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Subject: FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 2/4 [Monthly posting]

This article was archived around: 13 Aug 1997 07:50:24 GMT

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Archive-name: travel/air/handbook/part2 Last-Modified: Wed Oct 9 15:43:34 1996 by Mark Kantrowitz Version: 1.26 Size: 83241 bytes, 1685 lines URL: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/user/mkant/Public/Travel/airfare.html
;;; **************************************************************** ;;; Airfare FAQ, Part 2 ******************************************** ;;; **************************************************************** ;;; 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". 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. This article is provided AS IS without any express or implied warranty. *** Topics Covered: 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 Search for [#] to get to question number # quickly. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-1] Travel Agents It pays to use a travel agent only if you know a *good* one. A good travel agent will know when a small change in your schedule can save you a lot of money. If you buy direct from the airline, you may not find out such information, since they will only quote you the rates for the times you ask. So if you're going to use a travel agent, make sure that you find one who is willing (and able) to search through the morass of fares and restrictions to find a good deal for you. A travel agent who just punches your data into the computer and tells you the prices is no better than the airline's 800 number. A good travel agent can probably save you about 10-15%. [Actually, if the airline goes bankrupt between ticket purchase and flight time, and you bought your ticket from a travel agent, you may be able to get a refund, especially from some of the larger agencies. If the airlines goes bankrupt within 10 days of the purchase of the ticket, the agency may not have paid the airline yet (they are allowed 10 days to do so), so you can ask them for a refund. Better yet, buy your airtickets with a credit card, and the federal credit protection act will allow you to get a refund from your credit card company.] There are several major differences between using a travel agency and using the airport (airline) ticket agents: 1. A travel agent can look at all the airline fares, not just those of a single carrier. A good travel agent will check fares on at least three carriers. Airlines can only give you their own best fares. Then again, you can always call up three (or more) airlines yourself to discover the best fares on each. 2. A travel agent can check for special deals with consolidators. Airline ticket agents can't. Airlines sell heavily discounted tickets only through consolidators, not direct to the passenger. Given the frequency of fare changes these days, a good travel agent can often find you some real bargains. A bad travel agent, on the other hand, may miss getting you the lowest possible fare. So it is best to find yourself a good travel agent. If you don't care for consolidator tickets, the travel agents get the same pricing information as is available from most of the online reservation services and the airlines themselves. So you can do your own legwork if you wish by calling the airlines themselves. But why do it when a good travel agent can do it for you? After all, when you buy a ticket direct from the airline the airline still keeps the commission, so why not give the commission to a travel agent, who'll do a little work to make sure you get the cheapest fare? One reason to do the legwork yourself, either through an online CRS or by calling the airlines directly, is to get full details on the fare rules governing special fares. Many travel agents do not know how to retrieve the rules from their CRS, or aren't willing to do so. If you read through the rules yourself, you may find a loophole or two to your benefit. Note that some travel agencies try to funnel all their business to a specific airline, because the more tickets they sell to a single airline, the more money they get. Airlines have incentive programs to encourage this practice. The travel agent may also know how to look up fares on only one airline. This means that your travel agent may be checking the fares on a single airline, instead of hunting around for the best fare from several airlines. This is especially true for travel agencies near airports that are dominated by one carrier. Your best bet may be to call several airlines before you go to your travel agent, doing the research on your own, or to tell the travel agent to check fares on two or three specific airlines. (Don't tell them to check on all airlines -- nobody is going to do that much work just for a $20 commission.) Also, airlines sometimes sell bulk tickets to large travel agencies at bargain basement prices if they think they cannot fill the seats. So depending on the travel agency, you might be able to get a really good deal. Travel agents sometimes get complimentary tickets (e.g., one free ticket for every 25 sold), which they can sell as they wish. (These are called "Promotional Tickets" and are for standby travel.) But then again, travel agents get a commission on air tickets and hotels. The commission is a fixed percentage of the fare (if you order direct from the airline, the airline pockets the difference). So the agent can earn more money by selling you a more expensive ticket. So be cautious when using a travel agent. Look over the agent's shoulder and see if they're overlooking a really cheap flight. Most travel agents will try to find you the cheapest possible flight, because they want your repeat business. But that's the only incentive for them to try to hunt down an inexpensive fare, so they may not be as thorough on the cheaper routes. All computer reservation systems provide a method of displaying the applicable fares in order of price, from cheapest on up. Since discount flights have restrictions on day of week and flight times, make sure that you let the travel agent know that you are flexible and will change a day either way if that will save you money. Also don't be shy of stating the obvious -- that you're looking for the cheapest possible fare -- since (most) travel agents aren't mind readers. Airport ticket agents tend to be better informed than the people at the toll-free reservation number, since they often have to deal with special situations (missed connections, bumped people, etc.) that require really knowing the reservation system's ins and outs. But beware. Airport ticket agents are not beyond lying or making mistakes. A frequent complaint of air travelers is being quoted one price over the phone, and finding that their credit card has been charged another. Sometimes this happens because the computer system has trouble completing the transaction and delays it until the following morning (whence the fare change). But other times it is due to human error (as if computer problems aren't due to human error either). When you get your tickets, be sure to verify that the price charged matches the price you were quoted. If they're different, be prepared for a fight -- airlines seem very reluctant to own up to this kind of error. Give as much detailed information as possible, such as the time you called, the name of the ticket agent, the price quoted, any unusual occurrences. Get the problem fixed *before* you use the ticket. They probably won't refund you the difference, as the price on the ticket is almost always the correct price, but they are required to (by law) allow you to cancel the ticket and get a full refund without penalty. If they give you any trouble, pursue it with your credit card company. It is worth repeating, however, that you can get the refund only if you don't use the ticket, and initiate any complaint promptly. [Note that this circumstance is different from when the airline prints an incorrect price in the newspaper. Not only is the error clearly documented, but the error occurs before the transaction is completed, not after.] Even though most airlines are now matching their lowest discount fares, it still pays to have your travel agent check several airlines. For example, USAir has a virtual monopoly out of Pittsburgh, some sometimes they don't feel the need to reduce the fares. If you don't mind making a connection, you can sometimes save some money by taking another airline. Most airlines have a "tickets by mail" service which lets you charge the tickets