Category Archives: airfare

About those “basic economy” Plane fares….buyer beware!

Yet another way for airlines to nickle and dime us: the “Basic Economy” fare. It means different things depending upon the airline. United’s basic economy does not allow you to stow a bag in overhead (let alone check a bag) so you’ve got to pack very lightly.  Dirck tried this out during a recent trip to Albuquerque (where he was staying with relatives so he could borrow clothes, if need be. Plus   it was only a long weekend trip.) He did have to check in at the counter — he couldn’t get his seat assignments or boarding passes in advance online. And he got closely scrutinized by the counter person who seemed to think he was going to try to smuggle on a bag to go in the overhead. Meanwhile the ticket fare was by no means cheap (about $340) and both of his planes traveling to ABQ were delayed due to mechanical problems so he lost half a day of his trip. Thanks United.

I opted for American’s Basic Economy fare during a recent trip to New Orleans after I read the fine print and found out that I could bring a bag to stash overhead. The fare (a reasonable $240) was about $70 cheaper than the Economy fare, I think. I ended up buying advance seat assignments on both flights for about $9 per flight (two flights each way).  I was in the last group to board, regardless — in the ominous-sounding “Group 9,” which wasn’t that big an issue except when it comes to finding overhead space to put a bag. I didn’t have this issue because Dirck had an Economy ticket (that his employer paid for) and had checked his bag  so he took mine when he boarded with Group 6.

One irritating thing did happen when I tried to buy seat assignments on the way home.  I went online, picked out a specific seat for each of my two flights at a specific price. But instead of giving me the seat I chose for the first flight (an aisle seat toward the front of the plane, so I could get out faster and make my connection) the automated system gave me a seat I never would have purchased (a middle seat way in the back).  I was charged $16, rather than $18 for the two seat assignments. And there was no recourse. I tried calling the airline but they said I’d have to wait until I got to the airport and switch — which I did but the seat I originally selected was no longer available. I did switch to an aisle seat but way back in the plane. It’s a cockamamie system — as I complained to the American ticket agent, it would be like buying a specific book from Amazon and Amazon ending me a different book, at a different price, with no option to correct my order. Consumer be damned….

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Filed under airfare, Airlines, flying

How I (unexpectedly) got a new bag from American Airlines

 

In the “it pays to ask” department: After returning home late two Sundays ago  from Florida, I realized that the purple suitcase I’d checked (at the request of American Airlines, although it would have easily fit in overhead) had several prominent rips. At first, I thought “Oh well,” but later it dawned on me that I probably wouldn’t be able to use the bag any more, especially if I need to appear somewhat respectable (or ever have another business trip…).

When I looked up online the particulars for what to do about a damaged bag, I learned I was supposed to show the bag to an American Airlines person at the airport within 24 hours of my return. But the morning after I returned was not only Spring Break. A major storm on the East Coast had led to many cancelled flights, meaning the airport would be even more mobbed. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the airport and kvetch about my ripped bag.

I explained all this to the AA baggage person the following Thursday night when I happened to be picking someone up at the airport and to my surprise, she looked at my bag, and said that even though I was past the 24-hour period, she’d give me a new bag “as a courtesy.” She left for a few minutes and returned with a brand new bag and was quick to point out the features including four wheels and a 10-year warranty. I thanked her profusely and went on my merry way.

 

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Filed under airfare, Florida

A first and last (for awhile) no-connection flight on southwest back from DC to dsm

imageWell this is weird and kind of nice but it won’t be happening for some time. My southwest flight from DC was almost direct to dsm. the plane stopped at Chicago’s midway airport but is the same plane going to dsm. Never done that before. And sadly won’t again because Southwest is replacing its Des Moines-Chicago flights with dsm-st. Louis flights. Oh well. I will miss the affordable flights to Chicago and to midway (goodbye Manny’s corned beef too) but one good thing: it appears that there will be Sunday flights to DC from dsm via St. Louis (there weren’t any via Chicag0.)

Two more good meals in DC, last night at graffiato, the top chef personality mike Isabella’s inventive Italian small plates and pizza joint near gallery Place. And tonight superb crab cakes at legal seafood in Reagan national airport. Plane is filling up again so signing off.

