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Entries during 2008-12

Hawaiian Airlines leaves family of eleven stranded

Q. My family of 11 were booked on Hawaiian Airlines from Seattle to Honolulu for a two week vacation. The plane we were to fly out on was supposed to be arriving from Oakland, and we were scheduled to depart at 8:05 am. The plane arrived from Oakland at 8 pm, 12 hours late! Finally, we were told the flight would now leave at 10 am the next morning, and no hotels were offered. The next day, we were told our flight was cancelled, and the earliest we could fly out would be a whole seven days later. Needless to say, our long planned vacation was ruined and we incurred significant expenses. What recourse do we have?

A. Yikes, what a nightmare! At eleven tickets, plus lodging, it seems to us that Hawaiian should - at the very least - offer you vouchers. And according to their contract of carriage, item 5 seems to back that up:

Amenities/Services for Delayed Passengers
The carrier will assume the expenses outlined below for all passengers incurred as a result of cancellation, delay or interruption of any flight on which a passenger holds confirmed reservations. Passengers will be informed of the available amenities when a delay is expected to exceed 4 hours.
1. Hotel Rooms - HA will provide one-night's lodging at accommodation selected by HA when a passenger's delay is expected to exceed 4 hours and extend into the period 10:00 pm through 6:00 am, and no scheduled alternate transportation is available to the passenger's destination or stopover point. HA will not provide lodging for passengers who reside in the city where the interruption occurs.

2. Meals - Passengers will be furnished one meal voucher if the delay will extend beyond the    four  (4) hours. No alcoholic beverages will be furnished to any passengers.

3. Local Ground Transportation will be provided to the downtown area or from/to local hotel whichever is applicable.

4. Communications - One long distance telephone call will be allowed between any two points in the United States.

5. In lieu of the above, and subject to passenger's approval, HA will compensate the passenger with credit valid for the purchase of transportation. The credit will be valid for travel only on HA within 365 days of the date of issue and will apply only to online transportation via HA, may not be endorsed to or accepted by any other carrier and is not refundable to, saleable by, transferable by or assignable by the passenger.


 

Missed Connection Insurance

Q. I have been trying to figure out if any of the travel insurance plans will cover you if you miss a connection between legs of your flight, especially if the connection has a fairly brief window, and the second leg is the last flight of the night.

A. Many do have a "missed connection" clause with a benefit in the range of $500, which should cover any expenses incurred.  Check with your insurer to see if they do and for any specifics, as this does vary.

28 days later, and a dollar (or several hundred) more

Q. Why are international airfares from the US so much more expensive when trips exceed 28 days? My wife and I have noticed, for example, that Tampa to Paris is about $833 from February 15 - March 15, but an additional week (returning March 22), the price jumps to $1,172. This seems to be the case no matter what dates we put in -- if we want to stay more than a month, the flight is considerably more, and it applies to any airline we try.

A. Unfortunately, sale fares are geared toward the more casual vacationer, who's going for a short week or two, and theoretically needs to be given extra motivation to purchase. The airlines figure that someone who's going for a long stay (and whose travel habits are more commuter than tourist) is going to be willing to pay the higher fare. This is a case when one might have better luck checking out consolidator fares.

 

Status Upgrades for Frequent Fliers

Q. A while back United Airlines had a deal where elite members could nominate a friend for a status upgrade. I fly for work, but my employer books my flights, and thus I have my mileage spread out on many different airlines. And so, it was great to be able to be upgraded to Premier without having to accumulate all the milage. Do you know if any of the other airlines offer something similar to their frequent fliers?

A. We put this one to our friend Tim Winship at FrequentFlier.com, who had this to say:

First, a word on terminology, to avoid any confusion. 'Status match' has a very specific meaning when used by the frequent flyer program cognoscenti. Generally, a status match is when one airline matches the elite status a traveler has earned in another airline's mileage program, as a way to encourage that traveler to switch his allegiance.

Steph's question concerns something very different.

Until recently, United and American both offered elite members of their programs the option of bestowing elite status on a friend. It was one among several so-called threshold bonuses elite members could choose to receive if they reached various mileage thresholds.

I'm only aware of one airline that currently allows elites to nominate a friend for elite status, US Airways. The benefit is reserved for flyers who have reached that airline's highest elite tier, Chairman's Preferred, and entitles them to designate one person to receive Silver Preferred status.

 

Also, Airfarewatchdog notes that if you have a Delta Reserve credit card from American Express, you can earn bonus Medallion qualification miles, which you can give to friends and family, allowing them to reach Medallion status faster.
 

