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Subject: FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 1/4 [Monthly posting]

This article was archived around: 13 Aug 1997 07:48:27 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: travel/air/handbook
All FAQs posted in: rec.travel.air, rec.travel.marketplace
Source: Usenet Version

Archive-name: travel/air/handbook/part1 Last-Modified: Tue Mar 19 14:26:32 1996 by Mark Kantrowitz Version: 1.22 Size: 90743 bytes, 1794 lines URL: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/user/mkant/Public/Travel/airfare.html
;;; **************************************************************** ;;; Airfare FAQ, Part 1 ******************************************** ;;; **************************************************************** ;;; Written by Mark Kantrowitz This post is a summary of useful information for air travelers. The focus is on obtaining inexpensive air fares, although other topics are also covered. It was previously posted under the title "FAQ: How to Get Cheap Airtickets". The information in this FAQ applies primarily to US domestic flights, though some information may also apply to international flights. Please mail comments, corrections, additions, suggestions, criticisms and other information to mkant@cs.cmu.edu. *** Copyright: Copyright (c) 1989-94 by Mark Kantrowitz. All rights reserved. This FAQ may be freely redistributed in its entirety without modification provided that this copyright notice is not removed. It may not be sold for profit or incorporated in commercial documents (e.g., published for sale on CD-ROM, floppy disks, books, magazines, or other print form) without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Permission is expressly granted for this document to be made available for file transfer from installations offering unrestricted anonymous file transfer on the Internet. If this FAQ is reproduced in offline media (e.g., CD-ROM, print form, etc.), a complimentary copy should be sent to Mark Kantrowitz, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3891 USA. This article is provided AS IS without any express or implied warranty. *** Recent Changes: ;;; 1.20: ;;; 31-MAY-95 mk Replaced all the URLs in [4-12] with a pointer to the FAQ's ;;; home page, which now includes a substantially greater ;;; number of links. ;;; 1.21: ;;; 20-DEC-95 mk Corrected several London numbers, thanks to Richard Relf. ;;; 19-MAR-96 mk Info about Jet Train provided by Srivathsan Narasimhan *** Topics Covered: Part 1: [1-0] Obtaining the FAQ [1-1a] Standard Tricks: Advance Booking Discounts [1-1b] Advance Purchase Fares [1-2] Nested/Overlapping Tickets Strategy [1-x] Stopovers and Circle Trips [1-3] Fare Classes [1-4] Classes of Service [1-5] Fare Types [1-6] Special Fare Categories [1-7] Children's Fares [1-8] Clergy Fares [1-9] Military Fares [1-10] Senior Citizen Fares [1-11] Student/Youth Fares [1-12] Family Fares [1-13] Conference Fares [1-14] Sympathy Fares, Emergency Fares [1-15] Refunds [1-16] Flying Standby [1-17] Getting Bumped [1-18] Special Travel Dates/Fare Sales/Fare Wars [1-19] Moving Up the Return Flight [1-20] Hidden City Fares [1-21] Buying Someone Else's Nonrefundable Ticket [1-22] Discount Airlines [1-23] Tour Desks Part 2 (Travel Agents, Connections, Airports, Baggage): Travel Agents: [2-1] Travel Agents [2-2] Unusual Travel Agents: Commission Rebaters [2-3] Consolidators [2-4] Couriers [2-5] Travel Agencies that Specialize in Students [2-6] Visit USA [2-7] Free Upgrades to First Class [2-8] Companion Tickets [2-9] Avoiding Travel Scams [2-10] Missed Connections [2-11] Getting There Faster [2-12] Airports Monopolized by One Carrier [2-13] Hub Cities Baggage: [2-14] Lost Baggage [2-15] Baggage Limits [2-16] Pets [2-17] Bicycles [2-18] Restrictions on Electronics [2-19] X-ray Machines/Metal Detectors [2-20] Packing Tips/Checklist Part 3 (Safety & Comfort, Frequent Flyers): Travel Safety, Comfort, and Convenience: [3-1] Travel Advisories/Health Information [3-2] Travel Safety [3-3] Air Quality [3-4] Smoke-Free Flights [3-4a] Air Pressure Problems (Colds) [3-5] Special Meals [3-6] Jetlag [3-7] Pregnant Passengers [3-8] Tips for Families Flying with Children [3-9] Tips for Business Travelers [3-9b] Best Seats [3-10] Exchanging Currency Frequent Flyers: [3-11] Frequent Flyer Programs [3-12] Premier FF Membership [3-13] Hotel Frequent Flyer Plans [3-14] Credit Card Voucher Offers [3-15] Telephone Companies [3-16] Discount Coupon Offers Part 4 (Appendices, Miscellaneous): Appendices: [4-1] Airline Reservation Phone Numbers [4-2] Flight Information [4-3] On-line reservation services [4-4] Complaints and Compliments [4-5] Glossary [4-6] Other Sources of Information [4-7] Further Reading [4-8] Phone Numbers Included in this FAQ Miscellaneous: [4-9] IRS Rules Change [4-10] Airline Antitrust Litigation [4-11] Miscellaneous Notes [4-12] World-Wide Web (WWW) Resources Search for [#] to get to question number # quickly. *** Notes: All dollar ($) amounts in this FAQ are in US dollars. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-0] Obtaining the FAQ Certain questions and topics come up frequently in the rec.travel.air newsgroup. This FAQ is intended to gather these questions and their answers into a convenient and comprehensive reference. The hope is that this will cut down on the user time and network bandwidth used to post, read and respond to the same questions over and over, as well as answering questions some readers may not even have thought to ask. Posts of a commercial nature, such as the buying and selling of airplane tickets, should be posted to rec.travel.marketplace and not this newsgroup. An updated version of this file is posted once a month on the 13th of the month to the newsgroups rec.travel.air and news.answers. The version date for the file is located in the header near the top of the file. In between postings, the latest version of this FAQ is available by anonymous FTP from ftp.cs.cmu.edu:/user/mkant/Travel/ [] using username "anonymous" and password "name@host" (substitute your email address) or via AFS in the Andrew File System directory /afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/mkant/Public/Travel/ as the files airfare1.faq, airfare2.faq, airfare3.faq, and airfare4.faq. Other files available from this directory include: bucket.faq Edward Hasbrouck's FAQ on Bucket Shops and Consolidators classes.txt List of fare classes discounts.txt Table of Airline Special Fare Discounts (29-JUL-92) em_intrfrnc.txt Summary of EM Interference by Laurie Bechtler ff.faq Joel Chan's Frequent Flyer FAQ flt_attdnt.txt Description of the Job of a Flight Attendant iata.tgz List of worldwide airport IATA codes by Peter Loibl and Paulo Santos jetlag.txt The ANL jet lag diet. online.faq John Levine's FAQ on Online Computer Reservation Systems tourism.faq Where to get tourist/travel information The FAQ postings are also archived in the periodic posting archive on rtfm.mit.edu:/pub/usenet/news.answers/travel/air/handbook/ [] If you do not have anonymous ftp access, you can access the archive by mail server as well. Send an E-mail message to mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu with "help" and "index" in the body on separate lines for more information. A HTML version of the FAQ is available as http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/travel/air/handbook/top.html If you need to cite the FAQ for some reason, use the following format: Mark Kantrowitz, "Air Traveler's Handbook", rec.travel.air, <month>, <year>, ftp.cs.cmu.edu:/user/mkant/Travel/airfare?.faq, mkant+@cs.cmu.edu. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-1a] Standard Tricks: Advance Booking Discounts Airlines give better fares to people who advance book because they are trying to encourage people to book as early as possible. If the airline were to lower fares just before flight time there would be a flood of people (on random flights) at the last minute. Airlines need an accurate estimate of the number of people and amount of baggage on a flight so that they can load the proper amount of fuel. (Meals and beverages also have to be loaded.) Moreover, people who book at the last minute are usually flying on business, and therefore the business is paying for it. People flying for pleasure usually know weeks or months in advance, and can't afford the prices that a business would pay. Thus it is to an airline's advantage to set rates according to the major differences between business and leisure travelers: o Business travelers fly mostly between 9 and 5, whereas leisure travelers can fly offpeak hours. o Business travelers buy tickets on very short notice, whereas leisure travelers plan trips well in advance. o Business travelers do not stay over a weekend (= Saturday night), whereas leisure travelers do. So airlines typically give discounts for people who stay over a weekend, flying offpeak hours, and purchasing tickets 7 days, 14 days, 21 days or 30 days in advance. Such fares are known as excursion, discount, or supersaver fares. For example, US domestic excursion fares require that you buy your roundtrip ticket 7 days, 14 days, or 30 days in advance, and that you stay over a weekend (usually Saturday night, though sometimes Sunday night as well). Some may also restrict the travel to a 30-day maximum stay. Stopovers aren't allowed, except for the purpose of connection (if you want a stopover, you'll have to pay extra). Some fares may be limited to a particular routing (e.g., routes with connections cost less than nonstop flights). You may also be limited to flying during offpeak hours, with flights during the busiest times of the day costing more. Tickets are usually non-refundable and non-transferable, and may either be non-changeable or have a $35 change fee. The price is usually the average of the two one-way tickets. (E.g., a 2-week advance PGH/BOS advance ticket is around $200 this way.) Tickets must be purchased within 24 hours of the reservation. For international excursion fares, also known as apex fares, you must book at least 21 days in advance of the flight, and you may have to purchase the tickets at the time of the reservation. Minimum stay is usually 7-10 days, and maximum stay can range from 3 months to a year. Midweek travel (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday) is usually cheaper. Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable. Fares often depend on the seasons. Since a regular 1-way ticket is so much worse than a round-trip excursion fare, it sometimes pays to buy a round-trip ticket and throw away the other half (if you're only going one way). If you buy a round trip ticket and throw away the other half, make the first leg of the trip the destination, since some airlines will cancel the return trip if you don't show up for the first leg. If you intend to skip ONE leg of a multi-leg flight, tell this to your reservation agent in advance, so that they can annotated your PNR to prevent subsequent legs from being cancelled. (Note: You can't use this technique to exploit a "hidden city" fare. You'll have to have a very good reason for skipping a leg for the travel agent to allow it, and you may have to pay a different fare to do so.) For example, a round-trip to San Francisco from Pittsburgh with a one-night stayover is $1,333. However, the cost of a Saturday night stayover is only $479 if you order the ticket a week or two in advance. Purchasing two round trip tickets, one originating from Pgh and one from SF, and then using one half of each round trip ticket saves you $375. Note that for many airlines the discount fares depend solely on the date of the first leg of the trip. The price does not vary no matter when the return flight is (so long as you stay over a Saturday night). You could buy a flight with one leg in March and the return in November, and it would cost the same as if the return was in March. For some of the lowest fares, however, there is now a 30-day maximum stay. Staying more than 30 days often increases the fare by about 25%. If you travel on offpeak hours and low volume days, the rates are cheaper. Thus to guarrantee a low cost flight, you have to be very flexible about where you are going, what time and day you are leaving, and how long you want to stay. Offpeak hours typically include before 7am, between 10am and 2pm, and after 7pm, depending on the day of the week. Also important is when you make the reservation. If you make the reservation for an offpeak flight during the peak season (say, make a reservation for February just before Thanksgiving), you may be charged the peak rates. After the holidays some airlines lower their discount fares to attract customers. So you may be able to get a better fare by making your reservation right after the holidays. If you notice that the fare for your flight has been lowered after you bought the ticket, try calling the airline. Sometimes they will refund the difference between the price you paid and the lower fare. (You may have to go to the airport to get the ticket rewritten at the lower fare.) You may have to pay a $35 to $50 reticketing fee to get the refund, but some airlines have been known to waive the fee if you get the money back in the form of a voucher (to be applied to future travel) instead of cash. For example, USAir will refund the difference less a service charge, or give a travel voucher (credit) for the difference with no service charge. According to a Wall Street Journal article by James S. Hirsch, (July 30, 1993) many airlines now test fare increases by raising prices on the weekend (Friday night through Sunday night). If other airlines don't match the increases, the fares return to normal on Monday. So you should be careful when purchasing tickets on the weekend. (This works around the Justice Department consent decree that prevents airlines from signalling proposed fare increases in the computer reservation systems. When the competitors didn't match the increase, the airlines would cancel the increase before it took effect. With the new method, since it affects current prices, it technically isn't price-fixing.) Hirsch also reported that many airlines have increased the $25 charge for changing advanced purchase tickets to $30 or $35. Note that this is often a minimum fee -- you'll probably have to pay the full difference in price if the new ticket price is much higher. Airlines are using these measures to discourage passengers from buying tickets during a fare war and later changing the time of flight or destination. If you go to one of the airline's ticket agents (not a travel agent), some airlines will reissue a ticket at the lower fare without fee if the difference is refunded in the form of a voucher for future travel. In addition to the Saturday night stay requirement, many airlines now give additional discounts for travel midweek (usually Tuesday and Wednesday, sometimes Thursday) when a Saturday night stay is involved. Some also provide discounts for travel on Saturdays. Flights usually aren't fully booked on these days. For example, Northwest discount coupons recently had this restriction. Most leisure travelers like to travel Sunday-Sunday, or at least not miss a large part of the week. Business travelers, of course, don't like to stay over the weekend. When making your reservation through an airline ticket agent or through a travel agent, always ask for the lowest possible fare. Don't just give them specific dates/times and ask them for a low fare -- tell them that your plans are flexible, and you'd like to know what the low fare is. If you're too specific on the flight details, and don't say that you're looking for the cheapest possible fare, you might not get the best price. Sometimes by departing on a different day, you can get a much cheaper fare. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-1b] Advance Purchase Fares [Note: This section to be merged into preceding section.] Typically, tickets must be purchased 4, 7, 14, 21, or 30 days in advance of the departure date. All require confirmed reservations. Seats are always limited. Most do not permit changes/cancellations, and those that do will usually charge you. Some require a roundtrip ticket, though there are some that give lower rates for one-way tickets. Most do not permit open-jaw travel (most require circle-trip for excursion fares). Some permit stopovers, and may or may not charge you for the privilege (typically $15-30 per stopover). Fares are often seasonal. For those that have a minimum and maximum stay period (e.g., stay over the weekend, must return 150 days after departure), the day of departure is not included as part of the minimum and maximum stay period. Children's rates are usually discounted against the applicable fare. (Some airlines now apply children's discounts against the highest fare only.) As usual, children must carry proof of age. Note that fares are almost always not applicable to/from intermediate points. This means a ticket from Boston to Chicago passing through Pittsburgh could be cheaper than a ticket from Boston to Pittsburgh! But, of course, you can get off at Pittsburgh so long as you don't have checked bags nor have subsequent legs on the same ticket. Use the same carrier and flight class for all segments of your itinerary. Changing airlines usually adds to the cost of your trip. But sometimes you may be able to get a dirt cheap fare on one airline to an airport 150 miles or so from your destination, and then use another airline to get to your final destination. (This most often happens when the first airline has no direct flights to your final destination.) Sometimes fares which involve a connection are cheaper than direct flights. So if all the fares are non-stop, ask if flights that involve a connection are cheaper. For example, flights from Pittsburgh to Boston on TWA are often cheaper than flights on USAir, because USAir offers non-stop service while TWA flights are routed through their JFK hub. Other tips: + If all the fares are on one airline, ask your travel agent if there are cheaper fares on other airlines. Be prepared to ask for specific airlines. Don't run down a list of a dozen airlines, but ask for two or three. If all show similar lowest fares, you aren't likely to do better on another airline. (Obviously, this advice doesn't apply if you're calling the airlines directly. If so, call 2-3 airlines before purchasing tickets.) + If there are two airports near where you live (e.g., Washington DC, New York), ask if fares from the other airport are cheaper. It may pay to drive 40 miles to save $100 on airfare. + If you qualify for special discounts (youth, student, senior citizen, etc.) ask about the availability of such discounts. If you don't ask, they won't volunteer the information -- how are they to know whether you qualify? + Tickets are generally cheapest for travel in late August and from March (excluding Spring Break) through mid-June, when air traffic is the lowest. Of course, this rule of thumb depends a lot on the destination, since some destinations have strong traffic year-round. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-2] Nested/Overlapping Tickets Strategy If you travel regularly to a particular destination, but don't stay over weekends, you can get the cheaper weekend rates by staggering your tickets. I.e., if you're flying from A to B and back Monday and Wednesday of Week 1, and the same Week 2, instead of buying roundtrip tickets for each week, buy a roundtrip ticket leaving A Monday of Week 1 and returning Wednesday of Week 2, and a second roundtrip ticket leaving B Wednesday of Week 1 and returning to B Monday of Week 2. This works out to be precisely the same flights, but since both tickets are over a weekend, you get the cheaper rate. The only problem is that you have to know your schedule in advance to make this work. Using the Pittsburgh-San Francisco example from above, this method would save you $1708 on a pair of midweek round trip flights. If this seems confusing, perhaps the following diagram will make things clearer. --- ------ | A ----1----->>---MON---- B | | --- | | A ----2-----<<---FRI---- B | | --- | | | A ----3----->>---MON---- B | | | --- | | A ----4-----<<---FRI---- B | --- ------ The two round trip flights consist of two outgoing flights (1, 3) and two returning flights (2, 4). Normally these are grouped as on the left, with flight #1 from A to B being paired with flight #2 from B to A, and similarly for flights #3 and #4. The result is two midweek flights, neither of which is over a Saturday night. But we could also pair flight #1 with flight #4, and flight #2 with flight #3, as shown on the right. Then the middle pair of flights (#2 and #3) becomes a round trip with its origin at your destination, and both sets of round trip tickets are over a Saturday night. The 30-day maximum stay on discount fares prevents you from using this overlapping round trip tickets trick if you travel to a destination infrequently (say, every six months). If your trips are more than 30 days apart, here's a new trick to use. Buy two round trip discount tickets (weekend stay) per trip, using one for the outgoing trip and one for the return, and then turn in the return portion of each ticket for credit towards your next trip. Even with the $25 or so processing charge per ticket for crediting and reissuing the ticket, it is still cheaper to do this than to buy a single round-trip ticket without a weekend stay. