Are e-checks a safe way to pay for travel?

Stevanovich/Shutterstock
Stevanovich/Shutterstock
As she paged through Viking River Cruises’ glossy brochure one recent afternoon, Diane Moskal noticed a new way to save money: If she booked the Waterways of the Tsars itinerary sailing from Moscow to St. Petersburg with something called an e-check, the cruise line promised to knock $100 off the fare.

An e-check is an electronic debit to your checking account, and it’s billed as a quick, convenient way to pay for your vacation that is “as easy as providing your credit card number,” according to Viking.

But like any smart traveler, Moskal wasn’t content with that explanation. “I see that the cruise lines advocate consumer savings if you pay by e-check,” she says. But she also found several complaints online, which made her hesitate. She wondered: Are e-checks safe?
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Should airline tickets be transferrable?

Tratong/Shutterstock
Tratong/Shutterstock
As Ralph Santopietro sees it, Delta Air Lines had him over a barrel when he tried to change the dates on a flight from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Hartford, Conn.

A ticket agent in Myrtle Beach offered to rebook Santopietro, a retired high school teacher, on the new itinerary. But his $238 ticket credit would be all but consumed by a $200 change fee, and then he’d have to pay a $538 fare difference.

How about transferring the ticket to his cousin, who would take the flight as originally planned? Nope, said the agent, citing security restrictions on ticket name changes.

“I didn’t like those choices,” he says.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Help, my river cruise transfers are sunk

Question: My wife and I are booked on a Viking River Cruise. We plan to go from Washington to Moscow three days early, take the river cruise to St. Petersburg and remain there for three days before going on to a four-day stopover in Paris en route home. It is because of the diversions and deviation that Viking is attempting to set aside its responsibility to comply with what its literature apparently states.
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Ridiculous or not? Your airline ticket isn’t transferrable

Why can’t you change the name on your airline ticket?

Chayaron Hantalom wants to know. He’s a first-year law student at the University of Wisconsin, and last month, he booked tickets to fly from Madison to Los Angeles for himself and his girlfriend.

“Unfortunately, on the ticket back from Las Vegas to Madison, I put my girlfriend’s last name as my last name,” he says. Neither Orbitz, through which he bought the tickets, nor Delta Air Lines, the carrier they’re flying on, will fix the error.

Why not?
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The Vikings are real on this riverboat

Question: My husband and I are taking a Viking River Cruise down the Seine this summer. We are redeeming frequent flier miles for the flight for a surprise 70th birthday present for my husband, and since he loves World War II history.

We planned to fly into Paris early. But now Viking is saying that we must arrive on the day the tour begins, as they are meeting us in the baggage area. We are terribly upset that they are refusing not only to take us the two plus hours to the starting point for the cruise, but they have ignored over and over again attempts to communicate through our travel agent. We would appreciate any help you can give us. — Michelle Rothstein, Furlong, Pa.

Answer: Viking River Cruises seems like it’s being needlessly rigid. So I asked Joost Ouendag, the company’s vice president of marketing, why they weren’t accommodating your requests. “We do not, as a rule, allow diversions from our scheduled itineraries,” he told me. “This is not the result of an inflexible approach on our side, but rather an inescapable reality of organized group travel.”
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