Ridiculous or not? Allegiant proposes new airfare that changes before the date of travel

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What will they think of next?” then here’s one possible answer: How about an airline ticket price that rises or falls with the price of fuel?

Sound far-fetched? Yes, but that isn’t stopping Allegiant Air from proposing it. Buried deep within a recent letter to the Transportation Department (PDF), the no-frills carrier drops a bombshell.

“Allegiant is considering a new pricing option for use on its website,” writes its chairman, Maurice J. Gallagher, Jr. “When making a purchase, consumer would be able to choose between a traditional “locked in” fare that would not fluctuate, and a lower fare that could change before the date of travel. That lower fare could be reduced further or could increase (up to a set maximum that would be clearly disclosed) depending on changes in fuel price between the booking and travel dates.”

In other words, Allegiant is prepared to offer you a cheaper ticket if you assume the risk of fluctuating oil prices. If energy prices rise, so does the cost of your transportation. If they fall, you could save money.
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Passengers say they don’t want cruise lines to adopt “a la carte” fares

Cruise lines are charting a course similar to airlines, which charge a low base fare and then add optional extras to the price of the ticket, routinely doubling the cost of transportation.

But it’s the wrong path, according to a new survey.

The poll of more than 800 travelers asked if cruise lines should adopt an airline-like fare structure in exchange for a lower ticket price. Only 11 percent of passengers said they welcomed new ancillary fees. A vast majority (89 percent) said they would prefer a more inclusive cruise fare.
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How to survive an “enhanced” TSA pat-down

It happened to me yesterday. I got my first “enhanced” pat-down.

One minute I was loading my laptop, shoes and liquids into bins on the conveyer belt at Washington National airport, and the next moment, an agent was pointing me toward an empty full-body scanner.

“No, thank you,” I said.

And then I felt my heart beginning to pound.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: No refund for my Colorado condo?

Question: I need your help getting a refund for the advance resort rental paid to Winter Park Lodging Company in Winter Park, Colo. I made a reservation to stay in a two-bedroom condo during the New Year’s holiday.

I had to cancel my reservation almost a month before I was supposed to arrive. The company refunded the sales taxes and linen charges of $69 out of the prepaid $965. But it kept $896 for the rental.

Winter Park Lodging’s cancellation policy says, “If you must cancel, let us know as soon as possible and we will try to rebook your property for you reservation dates and will reimburse you for any nights we are able to rebook for you.” I asked the company if it rented my unit. It says no, but I question its honesty. If you look at the property availability on its site, you’ll see that all off the weekends from January to April were fully booked. What can be done? — May Tong, Houston

Answer: You have to take Winter Park Lodging Company — which describes itself as “the best place to find vacation rentals in Winter Park” — at its word. Which is something you’re unwilling to do, and for good reason. Its site appears to contradict what it’s telling you.
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New on Elliott: Get me a manager, no refund for my condo, stuck in a holding pattern – Sponsored by Travelinsure.com and Floridavacationauction.com

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New posts

Get Me a Manager! 5 Secrets For Finding The Right Person At a Company
Got a problem? You probably want to talk with someone in charge right away — someone who can clear up your grievance quickly.

The Travel Troubleshooter: No refund for my Colorado condo?
May Tong reserves a condo in Winter Park, Colo., but calls off her vacation about a month before her arrival. The cancellation policy seems to allow for a refund, under certain conditions. But have those conditions been met? Maybe.

What would you do? Help, Delta Vacations has me in a holding pattern
Ever since Ruth Harris tried to book a vacation to Hungary through Delta Vacations last month, she’s had nothing but trouble.

Ridiculous or not? US Airways closes a “loophole” – but opens a can of worms
A few weeks ago, Bob Johnson got an email from a US Airways employee that began, “They’re at it again.”

Also

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Let’s continue this conversation online. If you’re not following me on Facebook or Twitter, then you’re only catching half the conversation. Join me for a lively discussion about travel, customer service and anything else you might find interesting. Remember, if you love opining about travel — and let’s face it, who doesn’t? — then you’ll want to be come part of my new travel panel.

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Travel deals — Get up to 80% off. Refer a friend and get $10. Go to Yuupon.com.

