if the machine eats your card, or isn't able to access your bank info? Hey, it happens! More on this subject over in the blog.

Compensation for delays, sure, but what if they rebook you ahead of schedule?

Q. I had a friend who, while on a trip to Europe, was notified that his return flight was canceled and that he had been re booked on a flight a day earlier.  He had pre existing reservations and had to forfeit a deposit as he changed his plans to accommodate the new return flight.  Is the airline responsible for this lost deposit?

A. According to European Commission Transport laws:

1. In case of cancellation of a flight, the passengers
concerned shall:
(a) be offered assistance by the operating air carrier in accord-
ance with Article 8; and
(b) be offered assistance by the operating air carrier in accord-
ance with Article 9(1)(a) and 9(2), as well as, in event of re-
routing when the reasonably expected time of departure of
the new flight is at least the day after the departure as it
was planned for the cancelled flight, the assistance specified
in Article 9(1)(b) and 9(1)(c); and
(c) have the right to compensation by the operating air carrier
in accordance with Article 7, unless:
(i) they are informed of the cancellation at least two
weeks before the scheduled time of departure; or
(ii) they are informed of the cancellation between two
weeks and seven days before the scheduled time of
departure and are offered re-routing, allowing them to
depart no more than two hours before the scheduled
time of departure and to reach their final destination
less than four hours after the scheduled time of arrival;

(iii) they are informed of the cancellation less than seven
days before the scheduled time of departure and are
offered re-routing, allowing them to depart no more
than one hour before the scheduled time of departure
and to reach their final destination less than two hours
after the scheduled time of arrival.

2. When passengers are informed of the cancellation, an
explanation shall be given concerning possible alternative trans-
3. An operating air carrier shall not be obliged to pay
compensation in accordance with Article 7, if it can prove that
the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances
which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable
measures had been taken.
4. The burden of proof concerning the questions as to
whether and when the passenger has been informed of the
cancellation of the flight shall rest with the operating air

We're not quite sure when the airline notified your friend, but this seems to suggest a 2 hour cap on early rerouting. So, yes, it would have been within your friend's rights to demand a reroute on the scheduled day of departure. In regards to compensation, the language is a bit vague. While there's plenty on delays, they make no specific mention of departures ahead of schedule in terms of compensation:

Article 7
Right to compensation
1. Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall
receive compensation amounting to:
(a) EUR 250 for all flights of 1 500 kilometres or less;
(b) EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than
1 500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1 500
and 3 500 kilometres;
(c) EUR 600 for all flights not falling under (a) or (b).
In determining the distance, the basis shall be the last destina-
tion at which the denial of boarding or cancellation will delay
the passenger's arrival after the scheduled time.
2. When passengers are offered re-routing to their final
destination on an alternative flight pursuant to Article 8, the
arrival time of which does not exceed the scheduled arrival
time of the flight originally booked
(a) by two hours, in respect of all flights of 1 500 kilometres
or less; or
(b) by three hours, in respect of all intra-Community flights of
more than 1 500 kilometres and for all other flights
between 1 500 and 3 500 kilometres; or
(c) by four hours, in respect of all flights not falling under (a)
or (b),
the operating air carrier may reduce the compensation
provided for in paragraph 1 by 50 %.
3. The compensation referred to in paragraph 1 shall be
paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank
cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in
travel vouchers and/or other services.
4. The distances given in paragraphs 1 and 2 shall be
measured by the great circle route method.

According to section 1, your friend could probably argue that they are entitled to anything from EUR250 - EUR600, depending on mileage, although section 2 only mentions exceeding flight schedules, not preceeding them.

As tricky as this particular case is, European law does offer greater passenger protection than our own. Even passengers traveling on an American carrier departing from Europe are entitled to compensation under their laws, in the event of cancellation or delay. Exactly how much? More on this in the blog.

How to Support Airfarewatchdog

Q. Please correct me if I am wrong, but did you not have a link on your site to Amazon at one point? if I clicked and purchased something through that link, you received some of the revenue. Am I drunk or is that now gone? I need to order something and since I live for your site, I would like to try and support if I can.

