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Entries during 2015-03

Outbound & Return Both Canceled

Q. I just took a round trip flight on American Airlines from Dallas to Richmond. My departure was canceled and I was put on an earlier flight. Although their records indicate they sent me two emails I did not receive them and consequently I missed my flight. Then my return flight (a nonstop on American) was canceled 3 hours before it was to depart and I was rerouted on two US Airways flights. That was annoying enough but to add salt to the wound, US Airways charged me $25 for a bag that was supposed to be free on AA. The attendant said their computers are not compatible (after a year of being “merged”) and I had to pay for the bag. This time at least I was notified of the change but only because I'd set up flight notifications on my app.
I asked for compensation before I got hit with a baggage fee. They gave me $100 voucher. I emailed the AA help desk and they awarded me 7500 miles for the additional trouble I had.
I am still not happy with the situation but I feel like I am over a barrel. Shouldn't the airline do more in these situations?
A. This all sounds like an unusual ordeal and although I wholly empathize, actually, that’s pretty good compensation, or at least more than most people get these days. It’s always a good idea to check online to see if your flight is operating as scheduled. You can use services like or  and other flight trackers, and now that you have the American Airlines app you’ll be in good shape for your next flight.

Above image via Shutterstock

Exit Row Responsibilities

Q. Without asking for it, my wife and I were seated in an overwing emergency exit row. We're both 57 years old, but I have a bad back and my wife has arthritis. When asked by the flight attendant if we were "capable" of operating the overwing exit door, we said "no." The flight attendant said "You look capable to me." After some back and forth, we were reseated. Isn't it stupid to assign these seats at random, rather than making sure passengers are willing and able to work the doors in an emergency?

A. As I discovered when I took the British Aiways safety course in London the overwing doors on a Boeing 737 are heavy! Forty pounds to be exact, and I was surprised how difficult they are to operate (tip: if you ever have to open one, sit well back in your seat because the door will hit you as it opens into the cabin, and it will hurt!).  And while the chances of ever having to operate one are miniscule, you were right to ask to be reseated. Overwing exit rows are considered to be a "perk" and some airlines only assign them to their best customers for free or charge extra for them. Next time you fly, look at a seat map at to see if you're sitting in one of these rows (they're clearly marked). Most airlines ask you if you're capable of sitting in these rows when you request these seats, but there is a chance that you'll be assigned one at random at the last minute if no other passengers grab one.

Above image via Shutterstock

Passenger Service Charges

Q. I've noticed that if I fly to Europe using a "free" frequent flier ticket, the taxes and fees vary depending on the airport I connect through. For example, if I connect through London on my way to Venice the taxes added to the "free" ticket are higher than if I connect through Madrid. What is going on here?

A. As you've discovered, when you cash in miles for a frequent flier ticket it's not exactly free. The airlines sometimes add fuel surcharges, which goes to their bottom line, but they also tack on taxes. Some of these taxes go into the coffers of the U.S. government, but the largest fees, often called "passenger service charges," or simply "airport taxes" are charged by foreign airports. And there are sometimes as many as three different taxes. Zurich Airport charges a  $59 "noise cancelation fee" and Amsterdam a $6 "noise isolation surcharge." A Paris airport might charge $90 in extra fees, whereas Madrid might charge $34. London has particularly high "duties" that must be paid, and they vary depending on the class (economy, first or business) that you're flying in. And that's each way, so it really adds up.

Above image via Shutterstock

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