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Entries during 2014-04

JetBlue Price Drop Refunds

Q. I  recently purchased tickets to Puerto Rico for June on JetBlue. I kept waiting and watching for a great sale price but was afraid prices would go up, and I finally purchased my tickets which were $360 each. The very next day you guys posted the sale price at $295. Is there any way I can call the airline and have them refund my money or give me the balance from my purchase?

A. All airlines used to offer fee-free price drop refunds, but that was eons ago. Now only Alaska, Southwest, and JetBlue do, in the form of a travel credit.

The only catch is that the lower fare must be valid on the exact same flight, and same dates originally booked. You can call 1-800-JETBLUE and get a credit for the fare difference applied to your account, valid for travel for up to one year.

By the way, this also applies to JetBlue points if the points needed have somehow gone down.

Above image via Shutterstock

When What You See Is Not What You Get

Q. When booking international flights online, I increasingly find that the airline selling the fare isn’t the airline actually flying the route. For example, I’ll search for a flight on Orbitz.com and see that the lowest fare is sold by Lufthansa but the flight is flown by United. Sometimes we don’t even learn this until we get our confirmation, or the flight is sold by Delta but we’ll be flying on Alitalia. How can we avoid this situation and why do airlines do this in the first place?

A. This is called code sharing, and it’s a way for airlines to share capacity, appear to have larger route networks than they actually do, and increase profits. It can be quite annoying if you have a strong preference for one airline over another. Often, when looking online at Orbitz or other fare comparison websites, you’ll see that two different airlines fly the exact same route at the exact same times but at very different prices. That’s your first clue that this is a code share flight. If you’re unsure what you’re buying, it’s best to call the online travel agency in such cases to ask exactly which airline’s “metal” you’ll be flying on.  To its credit, code sharing can often be a way to save significantly if one airline is selling the flight for considerably less than its code share partner.

Above image via Shutterstock

Emotional Support Animals on Flights

Q. I've become quite the flyer in recent months. My father passed suddenly a while back , leaving Mom in alone in Oregon, while back in California my spouse was just diagnosed with cancer. Thank god for my little doggie! She truly is an emotional rescue for us all... but traveling with her can be a pain. I was going through security recently and noticed the lady in front of me was boarding with her small dog, and it sat on her lap! No kennel, no cargo hold!

Someone suggested that this would be allowed if my doctor is treating me for anxiety, which shouldn't be a problem. In addition to everything mentioned above, my oldest daughter was killed three years ago, so I am probably treatable.

I fly to Los Angeles soon, although my dog is currently on "active duty" with my hubby, I will have to be popping in on mom from time to time and time again, and probably one more time after that!!

I've done a little research and it seems easy to become certified as a service animal. Is it? Any words of wisdom on this?

A. Sad to hear about all your travails. But yes, certified service animals are allowed on planes. I even saw one on a cruise I took on Seabourn Cruise Lines last December. No cages. Here is Southwest Airlines’ language about emotional support animals. Other airlines are similar.

Southwest Airlines welcomes trained assistance animals accompanying a Customer with a disability on all of our flights. Except when too large to be safely accommodated, a trained assistance animal will be transported in the aircraft cabin. In accordance with federal safety regulations, the animal must be positioned so as not to obstruct Customers' expeditious evacuation in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Trained assistance animals will be allowed to travel on flights to/from all domestic and international destinations with the exception of Jamaica. No animals will be allowed to travel to/from Jamaica on Southwest Airlines under any circumstances due to country-specific regulations.

Emotional Support Animals

Animals used for a Customer's emotional support are accepted in the cabin. Emotional support animals will be allowed to travel on flights to/from all domestic and international destinations with the exception of Jamaica. No animals will be allowed to travel to/from Jamaica on Southwest Airlines under any circumstances due to country-specific regulations. In order for a Customer to travel with an emotional support animal, the Customer must provide to a Southwest Airlines Employee current documentation (not more than one year old) on letterhead from a mental health professional or medical doctor who is treating the Customer's mental health-related disability stating:

The Passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition (DSM IV)
The Passenger needs the emotional support of psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger's destination
The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the Passenger is under his or her professional care AND
The date and type of mental health professional's or medical doctor's license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued

Assistance and emotional support animals must be trained to behave in a public setting. Customers traveling with an assistance animal or an emotional support animal cannot sit in an emergency exit seat.

Above image via Shutterstock

Club Crashing

Q. I recently had a couple of hours before my flight when I arrived at the airport early, but I desperately wanted to watch a big basketball game that was in progress. So I waited in front of the airline’s airport lounge until I saw a friendly looking guy about to enter and asked if I could be his “guest” for a couple of hours, since members are allowed to bring guests in for free and there are always TV’s in the club rooms. Is there any rule or “law” against gaining entry to an airline lounge using this method? Other than getting kicked out, what’s the risk?

A. I’m pretty sure it’s against the spirit if not the letter of airline rules to invite a guest that you don’t know. United’s Club membership rules state, for example, that you must “accompany” your guests while they visit. And I imagine if an employee saw you lurking outside the club room door they’d get suspicious. You’re not going to get arrested. But your “host” might lose his membership if either of you is caught.

Image via Shutterstock

The Truth About Oxygen Masks

Q. Is it true that once oxygen masks drop down, they only provide about 15 minutes of oxygen?

A. It all depends on the altitude the plane is flying at. You’ll use more oxygen at a higher altitude like 40,000 feet vs 30,000. Typically, as soon as the masks come down, the pilot descends to as low an altitude as possible and finds the nearest airport to land.

They never keep at the higher altitude they were flying at. At 12,000 or 15,000 feet you can breath fairly normally— it’s like being at the top of a mountain. So the pilot does a rapid descent to a breathable altitude which should only take 10-20 minutes depending on the altitude they were flying when the depressurization happened. In any case, as they descend the oxygen lasts longer and longer until it’s no longer needed.

Above image via Shutterstock

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