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Entries during 2010-04

Is There Hope For Lower Europe Fares Later This Summer?

Q: Don't have any vacation until end of June.....is there hope for a decent fare from Houston to Paris down the line?

A: At this point, it's looking slimmer and slimmer, but you just never know when it comes to Airfares. Even to the experts like us it's a mystery. Don't see anything below $1,000 at this point, but sign up for our fare alerts and we'll let you know if the situation changes.

Smaller airlines on Airfarewatchdog?

Q. I've noticed that some of your "cheapest" reported fares don't include Sun Country Airlines. While I know this is a small airline, do you ever follow them to report Fare Alerts? I'm curious as to whether I should be tracking them myself! Thanks!

A.We do indeed include Sun Country, as they often have some of our fave fares for travel to/from Minneapolis. In fact, we just posted their latest sale to the blog yesterday. And we were pleased when they added seasonal service to London, although we do wish the fares were a little lower, but oh well.

Anyhoo, just remember, that's the thing about Airfarewatchdog. We'll list fares from any and all airlines, just so long as they're low and actually bookable.

But it says so right there in black & white...

Q. My flight on Southwest Airlines from Baltimore to Oakland on February 8 was cancelled because of the blizzard over the preceding weekend. When I called to reschedule, I was offered either a refund or an alternate flight the next day. I pointed out that a second blizzard was forecast for February 9 and the flight they were offering would in all likelihood be cancelled as well. I also listed a number of alternate Southwest Airlines flights flying out on the afternoon of February 8 from Baltimore to Oakland which were not cancelled and could I please take one of them? I was told I could but it would cost me an extra $404. I quoted Southwest's contract of carriage that they will "transport the passenger at no additional charge on carrier's next flight(s) on which space is available to the passenger's intended destination" but the Southwest representative stuck to his guns and said the only way I'd get to Oakland on Southwest on February 8 was to pay th extra $404 as it would involve three flight segments instead of my original ticket's two. Unfortunately, I had to get to Oakland on February 8 for a conference beginning the next day, and I figured since their own police was on my side I'd just get a refund afterwards. I also didn't want to risk taking their alternate offer of flying on February 9, which turned out to be a good decision as the second blizzard caused all flights from February 9 to 11 to be cancelled. I paid the $404 for the alternate Baltimore to Oakland flight and flew out on the afternoon of February 8 on an uneventful trip.

I called Southwest's customer service and again was told the three flight segments comprised a completely different ticket than my original two segment trip, and was therefore required to pay the $404. I pointed out their policy again, but I might as well have been speaking Latin. So here I am, $404 poorer. Short of taking Southwest to court, is there any agency which has the power to arbitrate my dispute?

A. We're not sure what happened here, but we contacted Southwest and they've agreed to refund your $404 and are also throwing in a $100 flight coupon for a future trip. It's always a good idea to keep on trying if you're sure you're in the right. As a general rule, airlines are more sympathetic if a flight irregularity was caused by something within their control rather than by weather or another "force majeure" event. But we can't quite understand why it would have inconvenienced Southwest to put you on alternate flights in this situation since seats were available. In any case, all is well, and kudos to Southwest for making it right.

Volcano insurance, take 2

Q. We currently have a vacation booked on May 1 from San Diego to Rome. Our flight is San Diego to JFK and then JFK directly to Rome. Is it possible to retroactively buy travel insurance for the upcoming trip since it could very well be affected by this volcanic eruption?

A. Because the volcano is a "known risk," it is highly unlikely that you'll be able to buy basic travel insurance to cover it, while it is still active, especially retroactively. But perhaps for a future trip? I suggested that if you find an insurer that says it will cover you, that you get it in writing. However, you still can buy "cancel at any reason" insurance, which allows you to cancel just because you've changed your mind. The insurance is considerably more expensive than basic insurance, and you typically must cancel at least 48 hours in advance of your trip. Also, the policy may only cover a percentage of whatever losses you incur, up to the maximum amount allowed by the policy.

Volcano insurance, anyone?

Q. I have a trip to London scheduled to leave next week. I did buy travel insurance, but on reading the fine print of the policy or contract I'm confused as to what it actually covers. The policy is from TravelGuard. If the airline cancels my trip, will I get a full refund on my non-refundable ticket? Also, I'm planning another trip to London later this year. Do you think travel insurance companies will offer "volcano" protection going forward?

A. In many instances, travel insurance will cover losses resulting from the recent volcano ash situation. Most policies have a natural disaster clause, and other cancelation clauses that would offer reimbursement for non-refundable expenses, such as hotel deposits or cruise fares, as well as for expenses incurred for hotels, alternate transportation, meals and so on, in the event of a delay or cancelation. The only problem is that the coverage isn't open-ended. Most policies have a daily or total limit on reimbursement, perhaps of $150 per day for expenses, for example, or $3000 in total reimbursement per incident. It really depends on the policy and the company issuing it, so read the fine print to be prepared. Most likely, if your airline cancels your flight, you'll get a full refund, even on a non-refundable ticket, so no worries there. But if you attempt to change your ticket, even if the flight is eventually canceled, you will incur a fee, so wait for the airline to act first. As for insuring against a future volcano-disrupted trip, since the Iceland volcano is now a known hazard, I find it unlikely that insurers would cover it. If you're risk adverse and have the time, you might consider crossing the Atlantic not by air, but on Cunard's  Queen Mary 2, which sails from New York to England and back all summer long. It's a quite pleasant way to travel, and the fares (in inside cabins) can be comparable to flying. However, unlike flying, there are no fees for baggage, meals, or entertainment.

Huh? Don't shop for fares on weekends?

Q. Two weeks ago on a Saturday, United offered a round-trip, nonstop flight from Denver to Boston for $199.  I didn't book because I've always been told to never book airline tickets on the weekend. Now of course the fare has gone way up. What are the chances of the fare dropping once again anytime soon?

A. Who says not to buy on a weekend? Actually, we think the weekend can often be the best time to find sales. Many sneak sales are launched on weekends, when the airlines can only update their fares once a day, and competitors must wait for the 5pm mark to match another airline's sale. So don't forget to check in with Airfarewatchdog on weekends, and sign up for daily alerts! 

As for that Denver/Boston fare, this is a route that goes on sale quite frequently, so chances something great will come along soon. And if you're flexible, and can travel midweek, we've found a fare of $178 round-trip, plus tax, nonstop, through mid June, available on JetBlue!

Panic mode! Summer fares to Europe still ridiculously high!

Q. Please help me understand this crazy airfare problem. I need to buy a ticket to Barcelona for this summer, June/July 2010, I've been tracking the airfares since December, trying to find a good cheap fare. Most are over $1,000.00, departing from NYC, Miami, Charlotte, it doesn't matter, they are all HIGH. Do you think they will get lower? Should I wait a little longer? The euro is cheaper than it has been, but its not being reflected in the airfares.

A. It's all a matter of capacity. The airlines have cut back on service in an effort to reduce costs. That means carriers can charge more for seats. Seats that are filled by Europeans, what with the dollar still pretty week against the euro and the pound. More on this in our recent article in USA Today. And as mentioned here, you could come out on top by purchasing a package air + hotel deal, which in many cases are less expensive than what you'll pay for the peak summer airfare alone.

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