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Entries during 2009-04

Preserving those Frequent Flyer Miles

Q. I'm not a frequent flyer so I don't know how these miles work. I understand that if I don't use them then they could expire, and I'd hate to lose them before I even have enough to put towards a trip. I thought I read somewhere that you can do something to keep those miles from expiring. Any idea?

A. Yes, we have just the thing! Check out this blog post on the subject.

Flying the pets along for summer vacation

Q. I am traveling to Oregon this summer and would like my dog to fly with me. Will this be possible, and will it be expensive?

A. It really depends on your airline. Some allow small pets to fly in the cabin, as long as they're in a kennel bag. Other airlines will have you check your dog and fly him in the cargo hold below, and a handful of airlines (including Frontier) refuse to transport pets entirely, although Southwest recently reversed its no pets in cabin policy and now carries them for a $75 each way fee.

As far as costs go, flying pets doesn't come cheap. Even in cargo, it's possible that your dog's fare could exceed your own. For pet fees by airline, visit our fee chart.

Too bad there aren't any Oregon stops included on newbie Pet Airways, set to begin flying mid-July. Pet Airways allows pets (pawsengers, they call them) to fly in the cabin, where they receive much more attention than if they were crammed in the underbelly of the plane with the golf clubs and the surfboards. Ideally we'd prefer to fly alongside our pets, rather than separately, but --as we said-- it sure beats flying them in cargo, and for $149 one-way (intro fares), the price is right.

When to buy? How can I be sure I'm getting the best deal?

Q. I'm trying to find a good deal from Hartford to Miami in late May/early June. Do rates change daily? Should I search your site everyday? If I book today, how can I be sure that I've gotten the best deal?

A. Airfare is a lot like the stock market. Prices change all the time (up to 3 times a day), depending on whether higher priced seats aren't selling well and need to be reduced or, if demand on a route is high, raise prices. It's anything but predictable. We do recommend checking Airfarewatchdog (and other fare monitoring sites) everyday to keep track of what's being offered. You can also sign up for a City-to-City alert for your preferred route (Hartford - Tampa) and when a great fare becomes available, we'll gladly send an alert your way.

If you're jittery about buying too soon, and find that fares have gone down since your purchase, call your airline. Many will offer to refund the difference, but (watch out!) usually deduct a change fee that may or may not wipe out any money you might have saved.

To check or not to check

Q. We're planning to take an Alaska Cruise and of course we have to fly into Seattle. In addition to the cold weather gear, our five year old will also be joining us. Packing light isn't an option. We'll be flying United and American, and I'm a little concerned about checked bag fees. Is there a way around this?

A. We feel your pain. First bags, fourth bags, Overweight, oversized...oof...those bag fees can certainly add up! You may have better (cheaper) luck by shipping your luggage ahead? We're not sure exactly how much your planning to pack, but you can figure out airline costs by consulting our baggage fee chart. Got it? Now check out your shipping options. Which works best for you?

Frill Ride: Streamlining those Allegiant Sale Fares

Q. Do you realize that those fares from Allegiant Airlines are not what they seem? The advertised price does not include seat selection which they charge $12 - $15 each way, plus a $13.50 fee for buying online, plus a $7.50 priority boarding fee, not to mention baggage fees. So by the time you actually finish, the price has at least doubled. Were you aware of this?

A. Those are all easily avoidable frills. You don't have to pre-select a seat, and -if you're a light packer - don't check any bags. You can even avoid the $13.50 fee by purchasing your ticket at the Allegiant counter at the airport in advance, which is admittedly a little strange but still within the realm of doable.

Codeshares and Contracts of Carriage: Who's in charge here?

Q. I've booked a flight to Maui on Alaska Airlines, but one of the four legs of my trip will be flown on American Airlines. Which airline contract of carriage will apply for that one leg of the trip? And if different costs apply (such as the charges for luggage), do we just go by Alaska's rules even if American is our first flight of the return trip?

A. The luggage fees will be those of Alaska Airlines, since that is the carrier through which you originally booked your trip. During your segment with American Airlines, you will be covered by American's contract of carriage, should anything go wrong. If you're concerned about who would be at fault in the event that your luggage is lost, the carrier who last handled it is responsible. Also, keep in mind that the maximum liability for lost luggage under both airlines is the same.

On time & still bumped from our connection!

Q. Recently, my husband and I had a connecting flight in Atlanta on Delta. The first leg of our flight was delayed due to weather. Worried that we'd miss our connection in ATL to Orlando, I tried to discussing the situation with the gate agents who would only direct me to the Delta 1-800 number. I was told that all flights were booked, and if we missed the connection we'd just have to wait 24 hours for a new flight. So, our plane landed in ATL, we sprint to our gate to find our flight still boarding but are told that our seats were given away to standbys. We had to take a flight the following morning! My question is: When are airlines allowed to just give away seats you paid for? I have been on other airlines where they won't necessarily "hold" planes for connections, which I do understand, but they at least wait until the connection has landed before giving away seats.

A. The short (and sad) answer here is that there aren't really any laws governing this particular process. This is the same industry that allows the overbooking of flights and involuntary bumping of passengers who arrive on time. Most airlines have a "be at the gate by this time or risk losing your seat" clause in their policies, which Delta would most likely point to in this situation, regardless of the fact that you were coming in on a Delta connection. Yes, it isn't fair and we do sympathize.

Still, you did the right thing by phoning the 1-800 number rather than deal with the mob of angry passengers and disgruntled agents at the gate. We've avoided some real airport pile-ups in our day by phoning in and making other arrangements. Find out more about how to best avoid being bumped from a flight.

Photo ID for Minors?

Q. I will be traveling with my 12 year old granddaughter this summer. She does not have a photo ID. Will passing through security without an ID be a problem for her? Do we need a state issued photo ID before taking this trip?

A. The TSA does not require ID for travelers under 18 years of age. Some airlines, however, do ask for ID as proof of age, so be sure to check with your airline. And of course, if you'll be traveling internationally, she'll need a passport.

Easy Upgrades

Q. I'd like to travel from DC to Frankfurt this summer, and I'm trying to figure out the best way to purchase a flight and then upgrade. Do you have any suggestions?

A. Yep! We'd been hearing about a particular site that specializes in this sort of thing, and recently had the chance to try it out for ourselves. Get the full report over in the blog.

Down Under & Under Budget

Q. I am interested in traveling to Australia from Allentown, and have two questions, What are the requirements to visit Australia, i.e. passport/visa, etc. and are there ever any airfare deals to Sydney?

A. In addition to your passport, American citizens need a visa which can be applied for online. There is a processing fee of AUS$20.

As for sales, there have been plenty recently, on United, V Australia, Delta, Qantas and Air New Zealand. With new Sydney routes this season, more competition has definitely given way to lower fares. Currently, we've posted a sale fare to Sydney from Los Angeles for $654 round-trip, including taxes, for travel through October 31.


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