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-x] Stopovers and Circle Trips If you're flying to two destinations, ask your travel agent about the rates for stopovers and circle trips. A stopover is useful when you want to stay for one or two days at a connecting city, and costs only an extra $20-50. A circle trip applies when your intermediate destination isn't a connecting city, and costs less than a pair of round trip tickets, even when your point of origin is a connecting city for the middle leg of the circle trip. This is especially true when one of the stays isn't over a Saturday night. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-3] Fare Classes When airlines set their fares, they divide their seating into "classes", which are based on an analysis of past passenger purchases. Suppose you have a 100 seat airliner going from DC to SF. The rates might break down on a particular day as follows: 30 seats at $315 round trip, 30 days in advance 20 seats at $350 RT, 21 days in advance 20 seats at $375 RT, 14 days in advance 20 seats at $400 RT, 7 days in advance 10 seats at $450 RT, full fare, available until the last minute. Now if the time has elapsed within a given price group, then the fare will go up to the rate of the next price group. If they sell the quota of tickets for a price group, even if the time has not elapsed, then they can only sell you tickets at the next rate group price (which is naturally higher). So it can pay to make your reservations way in advance. (The number of seats available at each fare varies from day to day, depending on the airline's yield management algorithm.) Actually, it would be more accurate to say that airlines distinguish between classes of service and types of fares. A discount ticket (fare) for first class travel (service) could, in theory, be cheaper than an advance purchase ticket (fare) for thrift travel in the first class compartment (service). The best way to describe it is as a series of overlapping tiers of fares. There are five regular classes of service: First, Business, Standard, Coach and Thrift. Standard is practically nonexistent these days. Fares usually drop with lower class service. For each class except Standard there are six main types of reduced-fare tickets: discounted, night, offpeak, weekend, advance purchase, and excursion fare. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-4] Classes of Service The following chart gives some of the letters used to designate each class of service. Note that Fn means Night/Offpeak Coach in the First Class compartment, and Yn means Night/Offpeak Coach in other than the First Class compartment. Regular Premium Discounted Night/Offpeak First Class F P A Fn (Coach in FC seat) Business Class C J D Cn Standard S W Bn Coach Economy Y B, H, M, Q, T Qn, Yn Thrift K L, V Vn, Kn Supersonic R Shuttle Service U (No reservation needed, Seat guaranteed) Shuttle Service E (No reservation allowed) In reality there is no difference between classes F and P, nor between classes C and J. The Q class is usually used for discounted student fares. If you want the cheapest fares, look at the Thrift and Coach Economy classes. Airlines have started eliminating First Class, because many companies now have policies that won't let their employees claim a first class ticket on their travel expenses. Instead, the airlines have started upgrading their Business Class as a marketing ploy (and, of course, company policies are now requiring employees to travel coach). ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-5] Fare Types The following lists some of the letters used to designate different types of fares. This is distinct from class of service. A number (e.g., 7 or 14) usually means how many days in advance the ticket must be bought. Miscellaneous AP Advance Purchase EX Excursion Fare B Capacity-controlled Excursion Fares SW Offpeak; Saturday or Sunday W Weekend X Midweek US 48 contiguous states (not including alaska/hawaii) Economy KH Weekend KL Midweek/Offpeak MH Weekend (Discount Fare) ML Midweek/Offpeak (Discount Fare) L Capacity-controlled Inventory Standard SH Peak SL Offpeak V Offpeak Coach B Capacity-controlled Inventory BN Night Coach H Capacity-controlled Inventory, Coach/Night Coach V Offpeak YH Weekend YL Midweek/Offpeak Super Coach QH Weekend; applies Fri-Sun QL Midweek; applies Mon-Thur ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-6] Special Fare Categories All airlines have special rate categories, but you have to ask for them by name, since the agents are usually not familiar with them. You may even have to talk to the agent's supervisor. Below is a brief listing of different special fare categories, followed by a more in depth discussion of standby fares. Also, see preceding discussion of classes of service and fare types. For example, on TWA, class K, V, YC, and M fares are the cheapest. Note: Just because you qualify for a special fare category doesn't mean that it is the cheapest fare possible. Shop around. By being flexible with your travel plans, you may be able to save even more. When the special fares are discounted against full fare coach prices, you can often do better by purchasing a supersaver or other advance booking fare. Of course, if your special fare discount may be combined with other offers (e.g., 5% discount for using the official airline of a conference to travel to the conference), you win both ways. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-7] Children's Fares Children under 2 years of age travel free on US domestic flights. (That is, children who have not reached their second birthday at the date of commencement of travel.) To be more accurate, the child must not occupy a separate seat (sits on its parent's lap), and must be accompanied by a fare paying adult passenger 12 years of age and over (the lap in which it sits). If the flight isn't full, usually the kid can sit in the seat next to the adult, but if the flight is full, the child will have to sit in the parent's lap for the duration of the flight. Such children do not get a baggage allowance. Ask for an "infant ticket" when you make your reservations. Additional children under 2 are subject to regular children's fares. On international flights you need a "lap child" ticket which typically costs about $100 (10% of the regular fare). Fares for children (age 2-12) accompanied by a fare paying adult passenger and occupying a separate seat are cheaper than fares for unaccompanied children. Some carriers will not accept unaccompanied children under five years of age (some 8 years, some 12). Fares for accompanied children range from 50% to 100% of an adult fare (1/2 fare, 2/3 fare, 3/4 fare, 80%, 90%, full fare). Fares for unaccompanied children range from 50% of adult fare to 125% of an adult fare (1/2 fare, 2/3 fare, 3/4 fare, full fare, 1-1/4 fare). Nowaways, 2/3 fare seems to be the most common children's fare. Tell your travel agent before they start searching for discount fares that you're traveling with children. Not all discount adult fares allow discounts for children, so it may sometimes pay to buy a slightly more expensive adult ticket that allows for much cheaper children fares. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-8] Clergy Fares Clergy have been entitled to discounts by various airlines in the past, but as of May 1994, none were participating in such programs. Qualified parties would be advised to check with airlines at the time of their booking to see if these programs have been reinstated. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-9] Military Fares US military personnel traveling at their own expense on authorized leave or pass may get signicantly cheaper fares. Discharged military personnel must complete all travel within 7 days of discharge date. Valid active duty US green identification card or separation orders must be presented. USAir has a 50% military discount. Also, any military person who is on active duty and either on TDY (temporary duty), emergency leave or regular leave, or any retired military person may sign up for space available travel on pre-scheduled military flights to any air force base (e.g., Hawaii, Boston, Florida). Active duty personnel have priority over retired personnel, and space is allocated in order of signup. Few flights, however, are scheduled more than 24 hours in advance, and you may need to go to your destination by a very roundabout route, since not every base has a lot of space-available flights. The cost is free from most bases, but some tack on a $10 or $20 charge for admin purposes. For long flights, they will sell you a box-lunch for $2.40. The planes may not be as comfortable as commercial flights. There are numerous books on space-available flights that military people can pick up at their PX/BX. They should also contact the PAX representative at their nearest base for more specific information. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-10] Senior Citizen Fares Certain airlines provide reduced fares for passengers 65 (sometimes 62) years of age and older. Passengers must carry proof of age (passport, birth certificate, driver's license or medicare card). The typical discount is 10 percent, though some discounts may be as high as 75%. Some programs provided a booklet of discount coupons, or sell several tickets at a sharply discounted rate. Seats are usually limited, and off-peak travel may be required. The fares are sometimes refundable and sometimes do not require advance purchase. In some cases, membership in the AARP will qualify you for the reduced fares. (The AARP's 10 percent discount deal with American Airlines ended in 1992 when the fare war broke out.) Call 1-202-872-4700 for information about joining AARP. Airlines with special fares include: American, America West, Continental, Delta, Northwest, Southwest Airlines, TWA, United, and USAir. Delta sells books of coupons for travel by retired senior citizens (age 62 or higher). The cost is $596 for a book of four coupons, $1,032 for eight coupons. Each coupon is good for a one-way flight in the continental United States, with two coupons required for travel to Alaska or Hawaii. The number of seats are limited, and reservations must be made two weeks in advance of departure. If buying a booklet of coupons, compare the prices against the discounted excursion fares. Sometimes you can do better than the coupons. Be sure to ask if there are any special fares for senior citizens, if you qualify. Many travel agents are reluctant to ask a customer if they are a senior citizen, because they are afraid the customer might be offended. