It’s time to unmerge a few airlines

Eugene Berman / Shutterstock.com
Eugene Berman / Shutterstock.com
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□ OUR HOLIDAY FUNDRAISER STARTS NEXT WEEK. It’s that time of year. If you want to make the travel industry a better place, stay tuned and I’ll tell you how. Or you could just skip the pitch and join these underwriters.

□ LET’S UNMERGE A FEW AIRLINES

The Justice Department’s settlement agreement with American Airlines and US Airways, which will finally allow the carriers to merge, is taking the airline industry in the wrong direction, say many travelers. Details are in my USA Today column.

□ WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Friendliest service ever?
I’d love to hear your stories of unexpected friendliness and helpfulness when you’re traveling. Although it doesn’t have to be an airline story, airline staff are frequently singled out for being rude and unhelpful. But there are exceptions to every rule. I’d like to hear about what happened to you during a recent flight, hotel stay or car rental experience. Also, do you think there’s hope for the industry? Can we ever return to the days when we looked forward to travel? As always, don’t forget include your full name, city and occupation.

Become a much smarter traveler
Pre-order my new book, How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). It’ll help you navigate the ins and outs of the travel industry and save lots of time and money. Details are right here. By the way, if you’re heading out somewhere on a trip and need help with something, I’d be happy to email you a draft of a chapter, whether you order the book or not.

Let’s talk!
The stories you see in this newsletter are just a starting point. I hope you’ll take a minute to leave a comment, whether you agree or disagree with something I’ve written. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google. I’m listening. And of course, I’m also here if you need me.

□ POSTS YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO MISS

This is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in the wild
If you get right up close to the water at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada, Fla., you can see the hungry tarpon waiting for you to feed them. They will lunge right out of the water if you come close enough. My son did. Watch what happens next on our family travel blog.

What’s the correct compensation for this Delta flight delay?
John Esser’s recent return flight north “headed south,” so to speak. He’d like the airline to make things right.
But what’s right?

Fly a mile, earn a mile? No, that would make too much sense
Looking back, Jill Constable’s mistake wasn’t flying to Australia on American Airlines and Qantas. The connections from Dallas to Sydney, Ayers Rock, and Cairns made sense, from a scheduling point of view. It was the reason she chose the so-called “codeshare” flights. Find out why she did it.

Do you have enough time to make your flight connection?
When Mike Conrad bought an airline ticket from Washington to Berlin, the last thing he considered was his connection in Frankfurt, Germany. But the flight, booked through United Airlines and operated by Lufthansa — an arrangement known as a “codeshare” flight — gave him only 65 minutes on his return between the time he was scheduled to land in Frankfurt and when he would depart for Washington. Would he have enough time?

Why the phone is every frequent flier’s best friend
Tim Winship will probably forget more about travel loyalty programs than you’ll ever know. He spent two decades life managing marketing for Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways, and Hilton. “I was a spectator and a participant in the birth and evolution of travel loyalty programs,” says Winship. Read more of his advice in our new feature, the world’s smartest traveler.

Missed my hotel reservation by a month – do I still have to pay?
Elise Chon’s reservation is off by a month – an error made by a travel agent. Does she still have to pay for the hotel stay she missed? Find out.

Dish’s billing system is broken and I can’t fix it
Dish deducted $94 from William Leeper’s account without crediting him. Now it’s turned off his subscription TV service for non-payment. What gives?

□ MY PARTING SHOT

It was so much fun meeting many of you at the PR Summit last week in Miami. And to all of our old friends and neighbors in the Keys who we saw — it was too short! We’ll have a full report on our adventures in Key West soon. But until then, enjoy the photos of Robbie’s. My heart is still racing. That tarpon almost ate my son!

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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