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Entries during 2010-05

Protect yourself against volcano woes

Q. You may have already covered this topic, but here it goes. I will be taking my annual trip to Europe this fall and I'm concerned about flight cancelations due to the volcano eruptions. Is there a flight insurance or any type of insurance that covers hotel, laundry, meals etc. for brief or extended delays?

A. We did cover it, but the dang thing keeps blowing, and other folks have asked, so let's revisit this one. The answer is that standard travel insurance won't cover cancellations due to the volcano, since it's already a known hazard; however, anyone can buy "cancel for any reason" insurance and simply state that they have changed their mind and don't want to embark on their trip (this applies obviously before leaving for Europe); however, this insurance is considerably more expensive than standard policies; and cancellations typically must be made 48 hours or more in advance; there are other restrictions in the fine print as well, but this type of insurance may be better than nothing.

Lack of International Deals? There's a Reason.

Q. How come Airfarewatchdog isn't listing international deals any more?

A. Well in fact, we have listed some international fares, such as recent ones for June travel to Budapest, Prague, Copenhagen and Stockholm from as little as $377 round-trip including tax, and did you miss the deals to New Zealand for under $400 with tax? Then there was Singapore Airlines' $669 from LA to Tokyo, including tax on nonstop flights.  The problem is that most fares to international destinations these days, at least for late spring and summer travel, are well over $1000 round-trip including taxes, and Airfarewatchdog prides itself on listing only spectacularly low airfares. We're still hoping to locate some more real deals to Europe, Asia and other international destinations for travel  this spring and summer but until we do, we've decided not to flood your email inbox with very pricey, not-so-special fares that you could pretty much find on your own. Feel free to tell us in the comments below if you think this doesn't make sense.

Flying From Alternate Airports: Cheaper? Faster?

Q:  I live really close to a small airport, but it’s cheaper to fly from a larger airport in a nearby city.  Where should I fly from?

A:  There are many factors that will play into this decision.  Make sure you consider all of them before you jump on a lower fare, just because it is lower.

First of all, are there non-stop flights available from the larger airport?  This could make all the difference.  Many smaller airports only have a few commuter flights to the airline's hub cities, where you'll likely have to connect to your final destination.  If the cheaper flight from a larger airport has a connection as well, you may want to consider just flying from your local airport.  Say the commute to the larger airport is 1-2 hours.  You need to consider this time as one leg of your journey.   If you also have a flight connection, this is essentially a 2-stop trip.  Would you buy an airline ticket from your local airport if it had 2 stops?  On the other hand, if non-stops are offered from the alternate airport, it could actually be a shorter travel day to simply travel by land to the larger airport and fly non-stop to your destination.  Make sure you calculate the total travel time of both options.

Of course, you must consider the actual cost benefit of flying from an alternate airport as well.  Airport parking is almost always absurdly high.  If you normally get a ride to your local airport, but would need to park at the alternate airport, this could cut out any savings you made by making the drive.  Of course, if you are traveling with multiple people, the savings will multiply.  Also, consider other ways to travel to the alternate airport.  There are many shuttle or bus services that will take travelers from outside markets directly to larger airports in the region.   You should definitely consider this if traveling alone as it is almost always cheaper (and environmentally friendly) to share the ride.   Plus, you can rest as if you were on a flight, cause you won’t be behind the wheel.

Mile Merger

Q. I am sure you have heard from many flyers in my situation. I have qualifying miles on both United and Continental. It would be extremely helpful if we knew before the end of the year if we can combine these miles to qualify for 1-K. I realize it is too soon to know the answer. However, it is a major concern that my Continental miles are not wasted.

A. We took this one straight to our pal, miles expert and founder of, Tim Winship, who had this to say on the matter: "Ultimately, the CO and UA programs will be merged, will all your miles consolidated into a single account. And elite-qualifying miles from both programs will certainly be combinable to qualify for status in the new program.

What we don't know is the time frame. The program consolidation may or may not be completed before the end of the year.

In either case, your CO miles will not be wasted."

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