The unofficial guide to traveling in 2010

The unofficial guide to traveling in 2010
By | December 27th, 2009

Steph Ulyett’s airline ticket should have said “Stephanie” of course, but she’s always gone by Steph, so that’s the name her partner typed into Expedia when he reserved their flights to Chicago.

Unfortunately, a commonly misunderstood Transportation Security Administration initiative called Secure Flight, almost made her miss her plane. At least that’s what she thought. A new government rule says the name you use when buying your ticket must match your ID — which Ulyett’s did not.

There’s good news for travelers like her in 2010. Several new laws and policies are scheduled to take effect next year that might upgrade the quality of your trip. Among them are Secure Flight, with its lofty promise to “improve the travel experience for all passengers,” a new credit card bill and stricter disability rules for airlines.

But back to Ulyett. The Derbyshire, England-based factory manager, whose partner had made her reservation on the Web site, was told she couldn’t fix the name on her ticket. “The only alternative is to cancel your original booking and rebook your flights in the correct name,” Expedia told her in an e-mail. “In this case, I regret to advise you that your ticket is completely non-refundable, including taxes.”

That’s nonsense. Under Secure Flight, she might have been allowed to board her flight — TSA says it’s built “some flexibility” into the program (and hopefully, a little common sense) that would have allowed her to travel without any trouble. More to the point, United routinely makes notations on ticket records to clarify typographical errors or nicknames that inadvertently ended up in reservations.

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United agreed. I helped Ulyett get in touch with a manager at the airline, and after explaining her situation, United let her change her ticket at no extra charge.

Which new rules and regulations will affect your trip in 2010?

Credit card bill (February 2010)
Remember the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act signed into law last May? The full rules takes effect late this winter. Already, credit card companies are required to improve disclosure of changes in terms and conditions and they must also give customers a minimum of 21 days to make a payment. But in February, a few new rules kick in. (Here’s a summary of them).

What does any of this have to do with travel? Plenty. One of the provisions of the law is that Congress will have better credit card industry oversight. Most travel purchases are made by credit card. On a related note, my colleague Bob Sullivan recently reported on the emergence of a new consumer protection agency that could also help credit card customers.

This law can’t happen soon enough. Credit card companies are raising rates in advance of February, and they’ve been imposing ridiculous fees, including ones for purchases made with overseas companies (even if the transactions take place in the United States, and in dollars). That’s what happened to Dickerson Moreno when he charged a hotel room in Atlanta to his credit card. His credit card, Citibank, added a 31 cent foreign transaction fee, “because the money that I paid in dollars was later exchanged to some foreign frequency, which is tantamount to a foreign transaction,” he says. “I was never made aware of this.”

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