to your credit card over the phone, and have the tickets mailed to you at no extra charge. Allow 5 business days for the tickets to reach you. When using the airline ticket agents (the ones you get when you call the airline's reservation number), if you find that you're having trouble with the ticket agent, try hanging up (politely) and calling again. Some of the agents are more knowledgable and helpful than others, and by calling again you may reach one of the better agents. If you get very good service from an airline ticket agent, write to the airline commending his or her performance. Thank you letters do go into the employee's permanent file. To find a good travel agent, ask the secretaries where you work and your friends for recommendations. Note that most people will recommend a particular agent -- don't assume that every agent who works at that agent's travel agency is as good. Don't be afraid to ask for the recommended agent by name. Most people tend to use the travel agent that is closest to where they work or live. If you don't like the service you're getting, try a different agent. A good travel agent will become familiar with your travel preferences, and keep track of your frequent flyer numbers and any special requirements, such as special meals, seat selection (window/aisle), non-smoking, etc. They'll also let you know if changing your itinerary slightly will result in a lower fare. They'll also advise you of any changes made by the airline on your tickets, by calling you (or if they can't reach you, by mail). When you get your tickets, be sure to check them for accuracy, especially if they are non-refundable. Many airlines will correct genuine errors, but only if they are reported in a timely fashion. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-2] Unusual Travel Agents: Commission Rebaters Travel agencies earn their money by receiving a commission on the base fare of the ticket (i.e., before taxes). Usually the commissions are as follows: US Domestic: 10% Canadian Domestic: 8.25% International: 8% Canada-to-US: 10% (sold in Canada) Rent-a-car companies: 10% In some cases travel agencies will get higher commissions (so-called "incentive", "override", or "bonus" commissions) because of their productivity. The following travel agencies will give you a small discount on your ticket price by rebating to you a portion of their commission, or by charging a flat fee (which is less than the usual commssion amount). Although airlines are prohibited by the IATA from rebating commissions to passengers, IATA rules place no such restrictions on travel agencies. [Note: Delta announced on 24-OCT-94 that it would reduce travel agent commissions on international full fare coach, business class, and first class tickets from 10% to 8%.] Travel Avenue is a Chicago-based travel agency that charges a fixed flat fee for each ticket ($15 US domestic, $25 international). They will rebate to you a portion of the difference between their commission and their fee. For instance, if you were booking a ticket from Houston to Aspen round trip for $370, TA's cost is $336.36. TA refunds the user 7% of $370 ($25.90) and then takes their $15 from that. So, traveler pays $354.10 for the ticket. You must, however, work out your travel plans in advance, and they only provide rebates on tickets costing more than $300. They charge a $5 delivery fee for these tickets. If several passengers are traveling on the same itinerary, the per-passenger flat fee is reduced. Travel Avenue also provides the consumer with a similar rebate for car rentals and hotel bookings. Call 1-800-333-3335 for recorded information. It pays to be a member of the American Automobile Association (AAA). Besides complimentary maps, the AAA travel agencies often have special discounts beyond the usual airline tariffs, such as extra discounts on some international flights, and discount airfares for visiting friends and relatives on certain flights with specific airlines. AAA also has included dollars off coupons for airlines like USAir and United in their membership newsletter. ISE Flights has a special deal with Citibank through June 30, 1995. They will give you a $20 rebate on any ticket priced over $150, provided the ticket is purchased through ISE and issued in cardholders name. (If you are traveling with friends and family, ISE will be pleased to issue tickets for all of you.) To get your rebate, 1. Call a major airline and make a reservation directly. Reservations made through a travel agent are not eligible. 2. Record the flight information, the price quoted, and the reservation number (if available). 3. Ask the airline to put the flight on courtesy hold. 4. Call ISE at 1-800-255-7000, and charge the ticket to your Citibank card. [The tickets do not necessarily need to be charged to your Citibank card. They will ask for your Citibank cardnumber to verify that you are a Citibank cardholder, but you can charge the tickets to another card, such as Discover card, America Express, MC/VISA.] The rebate and ticket will be mailed out the same day. Costa Online Travel offers a 5% rebate on any CRUISE or TOUR booked through their service. For more information, see http://mmink.cts.com/costapackage.html Excelsior Travel offers Internet users a 5% discount on airline tickets over $200, provided you obtain the reservations yourself. Excelsior Travel, 419 Highland Avenue, Boston, MA 02144 1-800-522-1118, 617-625-1077 fax excel2345@aol.com WARNING: Be careful about sending your credit card over the network (e.g., by email or by telnet), as it is very easy for someone on an intermediate host to intercept the contents. If you do this, it's at your own risk. CitiTravel (from Citibank) provides a 5% rebate, but there is an annual membership fee and you have to send in documentation after the flight to get the rebate. Many other credit cards offer similar programs. If your company's employees travel regularly for business, have your company negotiate a special deal with one or two local travel agents to provide a rebate for tickets purchase through them. Many travel agencies are willing to do this, since they make up the difference through volume. The Discover Private Issue credit card provides a rebate of up to 2% of purchases (in contrast to the maximum 1% rebate of the Discover card), and has a special 5% rebate arrangement with a Oklahoma travel agency. You get a 5% rebate of pre-tax airfare, car rental, hotel, and cruises purchased through the travel agency and charged to your card. There is a $20 annual fee for this card. For more information, call 1-800-DISCOVER. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-3] Consolidators Ticket consolidators (wholesalers, ``bucket shops'') are often 30-40% cheaper than buying direct from the airline. They buy blocks of unsold seats from the airlines and resell them at a slim margin. Such tickets are usually heavily restricted and are for a standard profile (e.g., no special meals, no changes, no transfers, no refunds). It used to be the case that you couldn't get frequent flyer miles for travel on consolidator tickets, but that seems to be changing. Cancellation penalties are often much more severe than on regular tickets. The greater the distance traveled, the greater the chances of saving money through a consolidator ticket. This is especially true for international flights. If you're planning a round-the-world trip, definitely use a consolidator to buy your tickets. Consolidators don't buy their tickets until a month or two before the flight, so you probably won't be able to buy your tickets very far in advance. The Sunday NY Times travel section has a list of such wholesalers, as do many other major newspapers. You can also find some in your local yellow pages, under the same listing as regular travel agents. Although "consolidator" and "bucket shop" are often used interchangeably, they refer to different kinds of wholesalers. Consolidators buy large blocks of tickets at discounted rates direct from the airlines. When an airline can't sell their tickets at regular prices, they sell them to consolidators at lower prices. The restrictions on these tickets are governed by the consolidator's contract with the airline, and not by the rules for published fares. Such contracts usually preclude consolidators from naming airlines in advertisements, but do allow them to specify prices. Sometimes they are restricted to promoting the fares only to a particular geographic or ethnic market. Usually they sell only through retail agencies and not directly to the public. Some consolidators sell tickets