Category Archives: airline fees

The 787 Dreamliner airplane – fly one if you can!

 

 

My husband is big on taking notice of the airplanes he flies – but I tend to be oblivious, in part because I prefer not to think too much about the fact that I am flying a human-made-and-operated machine in the sky, above mountains and oceans, across continents. But I couldn’t help noticing the plane I flew last month from Albuquerque to Dallas because it was so much nicer than the planes I’m used to flying. (My connecting flight from Dallas to Des Moines was on a typically shabby, older model plane.)

In retrospect, I learned that I was flying a Boeing 787 Dreamliner – in my case one owned by American Airlines although I gather United and other airlines have them too. What stood out: comfortable, well-upholstered seats; a luggage compartment that glides open and shut and seems roomier than others: and most impressive – the screen/monitors on the back of each seat that not only offer movies and other entertainment (although I hadn’t thought to bring my ear buds, which I prefer to the ones offered by airlines) but great information on your flights. I was able to look up my connecting flight and see if it was leaving on time and from what gate. Then I could get interactive info showing me how to get from my arrival gate to my next departure gate. How great is that!? Making this information readily available especially to those of us in the sticks who more often than not have to take two flights to get somewhere (often with a tight connection) is a godsend.

Apparently the plane also offers all kind of other benefits – especially for those in business class, as this video shows.

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On flying Air Canada and international/to Portugal via Toronto

Dirck in Algarve village

Dirck in Algarve village

We never really got clear information information from United about what was involved in flying their airline for two of our three flights to get to Lisbon from Des Moines and flying air canada the last leg, between Toronto and Lisbon.

They were fine with selling us the pricey plane tickets that included the air canada flight but seemed to know little about the particulars. (We even had to call air canada to book seats for the Toronto-Lisbon-Toronto flights.) United wouldn’t do it.)So when we couldn’t get a clear answer about whether our bags could be checked straight through to Lisbon (or if we would have to pick them up in Toronto and transfer them to air canada,) we opted to carry on our luggage. (And had to surrender our Swiss Army knife in the process.)

At Coimbra restaurant (where guests tape notes of appreciation on the walls)

At Coimbra restaurant (where guests tape notes of appreciation on the walls)

we were glad to have our bags when our planned two hour layover in Toronto outbound evaporated as we were sat on the runway at Chicago’s O’Hare. At one point it looked like we would have to wait two hours to fly to Toronto (we didn’t find out until later that a storm had shut down the airport) but fortunately our delay ended up being one hour. We ran thru the airport, went thru some sort of expedited Canadian customs and easily made our 10 pm connecting flight. (Phew! If we had missed that flight we would have had to stay overnight in Toronto and wait til 4:30 pm for a flight to Newark and then get an 8pm flight to Lisbon.)

Porto church

Porto church

it was Canadian travelers we met in Toronto outbound who told us that on our return trip, we would be able to go through U.S. Customs in Toronto, before catching out next flight to Houston, which was a relief since we had a two hour layover in Toronto but only an hour layover in Houston (which means we would probably miss our flight to Des Moines if we had to go through customs there). I couldn’t get anyone to confirm this from the airlines but it is in fact what happened. Phew!

meanwhile the air canada planes there and back were old and cramped with NO movie screens. The only option was to use our laptops (or rent one) and get movies via an airline app. Huh?

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Maggie Daley park, Hubbard street dance, Acanto, Neocon, Riverwalk — Chicago

imageMy stay in Chicago has unexpectedly been prolonged, thanks to intense rain that led my 10:15 p.m southwest flight home from midway to be delayed two hours. At which point I was able to reschedule my flight at no cost to tomorrow at noon. Thank you Southwest. (Apparently this is possible after your flight is delayed more than an hour.)

Meanwhile, we had a good day in Chicago yesterday starting with a great performance by Hubbard street dance at the Harris Theatre. After the matinee, my sister and I walked around the new parts of Millenium Park/grant Park including

At Maggie Daley park

At Maggie Daley park

the lovely prairie gardens of Lurie Park and the cool kids playgrounds and  snaking ice rink at Maggie Daley park, although I gather locals were not pleased that old live trees were cut down to  make way for the playgrounds, which oddly feature bizarre dead trees.  We had an excellent dinner outside overlooking Michigan avenue at Acanto, a new restaurant owned by the same person in charge of The Gage, next door, (try the chicken piccata and the Bellini desert- a scoop of peach sorbet in a pool of prosecco.)

Today I went with my sister–in -law, a designer, to NeoCon, the enormous commercial  interior design show at the Merchandise Mart; then I walked along the new Riverwalk east to Michigan avenue. Chicago, looking good. Now if only it would stop raining.image

 

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Wow and Norwegian airlines flights to london – cheaper?

This from airfarewatchdog on cheaper flight options to london:

How to Save: The big trick that will help in 2014 is finding affordable airfare; other than accommodations, this is going to be your largest expense. With new low-cost transatlantic airlines like Norwegian and WOW promising to undercut major carriers’ prices in the coming year, it will likely be easier to pick up an affordable plane ticket to the British capital this spring and summer.

WOW Air, the new Icelandic low-fare airline, announced it would start flying between Boston and London/Gatwick this spring. Similar to Icelandair’s long-term flying pattern, flights will be via Reykjavik: leaving Boston in the evening and arriving in London the following morning, with the morning departure, afternoon arrival reverse pattern.

