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Entries during 2014-09

Return Fare from Beijing

Q. I was fortunate enough to get a low fare one-way from Prague to Hong Kong. I am now searching for a return fare, probably from Beijing to Toronto and it appears that it is cheaper to buy a return fare from Toronto than it is a one-way from China. Even one-way fares from Toronto to Beijing are half the cost of a one-way from Beijing to Toronto. Do you have any advice on this?

A. You may find that it's cheaper to buy a round-trip fare from Beijing to Toronto and not use the return portion. Or it may work out better to fly from either Hong Kong or Beijing to some other North American city, either one-way or round-trip (scrapping the return, of  course) and finding a cheap ticket onward to Toronto.

If possible, you could also use miles towards your return flight home, which is what many people did for those crazy low Milan/Prague/Hong Kong/Tokyo one-way fares that sprung up a few months back.

Beijing image via Shutterstock

Booking Snafu: Best to Confirm Ahead by Phone

Q. I used my Alaska Airlines miles to obtain a flight on American Airlines from Seattle to Miami for a quick weekend trip. I received a confirmation email from American with a record locator and seat assignment. But when I went to check in online 24 hours before departure, I was told that online check in wasn't available to me and that I'd have to check in at the airport. When I got to the American ticket counter a couple of hours before my flight I was told that there was no reservation for me. Not just no seat, but that the entire reservation didn't exist. I went home, furious, and had to eat a non-refundable $100 reservation in Miami. I also had important appointments in Miami that I cannot reschedule until next year. AA is blaming Alaska, and Alaska is blaming AA. Alaska, after some back and forth, offered me an insulting $200 future travel credit. What do you think happened to my reservation and do you agree that a $200 credit is enough?

A. I checked into this with American, which was the airline your seat was booked on, and they claim that Alaska didn't send your booking information to them in time. Of course, I have no idea who is to blame here, but a couple of things to note: first, no, $200 is not enough, especially considering your losses. I would continue to politely pester both AA and Alaska and have them up the offer to at least a $500 credit. And second, whenever you cannot check in online, that's a red flag and you shouldn't wait until getting to the airport to figure out what's going on. In my experience it means there's no seat for you. It happened to me a while back on American and when I got to the airport, despite having a first class seat assignment and record locator, I was told that I was being bumped to a later flight. There was no explanation given, such as the flight was oversold: just no seat. Perhaps a third point is that whenever you buy a seat from one airline on other airline's equipment (such as a code share situation), you up the odds of something going wrong as happened to this poor chap. Avoid doing so whenever possible. Related: how to file an airline complaint.

Above image via Shutterstock

Safely Packing Pickles & Pepper Jelly

Q. I am planning to bring homemade jalapeno pepper jelly & pickles in my checked bag. They are in 4 oz jars and one dozen are packed in a tote. Is this allowed in a checked bag?

A. You are allowed to pack food items in your checked bag! Heck, you could even fold the entire contents of a delicious spaghetti dinner into a checkered table cloth, red wine and all, and freely toss it in your checked bag should you be so inclined. But if you plan to pack clothing alongside these jelly jars and pickles, you may consider containing them in something more substantial than a cloth tote. Even if using hardshell luggage, your bag is likely to receive some pretty rough treatment in transport (really really rough), so how about securing any potential spills with heavy duty resealable freezer bags? You'll also find leak-proof inflatable pouches available on Amazon. Good luck!

Above image via Shutterstock

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