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-11] Student/Youth Fares Some airlines give discounted fares to full-time students of an accredited school, college or university who are at least 12 years of age. Student ID card must be carried and displayed at the request of the carrier. Some restrict the age of the student to under some age (e.g., 22, 24, 26 years of age). Stopovers are not permitted, and some require reservations at least 7 days before departure. The status of such discounts varies considerably. For example, the USAir student discount was cancelled on May 30, 1992, as a consequence of the American fare restructuring. As of June 1993, the program was reinstated on a limited scale, primarily on short-haul east-coast flights, with an age limit of 24. On June 1, 1994, they cancelled the program, and replaced it with a more restrictive youth fare. The details of this program are as follows: + Maximum age 22. + Reservations must be made 7 days in advance. + Saturday night stay required. + Round trips only, must be a non-stop flight. + Not offered in all markets, and the amount of the discount varies. The best discount seems to be 30% off. + The discount seems to not be combinable with supersaver fares. + You must show proof of age when making a reservation. + The discount is limited to US domestic travel. Students may purchase discount books of 10 tickets on the Trump (now USAir) shuttle for $499. Delta has a similar program for their shuttle. Age restrictions can be as low as 18-22 on these tickets (Continental 18-22, USAir 18-24 some routes, 18-22 others, Delta is 18-24). Times are restricted from 10am to 2:30 pm and after 7 pm. TWA has established a student discount program. Membership costs $15 for one year, $25 for two years, and gets you 10% off most TWA round-trip fares. You must be a full-time student, aged 16-26. The fares must include a Saturday night stay-over and 14-day advance purchase. TWA has also offered a "Youth Travel Pak" which provides coupons for four one-way trips in the continental US for $548 (coupons may be doubled for travel to Hawaii). The Pak is restricted to students aged 14-24. This can be a good deal if you're traveling cross-country. A variety of discounts are available if you have an International Student Identity Card (or International Teacher Identity Card). Besides offering proof of student status, the ID provides discounts on museums and events, air fare, 24-hour traveler's assistance, and health insurance. Ask your travel agent for details on how to get such a card and what discounts are available. All Council Travel travel agencies sell the International Student ID Cards. They are rather cheap -- $17 for students aged 12 to 25 -- and well worth the price. However, some people have found that their regular university ID or American Youth Hostel Card works just as well for most of the discounts. For an application and a free magazine, call the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) at 800-438-2643. Youth fares: Passenger must be between 12 and 22 (25 for international travel) years of age. Seats may be limited. Tickets must be purchased from the point of origin. Some require picture identification such as Youth Fare identification Card, birth certificate, government ID card or drivers license. Southwest gives the offpeak rate for *all* flights for youth (21 & under), although this is still more expensive than their supersaver fares. In short, when purchasing tickets ask if there is any youth/student discount. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-12] Family Fares Some carriers offer discounts on family travel. For the purposes of the discounts, a family is defined as a husband and wife with or without accompanying children age 2-17, or one parent with one or more accompanying children age 2-17. Age restrictions on children differ from airline to airline (some set the maximum age at 20 or 21 years; and some break children into two classes, 12 & under and 12-21). Some include legal guardian and grandparents within the definition of parent. It is usually not necessary for the family to travel under a common surname. Proof of family relationship must be established to the satisfaction of the carrier and all family members must travel together for the entire trip. Fares are typically 100% for first family member, 50% each additional. Some have further discounts. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-13] Conference Fares If you're flying to a meeting or conference, airlines will often offer a conference discount. This must be arranged ahead of time by the conference organizers and only holds for one particular airline. This airline is designated as the "official" airline of the conference, and is advertised in the registration brochure. Discounts are generally 40% off of full coach or 5% off of the best supersaver fare, with travel within 3 days of the meeting. The conference organizers receive one free round trip ticket for every 20 conference attendees who use the airline. See also "Moving Up the Return Flight" [1-19]. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-14] Sympathy Fares, Emergency Fares If you have to go to a funeral, most airlines will give you 50% off of the discounted rate, at very short notice. They call this the sympathy fare. Similarly for a medical emergency (e.g., a close relative is in intensive care, or is likely to die). For example, Continental will waive advance purchase requirements for cheap fares for an emergency. This is their bereavement rate for people who have to attend funerals. Other airlines that do this are United and USAir ("compassionate fare"). American gives 50% off of the non-discounted rate, and will ask you for the name, address and phone number of the funeral home. (Some airlines will require a copy of the death certificate or an obituary instead.) This is a tradition carried over from the "funeral fare" of the railroad days. Airlines do this because it is simply good PR, and doesn't cost them all that much. Some airlines will only allow immediate relatives to get a sympathy fare. [As of 4/30/93, American and United offered 17% discount on unrestricted coach, USAir 50%.] In any case you have to ask and sometimes be persistent as these are nonstandard and not widely publicized policies. Many low level airline workers are not aware of them or do not have the authority to allow them. United "Rule 120" describes the rules governing sympathy fares. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-15] Refunds In the same vein, many airlines will refund a ticket, even a nonrefundable one, for good cause. Medical emergencies, jury duty, and a death in the family generally qualify as a good cause for not using a ticket. Some sort of proof must be provided (death certiicate, note from doctor), and it is completely up to the airline as to whether or not the particular instance warrants a refund. But it doesn't hurt to ask, even multiple times. Some airlines may issue a new ticket or provide a flight credit voucher instead of offering a refund. If you don't have any luck in getting a refund when talking with the airline ticket agent or their supervisor, try asking your travel agent for help. Sometimes they can succeed where you can't. You can also try talking to someone at the airline's downtown ticket office in person, and writing to their national office. It never hurts to ask, even multiple times. If you're making no headway at the airline's downtown office, try turning on the tears. This is especially effective if the person who is preventing you from getting a refund is of the opposite sex. Nothing makes a person try harder to help than seeing someone start crying because of them. A useful trick for normal circumstances: When they ask for your name for printing on the ticket, use your first initial instead of your full first name. (Many airlines now require your full first name, even if you purchase the ticket through a travel agent.) Thus if you can't use your "non-transferrable non-refundable" ticket, your spouse or some other member of your family might be able to. [Airlines do not allow name changes on reservations and tickets, to prevent travel agents from buying up cheap fares with dummy names in anticipation of selling them to real people later. For this reason, it is important when traveling overseas to make sure you give your name to the travel agent exactly as it is listed on your passport. The name on your tickets must match the name on your passport, and once the reservations are made and the tickets issued, there's nothing you can do to correct the name. The travel agent will have to cancel the reservations and rebook the full itinerary using the correct name, assuming the seats are still available at that fare. If the tickets were non-refundable, there's nothing you can do.] Another trick is to have your travel agent talk to the airline, assuming you used him to purchase the ticket. Sometimes they will be able to swing a deal. Nontransferable tickets may still be useable by other people in your organization, if the address listed on the ticket was your business address, or if your organization's name appears on the ticket. If the passenger named on the ticket died before the flight, most airlines will allow a name change, and many will even refund a nonrefundable ticket. Unused nonrefundable tickets can often be applied as a credit toward another nonrefundable ticket of equal or higher value on the same airline, less a small reticketing fee of $35 to $50. You'll also have to pay any difference in the fares, and you can do this for up to one year after the date of purchase. (Note that if the new ticket costs less than the old ticket, you probably won't be credited with the difference.) So if you bought a non-refundable ticket and decided to not use it, don't throw it away. If you only used part of the ticket (e.g., the originating flight but not the return), you probably can't do this; these policies are for completely unused tickets. If you lose your tickets, most airlines will require you to buy new tickets, and then issue a refund after 30 days, less a fee of $30 to $50. Thus 'losing' your tickets is not an effective means of getting a refund for non-refundable tickets. Full fare tickets (e.g., unrestricted coach, business class, or first class), of course, usually allow changes without charge. Normally a reservation will cancel out automatically if you don't purchase a ticket within 24 hours. However, if you ask the airline to invoice you, usually this timeout is extended to 10 days to allow enough time for the invoice to reach you. You can still pay the invoice using a credit card. If you don't pay the invoice, the reservation cancels out at the end of the 10 day period. I was once able to get the 10 day period extended, but that was because the airline had transposed digits in my zip code, causing the invoice to arrive after the 10 day period had expired. Being hostile to airline personnel is the one sure way to prevent you from getting a refund or change. Be nice to them -- it doesn't hurt you, and probably will help you get what you want. