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Puckinflight

An all things aviation blog

Category Archives: Travel tips

A ticket to Europe from my city costs around $1200 round trip. But a ticket to Europe from New York is about $600.00 and a ticket to New York from my city is about $300.00. Simple math tells me that if I book two separate tickets I stand to save about $300.00 on the entire trip. This is what frequent flyers call creating an unprotected connection. Unprotected connections are risky because if for any reason the connection is missed, the airline is not under any obligation to help. This is different from a protected connection where the airline is still obligated to get you to your destination even if things go wrong, aka a “protected connection.”

For example using a single ticket on Delta from Orlando to Atlanta to New York, even if something goes wrong in either Orlando or Atlanta Delta still has the obligation to get the passenger to New York. Now if the passenger has two tickets one from Orlando to Atlanta on Delta and a second ticket on United from Atlanta to New York. If something goes wrong in Atlanta, Delta’s only obligation is to get the passenger to Atlanta. Once the passenger is in Atlanta they are at the mercy of United and are treated like anyone else who misses their flight.

Note in order for the connection to be unprotected, there has to be two separate tickets not just two separate carriers. For example, if someone purchases one ticket off of Kayak and the first segment is on Delta and the second segment is on United, it is still one ticket. Again for there to be an unprotected connection there has to be two separate tickets booked separately. That being said book separate tickets can be a good idea as in the first example. The key is there has to be a lot more time in between flights to allow for things to go wrong. My recommendation is a minimum connection time of 6 hours on an international flight and 3 hours on a domestic flight. Yeah that’s a long time, but generally you are saving lots of money so it’s ok.

In a grand example of do as I say, not as I do last year I booked a three ticket trip. The first ticket was Austin-Houston-New Orleans on Southwest. The second ticket was New Orleans-Philadelphia-Madrid on US Airways. The third ticket was Madrid-Zurich-Stockholm on Swiss Airlines. My connection time in Madrid I think was two-and-a-half hours. In New Orleans US Airways announced a long delay on their flight to Philadelphia which would cause me to miss my connection in Madrid. Thankfully through my own research, the US agent saved my butt and got me out on United through Washington DC. My connections worked, even though they really shouldn’t have.

In short, it may save a lot of money to book trips in two segments, but it can be risky. Use this option with caution.

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Wandering around the travel bloggers sites these days you are likely to encounter credit cards and churning. The way this works is banks buy up large amount points and issue them to credit card holders. The banks promote these cards by issuing sign-up bonuses. You know “50K miles after first purchase” and others like that. This has spawned a cottage industry of so called “churning” getting the card, collecting the sign-up bonus, canceling the card and reapplying for it after a waiting period (six months to two years). This has been all the rage among some of the more popular travel bloggers and today I found out why.

http://travel-summary.com/the-affiliate-game-can-be-a-dirty-proposition/

Basically, a lot of the more popular bloggers earn money off of “affiliate links.” This is where you read a post about a card, click the link, and get the credit card. The credit card company pays the blogger a commission based on the profitability of that card. The ethics surrounding this practice have dictated that the blogger posting the credit card link should disclose if he or she gets paid for the link. If the blogger is going to post something they believe in, getting paid is just a bonus on top of that. But if as the article I linked to above states, the blogger is promoting credit cards not because they are good for the traveler but because the blogger gets paid, then there is a serious problem. I have real problems with people giving advice they themselves don’t believe in; it is just not ethical.

I don’t support churning and here is why. First, I have a problem recommending a financial product especially a credit when I don’t know the people I’m recommending it to. While credit is a necessity in life, credit cards can be very destructive if misused. I know that because there was a time when I was 15,000 in credit card debit. I don’t ever want to go back to those days. Second, churning is also generally not sustainable. Multiple credit card applications decrease a person’s credit score, and meeting the minimum spend a lot of times can be very difficult. I met the HHonors Amex minimum spend by paying my graduate school tuition on there. Finally, churning increases the amount of points in circulation. This has forced the programs to raise redemption rates as well as limit access to higher end rewards. US after running a number of miles promotions has eliminated access to LH and LX first class awards.

In short credit cards are both boon and boondoggle for the traveler, travel blogger, and financial planner. If you chose to go the credit card route, know that the blogger promoting the card doesn’t know you or your financial situation. Please use all credit cards (rewards or otherwise) responsibly.

Happy Flying

Colpuck.

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This post is about the benefits of a complaint letter to an airline. It may read like a trip report but wait for it.

Over the weekend I was on a mileage run from Phoenix, AZ to Albany, NY connecting in New York City. I would be in Albany for a grand total of twenty minutes. Granted when I planned this trip I saw numerous places where it could go wrong, most notably in NYC where delays are common place. The problem in my trip happened right where I expected it to, in NYC connecting to my flight to Albany. The arriving flight in NYC from Savannah was delayed some 20 minutes because of a series of cascading delays that started two days previous. By the time they got to my flight the hours of delays were down to that twenty minutes. In addition there was some sort of bag problem, golf bags that couldn’t be unloaded, which delayed my flight further. So, by the time I got to Albany I had missed my flight out of Albany and I was stuck there for the night. Now it was time to sort the mess that would come from that.

