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Entries during 2014-07

Late to Gate, Missed Flight

Q. While on a group trip, half of our party missed the flight and had to pay a fee of $100.00 per person ($1100.00 total) to reschedule for the next flight. Our flight was scheduled to leave from Orlando at 10:37pm, we were at the ticket kiosk at 9:50pm due to a delay at the rental car location. Someone at Spirit Airlines advised us to get out of the kiosk line we were already waiting in and into another line. After about 5 to 10 minutes standing in the second line, another Spirit employee who advised us we needed to be in the line we were originally in. We were furious because it caused us to miss the final boarding call and they would not call ahead to the boarding area to advise we were on our way.

What recourse do we have in recouping money lost in fees and hotel stays?

A. Spirit is notorious for fees and for difficult customer service. People fly them because their fares are sometimes 90% less than competing flights, although lately we’ve seen the major airlines match them on many routes.

But arriving at the check in kiosk 47 minutes before take off put you in a difficult position. You’d still need to check in, check bags, go through security, and walk to the gate. Your flight probably “closed” (meaning  that you were supposed to be on board in your seat) 15 minutes before scheduled take off (some airlines close flights 20 minute before take off, allowing them to leave the gate earlier than scheduled), so you probably wouldn’t have made your flight anyway, especially with a large group and little kids in tow. I realize that there was a delay at the rental car counter, but I always advise people to arrive at the airport, even for a domestic flight, two hours ahead. You just never know what might happen. A flat tire, traffic, unusually long TSA lines—a hundred different delays could affect your plans. And these days, missing a check in deadline, as you discovered, can be a huge inconvenience if there are no seats until the next day or you need to pay a fee.

Many people hate arriving at the airport early, but airports these days have all kinds of amenities to distract you. Plan to have a meal (airport food outlets have improved enormously of late); some airports have museums and play areas for the little ones, mini-spas, and other diversions

I doubt you’ll get anywhere with Spirit.

Above image via Shutterstock

Preserving a Child's Miles

Q. My 14 year old daughter has 45,000 miles in the American Airlines frequent flyer program but she just got a letter saying that because there's been no activity in the account her miles will expire in December. She's not planning to fly anytime soon, and she is too young to get a credit card as a way to earn miles (I use my American Airlines Visa card to buy everything, and that's how I extend my miles). So how can we protect her miles?

A. There are several easy ways, even without a credit card or taking a flight.

Join the American Aadvantage dining program, using her frequent flyer number. Then register your credit cards on her dining account. Then just have a meal at a participating restaurant and you're all set. (American is currently have a bonus deal where you get 10,000 miles for 10 "dines" of $40 or more; you must register for this promotion).

Buy a few miles from your account to her account. There's a per-mile fee but this is an easy solution.

Or just buy something on the Aadvantage shopping portal (this applies to any airline's shopping portal by the way). Register at the portal with her frequent flyer number. Then go to a participating retailer (there are over 250 of them) and from there sign into the retailer's website in your name. Buy something using your credit card. Your daughter will get the miles even if it's bought with your card.

Above image via Shutterstock

23 Hours in Shanghai

Q. The cheapest fare I can find to Cambodia involves a plane change in Shanghai. The wait time is 23 hours. First, is it permitted to leave the airport and tourist around in Shanghai without a China visa for a few hours? Second, what would be a "do not miss" activity/attraction for that time?

A. As long as you're holding a ticket onward, and not staying longer than the allotted 48-hours, you'll be fine. From the Chinese Consulate: Visas are not required of passport holders of the following countries, who transit through Pudong Airport or Hongqiao Airport of Shanghai, provided they hold valid passports, visas for the onward countries, final destination tickets and have booked seats, and stay in Shanghai for less than 48 hours: Republic of Korea, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland.

As for what to do during your stay, there's plenty! You'll find a thorough to-do list of Shanghai's Greatest Hits on TripAdvisor. The Shanghai Museum is always popular, as is the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. Even a little after dinner stroll on the Bund is a pretty spectacular way to spend an evening.

Shanghai image via Shutterstock

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