Stand-by of yesteryear

Q. What's the deal with flying standby? I'm presently in Europe, after having paid an exorbitantly huge fare to get here from YYZ - and in the hostels I met up with this guy from Spain who tells me that he often flies standby and pays between 50 and 200 euros to fly virtually anywhere. Is that possible from North American Airports? if so... HOW?

A. That is absolutely not done any more in the US... "stand-by" is now for those who have already paid for a ticket and show up early to the airport to try to get on a flight earlier than the one they are ticketed for and quite often will have to pay an additional fee in order to get on an earlier flight. In the old days, you could wait and see if there were empty seats on a plane and pay a reduced fare to travel, but no major US airline does this anymore (with the exception of AirTran's program for college age travelers who have limited last-minute access to empty seats for a discounted fare).

Stand-by of yesteryear

Q. What's the deal with flying standby? I'm presently in Europe, after having paid an exorbitantly huge fare to get here from YYZ - and in the hostels I met up with this guy from Spain who tells me that he often flies standby and pays between 50 and 200 euros to fly virtually anywhere. Is that possible from North American Airports? if so... HOW?

A. That is absolutely not done any more in the US... "stand-by" is now for those who have already paid for a ticket and show up early to the airport to try to get on a flight earlier than the one they are ticketed for and quite often will have to pay an additional fee in order to get on an earlier flight. In the old days, you could wait and see if there were empty seats on a plane and pay a reduced fare to travel, but no major US airline does this anymore (with the exception of AirTran's program for college age travelers who have limited last-minute access to empty seats for a discounted fare).

Save by booking through foreign carrier sites?

Q. When booking with a foreign carrier, how come it's often cheaper to book airfare on their country portal and more expensive on the US version of their site? In other words, booking as if you're Canadian, or Argentinian, or Australian, etc. through the Air Canada, Aerolineas Argentinas, or Qantas sites, respectively, you often find cheaper flights. They are in local currency of course, but even after conversion they are cheaper. What gives? Another ploy to squeeze Americans?

A. Airlines can set their prices as they choose based on local markets, traffic, and conditions. They charge what they think the markets will bear. We're sure it works both ways, with fares booked on US carriers often beating out what's offered in other markets.

It is a good idea when comparison shopping to check out fares from your arrival country, in the reverse. Especially when booking one-ways, or multi-city trips, we've definitely saved ourselves some cash by booking in the reverse.


 

Cancelled, but we'll put you on our next flight out. Whenever that might be.

Q. My wife was booked an a Tuesday morning flight from Los Angeles to Calgary, where she was to meet me at a conference that evening. American Airlines cancelled her flight without so much as offering to book her on a later flight that day. Instead they booked her on a flight departing the following day, which didn't work for us. So my wife booked a $500 flight on Air Canada, leaving that day, and later used the second half of her original American ticket to return home.

I asked American to reimburse us for the $500 Air Canada ticket, which they refused to do, saying they did try and book her on that next day flight.

What recourse do I have here? Any suggestions?

A. Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do in this case. American's cancellation policy is among the vaguest in the industry, which allows them a lot of wiggle room:

When cancellations and major delays are experienced, you will be rerouted on our next flight with available seats.

Other airlines will rebook you on another flight with another airline, but not American. Here's a little something from our blog addressing the very same situation. Maybe this will help you choose which airline gets your business from here on out.

Holiday Standby: Taking the Earlier Flight

Q. For Christmas this year, I'll be flying Delta from New York to Dublin, Ireland. My flight departs at 10pm but I'd prefer to fly one of the earlier flights, and without having to pay the huge difference in price. Is this possible? And if so, how can I improve my chances of getting a standby seat on the earlier flight, or atleast a better seat on my current flight.

A. If there's room on the earlier flight, you won't be charged for the difference in fare, but you will probably have to pay Delta's same day change fee of about $50. The best thing to do to increase your chances of securing a standby seat is to arrive early. When you call to confirm your original flight, you can check to see how full those earlier flights are, as well as try and change your seat assignment on your original flight.

For a look at what other airlines are charging for same day changes, click here.

Legit Consolidator Site?

Q. I've been shopping around for fares to Manila and Hong Kong, and have found AsianAirfares.com to be less expensive than Travelocity and Expedia. So far, the reviews of AsianAirfares from other users are good, but what do you think? Is this site legit and am I safe booking tickets through them?

A. They are legit. But here's the thing: They sell consolidator fares, which are far more restrictive regarding changes and refunds (sometimes even not allowing them at all), so make sure you know what you're purchasing. As always, use a credit card in case you need to dispute charges down the road.

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