only to travel agencies. Others sell both wholesale and retail. Bucket shops are retail agencies that specialize in getting discounted prices on tickets. They are familiar with the full range of consolidators for all the carriers (every airline sells to many consolidators) and in other techniques of fare construction, importing tickets, etc. Many bucket shops don't have any direct contact with the airline, in contrast with consolidators. International airfares are set by international agreement and regulated by the airline cartel, IATA. Most interantional airlines are closely related to, if not directly owned by, their national governments. Thus most governments have an interest in protecting the profits of their national airline, with the result that the IATA fares are artificially high. IATA rules prohibit discounting, and in some countries these rules are actually enforced. Bucket shops work around the rules by buying discounted tickets direct from the airlines or through consolidators. These tickets are discounted with restrictions that attempt to ensure that the airlines fill otherwise empty seats instead of diverting full-fare passengers to cheaper tickets. Some restrictions include limitations on the advertising of such tickets, forbidding mention of the name of the airline, or restricting the promotion of such tickets to a particular geographic or ethnic market. Another method of discounting tickets is through rebating a portion of the consolidator commission to the public. AirHitch (212-864-2000; 2790 Broadway, Suite 100, New York, NY 10025) is a consolidator which buys unsold seats very close to the wire. You provide a window of times (or destinations), and AirHitch lets you know about available flights within your window on extremely short notice. Tickets are one-way and there may not necessarily be a perfect match with the destination you had in mind. Since this is a form of standby travel, it is possible that there will be no seats left when the you arrive at the airport. If that happens you'll have to try a different destination in the same window, maybe the same day, maybe a day or two later. If you want to travel to "somewhere" in Europe and then return to "somewhere" in the US, AirHitch can be a very inexpensive method of traveling. A similar outfit is AirTech (800-575-TECH) <airtech@netcom.com>. There have been reports of complaints by consumers about both outfits. Be sure you understand the risks and uncertainties involved in flying this particular kind of cut-rate standby travel before buying their flight vouchers. Not for the faint of heart. When buying tickets from a consolidator, it is best to use a reputable one that has been around for a while. Many are small companies and tend to go out of business frequently. Check the out with the Better Business Bureau. Caveat emptor. The best advice we can offer is to purchase tickets through a travel agent who regularly deals with consolidators. Some tips: + Shop around. Unlike regular tickets, different consolidators may offer different prices for the same destination. + Buy your tickets with a credit card, so you can get a refund from your credit card company if you never get the tickets. Many consolidators, however, do not accept credit cards, or add a 2-5% surcharge for non-cash purchases (possibly phrasing the difference in price between credit card and non credit card purchases as a cash discount). The reason for credit card surcharges has to do with the economics of selling tickets for air travel. When a regular travel agent sells a ticket for travel on an airline, the credit card is in effect being charged by the airline, not the agent. Normally a merchant pays a fee from 1% to 5% of the purchase price to the credit card company. Due to their high volume, airlines are able to negotiate very low fees with the credit card companies. When a consolidator accepts credit cards, they are doing it as an individual merchant, and hence aren't able to get the low fees available to airlines. Given how little money they earn from each ticket, they just cannot afford to accept credit cards without adding a surcharge. For example, if a consolidator earns a commission of 8% of the selling price, and then has to pay 2% to the credit card company, they've cut their income by 25%. Most consolidators can't afford to do this and stay in business. Credit cards also pose a risk of chargebacks, which can affect the consolidators bottom line. + Deal with a local consolidator, since you can check them out yourself (e.g., verify that they aren't just a mail drop for a scam). + Don't put much stock in favorable references from satisfied customers, unless you personally know the customers. Even the worst consolidator has some happy clients. + If possible, pick up the tickets in person. If you don't get the tickets within a day or two by mail, something is wrong. + When you get the tickets, call the airline immediately to verify that the tickets are legitimate. + Airlines reserve the right to change the fares on consolidator tickets at any time, so the fares are not guaranteed until you actually receive the ticket. If the airline increases the fare after you purchase the tickets but before you receive the tickets, some consolidators will charge you the difference. Example Consolidators: + Airbrokers 800-883-3273 415-397-4767 fax + Best Travel Service 800-800-4788 (713-777-4888) 713-777-4886 fax + Cheap Tickets 800-377-1000 + Council Charter 800-800-8222 + Dixieland Tours 800-256-8747 Baton Rouge, Louisiana + Euram Tours 800-848-6789 + Global Access 800-283-5333 + IntraTours 800-334-8069 (713-952-0662) 713-952-2631 fax + Nippon Travel 800-662-6236 + Overseas Tours 800-878-8718 / 800-227-5988 + Sunline Express Holidays 800-786-5463 + STA Travel 800-777-0112 Specializes in student/youth travel. + TFI Tours International 800-745-8000 + Travac Tours and Charters 800-872-8800 407-896-0046 fax + UniTravel, St. Louis 800-325-2222 314-569-2503 fax + Worldwide Travel Center 800-886-4988 703-379-6363 703-379-6283 fax AUSTRAVEL is a consolidator for travel to Australia. They have offices at 360 Post Street, Suite 606, in San Francisco, phone 800-633-3404 (415-781-4329), fax 415-781-4358. They have other offices in New York, Chicago, Houston, Sydney, and the UK. PASSENGER'S CHOICE 1-800-666-1026 advertises business class for up to 40% off in the San Francisco paper. They aren't really a consolidator. They get the low fares by buying excess frequent flyer miles from high volume frequent flyers, and then redeeming the certificates for a ticket in your name. The selling of frequent flyer miles in this manner is a violation of airline rules (the original certificate holder can issue a ticket in your name, but isn't supposed to accept compensation for doing it). This is a gray area. Other bargain travel agencies: + Travel Bargains 800-872-8385 + Airfares for Less 800-AIR-FARE Consolidators are now also buying up blocks of hotel rooms and selling them at steep discounts. For example, Hotel Reservation Network (HRN) 1-800-964-6835 offers rooms at 10 to 40 percent off AAA rates, especially in New York and San Francisco. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-4] Couriers One way of getting cheap international flights is to fly as a freelance courier. There are a few companies which will pay you for the right to use your baggage allowance, yielding a heavily-discounted fare (typically a little more than half the regular discounted fare). For them, this is much cheaper (and sometimes more reliable) than paying cargo rates for shipping. Since the shipment is usually time-critical (e.g., financial documents), it is essential that the package be classified as baggage. Baggage is less likely to be "bumped" from a flight than freight. The courier company can't simply buy a ticket and leave the seat empty, since the seat must be occupied for the freight to be listed as baggage instead of freight. The courier company earns a percentage of the savings from the company shipping the package. They also further defray their costs by selling the seat to you (at a discount, of course). The courier company may also charge you an annual registration fee (typically $50) or a refundable deposit ($100 or $200 is common). If the courier company is really desperate, sometimes (rarely) you can get them to pay for all or most of your ticket. The tickets are non-refundable -- you pay the money for the ticket to the courier company, who then buys the ticket from the airline. The trips are usually very short notice, typically 1-2 weeks. When shipments are done on a contract, seats