A. Mom? Is that you? Just kidding! Thanks, that's very kind of you! We do have an  Amazon link. You'll also find other ways to help out Airfarewatchdog, such as ordering cards to pass along to your friends, links to sites like Booking Buddy and CheapAir, as well as TravelGuard for purchasing travel insurance.

Doing Italy on the Cheap

Q. My boyfriend and I are planning to visit his brother next fall in Naples, Italy. We'd also like to see Rome and Milan while we're there. Flying from San Francisco, which arrival airport closest to Naples would we find the best fare? And would it be cheaper to travel by air or train between cities in Italy?

A. We tend to find more sale fares from the US to Rome, but other cities do offer cheap fares on occasion. Rome is much closer to Naples than Milan, which is in the northernmost part of Italy. Air travel can be incredibly inexpensive within Europe if you stick to the small budget carriers like Ryanair or Easyjet, and may be able to beat the price of a train ticket. Try searching to see what carriers operate where. Just be aware that these smaller airlines often operate from airports farther outside the city, and sometimes require lengthy shuttle transport to/from, whereas trains tend to take you to the city center and give you a chance to take in the countryside.

When searching for a flight from the US, you might even consider flying into a less expensive hub city like London, and booking a flight onward to Naples on a budget carrier. Just be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to make your connecting flight!

Gate passes for non-ticketed passengers

Q. I'm currently up for a job as a tour escort. Do you know if it's possible to go through security at the airport and meet my party at their gate, without being a ticketed passenger?

A. Some airlines will issue something called a gate pass. The rules may vary from airline to airline, but here's what Northwest has to say on gate passes:

Gate passes are provided free of charge at the airport and issued under certain circumstances noted below. You will need to speak to an airport check-in agent for assistance in obtaining a gate pass. This policy is applicable to flights departing the U.S. only. Due to immigration requirements gate passes are not issued by non-U.S. airports or when an international flight is arriving in the U.S.

The following situations are eligible for the issuance of a gate pass:

    * Parent/Guardian of minors under 18 traveling alone, or children that will be met at a connecting city and picked up by a parent or guardian. Note: Children do not have to participate in the Unaccompanied Minor Program for a parent or guardian to be issued a gate pass. Please see additional information about unaccompanied minors.
    * Escort for elderly passengers or passengers with disabilities needing assistance. This may include someone who will push the wheelchair, provide transfer assistance in/out of the seat, provide extensive personal assistance not provided by airline personnel such as feeding/within lavatory or a sign language interpreter. Note: The adult does not need to participate in the Adult Assistance program for the person assisting them to be issued a gate pass. Please see additional information about the Adult Assistance Program.
    * Oxygen providers. This may be an employee from a medical oxygen company who the customer has contracted with to provide oxygen on the ground or a friend or family member who will bring the oxygen to/from the gate area.
    * Military families. Families of military service personnel are permitted through the screening checkpoint with a gate pass for both departing and arriving military family members.

Disappearing Date Availability

Q. Why do those calendars on the booking sites (that shall remain nameless) show all those available dates, which then disappear when you attempt to book them? It's so annoying!

A. Find the answer to this and plenty of other questions on our FAQ page....

Unlisted Routes?

Q. Why didn't you list any fares between Los Angeles and Baltimore in yesterday's newsletter? I've seen it listed in the past, and now that I'm looking to make the trip, it's not there. Surely this route is more popular than LAX to Appleton, which did make it in your newsletter. Why is this?

A. You'll find the answer to this and other Frequently Asked Questions here...

Overstaying your 30-Day Welcome

Q. I'm hoping to book a round-trip flight between Albuquerque to either London or Paris this summer. All the round-trip deals I find have a 30 maximum stay. Are there ways to get a deal on a round-trip with a 90 day maximum stay or even higher? Should I try booking two one-ways?

A. Seems a lot of folks are getting a head start on planning their summer vacations this year, and asking the same thing. Smarter Travel's Ed Perkin's just covered this topic last week, and here's what he had to say on the matter.

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