Travel Insurance Review — Where you can get articles, reviews, and guides to help you find an insurance policy that will fit your individual travel needs. You can buy directly or use its comparison site to find a trusted and reputable travel insurance provider. Get more information.

FirstClassFlyer.com — Which helps you fly first class for the price of coach. Get more information.

Skooba — Which offers award-winning tech/travel carrying cases and accessories. Discount code ELLIOTT20 gets you 20% off and free shipping on orders of $50 or more. Visit Skooba.

Discount Airport Parking — Which allows you to reserve airport parking online and save big! Reservation provided for major US airports including LAX, JFK, Seattle, Orlando, etc. Visit the site now.

International Airline Tickets – Find discount airfares to many destinations worldwide at AirlineConsolidator.com.

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What would you do? Help, Delta Vacations has me in a holding pattern

Ever since Ruth Harris tried to book a vacation to Hungary through Delta Vacations last month, she’s had nothing but trouble.

First, a phone agent booked the wrong dates, she says — something she discovered only after Delta sent her an email confirmation.

“I have been trying to get it fixed since then,” she says.

Harris spent an hour on the phone with Delta, but was eventually told she had to speak with someone at Delta Vacations to get her dates corrected. She tried to go online to switch dates, but couldn’t. She suspects that one reason for the runaround is that she’s paying for the flights with vouchers that she received when she was bumped from a previous Delta flight.

So she went back online. The email correspondence between her and Delta would probably inspire Franz Kafka to write another novel if he were alive today.
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Where’s the cafe that refuses to serve the TSA?

Late last week, as I was thinking of a way to start a post about the TSA, I received the following comment from a reader.

From: Kc mclawson
IP Address: 24.19.0.123
Submitted on 2011/02/17 at 7:37 pm

I work for a cafe close to a major international airport. We have had enough of the TSA, and have posted signs on our doors basically saying that they aren’t allowed to come into our business. (We have the right to refuse service to anyone) My boss flies quite a bit and he has an amazing ability to remember faces. If he sees a TSA agent come in we turn our backs and completely ignore them, and tell them to leave, their kind aren’t welcomed in our establishment. A large majority of our customers (over 90%) agree with our stance and stand by our decision. We even have the police on our side and they have helped us escort TSA agents out of our cafe. Until TSA agents start treating us with the respect and dignity that we deserve then things will change for them in the private sector.

I know the traveling public is still angry at the TSA after last November’s pat-down/opt-out controversy, but refusing someone service at a restaurant seemed a little extreme.
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Ridiculous or not? US Airways closes a “loophole” – but opens a can of worms

A few weeks ago, Bob Johnson got an email from a US Airways employee that began, “They’re at it again.”

What was US Airways up to? At the beginning of the month, the carrier quietly added a new fee: Passengers who book a ticket through a travel agent but call the airline directly to make a change to their itinerary will now have to pay another $25 to speak with a phone agent. They were exempt from the fee before.

And here’s where Johnson comes in. Calling him a loyal US Airways customer would be an understatement. Johnson helped start a group called FFocus, which advocates for US Airways customers, particularly frequent fliers.

While he isn’t opposed to reasonable fees, he says this one makes no sense.

“US Airways defies logic on a minute-by-minute basis,” he told me. “This latest change is yet another example of the ongoing customer-unfriendly attitude of US Airways. Somebody explain the fairness of this new policy.”
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Is this enough compensation? Two vouchers for a kennel I didn’t need

=”drop_cap”>When Charles Robinson tried to load his Labrador Retriever on a United Airlines flight from Frankfurt, German, to Washington, recently, an airline employee stopped him. Not only was the cage he’d used for years to carry his dog too small, but the one for his cats didn’t cut, it either.

The cat kennel, he was told, needed screw-down connectors instead of clip-down connectors. Robinson had to buy new cages for his pets and paid extra to have them sent back to the States, at a cost of nearly $1,000.

That didn’t sit well with Robinson, who is a member of the armed services flying on orders. Had United informed him of the requirements in advance, he could have found larger cages that met their standards. Even though he pointed out that the old cages were perfectly acceptable to the airline when he arrived in Germany two years ago, United just reiterated that it stood by its employee’s decision.