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-16] Flying Standby Flying standby used to be one of the cheapest ways to travel. The idea was that an empty seat doesn't earn the airline any money. So some airlines would sell special fare "standby tickets". Using such a ticket you were NOT guarranteed a seat on a particular flight, but on the next flight with empty seats. You'd be enplaned on a flight subject to the availability of space at departure time. This was only after all passengers with reservations for the flight have been boarded. Passengers from a previous flight who were bumped also had priority. No stopovers were permitted on standby fares. Since advance reservations were not accepted, you had to get to the gate early to put yourself down on the standby list. If it was a busy day and the flights are full, you would have to wait several hours to get a seat, or maybe not get a seat at all. A standby ticket didn't guarrantee you a seat, but if you did not absolutely, positively have to be there tomorrow, you could get some good deals. But the days when students could hang out at the airport and fly standby for dirt cheap prices are long gone. The term "standby" is still used, but doesn't mean what it used to: 1. Most airlines no longer sell standby tickets at a special fare, but will sell you a standby ticket at regular fare. In other words, if they have space on the flight, the gate agent or ticket agent will sell you a ticket for the flight on the spot. All this means is you can buy a full fare ticket on the spur of the moment. 2. Nonrefundable, nonchangeable tickets can often be used for standby travel on the same or similar route (sometimes with a slight surcharge). This most often comes up if you missed your flight (e.g., you arrive at the gate after the plane has left, and catch another flight to the same destination later that day), but you may be able to use unused flight coupons in this manner. For example, if you bought a ticket but didn't go for some reason (a reason that didn't entitle you to a refund), the ticket may still be usable for standby travel on the same airline. (Your best bet with such a ticket, however, is to have your travel agent or airline credit it towards your next ticket. You'll probably have to pay a fee, but it's better than throwing away the ticket.) All this is often at the whim of the gate agent, and is based on the notion that a ticket is often designated as being good for travel on the airline for one year from the date of issue. Your luck will vary by airline and gate agent. 3. If you're on a later flight but get to the airport early, check with the attendant at the gate. You may be able to get on the earlier flight is there's space available (but this may result in your getting no "snack" or losing your special meal). This works even for "non-changeable" tickets. Airlines stopped the practice of selling standby tickets for a variety of reasons: 1. Even if a seat isn't taken, putting somebody in the seat still costs the airline some money (e.g., fuel). 2. Standby travel played havoc with airline load management programs. Airlines were sometimes faced with having to unload fuel to change the weight distribution of the aircraft because of a sudden appearance of several standby passengers. 3. Some people would "ensure" the availability of standby seats by making a large number of regular reservations, and then an hour before the flight release the block of seats, virtually ensuring that standby passengers will get aboard at cheap standby fares. This caused airlines to overbook flights, and eliminated their ability to schedule their flights accurately. Since the elimination of standby tickets, overbooking errors have dropped significantly. (Another result of this practice is the automatic cancellation of unpaid reservations after 24 hours.) 4. Airlines felt that they were losing regular business to standby travel. Flying standby, however, may be making a comeback. In 1993, some airlines had special one-day fares for folks traveling on Christmas and New Years. These holidays are the nadir of the travel season, so by offering these fares, the airlines were able to increase their business on flights they had to fly anyway. (Yes, airlines still have to fly the routes, even with empty planes, because scheduling is so complex. For example, the plane in Atlanta might need to fly to Boston so that it can be used on the Boston-Washington route later in the next day.) Now these holiday fares weren't true standby fares, but the concept was similar. Since most flights these days fly at 85-95% of capacity, one of these days an airline is going to get the bright idea of reinstating standby fares in one variation or another. For example, some airlines now sell discount flight coupon booklets to senior citizens; the coupons may be used for standby travel. And of course, US Air Force personnel can fly standby on some US Air Force planes on a space available basis for dirt cheap prices, but with no amenities (and maybe no real seat either, but strapped to webbing on the wall). Some foreign airlines still provide standby fares, sometimes limited to youth. If you are flying standby one way or another, here's some advice: - Make sure you get to the gate EARLY. If several people are flying standby, you want to make sure that your name is first on the list. Note that connecting passengers, bumped passengers, etc., get priority over local boarding standbys. - Days which are bad for getting bumped are usually good days for standby seats. Don't fly standby on the day before Thanksgiving or the Sunday after, you won't get a seat. On Thanksgiving day itself, you're likely to find a seat. - On really busy days it might pay to show up early for the *first* flight of the day, since standbys who don't make it can "roll over" to the next flight. Some airlines will only allow "same day" standby travel (i.e., you overslept and missed your flight, and will take a flight on the same route later that day). Others will not allow you to fly standby on a flight if all the seats in your fare class have sold out, even if there are empty seats available. If the agent at the check-in counter gives you trouble, go directly to the gate and see what happens. [Agents at the check-in counter are under more pressure to enforce the rules than gate agents, who have some discretionary power. If you can avoid dealing with the agents at the check-in counter, (e.g., no checked baggage), so much the better.] If you want to try flying standby on one airline using another airline's ticket, bypass the check-in agent and go directly to the gate. Most airline employees (and their spouses and dependents) can fly standby on that airline for cheap or free (as "representatives" of the airline). Crew who must reach their destination for work purposes have priority over all non-revenue passengers. Active employees have priority over retired employees and dependents of an employee. There is a pretty strict dress code -- suit and ties for men, and similar requirements for women -- so you can't fly wearing a jogging suit. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-17] Getting Bumped [Note: Most of the comments in this section apply to US domestic flights only. US Department of Transportation rules apply only to flights between points in the US. Airlines do not need to give any compensation for international flights, so what, if anything, you get for an involuntary bump is entirely up to the airline.] Airlines tend to overbook their flights in case of no-shows. (Airlines also ignore the overbook limit when a customer is buing a full-fare ticket, because the cost of bribing volunteers with a bump ticket is usually less than the additional income derived from a full-fare ticket.) Occasionally this will mean that more people show up with confirmed reservations than there are seats on the plane. (Or if the flight is a particularly full one, it may exceed the weight limit even with empty seats.) The airline will ask if there's anyone willing to be bumped from the flight in exchange for compensation (e.g., USAir will give you a free round-trip ticket anywhere in North America). The airline will then put you on the next available flight to your destination, along with your free ticket. Vouchers are typically valid for only a year from date of issue. But if you ask *before you get the ticket*, you can sometimes get it extended for a month or two beyond the year limitation. (Some folks have reported success in getting vouchers extended a month or so before expiration.) If your voucher is expiring you can also try using it to get a ticket with a particular origin and destination but no specific departure and return dates. Such tickets should be good for 12 months. Many bump vouchers, however, prohibit exchanging them for such "open" tickets. An alternative is to use the voucher to book a flight to your favorite destination for some likely dates. If the dates don't work out, you can usually rebook the tickets for different dates for a small fee. So another way to reduce the cost of flying is to volunteer to be bumped. You can maximize your chances of being bumped by purchasing a confirmed reservation on flights that are most likely to be full. A good time is 7-10 am or 4-7 pm on a weekday (especially Monday morning and Friday afternoon). These are the times most businessmen fly (trying to make early morning meetings or to get home for dinner in the evening), and hence when the airline is most likely to be overbooked. Airlines are also likely to be overbooked on Sunday nights (early evening) and the beginning and end of holidays, since that is when non-businessmen typically fly. For example, right before Thanksgiving and the Sunday or Monday after are prime bumping times. The same is true of typical spring break destinations toward the end of March and beginning of April. Receiving a free roundtrip ticket effectively cuts your air travel costs in half. And if you get bumped while using a previous free bump ticket, it gets even cheaper. Even on the best days for being bumped, the likelihood is still rather low. Airline yield software has been getting better and better, so it is uncommon for bumping to occur. The DOT figures cited in [4-4] show that American had an involuntary bump rate of 1 in 200,000 in 1993. (These figures do NOT include voluntary bumps, which are more likely. The DOT does not collect statistics on voluntary bumping. Note also that American had the lowest involuntarily bump rate. The likelihood of your being bumped voluntarily on an average carrier is probably close to 1 in 10,000.) If you want to be bumped and notice that the flight looks full, get to the gate as early as possible (e.g., 1-2 hours before departure) and ask the gate agent whether they are overbooked. If they are, they will need volunteers. Ask them to put your name on the bump list (aka "bump queue"). Bump tickets are offered on a first come/first served basis, so you want to get your name near the top of the list. This will give you priority if there are only a few bumps. Note, however, that by pre-volunteering, you're only likely to get a free ticket in addition