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Entries during 2014-06

Flight Changes at Your Expense

Q. We bought tickets last April to travel from Moncton to Vietnam via New York on United. The trip being in October, we bought early in order to get good prices.

Last week, we were advised by Expedia that United no longer offers flights between Moncton to New York.

United offered to reimburse the whole trip. It left us no choice but to cancel everything and book all over again, costing us $463 more. So much for the benefit of booking early, not to mention the stress that caused us since we have to catch up with a tour in Vietnam that is all paid for.

Under the circumstances, shouldn't United offer to do more to correct the situation?

A. This is one of the most un-regulated and annoying aspects of air travel these days. If you were to change your travel plans, United would charge you $200 or more. But United can change YOUR travel plans and cost you $463. Airlines should be required to put you on another airline at the same price you paid when they abandon a route or change a schedule so drastically that the flight no longer works for you.

And unfortunately, there’s no travel insurance plan that would cover this, either.

Above image via Shutterstock

Missed Connection

Q. My niece and nephew were flying from Dubuque to Atlanta via Chicago on American Airlines. Deboarding was delayed by about 15 minutes or so in Chicago, causing them to miss their connecting flight to Dubuque by only a few minutes. That flight to Dubuque was the last one of the day, so obviously this meant either stay overnight and fly out the next day (which was not an option due to work the next day) or rent a car and drive the 3 hours back to Dubuque .... which is what they chose to do.

So, my question is: really, American Airlines?! Could they not see via computer that my niece and nephew were recently landed and on their way? Personally, I've been on flight before where we have waited for other passengers who were making a connecting flight. Why is this situation
any different?

Is there anyway to get compensated for this? And if so, would they contact American or CheapOAir, the site where they purchased the tickets? Does purchasing tickets from a third party website make a difference in such situations?

A. Unfortunately, the only recourse in situations like this is to either file a complaint with the airline or see if there’s any insurance available. If their trip was paid with through some credit card issuers, it’s possible that the card has built-in travel insurance that would help out.

It’s precisely for this and other travel mishaps that a company called Aircare was recently launched. Had the two passengers paid $25 extra, they would have been paid $500 in this missed-connection scenario.

I have no idea why a last flight of the day from Chicago to Dubuque could not have waited a few extra minutes, even if it meant missing its take-off slot at O’Hare, which admittedly is a busy airport, but I see this sort of thing frequently and I assume that there are operational reasons for sticking to schedules. I wouldn’t bother contacting CheapOAir, but it might help to complain directly to the airline.

Above image via Shutterstock

TSA Theft

Q. My husband flew out of Seattle last week. While clearing TSA security, his laptop was stolen. We are still in shock that this could happen. This scam was slick and there's no doubt that TSA employees were involved, or at least complicit. We have now found another person who had the same thing happen to him at the Seattle airport last month. TSA is not being very cooperative. Lots of forms to fill out, but no answers. Is this type of theft common and how can we prevent my husband's new laptop from meeting a similar fate?

A. If you do a web search for "TSA theft" you get some interesting and shocking results. The ABC News 20/20 video you'll find by searching "TSA Officer Tracked at home missing iPad" is especially amusing, if that's the right word. Hundreds of TSA officers have been fired for theft. That said, it's entirely possible that another passenger took the laptop, either intentionally or by mistake. Of course, you should never put a laptop in checked luggage, but even carryon luggage is vulnerable. That's where TSA PreCheck can help. Most laptops are lost or stolen because the device is sent through the scanner long before the owner passes through the scanner to the "airside" of the terminal, so the laptop or iPad sits in its bin while the owner is stuck behind a line of people waiting to be scanned. With TSA PreCheck, you don't have to remove your device from your carryon. You can even lock your carryon, which I strongly suggest everyone should do. I would guess that PreCheck has already cut down on the theft of valuables at TSA checkpoints. If TSA PreCheck lines are not available, I always wait until I'm sure that I will be the next person through the metal detector and then and only then do I send my laptop or iPad through the scanner.

Above image via Shutterstock

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