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Filed under airfare, Washington D.C.

On flying Air Canada and international/to Portugal via Toronto

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Betsy in Evora

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.)

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Dirck at Coimbra restaurant where guests post receipts on the wall

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 through the airport, went through some sort of expedited Canadian customs and easily made our 10 p.m. connecting flight. (Phew! If we had missed that flight we would have had to stay overnight in Toronto and wait until 4:30 pm for a flight to Newark and then get an 8 pm flight to Lisbon.)

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Porto church

 

It was Canadian travelers whom 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. This 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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Filed under airfare, airline fees, Portugal

Flying after a summer storm in Chicago. Southwest yes. Spirit airlines no.

Flowers from the downtown Des Moines farmers market. It's summer!

Flowers from the downtown Des Moines farmers market. It’s summer!

I am glad I could reschedule my southwest flight that was delayed in Monday night at Chicago midway due to stormy weather. On Tuesday by noon it was clear blue sky and my new noon flight left almost on time (I had enough time to get an excellent corned beef sandwich and potato pancake at Manny’s! My sister in law was not co lucky with her spirit airlines flight on Tuesday eve. by the morning, she was already getting ominous texts about delays and sure enough, she spent a long night at the airport and never left. Wednesday there was more waiting until she finally got a flight to Austin, where she waited some more. Awful. Hoping she is home with her sweet Lucy and husband now. And hoping my son doesn’t encounter similar issues when he flies spirit to Lima this summer.

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Filed under airfare, Chicago, Des Moines

High Line and Nutty end of day thanks to delta airlines

New High Line sectionSo by midday I had already received a text from delta that my 7:30 pm flight to Des Moines from LaGuardia was delayed til 8:00. By 1:26 or so it was now leaving at 9:30 pm so I leisurely sauntered along the new section of the High Line down to Chelsea Market at 15th street, ready to eat a leisurely late lunch. But no, another text at 4:19 pm had arrived. I figured it was another delay or even a cancellation. But no, the flight was now leaving at 7:35 again. at first I thought I’d read a previous text but I called to check with delta and sure enough, the flight was back on time. And I was late. I rushed out of the market, hustled over to the subway and made it back to 108 th and riverside drive  at 5:15, grabbed my bag, skipped my plan to take the m60 bus to the airport and jumped in a cab.

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Just my luck I had a newbie driver who took me to the wrong terminal but eventually I made it with time to spare and we will see if this does in fact leave on time.  This appears to be a new or revamped terminal, with much improved food, New LaGuardia 2fress iPads for use everywhere and lots of plugs to recharge all our gizmos. Now if they could just get the flight notification process under control. And the flights to leave on time. At 7:15 came a development that does not surprise me at all. our flight is now delayed until 8:15. We have a plane but no pilots. Post Script: we finally left the gate around 8:30 and the tarmac about 9 p.m.

 

The new LaGuardia

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Filed under airfare, New York City

Joys of the Burbank Airport

Terminal building at Bob Hope Airport

A week ago we were wending our way home from green and sunny Los Angeles (now we’ve got snow again in Iowa grrrr) and appreciating the ease of traveling through the Burbank “Bob Hope” Airport. It cost considerably more to fly home from Burbank rather than LAX but man was it worth it – considering that we had a 3 p.m. flight (rather than the early morning flights available from LAX) and the airport is about 10 minutes from my brother’s house in Burbank. It’s a surprisingly tiny, pokey place – reminds me of Des Moines’ airport before it got bigger and busier. (Oddly our plane from Burbank to Denver was much smaller than the plane from Denver to Des Moines. )

One other tip: it pays to ask when you’re dealing with a tight connection in Denver. We chanced a 35-40 minute connection between United flights in Denver and even though our flight left almost on time from Burbank (10 minutes late technically), making our connecting flight was touch-and-go. The connecting flight was in the same Terminal B but about 60 gates away. I ended up asking an airport employee standing behind a desk with a disabled sign on it how long it would take to get to that far-away gate and without batting an eyelash, he offered to drive us in his cart – which saved the day. We got to the gate as people were boarding. (He did accept a tip – we weren’t sure of the protocol.)

Boarding from Terminal B

 

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Filed under airfare, California, Colorado, Los Angeles