to rebooking on a flight later that day. If nobody volunteers and you wait until they ask for volunteers, you can sometimes up the ante, depending on how desperate they get. (Some airlines give all volunteers the same thing, no matter when they volunteered. Others will process you as soon as you volunteer, so the later you volunteer, the better the incentive.) In general, you should put your name on the bump list, and don't wait until the airline calls for volunteers. Enough people volunteer ahead of time these days that if you don't put your name on the list, you won't have the opportunity to be bumped (except on very rare occasions, when not enough people volunteer). When you get your bump ticket and are being rebooked on a later flight, if the delay is a few hours, ask the gate agent if they can give you a meal voucher. This voucher, which is worth $5-$10, can be used at airport restaurants to get something to eat. Not every airline and not every gate agent will give you one, and they certainly won't give you one if you don't ask for it, but sometimes they will. If you have any other special requirements (e.g., you want extra frequent flyer credits, you want the free ticket to be good for an extra month, etc.) it doesn't hurt to ask. If you have a confirmed reservation, and you notice the flight is overbooked but first class is underbooked and you don't necessarily want to be bumped, try being the last person on line. If you are lucky the coach and business class will be full, and they will have to upgrade you to first class at no charge. (Also, having a pre-issued boarding pass will decrease your chances of an involuntary bump.) This is risky, though, because you might wind up being bumped anyway, so only do it if you don't care whether you'll be bumped. It always pays to volunteer to be bumped, even if the flight isn't overbooked. If the airline needs adjacent seating for a family, they will sometimes bump you into first class if you are in a row by yourself. When you arrive at the airport, check the flight schedules to see which flights (on the airline and its competitors) will be departing for your destination, and when. Airlines are extremely reluctant to book a volunteer on another carrier, so if you get bumped on the last flight to your destination, you may have to stay overnight at a hotel. Good days to get bumped include: Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Sunday after; couple days before and after Christmas weekend; ditto with New Years. Friday afternoons, evenings, and Sunday afternoons and evenings also bump a lot. Another trick is to ask your travel agent which flights are full or nearly full and to purchase tickets for one of those flights. (Not every travel agent will let you do this.) Note, however, that you probably won't be able to get the discount rate for such a flight, since all the seats in the discount coach fare class have probably been sold. Also, if a flight has reached the overbook limit, you won't be able to buy any ticket for the flight, except perhaps a full fare ticket. If the airline still has plenty of coach seats a day or so before the flight, it is unlikely that they will bump. Here's what some airlines usually give volunteers: Delta, USAir: Open roundtrip (Delta requires reservations three days before flight time on bump tickets.) United: Travel voucher in increments of $100 based on how long you have to wait for your next flight (e.g., 2 hour wait is $200), up to a maximum of $300. You can also ask for a food voucher. Continental: US domestic roundtrip ticket. Sometimes offers a dollar amount in credit to be used towards any Continental flight (e.g., $300). American, America West, Southwest, Northwest: $$ off another ticket (usually $150 to $300; Northwest generally around $300; American has been known to go as high as $1000.) Dollar-denominated vouchers are not subject to tax, so they stretch further. Amounts depend on the degree of overbooking of the flight. United sometimes will also issue a dollar-denominated voucher. United bumps more than average, Delta less. Air Canada offers $150 cash or $300 in travel vouchers. If you are bumped and the next flight out is the next day, the airline may offer you overnight accomodation in addition, especially if you are bumped while away from home. Most bump tickets (vouchers) are non-transferable, so you must use them yourself. If the voucher must be exchanged for a ticket, you may be able to have the ticket issued in someone else's name, given a reasonable excuse (e.g., your girlfriend/boyfriend). If you are bumped (voluntarily or involuntarily) and have checked baggage, the airline will not remove your bags from the plane. The bags will continue on to your destination and wait there until you arrive. So if you're planning to be bumped, bring enough clean clothes in your carry-on to last you a day or two just in case your bags are lost or stolen by the time you arrive, or you get stuck at a connection. If you get bumped or your flight is canceled and need to stay at a hotel overnight, hotels near the airport will often give you a substantial discount if you ask for it (50% discount is not unheard of). Ask for the "Distressed Passenger Rate". Airlines also have overnight kits they can give you. A flight being cancelled is *not* the same as being bumped. Bumping occurs only when the carrier has more passengers with confirmed tickets on the flight than seats. You can get compensation if you are bumped, but not if the flight is cancelled. If airline delays cause you extra expense, the airlines may be willing to help you out. For example, if the airline delay caused you to miss the cheap bus shuttle service to downtown, the airline may be willing to pay the difference between cab fare and shuttle fare. But in general, there aren't any policies for compensation (e.g., meals, hotel, etc.) that must be given to bumped and delayed passengers. Some airlines are very nice and will give you food coupons if you ask, some won't. Under Department of Transportation rules, an involuntarily bumped traveler who is delayed more than one hour but less than two on a US domestic flight is entitled to $200 or 100 percent of the one-way fare, whichever is less (the airline must also honor the original ticket). For delays longer than two hours, the compensation doubles. The calculation of delay is according to the time of arrival at the destination. Airlines can offer you a travel voucher (for a free US domestic round-trip ticket) in lieu of cash, but must give you the cash if that's what you want. Airlines like bumped volunteers because free travel vouchers cost them less than the cash compensation they're required to offer involuntarily bumped passengers. Approximately 1 in 10,000 passengers is bumped involuntarily. (If the involuntarily bumped passengers are put on a flight which brings them to their destination within an hour of the original flight time, the airline has met its requirement.) Anything more is strictly the policy of the airline, which is stated in its Conditions of Carriage statement. (To obtain this statement, get it either from your travel agent or by writing to the customer affairs office of your airline. Be sure to ask for the full copy of the conditions; otherwise they'll give you just a three page summary of the limitations of liability sections.) Note that these rules do NOT apply to delayed passengers in general, just to involuntarily bumped passengers. According to a 1994 Supreme Court ruling, passengers who are denied boarding can sue the airline for compensatory damages, but not punitive damages. So in most cases you are better off accepting the compensation offered by the airlines. Note that if you don't show up at the gate 15 minutes before departure, the airline can involuntarily bump you and not owe you anything. There are no rules governing compensation for volunteers -- airlines can offer as little or as much as it takes to bid you off the flight. Delta restricts reservations using volunteer bumped vouchers to two days in advance. Re-booking: Most volunteers are routinely booked on another flight within a few hours, but re-routing isn't a legal requirement. Before giving up your seat, ask when the next flight leaves, whether you'll have a confirmed or standby reservation and (if the flight is with another carrier) whether you'll have to pay additional fare. Negotiating: Most airline managers can escalate compensation offers in an attempt to get enough volunteers. So you might get a better deal by simply asking for one. American Airlines, which has the lowest rate of involuntary bumpees in the industry, tends to be the most generous with compensation for volunteers. Sometimes, when all of the airline's flights are full, they will reroute you on another airline. However, if you are flying on a free ticket (e.g., frequent flyer ticket, previous bump ticket), they may not be willing to endorse your ticket over to the other airline. (It doesn't hurt to ask.) So they'll have to send you out on another flight later that day. If this happens and "inconveniences" you (i.e., you have to wait another hour or so), you may be able to weasel something else out of the airline -- a roll of quarters for the pinball machine, use of their club facilities, first class accomodations on the later flight, meal voucher, or something. If you volunteer and they don't need to bump you, you don't lose your seat. If you volunteer, they need you, and you change your mind, you may lose your seat, and wind up in a random seat. That is, of course, if the airline decides to accommodate you. Once you've volunteered and they've accepted your offer, you can't really reneg on it. If you are bumped on an international flight, the airline will reroute you but generally not offer you any extra compensation. Involuntary reroutings may involve upgrading your class of service (at no extra cost to you) or putting you on a different carrier to your destination at the same or higher class of service. If rerouting you requires an overnight stay, the airline will provide you with vouchers for hotel rooms and meals. But you won't get any free tickets, and writing a letter of complaint to the airline probably won't get you anything. (The only case where complaining will get you something is if you paid for a first class ticket, and they rerouted you on a lower class of service. If this occurs, ask the airline to refund the difference in fares.) If you're traveling international and don't want to be bumped, buy a first class ticket. Airlines rarely bump first class passengers. