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Entries during 2012-05

Last summer's high, this summer's bargain

Q. I appreciate your site and have been a daily reader for at least 3 years. I have a gripe, however.

In recent months, you’ve increased the number of fares listed from Minneapolis MSP dramatically—as in over 100 fares today. I understand that there are reasons for separate listings to the same locale. But, you seem to list fares that really seem kind of standard price. For example, during a recent sale, West Coast fares to Tokyo were $1,100, when I paid about half that before. I don’t think Tokyo deserves to be in the Daily Airfare List when the cost is about “normal.” It’s just painful to scroll through that many deals that mainly aren’t really deals.

Why the change?

A. We understand your concerns.  Actually, some people love to see that they got the fare at a huge savings (if they grabbed a lower fare) and also, some higher fares may have fewer restrictions such as travel any day of the week rather than Tue/Wed only, so price isn't always the only consideration. Also, keep in mind that summer fares to certain destinations tend to skyrocket. As for the idea of a "standard" fare for any one route, remember that fares will fluctuate. Last summer's high may be this summer's bargain.

You can sort fares by price quite easily to only see fares under a certain price point.

A Mechanical Kink in Cruise Plan

Q. Two college roommates and I booked a cruise through Celebrity Cruise Lines. We did everything as suggested - booked through a travel agency, had Celebrity book the airfare and took out insurance. When we arrived in Charlotte for our connecting flight, US airways said there was a mechanical failure and they needed 20 volunteers. They did not get their 20, so two of us did not have seats for the smaller plane they brought in. The one who had a seat was not going without the other two, so they took her seat and gave it to a family of three that did not have a cruise ship to get to. The airlines could not get us down to San Juan to leave with the ship. The best they could do is get us to the first port of call which was two days later. It was hell for the next two days! We asked for the luggage to go to the ship so we were without it for those two days. The most US Airways will offer is a $300 voucher. The insurance only paid for the minor things and reimbursed for two days of the cruise. It seems a really unfair amount from US Airways considering what we went through to get to the port and the bad taste it put in our mouths for the cruise. Is $300 the most an airline can offer for supposed mechanical failure? They have told us that this is the best they can do and Celebrity is only offering a $100 on board credit. Any recommendation for getting more from them?

A. Had you not booked as you did and taken out insurance, you would have had to buy a last minute fare to the next port of call at considerable expense, so smart move. Normally, if you’re bumped from a flight like this you’re entitled to compensation, with a few exceptions. According to US D.O.T. rules published on its site, overbooking the compensation maximum is $1300 if the airline arranges substitute transportation arriving at your destination more than two hours on a domestic itinerary or four hours on an international one. And you get to keep your original ticket and use it on a future flight. But there’s an unfortunate, and frankly unfair, I think, exception to the rule, especially if the delay was caused by a mechanical failure: “If the airline must substitute a smaller plane for the one it originally planned to use, the carrier isn't required to pay people who are bumped as a result. In addition, on flights using aircraft with 30 through 60 passenger seats, compensation is not required if you were bumped due to safety-related aircraft weight or balance constraints.

And it looks like US Airways substituted a smaller plane in this case. So really, US Airways wasn’t required to pay you anything at all. What you should have done, in addition to buying insurance, was to arrive at your embarkation port (San Juan, in this case) at least a day (or preferably two days) early. I’ve seen this sort of scenario happen all the time (most recently, to my mother-in-law on a cruise from Miami through the Panama Canal, and she had to cancel the entire cruise. Luckily her insurance reimbursed her for the full cost). I’m taking a cruise from Edinburgh to Paris this summer on Azamara Club Cruises, and I plan on arriving in London at least two days before sailing. That way I’m pretty sure I won’t miss the boat. 

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Q. I'm taking a trip to New York next week, and have booked a room in what I consider to be a nice hotel. Still, after everything I've read in recent years, I can't help but be concerned about bedbugs. I've even read accounts of bed bug infestations on airplanes. Is this a widespread issue I should concern myself with, or just a lot of hype?

A. The truth is, you can come into contact with bed bugs just about anywhere- from hotels to movie theaters, and yes, even airplanes. They are stealthy little critters, and excellent at latching on undetected to luggage, clothing, upholstery, you name it. The latest word is that bed bugs are on the decline (at least in New York), though you'd still be wise to check online reviews of your hotel for any recent reports. You can also have a quick look around the perimeter of your hotel mattress for any signs of, uh, activity. As an extra precaution, there are travel sprays available online to deter bed bugs from crawling into luggage. And of course, they are less likely to latch on to hardshell bags. 

For more info, you can read through the very thorough travel FAQs at Bedbugger.com.

Summer Fares to Germany

Q. I am stationed in Germany and my family is in Virginia. They (4 adults) make two trips a year to visit me (summer and winter) but the airfare is a killer. They can fly from Norfolk, Richmond, Newport News, Washington DC, or Raleigh. Many options for destination airport: Frankfurt, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, or even Paris.

Summer travel dates are very flexible - Mid July to late August. Any help for an old soldier trying to keep the team together?

A. While summer fares to Europe from Virginia and North Carolina might be a tad high, we've recently seen sales from New York to Dusseldorf and Berlin for as low as $650 rt w/tax, which is pretty amazing stuff for summer. If they can take a bus or train into New York (it's cheap) that would be the best solution. They might have luck with Air Berlin, which often has pretty good sales, or Priceline's Name Your Own Price feature (doesn't work with all international travel, but it does for flights to Germany). And of course, sign up for alerts at Airfarewatchdog, and we'll be more than happy to give you a shout the next time we spot a good deal.

Airfarewatchdog 101: How to Find Your Fare

Q. I see a Kansas City-Portland fare I wanted to book, but there's an arrow to other websites that don't provide the same fare when I put in the dates of travel. How do I book the fare that is advertised?

A. After you click on the price, there's always a link or two under the Dealhound Confirmed heading on the next page. Those links take you directly to the source of our information (the airline, Orbitz, or wherever -and often separated by month of travel) where you can see current date availability, and you won't have to enter dates one at a time. If you continue to have trouble locating your fare, just drop us an email. We're happy to help!

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