can be assigned to couriers several months in advance. Some courier companies are less shipping companies than they are courier brokers. Such companies match couriers with companies that need to ship packages. An annual registration fee is usually a good tipoff that the company is a courier broker, though there are no hard and fast rules of thumb. You do not deal with the baggage, other than (occasionally) to hand-carry a set of paperwork. You will not get the tickets until you arrive at the airport (at the last minute) and meet with the freight company's representative to get the paperwork. The representatives are sometimes late and disorganized, so be prepared for some anxious moments while you try to connect with them. When you arrive at the destination you'll turn over the manifest to another representative of the company. You'll probably have to wait for some time for the bags to be unloaded and to clear customs. You are allowed a carry-on. There may be other restrictions, such as limits to the length of the stay (e.g., usually anywhere from one week to 30-days maximum, though it can vary significantly from case to case). Sometimes you can use the baggage space on the return flight, depending on the company and the situation (many companies have you couriering a shipment both ways). If the company doesn't need you to escort a package home, sometimes you can change the return date on your ticket. You're responsible for your expenses at the destination (e.g., food, hotel), so you'll probably want to learn the ins and outs of staying in youth hostels. Since only one courier is needed for a route, you'll be traveling alone. If you want to travel with a friend, don't courier. You must be at least 21 years of age, have a valid passport, and be somewhat levelheaded. It helps if you have a sense of adventure. You will most likely be flying on a major carrier. In the US, most courier companies are located in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco. There are also courier companies based in England, various major european cities, the far east, Australia, Argentina, Singapore, Honk Kong, Tapei, Japan, South America, Canada (Toronto, Montreal), and so on. Courier travel between destinations in the US is much less common these days, as US domestic airline package delivery services have improved enough to no longer make couriering cost effective. (For example, shipping a package from Pittsburgh to LA with same-day delivery on an airline costs around $50.) So most courier travel is between the US and an overseas destination. If you're not located in a city that has courier companies, you'll be responsible for your transportation to that city. It is much easier to find a trip by visiting their offices in person than by mail or over the phone. If you don't live near one of the cities from which most couriers depart, it probably isn't for you. There are risks involved, so be sure to use a reputable courier company and get references. Horror stories include stranded passengers, couriered luggage that contained contraband, and so on. Also beware of fly-by-night outfits that advertise cheap fares and then disappear with your money. If you haven't traveled by courier before, be very careful. The likelihood of finding a courier company that needs a package escorted to your favorite destination on the day of your choice is next to nil. Courier travel just isn't well-suited for planned vacations. Likewise, if you have commitments or other obligations (e.g., making a connection for your return flight home, getting back to school on time), don't count on meeting them. Some people have smooth trips, others don't. If you're just after cheap international airfare, you're probably better off going to a bucket shop. The savings just aren't enough to make the hassles worthwhile. But if you're very flexible about when you want to travel and can leave on a moment's notice, or you don't care where you go, so long as you go somewhere soon, then couriering is a great way to see the world a bit at a time. Some books about flying as a courier include: o The Air Courier's Handbook, $9.95 Big City Books, PO Box 19667, Sacramento, CA 95819 o The Courier Air Travel Handbook, 1993, $7.95. Mark I. Field, Thunderbird Press, 5930-10 W. Greenway Road, Suite 112B Glendale, Arizona 85306 USA o A Simple Guide to Courier Travel, $15.95 1-800-344-9375 Guide Books, PO Box 2394, Lake Oswego, OR 97035 o The Insiders Guide To Air Courier Bargains 1-800-356-9315. $14.95 + $2 p&h. Kelly Monaghan. Inwood Training Publications, Box 438, New York, NY 10034. o The Air Courier Guide Handbook, 5.99 pounds sterling John Walker Books, 160 Cromwell Road, LONDON SW5 0TL o Directory of Freelance On Board Couriers, $9.95 Canadian. The Inside Track Travel Group, British Columbia, 604-684-6715. Newsletters: o Travel Unlimited, $25/year, 12 issues (8 pages each issue) Attn: Steve Lantos, PO Box 1058, Allston, MA 02134-1058 SteveL2555@aol.com o International Association of Air Travel Couriers $35 registration fee, gets you six copies of the Shoestring Traveler newsletter and six issues of the Air Courier Bulletin directory. Run by Bill Bates. International Association of Air Travel Couriers International Features PO Box 1349 Lake Worth, FL 33460 Tel: 407-582-8320 (Street address is 8 South "J" Street, Suite 3, Lake Worth.) Courier Agencies in New York: Able Travel and Tours 212-779-8530 Paris, London Air Facilities 718-712-0630 South America ACC 212-983-0855, 800-983-0856 Courier Network 212-691-9860 Israel Courier Travel Service 516-763-6898, 516-374-2261 (fax) 516-374-2299, 212-836-1989 718-244-0101, 718-COURIER Worldwide, but mainly to Europe. Some to Middle East, Asia, and South/Central America. 1 week stays. No fee. Hours 09:30-17:00 weekdays. Discount Travel International (DTI) 212-362-8113/3636 212-655-5151 To Mexico, South America, Asia, and Eastern and Western Europe. 169 W. 81st Street, New York, NY 10024 East-West Express 516-561-2360 To Singapore, Asia, and Australia. Halbart Express 718-656-8189/8279 New York to Europe only. or 718-995-7019 10am-3pm only 147-05 176th Street, Jamaica, NY 11434. IBC 718-262-8058. Jupiter Air 718-341-2095, 718-656-6050 New York to Hong Kong and Singapore. Now Voyager, Inc. 212-431-1616 74 Varick Street, Suite #307, New York, NY 10013. Europe. Call between 10:00-16:30 M-F, 12-4:30 Sa, recorded message other times. Charges $50 registration fee. Major cities in US, routed through NY. Payment via certified check, money order, or credit cards (3% processing fee). Tickets are on standby. FedEx's the tickets to your address. You courier both ways. Rush Courier 718-439-9043 Puerto Rico World Courier 718-978-9400, 718-978-9552/9408 800-221-6600 9am-noon only. Requires personal interview in New York. Does not fly to Paris. Flies mostly to Europe and Mexico. Courier Agencies in Miami: A-1 International 305-594-1184 To Venezuela Air Facilities 305-477-8300 DTI 305-538-1616 Halbart 407-483-8832,305-593-0260 To Europe. IMS Courier Service 305-771-7545 To Jamaica Line Haul Services 305-477-0651 To Latin America, Central and South America Martillo Express 305-681-6979 Trans Air Systems 305-592-1771 To Central and South America Travel Courier 718-738-9000 Courier Agencies in Chicago: TNT Chicago 312-453-7300 (area code 708?) To Mexico and London. [doesn't seem to exist anymore?] Courier Agencies in LA: City Link 213-410-9063 [doesn't seem to exist anymore?] Crossroads International 213-643-8600 3pm-5:30 pm [doesn't seem to exist anymore?] IBC Pacific 310-607-0125, 415-697-5985 9am-4pm T-F. Asia, Australia. Jupiter Air 310-670-5123 Flights to Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea (Seoul). $200 deposit required for all flights. $35/year membership required . Max stay 30 days, one-week minimum for Seoul. Reserve 2-3 months in advance. Midnight Express 310-673-1100 Flies only to London. Polo Express 310-410-6822 Flights to Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, and Bangkok. No deposit, no fee. 2-week stay, except in Australia (3-weeks). Reserve 6 weeks to 3 months in advance. SOS Intl Courier 310-649-6640 Mexico Way to Go 213-466-1126/1166 6679 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles 90028 Flights to Far East (Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Singapore), with some flights to Mexico and London. $75/year membership fee. San Francisco office 415-292-7801; San Diego office 619-224-0252. World Travel & Tours 213-384-1000 Korea Courier Agencies in San Francisco: Gateway Express 415-344-7833 111 Anza Blvd. #418 Burlingame, CA 94010 Jupiter Air 