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-18] Special Travel Dates/Fare Sales/Fare Wars This section describes several recent categories of fare sales. When one airline announces a sale or promotion, many other airlines will match it. But they may not match it in all markets. Some circumstances in which the other airlines might not match the fare sale in a given market include: + When the original airline's sale is for a flight that involves a connection and the other airlines provide non-stop service. + When the market isn't a competitive market. For example, when the airline holds a virtual monopoly on a particular airport (e.g., USAir in Pittsburgh). They may match the fare for flights through the hub, but not for flights originating at the hub. + When the airline's bookings are already strong for the period covered by the sale, and they don't feel the need to compete. Not all the airlines that match a sale will necessarily impose the same restrictions. So it may pay to shop around. Fare sales are most likely during the early fall (mid-September through mid-November), when airlines begin to worry about their fourth-quarter financial performance. Other good times are late summer and early spring. There are currently about 8 major fare sales a year, and you can expect that airlines will start acting like department stores with sales every month or two. When an airline gets the jump on its competitors with the announcement of a fare sale -- even if by just half a day -- it gets a significant edge in terms of the number of reservations. The greatest discounts are usually on the most expensive routes. Markets where prices are already low due to competition tend to have lower discounts. Fare Wars: Except for the original airfare war during the summer of 1993, media use of the term 'Fare War' for fare sales is a misnomer. To some extent airlines try to stir up consumer excitement by using the term. The most common kind of fare sale has the following characteristics: + midweek flights (departure on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday) or other offpeak times (e.g., Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving) + UP TO 50% off round-trip tickets (most discounts substantially less, around 10% to 15%) + Saturday night stay, 14-day advance purchase + limited purchasing window (1-2 weeks); travel completed during a large travel window (2 months) + restricted to competitive routes + limited number of seats available + nonrefundable Some popular times for air fare sales: + Just after Labor Day, for travel between late September and mid December, with blackout dates around the holidays. + From mid-July to late July for early fall travel. (e.g., Continental July 17, 1994) + Early August for fall travel. (e.g., America West on 3-AUG-94 and Continental on 19-AUG-94) + Winter, from early December through mid-February, with blackout days around Christmas and New Years. (e.g., Continental on 25-NOV-94) One-way Sales: These sales offer one-way fares for up to 50% off of the usual fare. Since round-trip fares are already 50% off the price of the equivalent pair of one-way tickets, such sales do not affect the consumer much (but do generate consumer sales anyway due to the excitement of a "Fare War!!!"). Southwest routinely offers $25 fares (per non-stop flight segment) on flights that leave after 7pm local time on Monday nights, September 12 through December 26, 1994. The restrictions eliminate many of the airline's flights, but it is still a good deal if your schedule and destination happens to meet the restrictions. The promotion is part of Southwest's sponsorship of ABC's Monday night football. Two-For-One Sales: Two-for-one sales, also known as companion fares ("Friend Flies Free" or "Add a Pal for a Penny"), offer passengers traveling together two tickets for the price of one. However, the seats are usually limited, and may not apply to the cheapest coach class tickets. So for folks who were traveling in pairs anyway, the discounts come closer to 25% off than the "up to 50% off" advertised by the airlines, when you take everything into account. (Sure, you're saving 50% off the price of the ticket, but if you were buying a single ticket, you'd get a cheaper ticket.) Both passengers must travel together on all legs of the itinerary. There must also be two passengers -- you can't claim a free ticket for a fictitious friend just to have an empty seat next to you. Nadir Days Fare Sales: There are several days of the year when air travel hits rock bottom, like December 25, January 1, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the 4th of July. Airlines can't simply reduce their operations on these days, because of scheduling difficulties. A flight from San Jose to Boston must still fly on schedule, even if there are no passengers on board, because that plane must be in Boston the next day when the normal load resumes. An empty seat doesn't earn the airline any money. So several airlines have started special one-day fare sales on peak-minimum days. For example, a round trip ticket from Pittsburgh to Boston on the Sunday before the 4th of July cost only $100. The catch was that you had to fly out after noon on Saturday and return by midnight Sunday. Whiteout Fare Sales: In an unusual twist, Delta cut fares about 30-40% on some of the least popular travel days around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Travel (both departure and return flights) must occur on November 17, 21, 24, or 25; December 15, 19, 20, 28; or January 4, 5 or 6. The tickets are non-refundable and apply only to the 48 contiguous states. Although Delta initially included the usual 14-day advance purchase and a November 10, 1994 deadline to buy tickets, USAir and Continental have waived those restrictions. (Note that the more popular travel days, such as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, have been excluded.) For example, a round trip ticket from Pittsburgh to Boston flying on 11/21 and 11/25 costs $137, compare to the usual $200-$250. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-19] Moving Up the Return Flight Departure dates on non-changeable tickers are inviolable -- you can't change them without running into major obstacles. Return flights, however, are sometimes a bit more flexible. You probably can't change them before the departure, but sometimes you can change them afterwards. For example, suppose you're flying to a conference that takes place mid-week, but have to buy tickets that include a Saturday night stay. Paying for an extra one or two day stay in a hotel (or student housing) is cheaper than paying a full-price midweek fare. So you need to pick a Saturday night, either the one before the conference or the one after. To take advantage of the flexibility on return flights, book the flight to include the Saturday night *after* the conference. On the night before you want to leave, call the airline and tell them you'd like to return early. If they have space available, they'll let you return early (possibly with a $35 change fee). For example, if you want to fly out on Friday, call them Thursday night. This isn't flying standby, because they'll actually give you a reservation for the earlier return. Some travel agents use a similar trick to obtain inexpensive tickets for their business customers. They'll issue a ticket with a Saturday night stay at the discount rate, and provide the passenger with a sticker to put on the return ticket after the outbound ticket has been removed. The sticker reflects the earlier return flight. The travel agent also changes the return date on the reservation after the outbound ticket has been used. Since this is a slightly shady practice, any other changes in the itinerary must also be made through the travel agent, not the airline. Not all travel agents are willing to do this, and then only for expensive tickets and their best customers. If you want to try moving up the departure date, go to the airport a few hours before departure and ask. If they have room, they may let you on. You will have more success asking at the gate; airport ticketing/checkin agents tend to be sticklers for the rules. If you ask before the day of departure, or try to get it changed by calling the toll free number, the answer will almost certainly be no (or involve additional fees). ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-20] Hidden City Fares A hidden city fare occurs when a flight from point A to point B happens to make a connection in point C and is cheaper than a direct flight from point A to point C. This is a quirk of the way in which airlines price their routes, which has little to do with the distance flown. The prices are driven by market conditions. Prices drop when there is a lot of competition on a route. The flight from A to B might be a very busy route, with several airlines serving that market, while the A-C and C-B routes might be not as busy. Usually such hidden city fares occur when A and C aren't hubs for the carrier in question, but B is, and B is dominated by the airline. So the airline routes you through B, but charges you less than if you were to purchase two round-trip tickets.. Theoretically, you could buy a ticket from A to B, get off at point C, and throw away the B to C portion, saving some money, if point C was your ultimate destination. Airlines frown on this practice, and taking advantage of a hidden city fare is explicitly forbidden by their rules. If you happen to skip a leg of your flight (e.g., logged as a no-show on the airline's computer), the airline has the right to cancel all subsequent legs, and will do so to discourage folks from using hidden-city fares. So the only case in which you can "safely" take advantage of a hidden-city fare is when you're taking a one-way flight. If you buy a round-trip ticket from A to B through C, skip the C to B leg, and try to board the return flight at B or C, you'll find that your reservation has been cancelled and you'll be required to buy a new ticket at the full-price one-way fare. You also can't take advantage of a hidden city fare if you've checked any baggage, as your baggage will be sent through to your ultimate destination. Airlines have started to really crack down on the use of hidden city fares. They can not only cancel subsequent flights on their own lines, but also recommend cancellation of subsequent flights on other carriers. They've programmed their airline reservation systems to watch out for hidden-city reservations, flagging potential violations in the passenger's record, and in some cases will automatically cancel all subsequent legs if one leg is skipped. Even if the reservation system doesn't automatically cancel the subsequent legs, the agent at check-in will see the warning flag and will be very suspicious of any skipped legs. Some airlines (e.g., Delta) have a practice of checking you in for all outbound flights at the point of origin. But this doesn't make them any more susceptible to folks who use hidden city fares, because if you don't show up for the return flight at B, they'll still cancel all your remaining legs. Also, sometimes the boarding passes are marked "check-in