Booking an airline ticket online for the holidays? Read this first

stockholmHere’s a cautionary tale for anyone buying an airline ticket for the holidays, and a little advice: Pay attention your bank account balance. And be patient.

Kelly Lukanen, can I hear an “amen”?

Lukanen recently tried to book a ticket from Minneapolis to Stockholm on Orbitz. Not only did the initial purchase fail, but she found $835 of her hard-earned money tied up in a mysterious transaction.
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“If these aren’t tickets then how did I get out here?”

moroccoPicture this: You’re on your honeymoon in Morocco. When you check in for your flight back to the States, a gate agent insists there’s something wrong with your reservation — and forces you to buy a new set of tickets.

It happened to Elliot Pederson. But that wasn’t the worst part of it. After returning home, neither his airline nor the online travel agency that sold him the original ticket, would take responsibility for the problem, sticking him with a $2,103 bill.

What now?
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Airline baggage fees are refundable — and here’s how

Remember “no waivers, no favors,” the onerous post-9/11 policy that prevented airline employees from bending the rules? You’d think that with the advent of new baggage fees, we were looking at a sequel to the “no waivers” policy. Not so.

Checked baggage fees can be refunded under certain conditions.

The most common reason? When an airline misplaces or loses your luggage. I’ve heard from several passengers who have told me that a refund of the $15 first-checked-bag fee is offered, no questions asked. As well it should.

Another time you can expect your money back is when there’s what I call a codeshare confusion. It’s what happened to Steve Janusz, who made a reservation on Delta Air Lines for fly from Minneapolis to Denver recently. At the time, Delta didn’t charge a fee for the first checked bag.

When we checked in at the airport in Minneapolis we were told the flight had been changed to a Northwest flight and we needed to check in at the Northwest counter.

Northwest charged us each $15 for checking a bag. The Delta agent told us to check with Delta customer service after our trip to get reimbursed for checking our bags.

He did, but Delta offered a $25 voucher instead of a $30 refund he’d been promised. I recommended that Janusz contact a customer service manager at Delta asking the airline to reconsider. The result?

I was able to contact Daiquiri Gleaves via email at Delta and received a phone call from Dorothy Sellers. She worked with me to get a check for $30.

I’m sure there are other reasons airlines are refunding their $15 baggage fee. Have you run across any others?

Christmas air travel warning: avoid Minneapolis, JetBlue and Northwest Flight 189

If you’re making air travel plans for the Christmas holiday, you’ll want to check out these numbers from a new site called Airport Butler. A review of last year’s on-time data by the airline statistics company suggests you might want to avoid flying on JetBlue, Northwest or going anywhere near the Minneapolis airport.

These are delays by origin airport for Dec. 23-25, 2007. Minneapolis, Chicago and New York top the list. No big surprises here – except maybe sunny Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

How about the most delayed airlines?

For all of you non-airline folks reading this, B6 is JetBlue and 9E is Northwest Airlink. In fact, most of these obscure airline codes belong to regional airlines. Lesson? Stay off the small planes if you can.

Let’s dig down into the data a little. Which flights were the most delayed?

Six of the top 10 flights belong to either Northwest or one of Northwest’s regional carriers.

Now, bear in mind that these are last year’s statistics. We have no way of knowing if history will repeat itself. This is just a useful look at past performance.

Feel free to take this data into account – or not – when you’re making your Christmas travel plans.