415-872-0845, 415-872-6506 Flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Manila. Polo Express 415-742-9613 Flights to Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, and Bangkok. No deposit, no fee. 2-week stay, except in Australia (3-weeks). Reserve 6 weeks to 3 months in advance. For info send SASE to Polo Express, 811 Grandview Dr., South San Francisco, CA 94080. TNT San Fransisco 415-692-9600 Call afternoons only. Hong Kong. UTL Travel 415-583-5074 Flights to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Manila. Way To Go 415-292-7801 Asia, London, Mexico Bahrain: Line Haul Express (0973)-258-700 Buenos Aires: Air Facility (1)-3220-7720 Canada: F.B. On Board Couriers (Montreal) 514-633-0740/0951 Courier travle to London, England. Call 9am-Noon EST for info. Located in Montreal but also serves Toronto. F.B. On Board Couriers (Toronto) 416-675-1820 Cargo only. F.B. On Board Couriers (Vancouver) 604-278-1266 Courier travel to Hong Kong from Vancouver. Jet Services 514-331-7470 Paris Germany: Line Haul +49 69 69793260 Located in Frankfurt/Main. Flights to Hong Kong, Sydney, and possibly other destinations. Hong Kong: Bridges Worldwide (03)-305-1413 London, Sydney, US, Asia Great Bird Courier (03)-332-1311 Honolulu, Tokyo, Taipei Intl Courier Travel (03)-718-1332 Jupiter Air (05)-735-1886, (05)-735-1946 Asia, US, Sydney JNE (03)-736-8678 Bangkok Line Haul Express (03)-735-2167, (03)-735-2163 London, Asia, Vancouver Polo Express (03)-303-1286, (03)-303-1287 Asia, LA, Sydney Wholepoint (03)-718-0333 London: Courier Travel Service (0181)-844-2626, (0171)-351-0300 F.B. On Board Courier (0175)-368-0280 Canada Line Haul Express (0181)-759-5969 Paris: To New York Halbart Express (01)-45873230 Jet Services (01)-48626222 Rio de Janiero: Air Facility (021)-252-9597 Seoul: Jupiter Air (02)-655-6024 Sydney, Australia: Courier Travel Service (02)-698-3753 Intl Courier Travel (02)-317-3193 London Jupiter Air (02)-317-2113, (02)-317-2230 London, Asia, Auckland Polo Express (02)-693-5866 Los Angeles, Auckland Taipei: Jupiter Air (02)-551-2198 Line Haul Express (02)-731-5367 Tokyo: Line Haul Express (03)-376-98354 ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-5] Travel Agencies that Specialize in Students Council Charter (run by the CIEE) 800-800-8222. International Student Exchange Flights 602-951-1177. Call toll free 800-255-7000 for US domestic flights, 800-255-8000 for international flights. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-6] Visit USA Several airlines have a program called "Visit USA" (VUSA) which allows foreign nationals or US citizens who reside abroad to purchase tickets that have unlimited standby travel within the US during their stay. The tickets must be purchased abroad (usually in conjunction with an international roundtrip ticket) and residents of Canada and Mexico are ineligible. (Some of the programs are also not available to people living in the Carribean.) Other airlines with this program include United Airlines, Northwest, and Delta. Delta's program is called "Delta Pass". The pass is actually a set of coupons, with each coupon being good for a sector. You must purchase at least N coupons, where N depends on the airline. For United, the minimum is three coupons. There may also be a maximum number of coupons. On United the price is about $90/sector if you purchase the minimum number of coupons, and falls to $60/sector if you purchase 10 coupons. There is also a two-tier pricing scheme depending on whether the Visit USA pass is issued by the same airline you used to travel to the US. The difference is about $15/sector. Prices and programs may differ on other airlines. For example, Delta Airpass gives 30 days unlimited travel for about $500 (60 days $800). No rerouting or refunds are allowed. (Some airlines will refund a completely unused pass -- ask when you buy it -- but none will refund a Visit USA pass after the first flight segment has been flown.) You must make confirmed reservations for the first sector. There is a charge for changing the date on the first sector flight. Travel must start within 30 days and must be completed withing 120 days of entry into the US (for travel on United; other airlines may have different policies). Open jaw travel is permitted. You may be limited to one trans-continental direct flight per Visit USA pass, depending on the airline. Council Travel has been known to sell Visit USA tickets on USAir without any restrictions at all -- you don't have to be a foreign resident or national, and you don't have to be a student. Many travel agents outside the US don't check whether you reside outside the US, so you can buy the Visit USA coupons even if you are a US citizen. They won't, however, send the tickets overseas; you have to be physically present to pick up the tickets. Many foreign carriers offer similar programs in conjunction with the purchase of an international round-trip ticket. The following should give you an idea of the range of programs; call your airline and check if they have similar programs (you may have to ask for the tour desk). Air France (France Pass). The pass gets you unlimited flights within France, but must be used during a single week for off-peak travel. Alitalia (Visit Italy). Each voucher lets you fly two one-way segments within Italy for $100. A great deal, considering that a Rome-Milan coach roundtrip ticket costs more than three times as much. Aloha Airlines (AlohaPass Commuter). The pass provides unlimited interisland travel on Aloha Airlines and Aloha IslandAir for one month. Reservations are guaranteed when booked 48 hours before departure. Includes other minor perks, such as bonuses in the frequent flyer program and some free first class upgrades. British Airways (UK Air Pass/Visit UK). Flight segments cost around $80, with a 3-segment minimum. Destinations and travel dates must be booked seven days in advance, and the dates cannot be changed. Hawaiian Airlines (Commuter Airpass). The pass provides unlimited interisland travel for one month. Reservations are guaranteed when booked 24 hours before departure. Includes other minor perks, such as a free one-day car rental, bonuses in the frequent flyer program, and some free first class upgrades. SAS (Visit Scandinavia). Each coupon costs $80 and covers one flight segment within Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. 6 coupon maximum. Thai Airways (Discover Thailand). Each pass costs $239 and covers four flight segments within Thailand. Varig, VASP, and Transbrasil (Visit Brazil). The pass is a very good deal for travelers who are flying from one end of Brazil to the other, but not as good if you're just flying between Sao Paulo and Rio De Janiero. [Yes, yes, I know Hawaii is part of the United States.] When buying one of these passes, always compare the cost with the prices of basic excursion fares. Sometimes the excursion fares are cheaper. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-7] Free Upgrades to First Class The main method of getting first class seating without paying the exorbitant fares is to belong to a frequent flyer program like TWA's program, where gold and silver members get unlimited free upgrades to first class on a space available basis. Some airlines, like USAir, sell booklets of upgrade certificates, at an average cost of $15 per certificate. Of course, with both programs, you won't always be able to get first class seating. The other method is to fly on an overbooked flight where first class is underbooked. If you have a confirmed reservation, the airline will usually prefer to upgrade your ticket over bumping you. Even though American gold upgrade stickers have an expiration date, American ticket agents rarely turn someone down because they tried to use expired upgrade stickers. The same goes for similar programs at other airlines. (It doesn't hurt to try.) Wearing business attire probably helps your chances of getting a free upgrade. Upgrades are often at the discretion of the gate agent. If you look like a businessman, you'll get treated better. So try wearing a suit the next time you ask. On the other hand, if you look like bum, you probably won't get the upgrade, if for no other reason than to not degrade the appearance of first class. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-8] Companion Tickets Many airlines are now offering free or cheap companion tickets. Northwest currently has certificates which will allow a companion to fly at a reduced price ($199 round trip between the east and west coast, cheaper between shorter hauls). Travel must be completed by 1/15/94, Saturday night stay is required, and there are a lot of holiday period blackout dates. Companion earns frequent flier miles. Continental offers a deal to their One pass members where for $50 you can get a package which includes 5000 miles and a $99 RT companion ticket certificate. There may be some blackout dates on the certificate, but I was able to use this around Christmas time. Companion earns frquent flier miles. TWA is currently offering promotions by which it is possible to fly with them and get a free companion ticket certificate valid some months in 1994. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-9] Avoiding Travel Scams When planning a trip, here are some tips for avoiding travel scams. + Beware of unsolicited travel opportunities. + There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. If a travel opportunity sounds like a "great deal", it probably isn't. Either they'll take your money and run, or there are hidden charges. For example, many so-called "free vacations" or "vacation giveaways" require you to stay at a specific hotel -- at exorbitant rates. + Beware of extremely low-priced offers, unsolicited offers involving Florida or Hawaii, and opportunities that try to pressure you into buying on the spot. + If you're elderly, be especially careful. Scam artists will try to confuse and manipulate you. + Ask detailed questions (e.g., what is covered by the price and what isn't, whether there are any additional charges, the names of the hotels, airlines, airports, and restaurants, exact dates and times, cancellation policies, and refund policies), and get it all in writing before you buy anything. + Never give personal information, including credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank account numbers, or similar information to an unsolicited telephone salesperson. If you must, ask for a telephone number and call them back the next day, after you've had time to check them out. Call the Better Business Bureau and use the telephone number to verify if they're a legitimate business, and if so, whether there have been any complaints. You can also check out the company with the state attorney general's office and the local consumer protection agency. + Pay for purchases with a credit card, never with a check or money order. When you pay for purchases with a credit card, you're protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act against fraudulent charges. + Never give out your frequent flyer number over the phone, unless you initiated the call. + Don't assume that just because a company places advertisements in a newspaper or has a toll-free 800 number, it must be safe. It takes time for a company to generate enough complaints for a Federal Trade Commission to start an investigation. Moreover, not all 800 numbers are toll-free these days, and its possible for an individual to get their own toll-free number. + Do not give your tickets to anyone other than an agent of the airline at the ticketing/check-in counter, the gate, or the airlines offices. A common scam is for someone wearing a uniform similar to that of the airline to provide some excuse for taking your tickets (e.g., claiming there is a problem with the tickets). If you're not sure that someone is an airline employee, check their ID with the airline. + If you've encountered a problem, or are suspicious of an offer, call the National Fraud Information Center, a hotline operated by the National Consumers League. The number is 800-876-7060 and can be reached from 9 to 5 EDT during the week. You can also call the local Better Business Bureau, the State Bureau of Consumer Protection, and the Attorney General's Office. A good booklet to read is "Telemarketing Travel Fraud", a free publication of the Federal Trade Commission. Call 202-326-2222 for a copy, or write to Federal Trade Commission, Public Reference Branch, Room 130, Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-10] Missed Connections If you ever miss a connection because your plane was late and the lines at the service desk are very long (e.g., everybody else on that flight needs rebooking), call the airline's 800 number. Sometimes they'll let you rebook because of a missed connection over the phone. You may still have to pick up the flight coupon at the service desk (though sometimes you'll be able to get it at the gate), but at least you'll make the next flight. If you wait on the line, you may not make the next flight if everybody in front of you is also waiting for the next flight, or the next flight leaves in a few minutes. Depending on the airline and the airport, you may be able to be rebooked on a flight by going directly to the gate. Some airlines will force you to go to the service desk. (For example, TWA in JFK requires that all changes go through the service desk.) If the flight you want to be rebooked on is "full", it may pay to ask the agents whether upgrading to first class will make a difference. It'll cost you, but it may save you from being stuck in the airport for a few hours. When buying a ticket with a connection, allow enough time to get from one gate to the next at the connecting airport. The airline computers have an estimate of the minimum time required to make a connection, but this isn't always accurate, especially if the gates are at opposite ends of the airport, or you're seated at the tail of the plane. The connection times are based on the arriving and departing airline, whether the flight is international or domestic, and other factors such as the flight number. The most common connection time for domestic flights is 45 minutes, which is the default minimum. Flights on the same airline at adjacent gates, however, may have shorter connection times. International flights will, of course, have greater connection times. With the new on-time rules, airlines are reluctant to hold flights for passengers coming from connecting flights that are late. The connection times, of course, do not allow for late flights (except insofar as there is a small built-in allowance for slight variations in arrival). If you're carrying your own baggage, have kids, walk slowly, or want to take a pit stop at the bathroom, allow yourself extra time the first time you fly a particular route. Ask your travel agent whether there will be enough time for you to make the connection, and if they think it's close, what other flights are available that leave the connecting city a little later. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-11] Getting There Faster On the flip side of the coin, airline reservation systems use a minimum connection time of 45 minutes. They won't let you make a reservation for a shorter connection time. You can get around this by buying two separate pairs of round-trip tickets to/from the connection, or by booking different legs on different airlines, but if you happen to miss the connection, the airline is under no obligation to rebook you on a later flight. However, if you travel light enough that you can carry on all your luggage, and you know the connecting airport, trimming the connection time can get you to your destination faster. If you get to the connecting airport on time or early, you might try going to the gate of the earlier flight to your destination, and ask to be put on. If the flight isn't full, they'll probably let you board. Some travel agents and airline ticket agents will sell tickets that have less than the "legal" connection time printed in the schedule, but whether they'll let you do this depends very much on the agent. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-12] Airports Monopolized by One Carrier If you live in a hub city, where the airport is monopolized by a single carrier, you can usually get nonstop service to most destinations. Unfortunately, you'll probably also be paying exorbitant prices for that service. Airlines only provide good prices for competitive markets -- those serviced by multiple carriers. If they are the main carrier in a given market, they keep the prices high, and will even (arrogantly) refuse to match prices with other carriers. The other national carriers might have one or two gates at this airport. If so, you may find them offering cheaper fares than the monopoly carrier. There is, however, one drawback to this. Since your airport isn't one of their hubs, the flights they offer will almost always involve first flying you to their closest hub, and getting a connection there -- even if their hub is in the opposite direction from your destination. On the other hand, if their hub is your ultimate destination, then you're in luck. There is another workaround to dealing with a hub carrier. If there's another major airport within an hour or two drive from your home, you could fly out from there. (The same thing is true of using frequent flyer certificates for free travel. If there's no seats available on the days you're interested in from your local airport, try another airport nearby. Also, sometimes regular air fares may be cheaper out of an airport in a different city. If driving 100 miles saves you $300, isn't it worth the bother?) ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-13] Hub Cities Try to avoid hub cities. For example, since USAir's hub is Pittsburgh, they have a virtual monopoly on flights to PGH, so if you're so unlucky as to be flying to Pittsburgh, the rates are not cheap. Occasionally you may be able to take a flight which makes a stop or connection at Pittsburgh, and walk off the plane in Pittsburgh (i.e., a ticket from Boston to Cleveland on a plane which makes a stop in Pittsburgh might be cheaper than a ticket from Boston to Pittsburgh on the same plane). This only works when you can carry on all of your baggage. Or if your connecting flight is more than two hours after your flight arrives or on a different plane, you can usually arrange to claim your baggage at the hub and recheck it yourself. (See also [1-20] Hidden City Fares.) Several airlines are currently being investigated by the Justice Department for anti-trust violations based on their dominating the airports at their hubs. Here's a list of airline hub cities. I've asterisked those that I'm sure are monopolized by that airline. # indicates the main hub of the airline. Alaska Airlines (AS): Anchorage (ANC)#, SEA America West (HP): Phoenix (PHX)#, Las Vega$ (LAS), Columbus OH (CMH) American Airlines (AA): Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW)#, Raleigh/Durham (RDU)*, SJC*, SJU, ORD, BNA, Continental Airlines (CO): Newark (EWR)#, Cleveland (CLE)*, IAH, DEN, MSY Delta Airlines (DL): Atlanta (ATL)*#, Salt Lake City (SLC)*, DFW, CVG, LAX, JFK and FRA (Frankfurt, FRG), Orlando FL (MCO). Midwest Express (YX): MKE Northwest Airlines (NW): Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP)#, DTW*, Memphis (MEM)*, Milwaukee (MKE)*, BOS, NRT (Tokyo Narita). Southwest Airlines (WN): Chicago (MDW), St. Louis (STL), Dallas Love (DAL), Houston Hobby (HOU), PHX, ABQ TWA (TW): St. Louis (STL)*#, New York (JFK), Paris (ORY or CDG) USAir (US): Pittsburgh (PIT)*#, Philadelphia (PHL), Charlotte (CLT)*, Baltimore (BWI)*, LAX, SFO, SYR, IND United Airlines (UA): Chicago#, DEN, Washington Dulles (IAD), SEA, SFO, Raleigh, Tokyo, LHR (London Heathrow) Airport Abbreviations and Hubs: ABQ Albuquerque, NM WN ANC Anchorage, AK AS ATL Atlanta, GA DL BNA Nashville, TN AA BOS Boston, MA NW BWI Baltimore, MD US CLE Cleveland, OH CO CLT Charlotte, NC US CMH Columbus, OH HP CVG Cincinatti, OH DL DAL Dallas (Love Field), TX WN DEN Denver, CO UA DFW Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX AA DL DTW Detroit, MI NW EWR Newark, NJ CO HOU Houston (Hobby), TX WN IAD Washington (Dulles), DC UA IAH Houston (Intercontinental), TX CO IND Indianapolis, IN US JFK New York (Kennedy), NY TW DL LAS Las Vega$ HP LAX Los Angeles DL US MEM Memphis, TN NW MKE Milwaukee, WI NW YX MSP Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN NW MSY New Orleans, LA CO ORD Chicago, IL AA UA MCO Orlando, FL DL PHL Philadelphia, PA US PHX Phoenix, AZ HP WN PIT Pittsburgh, PA US RDU Raleigh/Durham, NC AA SEA Seattle, WA AS UA SFO San Francisco, CA UA US SJC San Jose, CA AA SJU San Juan, PR AA SLC Salt Lake City, UT DL STL St. Louis, MO TW SYR Syracuse, NY US AA American Airlines AS Alaska Airlines CO Continental Airlines DL Delta Airlines HP America West Airlines TW Trans World Airlines UA United Airlines US U S Air WN Southwest Airlines YX Midwest Express ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-14] Lost Baggage The US domestic baggage liability limit is a maximum of $1,250.00 per passenger. (The DOT is proposing to raise this limit to $1,850, possibly $2,000, and maybe indexing it to the inflation rate.) Some airlines may provide greater limits for checked/unchecked baggage. For international flights, the baggage liability limit is approximately $9.07 per pound ($20 per kilogram) for checked baggage and $400 per passenger for unchecked baggage. A minimum waiting period of one week is required before baggage can be declared lost. About 98% of bags reported missing are returned to the owners. When a bag is declared loss, you will have to submit paperwork to the airline documenting the value of the bags and their contents. You may not necessarily get full value for all the lost items. Reimbursement will come 2-6 weeks later. Airlines will not reimburse for currency, photographic or electronic equipment (e.g., cameras, stereos, VCRs, camcorders, CD players, telephones, etc.), rare and expensive jewelry or artistic works, or medication, unless prior arrangements were made (e.g., excess valuation insurance was purchased). Some credit cards will cover these items if the tickets were purchased with the card. Most lost baggage doesn't disappear to the same black hole that eats socks from your laundry, but eventually makes its way to regional warehouses owned by the airlines. If the airline can't identify the owner, they sell it at auction, just like the post office's lost letter department does. Airlines keep all unclaimed baggage for three months before selling it at auction. There are even stores that specialize in buying the lost baggage, sorting the contents, and selling the merchandise and clothing that's in good condition. The Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, is one such store, and a fun place to visit. If your bags are damaged, the airline will either fix them, reimburse you for the cost of repairs, give you new bags, or pay for the cost of replacing them, depending on the amount of damage. You must report any damage within 7 days. If your bags are damaged before you check them, the airlines will ask you to sign a damage waiver at check in, which states the nature of the damage and exempts the airline for that damage. Otherwise, if the bags arrive damaged and the airline didn't have you sign a waiver, the airline is fully liable for the condition of the bags. Normal wear and tear, of course, is not subject to a damage claim. Carry-on bags are not subject to damage claims, except in clear cases of airline negligence (e.g., flight attendant moves your bags, damaging them). ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-15] Baggage Limits Checked baggage weight/size/number limits vary depending on the airline, the class of fare, and the country of origin. For US domestic flights, one is typically limited to 2 pieces of checked baggage (excluding luggage carriers), each of which has a total length + width + height less than 62" (or 72") and weighs less than 70 pounds (32 kg). For domestic travel within a foreign country, however, the limit is by weight, not piece count, usually 20kg. For international travel the weight limits for couch, business class, and first class are 20kg, 30kg, and 40kg, respectively. But if the fare is for travel to or from North America, the baggage limit is that of the entire journey, even if one leg would normally have a lower limit. So for international travel from the USA, for example, coach passengers would be limited to 2 bags (piece rule) and not just 20kg (weight rule). The key here is that the fare is a 'through fare'. If you switch airlines instead of taking a direct flight, you may be subject to a lower baggage limit for that portion of your journey. If this matters to you, make sure either that you are ticketed as a through fare, or that the tickets are endorsed to permit the higher piece rule baggage limits (e.g., "2 pieces allowed with trans-Atlantic connection"). Unchecked carry-on baggage is usually limited to 2 bags, which must fit under the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartment. Purses, cameras, coats, and similar items are usually excluded from the limit. Garment bags are also often excluded, especially for first class customers. Sometimes the limit will be reduced to 1 bag, especially on very full flights. Oversize articles (e.g., skis, bicycles, moose heads) must be checked. For US domestic flights, the official size for carry-on bags is 21" x 14" x 9", and 2 bags is the usual limit. If the flight isn't full, you can usually get away with slightly bigger bags. If they see you struggling with your bags, or you're carrying far too many bags, or you ask if your bag is ok, they'll probably ask you to check the bag at the gate. Purses usually don't count towards the number of bags limit (depends on the purse of course -- there are some mammoth purses out there). If you're carrying non-checkable items (e.g., computers or electronics), they'll probably let you carry them on. If your bag is extremely heavy, DO NOT put it in the overhead bin -- the latches aren't very strong, and having a 40 pound bag fall on your head during a flight isn't pleasant. If you do have excess baggage, it is cheaper to pay the excess baggage charges than to ship it by air freight. (This is why courier travel exists -- it is often cheaper for a company to pay for an airline ticket than it is for them to pay freight charges.) Rates airlines charge for excess baggage vary considerably, so it pays to call around before purchasing a ticket. For international travel the charge is typically 1% of the first class fare per kilogram. Baggage limit rules are enforced very unevenly, particularly on flights which aren't very full. Most aircraft have room for onboard storage of one folding wheelchair. If the wheelchair is checked, the airline is responsible for reassembling it if necessary. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-16] Pets If you are travelling with a dog or cat, you must say so when you make your reservation. All airlines will allow at most one dog in the presurized portion of the cabin (to prevent barking fights). The dog must be in a travel cage which fits under the seat in front of you and sedated. (If the dog is small, try to get a cage which fits under the seat, so you can keep watch on the pet. Otherwise, the dog will travel in the pet area of the baggage section, and you won't see the dog until the flight is over. The pet area is pressurized but may not be heated/cooled. Get nonstop flights since the pet area can get pretty hot while on the ground.) Cats can travel in a carrier that fits under the seat in front of you. Only one cat per carrier except for kittens. Most airlines will allow at most three cats in the main cabin, with sufficient number of rows separation. Some airlines will charge you extra (~$50 each way) for a small dog or cat. Many airlines require that the dog be given a tranquilizer supplied by your vet. Most veterinarians no longer recommend sedating your animals when transporting by air. If you let your cat out of its carrier, be sure to watch it carefully. Most cats tend to run when in an unfamiliar place. In the US, service animals travel free of charge on all airlines and can accompany their master in the main aircraft cabin. Service animals include guide dogs for the blind, signal dogs for the deaf, and assistance dogs for the mobility impaired, among other animals. Proof of disability may be required (i.e., attaching a harness to your dog won't get the animal on for free). Canadian provinces have similar laws for service animals. If traveling to a foreign country, be sure to check the local regulations, as some countries restrict the travel of animals and do not make a special exemption for service animals. America West and Southwest do not take pets, with the exception of service animals. AA, UA and US all take dogs. US charges $30. AA and UA charge $50. (Small dogs.) United charges $50 per carrier for cats in the pet area, $30 for cats as underseat baggage. All carriers require a recent (10 days old or less) veterinary certificate of health, but rarely look at it. All airlines embargo pets if the outside temperature is in the 90's (or perhaps even 80's). AA won't carry a pet if the temperature is less than 45F (enforcement of this rule is uneven). UA says they won't handle pets when it is -10F. US says they always handle pets except on certain commuter flights. US allows you to bring your pet out to the gate and have it boarded just before you get on the plane. AA sometimes will, but usually won't, allow this. The following is what the airlines charge (1-way) for a pet which fits under the seat in front of you, as of August 1, 1992. $30 Alaska $45 Delta, Northwest, USAir $50 American, America West, Continental, TWA, United You may want to consider using a boarding service instead of bringing your pet with you. Many veterinarians provide this service for short durations. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-17] Bicycles Most airlines charge about $45 one way to ship a bike. If you belong to the League of American Bicyclists ($25 annual membership fee for individuals, $30 for families, call 1-800-288-BIKE (1-800-288-2453) for info), you can get free bike passes on America West, Northwest, TWA, and USAir if you book your tickets through the Sports National Reservation Center, the LAB's travel agency. [LAB formerly known as League of American Wheelmen.] Some folks report that you don't have to use the LAB's travel agency; call your airline to check. Bikes fly free on Northwest if you're a member of an Adventure Cycling affiliated club. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-18] Restrictions on Electronics The navigation equipment on most airplanes is unshielded, and hence subject to interference from electronic devices such as radios or personal computers. The latest FAA advisory leaves it up to the airlines to set their own rules, but prohibits the use of cellular phones during taxi before takeoff and during takeoff itself. Many prohibit the use of certain types of equipment belowt's probably best to keep them clear of *both* the metal detector and X-ray machine, just in case. Do not rest your film or notebook on top of the x-ray machine -- they aren't as well shielded as they could, especially on top. The electrical transformers in X-ray machines, if not properly shielded, can harm magnetic media. Unless you rub your wallet along the coils of the metal detector, and the field strength is set very high, walking through is unlikely to wipe the magnetic strip on your credit cards. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: [2-20] Packing Tips/Checklist Checklist of things to bring with you: [ ] Fanny Pack or Money Belt [ ] Small Screwdrivers [ ] Swiss Army Knife (one with scissors), Can Opener, Flashlight Pocket knives should have blades no longer than three inches. [ ] Camera, Batteries, Film (especially for overseas travel) [ ] Business Cards [ ] Sewing Kit, Safety Pins, Shoelaces [ ] Bandages, Sun Block, Lotion, Insect Repellent, Cough Drops, Decongestants, Aspirin, Lip Balm [ ] Toilet Paper (especially if traveling in some parts of eastern Europe, Asia, and the third world) [ ] Shaving equipment, Mirror, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Soap, Shampoo, Towel, Tampons, Dental Floss, Nail Clippers, Comb/Brush [ ] Plastic Baggies (Ziploc), Duct Tape, Scoth Tape, Rubber Bands, Small Box, Nylon Cord [ ] Medication should be carried in the original bottle. Bring a copy of your prescription, if possible. If the medicine contains narcotics or other controlled substances, carry a letter from your doctor certifying your need for them. [ ] Washcloths [ ] Umbrella/Raincoat [ ] Alarm Clock/Watch, Earplugs, Night Shades [ ] Padlock & Coated Wire, Compass, Binoculars [ ] Extra small change. A roll of dimes in the US; a pocketful of coins overseas. (Public restrooms in Europe are often coin-operated.) [ ] Small tape recorder or pad of paper and pens, for notes/journal. [ ] Empty backpack or duffel bag. A canvas bookbag may also be useful. [ ] For wet climates, don't take cotton clothes, which get soggy and don't insulate as well when wet. [ ] Clean clothes [ ] Documents: Passport, visas, tourist cards (for Mexico and certain South American countries), money, driver`s license, credit cards, travelers checks, credit cards, international certificates of vaccination (the so-called "yellow card"), and insurance certificates. Bring photocopies and keep them separate from the originals, plus a few photographs if you lose your passport. Leave a second copy at home with family or friends. Pack liquids in plastic bottles and then double wrap in a zip-lock bag. The following items should be included in your carry-on and not in your checked luggage: [ ] A change of clothing. [ ] Prescriptions. [ ] Passport, visa, and other important travel documents. [ ] Basic toiletries. [ ] Valuables, including jewelry and cash, and any fragile items. If going on an extended trip, cut your hair and go to the dentist before departing. Don't forget about rent, bills, taxes, and so on, and let a friend know where you'll be. ---------------------------------------------------------------- ;;; *EOF*