required". Hidden city fares happen most often when the connecting point is dominated by one airline (the carrier of your flight) and the ultimate destination is a competitive market. If you happen to catch an earlier flight than your scheduled one, be sure to reconfirm your subsequent flight segments. Any departure from your ticketed reservation can potentially cause your itinerary to be flagged as a hidden-city violation (e.g., "NOSH" for no-show), if the gate agent didn't record the earlier flight properly. If you're the dishonest type and are going to lie about actually having taken the skipped segments, at least have the intelligence to remove the ticket and boarding pass (keeping the stub of the boarding pass) from the ticket packet. [I once saw a couple try this stunt in New York, and the gate agent caught them at it. The wife had removed her ticket and boarding pass; the husband hadn't. The husband claimed that the gate agent at the hidden city had forgotten to remove the ticket. The gate agent didn't let them on the flight because the computer showed that they had missed TWO segments of their flight -- from the hidden city to their ultimate destination and back. In addition, the gate agent had been on duty the last time they passed through, and didn't remember seeing them board. The agent's supervisor concurred.] If you know in advance that you want to skip a segment of your flight (e.g., you're flying from A to C via B, but want to get off in C, visit with some friends, then drive up to B to visit some more friends and return home), tell this to the travel agent when you buy the ticket. They can make a note about it in the record so that your return flight won't be automatically cancelled when you miss the B to C leg. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-21] Buying Someone Else's Nonrefundable Ticket Many people, when they can't use their nonrefundable ticket (or the return leg of a round trip ticket), try to sell their tickets through classified advertisements. This can be a source of cheap air tickets. However, you'll be traveling under someone else's name, and the airlines frown on this practice. If they catch you doing this, you'll be forced to pay full fare for the return flight (typically twice the face value of the round-trip ticket), and the airline will cancel all your frequent traveler miles and all the frequent flyer miles of the person who originally bought the ticket. They may also terminate your membership in their frequent flyer program. Their contract is with the person named on the ticket, not with you. If the tickets are actually stolen tickets, they will definitely catch you. Many airlines offer a bounty to employees who confiscate such tickets. Most airlines only check IDs on full flights or on fares that require a special ID, such as a student ID. But more are checking IDs on randomly selected tickets in an effort to discourage this practice. All carriers reserve the right to require identification and to refuse transportation if identification cannot be provided. For example Northwest prints the following warning on the inside flap of the ticket jacket: "Photo identification is required for all passengers. Boarding may be denied and ticket confiscated if passenger's identification does not match the name on the ticket." If the person named on the ticket checks in for you at the baggage check-in counter, you'll probably run into trouble on the return trip. If the airline catches you, you'll have to pay for a full fare one-way ticket, which will negate any savings (and probably cost you more than a round-trip would have). Plus, many airlines now check IDs on boarding at the gate, to discourage this practice. If the airplane should crash and you die, the airline won't have your real name (which can affect life insurance policies), and this is just plain unethical. Moreover, your legal rights are extended only to the person named on the ticket (or their estate), so in the event of a loss or claim against the carrier, you will have no legal recourse whatsoever. But given that the airline pricing strategies try to game the consumer market, some consumers feel they are entitled to game the system right back. I NEITHER ADVISE NOR CONDONE USING THIS PRACTICE AS A MEANS OF OBTAINING CHEAP AIR TRAVEL. This practice constitutes fraud, and hence is illegal. One thing, however, cannot be stressed enough: Never purchase such a ticket for international travel. If the name on your ticket does not match the name on your passport, you can get into a lot of trouble, not just with the airline, but with Immigration, Customs, and the police at your destination. The airlines are required to check your travel documents before you are allowed to board the aircraft, so they will compare the name on your ticket with the name on your passport. Many countries require airlines to return passengers to their country of origin (at airline expense) if the passenger is denied entrance into the country. So airlines have some incentive to be careful. If, by some fluke, they don't catch you, Immigration and Customs will also inspect your travel documents. They also tend to compare the name on the passport with the name on the bags. When they catch you, the consequences can be a lot more serious than having to pay for a full-fare ticket. Since traveling under false documents is often a crime under the laws of the destination country, you will be subject to the courts and punishments of the destination country, and there will be little your embassy can do to help you. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-22] Discount Airlines Regional airlines have started eating into the larger airlines by offering discount travel on short and medium haul flights in high demand routes. Advance purchase fares during off-peak hours on these carriers can be dirt cheap. This section describes some of these carriers. Note that some discount airlines are not full participants in the computerized reservation systems, so you may have to call the airline direct to purchase tickets. If you're connecting with another airline, you may have to transfer your luggage yourself to the other carrier. But if you can fit into their limited schedules, you can save a bundle. Many discount airlines also provide "ticketless travel", where you receive a receipt and a confirmation number instead of a ticket, just like with rental cars. This reduces the amount of paper the airlines must ship around. The low-cost travel may also involve an elimination of many of the frills common on larger airlines, such as meal service. Instead, you may just get peanuts, or no food at all. These discount airlines are expanding rapidly and are adding new cities all the time. MarkAir: MarkAir was founded in 1947 as Interior Airways, carrying cargo within the state of Alaska. In 1984 they took on the name MarkAir and began carrying passengers as a regional carrier. Beginning in November of 1991, they started a major expansion to the lower 48 states, and now offer jet (737) service to 16 cities in the lower 48 states and 13 cities in the State of Alaska. Through MarkAir Express, their commuter service, they provide transportation to 144 Alaskan communities. Their service is low cost, with peanuts and drinks as the main sustenance. Snacks meals are available only on longer haul flights. Reservations 1-800-MARKAIR. Southwest: Need to write a description. 800-IFLY-SWA (800-435-9792) or 800-531-5601. Flights to 41 cities in 19 states. Others include: American Trans Air 800-382-5892, 800-225-2995 Flights between AZ, CA, FL, NY, Chicago and Indianapolis. Serves different cities during different times of the year. During the summer they have flights to Europe and Israel; in the winter, they have flights to the Carribean. Some of these operate as charter flights and some as regularly scheduled flights. Carnival Airlines 800-437-2110, 800-8-AIR-FUN Flights to FL, LA, and the Caribbean from the Northeast. Jet Train 800-FLY-4-YOU Their daily route is Pittsburgh - New York (Newark) 7:45 am - 9:05 am New York (Newark) - Orlando 9:45 am - 12:20 pm Orlando - New York (Newark) 1:20 pm - 3:55 pm New York (Newark) - Pittsburgh 4:35 pm - 5:55 pm Kiwi International 800-538-5494, 908-353-3232 Flights between Chicago, Atlanta, Newark, and FL. Midway Airlines 800-446-4392 Flights from Chicago's Midway Airport to eastern cities. National Airlines 800-949-9400 Flights from Atlanta. Reno Air 800-736-6247 Flights between AZ, CA, OR, NV, and WA. Tower Air 800-221-2500 800-34TOWER (800-348-6937) Flights between NY and Miami, LA, and San Francisco. ValuJet 800-825-8538 (404-994-8258) Flights via Atlanta to Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, and Washington DC (Dulles). ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [1-23] Tour Desks Airline "tour" desks (e.g., Flyaway Vacations on American) are excellent sources of good fares on relatively short notice. For example, "bulk" or unpublished fares are available with as little as four days notice (and a $15 late booking fee if the reservation is made less than 14 days prior to arrival) to many popular destinations. The only catch is that a minimum land package must be booked; after all, it is a "tour" package. But for some destinations (e.g., Hawaii from the west coast), that's only a minimum two-day rental car. Other embarkation points require a three-day minimum hotel stay, but the rates are very attractive. Other cities require a two-day minimum hotel stay, but this can be in connection with the Holiday Inn voucher program (runs as little as $79 per room per night depending on the hotel category). The passenger must book a "tour room" directly with a participating Holiday Inn -- and the airline rarely checks if the passenger actually made the reservations. Also, the vouchers do not have to be used in connection with a flight, and can be used anytime within a year from the date of the trip. To combat fraud, such as folks cancelling the car rental and applying for a refund, the land segment is usually non-refundable. Bulk fares are also often blacked out during holidays, but this can vary by the destination. In essence, a tour package combines airfare with a minimum hotel stay and/or car rental. Requirements vary with the destination and embarkation point, but if you can meet the requirements, you may find yourself saving some money. These tour packages can be particularly useful to business folks who don't want to stay over a Saturday night. The savings on the flight can more than make up the cost of the hotel stay, especially when compared with the cost of a last-minute non-supersaver fare. Many airlines are starting to outsource their tour calls to contractors, as they aren't very profitable to the airlines. How this will affect the availability of such deals is unknown. ---------------------------------------------------------------- ;;; *EOF*