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 askgeorge@airfarewatchdog.com. We will try to answer as many as possible.

Current posts | Categories
Entries during 2008-09

Whenever you want to fly, so does everyone else

Q. I was wondering if airlines have little elves that scour the nation for festivals, sporting events, and concerts and then deliberately jack up the price of airfare to any given city based on those events.  A couple examples:
 
Round-trip San Diego to Austin for a Univ. of Texas home football game: $347
Round-trip San Diego to Austin any other weekend: $299
 
Round-trip San Diego to Austin for South By Southwest music festival: $404
Round-trip San Diego to Austin the following week: $365
 
It's almost like the airlines "know" about every major event happening on every city and jack up fares only on those particular weekends.  I'm an avid marathoner and this happens to me all the time when I fly to different races around the country.  Flights the weekend of a big race in that town are usually much higher.  Is there really some loser at a desk somewhere researching EVERY major event in every city in America?  If not, then the airlines are just psychic.

A. The airlines only sell so many seats at the cheapest fares and when those are sold, the next highest priced seats are sold, and so on. It's all done by sophisticated yield management software, not so much by elves these days. They did use elves back in the day, but they've all retired now, replaced like so many of us by computers. You'll be glad to know however that we still employ elves here at Airfarewatchdog. We don't use computer software to find and evaluate the fares we list.

Will I pay a change fee if I use a round-trip fare just one-way?

Q. I am traveling from Elmira, NY to Charlotte and wanted to purchase a one way ticket, but it is less expensive if you purchase a roundtrip ticket. So, I decided to purchase a roundtrip ticket through Expedia then cancel the flight back, but after purchasing the ticket I found out to cancel the flight returning to Elmira would incur a $100 fee. Would I still be charged if I just didn't show up for the flight or would it be better to cancel?

A: Just don't cancel the return. However, airlines are now specifically stating in their contracts of carriage that frequent flyer miles will be forfeited because this is a violation of most airlines' policies. If you abuse this strategy, they may wipe out your entire frequent flyer account and take other actions, up to and including asking you to pay for the full round-trip fare. Or they might go after your travel agent for the fare difference, and your agent might go after you.

My AIG Travel Guard Policy: Down the Tubes or Good to Go?

Q. What will happen to people like myself who have purchased trip cancellation insurance from Travel Guard/AIG? Does the federal bailout mean that my December ticket is still covered?

A. Yes! As we understand it, the insurance division of AIG has held up very well, and policy holders have nothing to worry about.

Excessive no-shows may harm your frequent flyer account

Q. I am traveling from Elmira, NY to Charlotte and wanted to purchase a one-way ticket, but it is less expensive if you purchase a round-trip ticket. So, I decided to purchase a round-trip ticket through Expedia then cancel the return trip, but after purchasing the ticket I found out that the fee to cancel would be a $100. Would I still be charged if I just didn't show up for the flight or would it be better to cancel?

A. No need to cancel the return. Just don't show up. You won't be charged, although airlines are now specifically stating in their contracts of carriage that frequent flyer miles will be forfeited because this is a violation of most airlines' policies. If you abuse this strategy, they may wipe out your entire frequent flyer account.

New Crop of Car Rental Fees

Q. I made a reservation with Alamo in January of 2008 for a car rental in December of 2008. I received an email confirmation of the rental, which I kept. Now, when I bring up my confirmation on their website, it has an additional charge of $4.50 per day, total of $31.50 for the week. This was not on my original confirmation, and I faxed them my original as proof of THEIR confirmation to me on the price. Alamo says that it is a "Customer Facility Charge" that the airport is charging them and they must charge me. I protested, but to no avail. Any suggestions to my rights in this issue?

A. These fees are charged by the local or state government for airport maintenance and can be considered an additional "tax" that is passed onto the consumer.  It's pretty difficult to fight city-hall literally on this issue... if you rent off-site (away from the airport) it is very likely that the charge would be less or even eliminated in some cases.  Here is an MSN Money article that discusses these particular kind of fees.

Frequent Flyer programs not what they used to be

Q. I was shocked to learn that just changing the date on my frequent flyer ticket (booked several months ago) is going to cost me $150.  As far as I could make out from the fine print on my ticket print-out, there should be no charge, but the agent said the change applies retroactively. How can they do that? Do I have any rights here?

