LUGGAGE

A worthwhile airline fee program? Don’t buy it

Dragon Images/Shutterstock
Dragon Images/Shutterstock
The introduction of a new airline fee program is reigniting an old debate about the true cost of air travel.

Earlier this month, United Airlines unveiled “subscriptions” that let you prepay for a year’s worth of baggage fees, seat upgrades or airport club access. The plans start at $349, for which you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation may check up to two bags per flight, and cost up to $500 or more for annual access to United’s 45 airport club locations and other select partner lounges worldwide.

“Our customers tell us that they value comfort and convenience, and our subscriptions enable us to provide both year-round,” said United spokeswoman Karen May. “We intend for these subscriptions to be long-term offers.”
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Oh no! JetBlue breaks guitars, too?

jetblueAdd the word “breaks guitars” after any company, and everyone knows exactly what you’re talking about.

“Breaks guitars” is synonymous with terrible service, bureaucracy and corporate arrogance. And you’d expect an airline to be particularly sensitive to it.

For those of you who missed the whole United Breaks Guitars episode, here’s a recap: Back in 2009, United Airlines destroyed country musician David Carroll’s checked guitar and then basically ignored his damage claim.
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New luggage blocks ID theft on the road

Fatayesava/Shutterstock
Fatayesava/Shutterstock
At some point between the time she disembarked from a recent cruise in Miami and returned to Carmel, Ind., someone decided to go shopping with Jody Tzucker’s credit card. “They bought cigars and other odd things in Miami,” says Tzucker, a retired manager for a nonprofit association.

She suspects that the criminals may have skimmed her Visa account information while she was filling up her gas tank in South Florida. Or maybe not. Nowadays, hackers don’t even have to see your credit card to access the information on it. They can scan it from a safe distance.
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If you’re in Zone 5, here’s why you should pack light

Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Next time you find yourself with a boarding pass that says Zone 5 or Group “C,” or whatever designation your airline uses to say you’re the last to board, please remember this story.

It comes to us by way of Kathleen Colduvell and her boyfriend, David Dimm. A few weeks ago, they were flying from Philadelphia to Tampa on US Airways.

“We were only going for the weekend, so we each had one cabin-approved carry on,” says Colduvell.

Alas, halfway through the boarding process, a gate agent announced that the overhead bins were completely full. By the way, there’s a good reason for that: Passengers carry more onboard now in an effort to avoid the $25 fee for the first checked bag. Also, they don’t want the airline to lose their luggage.
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Should I have been charged extra for my checked luggage?

Question: I traveled to Europe on a codeshare flight between Delta Air Lines and KLM. Before I left the United States, I carefully checked the size and weight restrictions for my two bags on both the Delta and KLM websites, because I’m an artist and I needed to take rolls of paper with me. I made sure my bags complied.

The trip from Portland, Ore., to Copenhagen, Denmark went off without a hitch; I paid $50 to check a second bag. However, on the flight from Toulouse, France, to Portland, Ore., I had to pay 200 Euros for the second bag. When the gate agent saw my second bag, she declared it “too long,” she never measured it. Although the flight was on KLM, the airport staff worked for Air France. There was no KLM or Delta presence that I could find in that airport.
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Their luggage went missing, but does anyone know why?

By all accounts, Maddy and Phil Handler liked their October cruise on the Riviera, one of the new mid-size ships in Oceania’s fleet. There was just the matter of the Handler’s luggage — and reams of correspondence between the couple and a vice president at the cruise line, bickering about what happened to it.

The cruise line claims another passenger inadvertently took the Handler’s suitcase and that it tried to help them retrieve it. But these passengers are unhappy with the way in which their claim has been handled, and they want answers about their missing luggage. They want me to step in and get a clear explanation from Oceania.
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Spirit’s Baldanza: “We don’t force customers to pay for services they don’t want or need”

Spirit's Ben Baldanza. / Photo courtesy Spirit.
Spirit Airlines is at it again — first denying a dying war veteran a ticket refund, then announcing it would raise its fee for carrying a bag on its flight to $100. Passengers are outraged. A Facebook petition to boycott the carrier is gaining momentum.

At a time like this, I like to hand the mike over to Ben Baldanza, the airline’s CEO. I did this morning, but his handlers said he couldn’t answer my questions by phone. Here’s a transcript of our awkward email interview.
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If luggage fees are wrong, who pays?

Question: I recently bought two one-way tickets from Madrid to Cancun, Mexico, through Cheaptickets.com. I found tickets that were within my budget and called the online travel agency to verify all the details, including the baggage fees.
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When revenue-hungry airlines play “chicken” with passengers

Editor’s Note: Today we join with thousands of other websites to protest two dangerous bills that are flying through Congress and threaten your freedom of expression online. Please do your part to stop censorship by contacting your elected representative.

Here’s a decision most of us will have to make the next time we fly: Should you splurge for a “premium” seat in economy class — an aisle or a window seat — or leave it to chance, and possibly end up in a middle seat?

It happened to Fred Thompson on a recent Delta Air Lines flight from New York to Detroit. “The Delta website would not let me choose a seat when I booked the ticket four weeks early,” he says. “The day before my flight, I still could not pick a seat. All the economy seats were taken and the only available seats were fee-based with prices ranging from $9 to $29.”
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