I found the Albany gate agent walking away from the gate where the connecting flight had just left from. I explained the situation to him and he began the process of rebooking me for flights on the following day, I also asked for a hotel for the night. During that process, I found another person who was on the same flights as me. Apparently, he noticed me on the flight from Phoenix and just now got around to saying something. He and I were rebooked for the same flights and given vouchers for the Holiday Inn Albany. The Holiday Inn was about what expected, other than the restaurant. The restaurant was good; the rest of the hotel was meh. I headed off to my room to find two full-sized beds and a meh hotel room that looked over the hotel video arcade. I logged on to the internet with my computer and discovered there was one seat left on a flight that got into Phoenix four hours earlier. I called the airline and had them rebook me for that flight. The following morning I made my flight out of Albany. In my connection city, I tried to get bumped off of the flight to Phoenix but it went out with empties. I made it back to Phoenix and then drove an hour and half back to Sedona where I live.

Normally, that would be the end of the story but it’s not. The person I met and I were both going to file complaints regarding what happened. He and I have both the same status level, so it reasonable to assume that we would get similar compensation if at all. On Monday, he e-mailed me stating that he had gotten 2,500 miles. Ok, I’ll write in for 2,500 miles and here is what I sent into the airline.

Dear Sir,

I was on a mileage run over the weekend, PHX-NYC-ALB-NYC-PHX, PNR XXXXXX. The problems started with the plane that had been scheduled to fly NYC-ALB it was late arriving in NYC, as part of a cascading series of delays stretching back two days. My connection in ALB was very short, only 25 minutes but it was protected. In NYC I checked the Airline Mobile app and it said the flight departure was delayed to 4:20 still with an on-time arrival. Well the plane arrived in NYC at 4:01, and was eventually delayed to around 5:00pm. However, the departure time wasn’t updated until I was already on the plane going to ALB. The result of the over-optimistic departure time and some sort of baggage issue, was that I missed my connection in ALB and had to overnight there.

In ALB, I was given a room in the Holiday Inn. The only thing missing from that place was the prostitutes. It is not a nice place. Also, no food, no underwear, no deodorant, and no toothpaste for my 12 hour delay. All The Airline had to do to avoid this was post a more realistic departure time. It would have allowed me to go to customer service in NYC, claim trip-in-vain, and get home on-time. But no.

Thank you,

So that letter generated a $250.00 E-Cert, here is the letter that generated 2,500 miles

Message: Flight 5681 was delayed because of “awaiting for aircraft”
resulting me to misconnected in Albany, NY on my flight back to Phoenix,
AZ. I was provided with a hotel voucher, however I have to provide my
own food. Because of this delay and misconnection, I was not able to
report to work, I have to called in for work also. Needless to say, it
was very inconvenience for me, and I lost a day of work with the current
employer.

What are my recourses in this incident?

The second letter lacks commentary on the quality of the Holiday Inn and doesn’t mention what the airline could have done to mitigate the consequences of the delay. Also, there is no description of what caused the delay. The airline had much more control over the situation then what the second letter states. The key to getting appropriate compensation in my opinion is to explain where and why the break down happened and what steps the airline could have taken solve the situation before the situation completely collapsed.

So, here are some tips when you want compensation for service break downs.

1) Keep your letter short and to the point.

2) Explain what the airline did and what it could have done.

3) Explain what effect the breakdown had on you, in a way that people can identify with. (I think most people can identify with wanting but not having clean underwear).

4) (Optional) include what you want from the airline. I generally don’t do this because well I am not greedy. But if you do include a compensation request, keep it reasonable.

Happy Flying!

Colpuck.

Club ABC tours of New Jersey shut down without warning on October first. The shutdown has stranded hundreds of tourists across the globe. Individuals woke up to find hotels, transfers, and airline tickets had all been canceled. Tourists in some cases were left on the hook for hotel rooms they had thought they had paid for. Tourists turned to the insurance company only to find out the travel insurance they had thought they had purchased hadn’t been paid for. The end result of this, everyone was stuck. Near the end ABC tours had been offering discounts if the buyer paid in cash. While such discounts are nice, there is no remedy if the company selling the tour goes out of business. For those that used credit cards, the credit card companies will generally reimburse the original travel charge. This allows people to at least get their money back, even if they have to spend it getting home.

http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2012/10/travel_company_shuttered_with.html

So, what can a traveler do to protect themselves: one, always pay with a credit card; two, use a reputable travel agent (AMEX, Walt Disney, other big names); and three, always have a plan for what happens if everything goes pear shaped. I myself always keep enough frequent flyer points on hand so if I have to I can grab a flight from anywhere I am to anywhere I need to be.