A. Unfortunately, all frequent flyer program rules state that they can change the rules at any time.  With all the new (and rising!) fees required to cash in/change miles, we are advising people to look into cash back cards rather than using frequent flyer program-affiliated credit cards. Frequent flyer programs just aren't what they used to be. Visit our Frequent Flyer fee chart and see for yourself.

Name Changes: Same ticket, Different Passengers

Q. My girlfriend and I are moving to Seattle at the end of next month and having her sister and brother-in-law fly out to Minneapolis and meet us and help with the drive out there. We are keeping our eyes out for cheap tickets for them and will probably purchase the first ones we see. There is a possibility that I would move earlier and then fly back to drive with my girlfriend. When it gets to that point and we've already purchased the tickets for her sister and brother-in-law is it possible to change the name on the ticket to me?

A. Most airlines don't allow name changes once a ticket is purchased. In fact, we've heard stories from folks who have been unable to use purchased tickets because they used their every day nickname, forgetting that the name didn't match the one on their passport. We'd contact the airline you're thinking of flying with to see if they allow name changes (chances are they won't, and if they do, we imagine it'll be expensive).

If possible, we suggest booking your tickets on Southwest. That way, should you have to switch a ticket over from the inlaws, the ticket can be rebanked, reissued, or changed to a different date, and all without a fee. Whatever sum originally paid is yours to apply to a different ticket (even in another passenger's name) for up to a year.

Name Changes: Same ticket, Different Passenger

Q. My girlfriend and I are moving to Seattle at the end of next month and having her sister and brother-in-law fly out to Minneapolis and meet us and help with the drive out there. We are keeping our eyes out for cheap tickets for them and will probably purchase the first ones we see. There is a possibility that I would move earlier and then fly back to drive with my girlfriend. When it gets to that point and we've already purchased the tickets for her sister and brother-in-law is it possible to change the name on the ticket to me?

A. Most airlines don't allow name changes once a ticket is purchased. In fact, we've heard stories from folks who have been unable to use purchased tickets because they used their every day nickname, forgetting that the name didn't match the one on their passport. We'd contact the airline you're thinking of flying with to see if they allow name changes (chances are they won't, and if they do, we imagine it'll be expensive).

If possible, we suggest booking your tickets on Southwest. That way, should you have to switch a ticket over from the inlaws, the ticket can be rebanked, reissued, or changed to a different date, and all without a fee. Whatever sum originally paid is yours to apply to a different ticket (even in another passenger's name) for up to a year.

Midwest cancels flight, forgets to tell passengers

Q. We are taking our family on a cruise for our 50th wedding anniversary. In April I booked flights for 10 family members on CheapoAir. Yesterday after hearing that Midwest had been canceling some flights, I called to find out that the flight had been canceled. I was not notified by either the ticket agent, or the airlines. The flight is not until the 25th of December, but doesn't someone have an obligation to rebook those tickets that I payed for already?

A. Yep, they must either rebook you or issue a refund, which of course could result in your having to pay a lot more should you have to book new tickets. Although we hope they'll be able to rebook your entire party on the same flight, it may be easier for the airline (and less of a headache for you to have the matter resolved) to split your 10 up on two or so flights, wherever seats are available. So try to be flexible about the rebooking process.

No AC before take-off?

A. My husband and I have flown to and from Detroit on Northwest recently and on 2 of the 4 flights the plane was ridiculously hot (unhealthily hot). The flight crew said that they could not get the air going until they were moving -- but this has never happened to us on a flight before this. We were wondering if this is perhaps a new way for the airlines to cut costs by not cooling down the planes before take off or limiting their use of air conditioning.

Q. Yes, indeed. In order to run the AC they must run the engines, rather than just hooking up to the external power source. So we wouldn't be surprised if this is just another way to save on fuel.

  • Real deals from your departure city
  • Verified by our Dealhounds
https://rd.airfarewatchdog.com/?ad_user_tracking=%5Bsource%3D%2Ctaparam%3D%2Csupmt%3D%5D