“There seemed to be no actual interest in looking at the facts,” he says.
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New on Elliott: Year of passenger rights, a kennel I didn’t need and cheated by half a star – Sponsored by Travelinsure.com and Floridavacationauction.com

Here’s the online version of Elliott’s E-Mail. If this doesn’t display correctly, why not switch subscriptions to my RSS feed or my daily e-mail newsletter?

Please “like” my new Facebook page! Here it is. It’s just another way we can stay in touch and talk about travel and consumer advocacy.

Please check out our underwriter, Travel Insurance Services, which has been protecting travelers since 1973 by providing coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, baggage insurance, and more. Choose the right option for your next trip. Visit Travel Insurance Services.

And Florida Vacation Auction, where you can save up to 80 percent off retail on resorts, hotels and attractions in the auction and 20 to 30 percent via Buy Direct. No cost to use unless you win or buy. Register using promo code “Chris Elliott 2011” to get a $25 credit towards a winning auction. Details here.

We love our underwriters! Please support this site by patronizing our underwriters, including our newest supporters, Travelinsure, Yuupon.com and Travel Hacking Cartel. They are keeping the lights on and the cause of consumer advocacy alive, thanks to their financial support. We couldn’t do it without them.

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Have you ever paid extra for hotel housekeeping? Have you recently stayed at a hotel that either charges extra for housekeeping or offers incentives for not having housekeeping every day, like extra miles or a reduced room rate? If so, please tell me about it, and tell me what you thought.

New posts

Will this be the year for passengers’ rights?
The travel industry doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation for keeping its promises.

Is this enough compensation? Two vouchers for a kennel I didn’t need
When Charles Robinson tried to load his Labrador Retriever on a United Airlines flight from Frankfurt, German, to Washington, recently, an airline employee stopped him. Not only was the cage he’d used for years to carry his dog too small, but the one for his cats didn’t cut, it either.

Can this trip be saved? Cheated by half a star on my New Orleans hotel
Half a star may not sound like much to the average hotel guest, particularly when there are no nationally-recognized hotel rating standards in the United States. But it means the world to Sandi Tanner, who is planning her 20th wedding anniversary in New Orleans.

Business bans TSA agents – will more follow?
KC McLawson works for a cafe near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and since the body-scan and patdown controversy last November, her boss has taken extraordinary measures to ensure the TSA knows of his displeasure.

Also

Become a better traveler! Please check out our underwriter, Travel Hacking Cartel – Become a travel ninja by earning hundreds of thousands of Frequent Flyer Miles without getting on a plane. New service offers the “World’s Greatest Guarantee” of four plane tickets every year. More information.

Let’s continue this conversation online. If you’re not following me on Facebook or Twitter, then you’re only catching half the conversation. Join me for a lively discussion about travel, customer service and anything else you might find interesting. Remember, if you love opining about travel — and let’s face it, who doesn’t? — then you’ll want to be come part of my new travel panel.

Our underwriters

TripInsuranceStore.com — Offers detailed trip cancellation travel insurance information. Call Steve, Deanna, Becky, Mary or Teresa directly at 1-888-407-3854 for personalized advice or visit it online.

Travel deals — Get up to 80% off. Refer a friend and get $10. Go to Yuupon.com.

Travel Insurance Review — Where you can get articles, reviews, and guides to help you find an insurance policy that will fit your individual travel needs. You can buy directly or use its comparison site to find a trusted and reputable travel insurance provider. Get more information.

FirstClassFlyer.com — Which helps you fly first class for the price of coach. Get more information.

Skooba — Which offers award-winning tech/travel carrying cases and accessories. Discount code ELLIOTT20 gets you 20% off and free shipping on orders of $50 or more. Visit Skooba.

Discount Airport Parking — Which allows you to reserve airport parking online and save big! Reservation provided for major US airports including LAX, JFK, Seattle, Orlando, etc. Visit the site now.

International Airline Tickets – Find discount airfares to many destinations worldwide at AirlineConsolidator.com.

Squaremouth.com — Voted the best travel insurance comparison site. Squaremouth is easy to use with powerful sort & research tools. 250+ travel insurance plans. Click here for more.

Cheapflights.com — Lets you search the best travel deals, then book your cheap airline tickets with one of its many partners. Check out Cheapflights.com.

