Travel Q&A

Don't Miss a Single Travel Tip!
Follow Us on Facebook
I already like Airfarewatchdog on Facebook

You can submit your own question to us at We will try to answer as many as possible.

Current posts | Categories
Entries during 2008-08

Lengthy Layovers & Lost Luggage

Q. Recently, my ticket got changed by the airline so that I now have a 4-hour layover between the 2 legs of my outbound flight. I've heard that it is most common for luggage to be lost when you have long layovers, as they put the luggage aside rather than transporting it to where it needs to go immediately (there's no flight or gate for it to go to yet). I would think too quick a layover would mean the luggage may not make the plane, but is too long a layover a problem, too?

I'm really kind of scared to check a bag now, but I can't imagine lugging
around a massive carryon during a 4-hour layover...

A. These days you should thank your lucky stars for such a layover, considering how often flights are delayed. You'll probably arrive with just enough time to grab a quick snack and make your connection. If you're concerned about your bag making the flight (and according to our Tracy, a former baggage handler whose luggage went forever M.I.A. while under the watch of his own employer, you have every right to be),  you might want to consider using Fed Ex ground instead. They tend not to lose things so much and, with all those newly invented airline baggage fees, you might even save some cash. You can check out our shipping vs bag check comparison chart here.

Do I have to use my entire ticket?

Q:  I recently was trying to get a good fare from Atlanta to Seattle, around the Xmas holidays,and was not having much luck when I thought I would try Birmingham. I got a great ticket on days that work and then saw it comes back and forth thru Atlanta.  Can I just get on and off here and how do I do that? Thanks so much. Love your website.

A: Unless you use all the segments of your flight, the airline will cancel any remaining segments, so, no, you shouldn't do this. Honestly, Birmingham isn't that far from Atlanta along I-20 (about 150 miles, or two hours if you have a heavy foot on the accelerator, with no traffic), so maybe you can rent a car or have someone pick you up. Amtrak also serves the two cities for as little as $30 one way, although the trip takes 5 hours.

Is 30 minutes enough time to change terminals in Houston?

Q: We booked our flights from SFO to London using Delta SkyMiles and were put on Continental flights thru Houston.  The SFO to Houston leg was changed slightly giving us only a 30 minute connection in Houston.  I called Continental about my concern over the very short connect time to go from domestic terminal C to International E in only 30 minutes.  They said that 30 minutes was the minimum connect time and we should probably make it.

There is an earlier flight from SFO to Houston which would give us 1 ½ hour connect time but since there were no frequent flier seats on it they would not rebook us on the earlier flight.

Do you have any suggestions on how to book seats on the earlier flight other than trying to go standby which is our plan?

A: No, 30 minutes is probably not enough time to make that connection, what is Continental thinking? Especially if the incoming flight is late.  I would keep calling the OnePass service desk (at least once a day) trying to get an earlier flight into Houston (any earlier flight, not just the one with 90 minutes connection time) using miles. Ask to speak to a supervisor and explain the situation. Even if you were somehow to make the tight connection, you'd be so frazzled that it would take you 24 hours to recover! When last we checked, standby travel is not allowed on Continental frequent flyer tickets, although this may have changed (other airlines allow this but charge up to $50 per passenger). 

Can you really fly for $9 on Spirit?

Q: I flew on Spirit from Florida to Puerto Rico.  It was the best fare I found. Now, I receive periodic emails proclaiming rediculously low fares - such as $9 each way.  I have not had the time to pursue the factualness of these claims.  Is there anything to these low fares? What kinds of restrictions?

A: Yes, you can really book those fares, but typically there are only available on a few travel days (sometimes as few as 4 days in each direction). Sometimes it's hard to create a reasonable 7 to 10 day itinerary and get the $9 fare in both directions (you might need to stay a month, for example, to get $18 round trip), but you'll save money anyway.

Also, sometimes you need to be a member of Spirit's $9 Fare Club in order to get these deals. Airfarewatchdog joined the club in order to be able to test these fares, and we do indeed find they're available as long as you are flexible in your travel dates and book your seats as soon as the sale is announced.

Can I sneak booze onto the plane and serve myself?

Q: Do airlines allow passengers to bring their own booze onto the plane? I was thinking of putting some shot bottles of alcohol into my carryon and mixing my own drinks. Will the TSA object to this? What are the rules?

A: As long as the bottles are 3 ounces or less, the TSA won't object. Airlines are another matter. In general, they have rules that only flight attendants are allowed to serve alcohol. (This is no doubt to ensure that passengers don't get plastered and unruly, although truth be told it does eat into their onboard sales.) Technically, if you bring booze on board, some airlines require that you hand it over to the flight attendant, but what busy flight attendant is going to want to be mixing you free cocktails on demand? In practice, probably no one is going to bother you if you quietly add some vodka to your bloody Mary mix. Just drink sensibly and be discreet.

Lost or delayed baggage: Do airlines still deliver for free?

Q: The last time I checked a bag, which was about ten years ago, American Airlines "lost" my bag on my return flight home.  When it was found a day later they delivered it to my door, about 18 miles from the airport, no charge.  But that was then -- what can expect today?  Suppose my hotel is 150 miles from the airport?  Is there a rule or a mileage limit on this -- if it's ever done at all any more? And if I pay a fee to check my bag and they lose or delay it, will they refund my money?

A: Airlines still deliver lost luggage without a fee, and we've never heard that there's a mileage limit. I recently asked the head of communications for Northwest Airlines whether they'd refund a checked baggage fee if they lost or delayed your bag, and she answered, "That's a good question. I'll have to look into that." I'm guessing that if you sqawked (or complained nicely) you'd at least get a travel voucher. Of course, we're telling everyone these days to send their belongings (without the suitcase) by FedEx Ground or UPS Ground service. If they lose or delay your shipment, they'll definitely refund your money.


Biased? Us?

Q. I'm not going to recommend your site anymore. It's clearly biased. You guys are in cahoots with Travelocity!

A: Have we got news for you, gentle reader. Although we haven't made a big deal about it, back in March was acquired by Expedia, one of Travelocity's biggest competitors. We recommend Travelocity a lot simply because many of the fares we list can only be booked if you use a flexible date search, and Travelocity offers search over a 330 day period, as does Expedia only offers flexible date search on major US routes, and only over a 30 day period at that. See our flexible date search chart for details. How's that for biased? :)

  • Real deals from your departure city
  • Verified by our Dealhounds