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Entries during 2013-06

Reactivating Expired Miles

Q. I thought you might be able to help me with a problem I have with American Airlines. In October 2012, I booked a trip for myself and my family to take over the Christmas holiday. In late December, the day before our travel dates, I went to print out our tickets from the AA site and noticed that all of our miles had expired on November 30, leaving us with zero miles. None of us had been notified in any way that our miles were about to expire. I'd been very ill over the last year or two,  and thus we hadn't traveled at all. But now I was better, and we decided to travel over the holidays, and loyally we returned to AA.

My wife called AA and explained the situation to them (my illness) and asked them that since we made our reservations in October 2012, well before the November 30th expiration date, didn’t that “reset the expiration clock” in October 2012?  She was told no, “the clock wouldn’t reset” until we actually traveled at the end of December 2012. They did offer to re-instate the miles for $30.00 per person, in other words $120.00 total. We declined their offer to be nickeled & dimed some more! Isn't there something to be done?

A. First of all, there's no excuse for letting your miles expire! You can easily keep them active by making a purchase online. I do feel for you, and I wish American would make it clearer that you have to take the trip in order for the miles to "register". But honestly, American was doing you a favor by allowing you to reinstate the miles for just $30 each. The "normal" fee for reinstating that amount of miles would be $200 plus a 7.5% tax. I would have jumped at the chance.

Free Wi-Fi Airports

Q. I am SICK of paying for airport Wi-Fi. Most of the time I only need to go online for a few minutes, yet I end up shelling out the $8 or more for a Wi-Fi daypass. And between connections, when I'm short on time, I don't have the patience to fumble around registering and typing in my credit card number. So on a recent trip to Columbia, South Carolina, I was pleased to see that the Columbia Metropolitan Airport offers free Wi-Fi. What other airports are doing this? And why can't they all just throw us this one bone?

A. That really bugs us too! But we're glad to see that so many airports are beginning to offer free Wi-Fi these days. It's the least they could do, after all. Jaunted.com keeps a map of both domestic and international airports where free WiFi is available. If you know of a Wi-Fi airport that hasn't been included, they do encourage tips.   

What's the big deal about changing a name?

Q. I would like to know how the airline industry gets away with not allowing passengers to change the name on a ticket. No other industry has anything in place like this. They use the “security" excuse which is BS.

A. You're right, this probably has absolutely nothing to do with security. Some airlines, present and past, have allowed name changes, but for a fee or in some cases for free. Mexican airline interjet, which flies from the US to Mexico and beyond, allows name changes for $25 plus tax, for example. Frontier Airlines allows name changes for between $0 and $100, depending on the fare type bought and frequent flyer status, assuming there is no itinerary change. Now-defunct Midwest Airlines used to allow name changes for a fee, too. Perhaps we will see other airlines allow name changes in order to raise ancillary revenue or to further reward their premium flyers.

Reseated & Refunded

Q. I suffer from anxiety when flying and do best at a window near the front of the plane, so when my husband and I flew to Ft Lauderdale to see our grandkids, I purchased seat 6A. Minutes before the flight boarded, I and 4 or 5 others were called to the desk and informed of our new seat assignments. I very calmly and nicely explained to the man that I am not a good flyer and that this seat would not work, that I have anxiety issues when flying, and that is why I had purchased my seat at additional cost.  He said to go ahead and sit there and a flight attendant would reseat me later.
 
With NO EXPLANATION I was reassigned to seat 20D. Definitely NOT a window and definitely not in the front of the plane and definitely no explanation of the seat reassignment.  As a result I spent the entire 2 hour flight fighting off an anxiety attack. None of the flight attendants would even look in my direction the entire time.
 
After a letter to Allegiant, they did credit the amount I paid for the seat, but still no explanation as to why I was moved. Especially after I explained my anxiety problem. What rights do I have, if any?

A. Unfortunately, seat assignments aren't guaranteed. Airlines may sometimes be forced to switch out aircraft for various reasons, which can cause last minute seat reshuffling - though that's pretty rare. Still, Allegiant should have immediately refunded the additional money you paid for 6A, without having to be reminded to do so. You paid extra for a seat that they failed to provide, end of story.

Check-in online vs. at the airport

Q. Many years ago I read in the newspaper that if you check-in online and then miss your flight, the airline considers your ticket as used and does not help out as much as if you had not checked in. Since then, I have almost always waited until I get to the airport before checking in. I find the process at the airport to be easy. The only exception is when I have flown Southwest, because checking in online early gives me better chances at a seat I like. Also, on occasion airlines have offered extra miles or points for checking in online, and I am a sucker for points. Is there a downside to checking in online, or have times have changed?

A. A ticket is only considered “used” if it’s scanned to board the flight. Merely checking in does not mean a ticket is used. However, I tweeted this question to my followers on Twitter @airfarewatchdog and one person suggested a possible downside to checking in online. American Airlines, he says, “unchecked-in” passengers on a flight because a smaller plane was substituted for a larger one. Seats were re-assigned only at airport check-in, but those who checked in online and went straight to the gate were too late to get seats on the smaller plane. If you think you’ll miss your flight, be sure to call the airline to cancel, however, because there may be a penalty for being a no-show. Southwest Airlines, for example, recently added this policy change: “If a Customer has booked a nonrefundable fare anywhere in his/her itinerary and that portion of the flight is not used and not canceled or changed by the Customer prior to scheduled departure, all unused funds on the full itinerary will be lost, and the remaining reservation will be canceled."

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