Anyways, best of luck to the stranded former patrons of Club ABC Tours

Happy Flying!

colpuck

What is it about getting on a plane that drives normally sane people crazy? Well I am assuming that people described in the story below are sane. Now I was not there and is the first hand account of S. Sullivan.

The GS [Global Services, United Airlines invite only elite level] DYKWIA [Do You Know Who I Am] nonsense on DCA-ORD is at full force today. Woman and husband both claim they are GS members and are yelling about there being an open seat in F [First Class] and they can’t fit their entire family of 5 in F. There’s not an open seat up front; it’s booked full and we still have 20+ minutes until push. There are also 16 on the upgrade list. Dad is sitting in back so the kids can be up front, using two companion upgrades and his upgrade (he took the non upgraded kid’s seat). To make it worse, Mom is trying to pull the GS nonsense to get people to move around so the kids, all in row 3, are in row 1 with her. The youngest kid is maybe 9. I think they can handle sitting together with Mom three rows away for 90 minutes. And, instead of getting one passenger to trade, Mom is trying to get 3 to trade. After all, why piss off one passenger when you can do it to 1/8 of the first class cabin?

On top of that, one of the kids is a total brat and has already been bossing around a FA [Flight Attendant] like she’s her personal servant. She rang her call button repeatedly to get a Sprite a few minutes ago after it was settled that nobody was agreeing to change seats with this obnoxious group of d-bag kids and their mother.

It Continues in a later post.

Remaining F passengers have boarded. Mom still wants FA to explain two things – why they weren’t given seats together when the upgrades cleared, and why a GS member doesn’t get to upgrade as many people as she wants. As if the FA knows these things.

Finally,

They got even worse during the flight. Dad kept coming up to the first class cabin to chat and finally the flight attendants had to tell him to stay in Economy. Mom got up at least 10 times from 1A to check on the kids in row 3, which were minding their own business and staying pretty quiet. I’m sure the guy in 1B was not happy that he had to keep letting her out, as row 1 on the PMUA [Pre-Merger United Airlines] 752s [757-200] is very close to the bulkheads and Mom wasn’t a small woman. Little miss flight attendant call button finally stopped that once the flight attendant told her that she didn’t need to ring her button six times repeatedly to get something, and gave her a full, unopened can of Sprite after takeoff along with a glass that was already full. Of course, that meant she also had to make three trips to the lav, including one on final that caused the flight attendant to tell her to go sit down.

But the worst while we were the air? One of the kids had a broken headset at his seat (the one UA provides). It was missing the jack on the end of the cord. Instead of asking a FA for another headset, Mom walked up to my row, in front of the kids, looked at me, and demanded I give her my headset, which I wasn’t using. I politely declined and said, “I may want to watch TV in a few.” She groaned and looked at the guy next to me, who was asleep, and tried to wake him. At that point I said, “Ask a flight attendant. If you’re really a Global Services, then you possibly fly more than my cheap 1K [100,000 mile United Airlines elite level] self, and you should know the flight attendant is who you should ask for a new headset, rather than annoying everyone else on the plane.” She then stood there, rang my call button, and demanded the flight attendant get a new headset. The flight attendant was nice and got her one, and then asked her to sit down, stay seated, and not talk to any other passenger on the plane that wasn’t one of her kids or her husband. I think at that point everyone up front not part of this family was sick of it, and the flight attendants weren’t going to allow her to bully people around any longer.

I have my own story.

In 2007 I was in law school and flying ATL-MIA-ATL on AA for an arbitration competition at the University of Miami. Well I screwed up and I got my ticket canceled, but that’s not the point. I am waiting in screw up line at MIA. The line takes about 30 minutes to get through. I get to the front and all of the sudden a woman, wearing some sort of fur shawl, cuts to the front and slams her passport down in-front of me demanding help from the agent. I was like “back of the line.” She shoves me, (yeah shoves me) and says to me “You wanna fight.” Well, it was about to go down when agent realizing I wasn’t going to back down, decides to help the woman. It was this moment I decided I would never fly AA, EVER. (Since 2007 I have flown AA once LAS-LAX on the $300.00 off a vegas trip deal)

Neither my situation nor Mr. Sullivan’s story is unique. Passengers behave badly all the time. Why, yelling at the poor agent, FA, or staff will not help their cause, well it did in my case. I think there is something about the lack of control that commercial aviation imposes on the passengers that makes this happen. From the time passengers book their ticket to the time they get off the flight they have no control over anything. I think this bad behavior is the passenger trying to exercise some control over their environment. Why does that desire express itself in such a negative way? Were these people just not taught to handle frustration well. I am not sure about that though.

I just don’t know. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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