If you want to feel the love of 80,000 weekly newsletter subscribers, you can become a corporate underwriter, too. Here’s how.


Can this trip be saved? Cheated by half a star on my New Orleans hotel

Half a star may not sound like much to the average hotel guest, particularly when there are no nationally-recognized hotel rating standards in the United States. But it means the world to Sandi Tanner, who is planning her 20th wedding anniversary in New Orleans.

Hotwire offered her a pre-paid, nonrefundable room at The Inn on Bourbon, which TripAdvisor gives three stars and AAA rates as three-diamond. Even Hotwire gives it a three-star rating at the time of her booking.

Just one problem: She paid for a 3.5-star room.

Now, before you say, “What’s half a star among friends?” consider what fudging half a star rating can mean to a business. Putting guests in slightly cheaper hotels can translate into millions of dollars of additional revenue per year. It’s like skimming a little off the top. It adds up.

Tanner, though disappointed, at first did what the average hotel guest would do: she went along with it.

“I would take the hotel,” she told me. “But it won’t work with me. The woman I spoke with had a very uncaring attitude even when I explained the situation. On the hotel’s own website they are still offering non-smoking king rooms, but according to her they are out of them. How is this possible?”

A downgraded hotel, forced to stay in a smoking room for her 20th anniversary. There’s got to be a better way, right?
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Will this be the year for passenger rights?

The travel industry doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation for keeping its promises.

That’s true not just of the lofty low-price guarantees that some hotels offer but hedge with lawyerly fine print. It also applies to something as seemingly straightforward as an airline sticking to its published schedule. (Check the contract; it isn’t required to.)

So travelers might be forgiven for having been a little skeptical last year when they were promised help in the form of long-overdue government regulation and laws that would compel airlines to treat them better and tell the truth about their fares.

Maybe it’s a statement about the process, but the most commented-upon proposed rule had practically nothing to do with enhancing consumer protections. It was a new regulation to limit the consumption of peanuts on a plane.

“It was really amazing,” said Cynthia Farina, a professor of law at Cornell University, which helped create the site Regulationroom.org to collect consumer comments. “We had more comments on that than on all the rest – combined.”
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Business bans TSA agents – will more follow?

KC McLawson works for a cafe near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and since the body-scan and patdown controversy last November, she says her boss has taken extraordinary measures to ensure the TSA knows of his displeasure.

“We have posted signs on our doors basically saying that they aren’t allowed to come into our business,” she says. “We have the right to refuse service to anyone.”

Banning TSA from a restaurant. Seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? (Here’s an update on the story.)

McLawson (an apparent pseudonym) explains:

My boss flies quite a bit and he has an amazing ability to remember faces. If he sees a TSA agent come in we turn our backs and completely ignore them, and tell them to leave.

Their kind aren’t welcomed in our establishment.

A large majority of our customers — over 90 percent — agree with our stance and stand by our decision.

We even have the police on our side and they have helped us escort TSA agents out of our cafe. Until TSA agents start treating us with the respect and dignity that we deserve, then things will change for them in the private sector.

I wondered if putting TSA on the no-visit list was somewhat extreme. I mean, what have they done to deserve this? And then I reviewed the week’s troubling news.
Continue reading…


The Travel Troubleshooter: Can I redo my Disney vacation, please?

Question: I recently booked a vacation package to Disneyland through Southwest Vacations, but I mistakenly entered the wrong date — September instead of December. We were away when the tickets were delivered, and I didn’t notice the error until it was too late. We were considered “no-shows” for our vacation.

This error is extremely unfortunate, since we planned this trip for my husband’s birthday. It was an honest mistake.

I contacted Southwest Vacations, and they said they would be willing to rebook our airline tickets and re-issue our theme park tickets, but that there would be a $500 penalty for the Disney hotel. Southwest asked Disney to waive its rules, but Disney hasn’t responded. I know they are under no obligation to rebook our package, but can you help us? — Pamela Metcalf Kunelis, Fair Oaks, Calif.

Answer: I agree, neither Southwest Vacations nor Disney was under any obligation to refund any portion of your vacation. The fact that Southwest had agreed to re-issue your plane tickets and theme park tickets was more than you — or I — could have asked for.
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