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Entries during 2007-12

Cruises: buy fares from the cruise line or on your own?

Q: Am I better off buying airfare for my upcoming cruise through the cruise line or on my own? My initial check seems to show that the cruise line isn't offering any bargains.

A: Airfares bought through a cruise line as part of your cruise package are sometimes more expensive that what you might be able to arrange on your own. However, should there be a problem with your flights and you miss the boat, the cruise line will arrange, in most cases, to fly you to the next port of call on the itinerary at their expense, or if enough passengers are on the delayed flight they might even hold the ship. If you buy airfare on your own, you are on your own, and it's a good idea to buy travel insurance.

And it's also a great idea to arrive at your port of embarkation at least a day before the ship leaves in order both to see some of the departure city and more importantly to build in some insurance in case your flight is delayed or cancelled, especially in winter. You might also want to overnight in the final city on the cruise in case the ship is delayed due to engine problems or other unforeseen circumstances.

"Open Jaw" Frequent Flyer Tickets

Q: want to use my frequent flyer miles on American Airlines for a couple of friends and myself, but when I try to search for an open jaw flight, I can't do it -- the form restricts me.  Do you know if it's possible to use frequent flyer miles on an open jaw?

A: An open jaw ticket, for those who don't know, involves flying from Airport A to Airport B and then back from Airport C to Airport A. As we read Aadvantage's rule book, open jaw ticketing is allowed but you must do so by phone by calling AAdvantage Reservations at 1-800-882-8880. There may be some restrictions on routing. Other airlines including United (see rules) also permit open jaw reward travel, but they may require that you book by phone and may charge a phone booking fee, generally around $15 per booking. American states that "When multiple awards are claimed at the same time, each additional award is subject to a fee of $25.00 USD" so it looks like you'll be hit with a $25 fee for each of your friends.

 

What's the story with Lessno.com?

A good site for international fares?

Q. Have you heard of a site called Lessno.com? I found some really low international fares on their site, but I've never heard of them.

A: According to Bo, our fare analyst who specializes in international fares, they do indeed have some really great fares, both in economy and business class. They also have a 7-day flexible travel search. If you've bought a ticket from them, please tell us your experience by using the comments link below.

 

"Mechanical Difficulties" & "Weather Delays"

Q. Over the course of the past few months, I've had numerous Air Canada flights, departing from Vancouver, to be cancelled. And associates have reported the same trouble with their AC flights out of Calgary.

Seems like, after check-in, Air Canada decides that there aren't enough
passengers on a particular flight, so they just go ahead and cancel it.
They then put you on the next flight. If there are still not enough
passengers on that flight, they say 'mechanical difficulties' and then
cancel that flight too. By this time, the flight is very full and I've wasted hours of my day.

Is this a common occurence with Air Canada and other airlines? Is
there any recourse for passengers to take when this happens?

A. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time we've heard this. If it were a matter of empty seats, they should have had the foresight to alert passengers of the cancellation in advance, instead of forcing you to mill around for hours on end after showing up on time. In Europe, carriers are required to compensate passengers for cancellations that occur within 14 days of departure. Round these parts? We're not as lucky. Your best bet is to call attention to these less than honest procedures and make a fuss.

Anyone else have this happen to you, with Air Canada or other airlines? Please leave a comment below.

Illness Excluded by Travel Insurance

Q. I recently canceled a trip I planned to take after hearing the news that my mother had been diagnosed with alzheimer's disease. The thing is, I purchased travel insurance, but they're telling me that this isn't something they can cover. What to do?

A. Unfortunately, alzheimer's is considered a mental illness, and travel insurance excludes coverage for mental and emotional illness. Still, you should contact your family physician and have him make the case that alzheimers is a mental illness with physical symptoms. It's worth a shot.

Bags You Could Live In

Q. My wife and I have planned a year long round-the-world and have been shopping for just the right luggage. Something durable but not too flashy would do just fine. Even a really good duffel. Suggestions?

A. Globe-Trotter is to luggage what Marks & Spencer is to underwear: It'll last you a lifetime. But a guarantee like that will set you back a little more than a 3-pack of under shorts. Each piece is hand made in England, and constucted of extremely sturdy light-weight vulcanfibre. And no, that has nothing to do with Dr. Spock, although if you're looking for celebrity endorsements, Queen Elizabeth II packed her fancy duds in a set, as did Winston Churchill. They make 'em in a rainbow of colors, of course, and with unnecessary leather trimming here and there, but it's not something you'd want to be seen wheeling through a Brazilian favela at 3am, trust us. For nonflashy, we'd stick to the original navy and black.

If it's a sturdy duffel you're looking for, Seattle based company Filson makes our favorite. Made of oil finish rugged twill and bridle leather, these bags are water repellent and can really go through the ringer. They make them in all sizes, with wheels or without, and in army green or khaki.

"Open jaw" airfares

Q:  I'm taking the family on a Colorado vacation in April '08. We want to travel into Durango but return out of Grand Junction. Do you have any suggestions on how to find the best airline fares for an itinerary like this. We can use Albany, NY or Burlington, VT for departing airports.

 

A: Near as I can make out, for your routes and dates, there is no fare "penalty" for buying what they call in the industry an "open jaw" ticket (leaving from and returning to the same airport, Albany in your case, but flying into and returning from two different airports).

The fares for April travel for your route are essentially the same whether open jaw or a simple roundtrip. In fact, I found that the open jaw was a bit less for April travel than it would be for a simple round trip into Grand Junction. Fares on United and Delta are about the same from Albany, around $605-$631 for early April travel including tax.

To perform an open jaw search on Travelocity, click on the "multiple destination" link on the home page search box.

The wake up call that never came

Q: My friend and I were staying in a two-star, but not inexpensive, hotel in Paris. We each asked for separate 6 AM wake up calls (we were staying in separate rooms). Mine came at 8 AM, his never came. As a result, we missed our onward flight, had to eat the cost of the non-refundable fares, and buy new fares, costing us about $800 total. Shouldn't the hotel compensate us? By the way, there were no alarm clocks in the rooms.

A: Ideally, yes, but you should never, ever rely on a hotel wake up call! What if the power goes out and the automated system is down? Or the front desk forgets to call, which has happened to us in the past. Always, always travel with a lightweight travel alarm and bring extra batteries for it just in case. As for compensation, the most the hotel might offer, if you ask, is a free room night or two on your next stay, so I would go that route. But do you really want to stay there again?

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