Advertisement
Man with bags walking down empty road (Photo: iStockphoto/Johnny Habell)

As a member of a frequent-flyer program, you have no rights.

Such, in so many words, was the subtext of a finding handed down this month by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York in the case of Karen Ross and Steven Edelman vs. AMR Corp. and American Airlines.

The case, which had class-action status, concerned American's right to renege on the explicit promise that AAdvantage miles earned before July 1, 1989, would never expire. Indeed, they were dubbed Miles With No Expiration by the airline itself.

But in July 2012, American broke its own promise and declared that pre-1989 miles would in fact expire. To take some of the sting out of the betrayal, American added a bonus of 25 percent when the non-expiring miles were automatically converted to expiring miles on November 1, 2012....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

Developing the "best" airfare search system seems to be the holy grail of the online travel business. At least you'd guess that from the number of "new and improved" search engines announced so frequently. Three of the latest offer some unique features, but probably not enough to get you to abandon all others. But by all means, at least take a look.

One of the more interesting comes from Fareportal, which powers several worldwide CheapOair and OneTravel online travel-agency websites. The big innovation is that it allows you to book those extra-cost "Choice Seats," as well as conventional coach and first-class seats on US Airways flights. As extra-cost coach seats go, those on US Airways are pretty minimal: All you get is early boarding and a location in the front of the cabin; legroom is the usual dismal 31- to 32-inch pitch and not truly "premium" by any rational standard. What's important about this new feature, then, isn't what it gets you right now; it's what it might do when expanded to cover other airlines—airlines with real extra-legroom coach seats and other ticketing options, including American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, and United. ...read more»

(Photo: Taxi via Shutterstock)

A recent report in The Telegraph of London highlighted some of the world's most expensive taxi rides between airport and downtown. Fortunately, you have lower-cost alternatives at most. Here's a rundown of the 10 most expensive major airports outside of the United States:

  • Tokyo's Narita Airport: $305. That's outlandish, but hardly anybody actually uses taxis. Express trains on either JR-East (about $30) or Keisei Skyliner (about $24) take less time—about an hour—and local trains can cost about half those express fares. Also, many travelers take buses directly from their hotels....read more»
Photo: Index Open

A former airline-industry colleague and friend posted the following on his Facebook status today: "Virgin America, JetBlue, Alaska all have lower change fees and Alaska waives them completely for elite travelers. Southwest also has my vote moving forward. Bye-bye United."

Sure, United has come in for a barrage of criticism for upping its ticket-change fee to $200 for domestic tickets, and as much as $300 for tickets to international destinations.

At those levels, the fees are usurious and clearly bear no relationship to the real cost of actually changing customers' tickets. It's a sleazy money grab....read more»

Pile of Money and a Calculator (Photo: Money and Calculator via Shutterstock)

US Airways quickly copied United's hike in change fees: from $150 to $200 on a domestic ticket and from $250 to $300 on most international tickets. Given the "me, too" propensity of the legacy airlines, you can expect similar moves from other carriers.

United justified the hike as "to better compensate for the costs incurred when a traveler elects not to fly in a reserved seat." The split infinitive aside, this statement is an outrage and an insult to your intelligence. When change fees first came into the picture decades ago, the then-standard $25 fee probably did reflect actual costs. But at today's levels, these fees have nothing to do with the costs of itinerary changes to airlines.

The objectives of the higher change fees are to discourage business travelers—typically more likely to change tickets than consumers—from taking advantage of the lowest fares and to gouge all travelers as much as possible. When consumers complain that they, too, often have to change travel plans—usually because of an unexpected problem with family or in the workplace—the airline response channels Marie Antoinette: "Buy a refundable ticket." At two or three times the price....read more»

LOT 787 Dreamliner at Chicago O'Hare (Photo: Anne Banas)

This past January, I was scheduled to fly on LOT Polish Airlines' inaugural Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight from Chicago to Warsaw, but never took off due to a worldwide grounding of the entire 787 fleet after lithium-ion batteries smoldered on planes operated by ANA and Japan Airlines. No problems were reported on LOT's Dreamliner but the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) followed the FAA's directive to halt operations just a few hours before departure.

While I lost my chance to be one of the first to jet on this innovative aircraft to Poland, you haven't.  ...read more»

Hotel room door slightly open (Photo: iStockphoto/MBCheatham)

It's been a particularly dispiriting few months for hotel loyalty program participants, with significant award-price increases from Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, and Wyndham.

Carlson is bucking the stick-it-to-'em trend with just-announced award changes that are a refreshingly net positive for Club Carlson members....read more»

Photo: Icelandair

Enter the Icelandic Glacial Experience Iceland sweepstakes by May 31 for a chance to win the grand prize: a six-day trip for two to Iceland, including air from an Icelandair gateway city, hotel accommodations, breakfasts, and city tours.

To enter, "Like" the sweepstakes Facebook page, provide the requested contact information, and press "submit." Time required to enter: under 15 seconds. ...read more»

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner (Photo: Boeing Image)

On April 27, a collective sigh of relief was heard from Boeing, its many suppliers, and a number of the world's airlines as a Boeing 787 operated by Ethiopian Airlines took to the skies for the first scheduled commercial 787 flight since regulators worldwide grounded the planes in January.

On Sunday, Japanese airline ANA operated the first of a series of test flights expected to culminate in the relaunch of its scheduled 787 flights sometime in May.

The only current U.S. 787 operator, United, will return its Dreamliners to service after the planes have been retrofitted with the FAA-approved batteries which have been redesigned and fitted with new cases.

And Boeing announced that deliveries of the 787 will resume next month....read more»

Florence, Italy (Photo: Glen Allison)

Sarah Murphy has worked in Dublin for the last two years as a blogger, web content manager and marketing coordinator. A journalist by training and traveler by nature, she frequently travels to Italy for the business and pleasure of Touring Florence, where she mostly spends her time scavenging the ruins or gallivanting across the countryside.

1) Adjust your understanding of time

If you're from the United States—especially a big city like New York or Los Angeles—then you'll probably realize very quickly that life in Florence operates according to a schedule that is very different from the one you're used to. Many shops and restaurants in Florence have business hours that most Americans would consider irregular. Many stores are closed on Mondays, for example, and many restaurants are closed during the afternoon hours between lunch and dinner. The best way to avoid potentially frustrating scheduling situations when exploring Florence is to think like an Italian when scheduling your day....read more»

Please enable JavaScript to properly view and use this web site.