So far, WOW hasn’t announced anything about Iceland stopovers, but I’ll be very surprised if the line doesn’t offer stopover packages.

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Flights will be in A320s, at a slightly below-average 30- to 31-inch pitch but average or better width. Although the airline is single class, you can reserve the extra-room exit-row seats and even guarantee an empty middle seat by paying extra.

Fares aren’t available yet, but the fare pattern will almost surely continue the carrier’s policy of offering very low fares to early buyers on at least some dates. Currently, for example, fares from London to Reykjavik are as low as £98 each way (about $157), including the onerous British passenger duty and a £6 “payment fee.” The only surprise is a very stiff charge of £19 for one checked bag.

Whether WOW flights will appeal to U.S. and Canadian travelers depends on one main factor: Will the fares be low enough to offset the increased flight time (compared to nonstops) and the hassle of an overnight stop? Back in the regulated days, low fares on Loftledir, the precursor to Icelandic, got a lot of budget travelers to accept those conditions, and many of them opted for a quick Iceland stopover. WOW seems to be hoping to replicate that formula.

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Tips for if my flight gets screwed up at thanksgiving…FlightStats.com!

Okay, so I am not convinced my flights will go well at thanksgiving because, well, it’s thanksgiving. I have tried to reduce possible snafus by flying direct (a rare treat from Des Moines although it does require a 6 am flight to Newark on thanksgiving day for close to $500′ insane I know) and avoiding the wed and sun surrounding thanksgiving. Still I am holding onto some good tips from the November Conde Nast traveler on dealing with winter flight issues :
– best time to fly on …Presidents’ Day weekend, which is also valentines day. Book in early december.
– other cheap tome to fly to warm weather places? Dec 3 to 16 (you are close dad!) and mid jan.
– try alternate airports. Tampa or Fort Lauderdale rather than Miami or Orlando
– nope problems in the bud. Fly early am (I knew that one) and avoid landing between 7 and 10 in say, ohare(we learned that the hard way on our way home from Boston last month when we almost got stuck overnight in Chicago,.
– if you have to do a connecting flight (yes, alas. We do) stay away from ohare (knew that too but hard to avoid). Opt instead for Dallas or Houston (really?)
– if you can’t get a seat when you book your tix online, call the airline to get from a phone agent. Apparently it IS true that you are more likely to get bumped if you show up,at the gate without a seat.
– checking in early also decreases your chance of getting bumped.
– if bad weather on the horizon, find out if your flt is cancelled by checking airline website or twitter feed for updates. Soone r u know the better chances of getting rebooked. (I learned that last fall en route to New Orleans from Kansas City)
– Have a plan b. I was just telling this to my daughter. Know what flights are leaving after your scheduled connecting flight, in case you miss it. Although you may not find a seat. Before your flight check FlightStats.com, open “:delays” and then “global trends” which will show which airports and airlines are having the most cancelations and delays and which aren’t. Ask to be rerouted to a city that isn’t having problems. You can also sign up for A flight status alert with FlightStats.com
– cancelled flight? Fly thru Vegas if if not necessarily on your way…it has lots of flights and cheap hotels (I am flying southwest thru Vegas to LA next month!) so for example on stead of waiting for a Boston Seatte
flight, try thru Vegas. (I am flying next month to Seattle to midway to Des Moines…was acttually shorter flight time then thru Vegas.)
– know whet alternative flight you want when you can to rebook (been there, done that) use FlightStats.com again. Sign up for an account, click on flights, then flight availability, then advanced search, so you can specify airlines and city and seats.
– if airline phone is jammed, call the overseas reservation desk. Really???
You can get the phone number on your airlines web site and use Skype to call free. Wow (although I have had trouble finding airline numbers on the website)

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Paying to reserve a seat on an international British Airways flight. Really???

So now I understand why my return flight from Prague to London on British Airways doesn’t include a seat assignment. Apparently I can only get a “free” seat assignment (for a very costly flight, I might add) 24 hours in advance. If I want one before that, I have to pay – and the fee isn’t listed up front.  (I finally found it after searching for too long.  It costs about $12, talk about nickle and dime-ing. For details see: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/paid-seating-terms/public/en_us-  OR http://www.britishairways.com/travel/ba6.jsp/paid-seatingprime/public/en_us

That is really irritating!! I booked this flight via American Airlines – which I’m flying outbound from Chicago to London and on the return leg from London to Chicago (after I sit in a lousy seat I was assigned “for free” 24 hours in advance) apparently.  American kindly granted me reserved seats – who knew this is now a perk???

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Will the American U.S. Air Merger be good for us little folks?

I’m not sure what to make of the proposed American Airlines – U.S.Air merger – from what I gather it will further consolidate the airlines, leaving fewer options for travelers and the potential for higher prices. Then again, perhaps this is what both airlines needed in order to stay in business and I guess we consumers want that. Despite all the concerns about American of late, I’ve flown them recently and had no problems. (We’re flying American again next month from Des Moines to Phoenix.) I do have a bunch of free miles on American so will be looking to see if/how those are affected by the merger. And I do remember some initial operational glitches when United merged with Continental.

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