Last-Modified: Wed Oct 9 15:43:34 1996 by Mark Kantrowitz
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;;; Airfare FAQ, Part 2 ********************************************
;;; Written by Mark Kantrowitz
This post is a summary of useful information for air travelers. The
focus is on obtaining inexpensive air fares, although other topics are
also covered. It was previously posted under the title "FAQ: How to
Get Cheap Airtickets".
Please mail comments, corrections, additions, suggestions, criticisms
and other information to email@example.com.
Copyright (c) 1989-94 by Mark Kantrowitz. All rights reserved.
This FAQ may be freely redistributed in its entirety without
modification provided that this copyright notice is not removed. It
may not be sold for profit or incorporated in commercial documents
(e.g., published for sale on CD-ROM, floppy disks, books, magazines,
or other print form) without the prior written permission of the
copyright holder. Permission is expressly granted for this document
to be made available for file transfer from installations offering
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This article is provided AS IS without any express or implied warranty.
*** Topics Covered:
Part 2 (Travel Agents, Connections, Airports, Baggage):
[2-1] Travel Agents
[2-2] Unusual Travel Agents: Commission Rebaters
[2-5] Travel Agencies that Specialize in Students
[2-6] Visit USA
[2-7] Free Upgrades to First Class
[2-8] Companion Tickets
[2-9] Avoiding Travel Scams
[2-10] Missed Connections
[2-11] Getting There Faster
[2-12] Airports Monopolized by One Carrier
[2-13] Hub Cities
[2-14] Lost Baggage
[2-15] Baggage Limits
[2-18] Restrictions on Electronics
[2-19] X-ray Machines/Metal Detectors
[2-20] Packing Tips/Checklist
Search for [#] to get to question number # quickly.
Subject: [2-1] Travel Agents
It pays to use a travel agent only if you know a *good* one. A
good travel agent will know when a small change in your schedule can
save you a lot of money. If you buy direct from the airline, you may
not find out such information, since they will only quote you the
rates for the times you ask. So if you're going to use a travel agent,
make sure that you find one who is willing (and able) to search
through the morass of fares and restrictions to find a good deal for
you. A travel agent who just punches your data into the computer and
tells you the prices is no better than the airline's 800 number. A
good travel agent can probably save you about 10-15%.
[Actually, if the airline goes bankrupt between ticket purchase and
flight time, and you bought your ticket from a travel agent, you may
be able to get a refund, especially from some of the larger agencies.
If the airlines goes bankrupt within 10 days of the purchase of the
ticket, the agency may not have paid the airline yet (they are allowed
10 days to do so), so you can ask them for a refund. Better yet, buy
your airtickets with a credit card, and the federal credit protection
act will allow you to get a refund from your credit card company.]
There are several major differences between using a travel agency and
using the airport (airline) ticket agents:
1. A travel agent can look at all the airline fares, not just
those of a single carrier. A good travel agent will check fares
on at least three carriers. Airlines can only give you their own
best fares. Then again, you can always call up three (or more)
airlines yourself to discover the best fares on each.
2. A travel agent can check for special deals with consolidators.
Airline ticket agents can't. Airlines sell heavily discounted
tickets only through consolidators, not direct to the passenger.
Given the frequency of fare changes these days, a good travel agent
can often find you some real bargains. A bad travel agent, on the
other hand, may miss getting you the lowest possible fare. So it is
best to find yourself a good travel agent.
If you don't care for consolidator tickets, the travel agents get the
same pricing information as is available from most of the online
reservation services and the airlines themselves. So you can do your
own legwork if you wish by calling the airlines themselves. But why do
it when a good travel agent can do it for you? After all, when you buy
a ticket direct from the airline the airline still keeps the
commission, so why not give the commission to a travel agent, who'll
do a little work to make sure you get the cheapest fare?
One reason to do the legwork yourself, either through an online CRS or
by calling the airlines directly, is to get full details on the fare
rules governing special fares. Many travel agents do not know how to
retrieve the rules from their CRS, or aren't willing to do so. If you
read through the rules yourself, you may find a loophole or two to
Note that some travel agencies try to funnel all their business to
a specific airline, because the more tickets they sell to a single
airline, the more money they get. Airlines have incentive programs to
encourage this practice. The travel agent may also know how to look up
fares on only one airline. This means that your travel agent may be
checking the fares on a single airline, instead of hunting around for
the best fare from several airlines. This is especially true for
travel agencies near airports that are dominated by one carrier. Your
best bet may be to call several airlines before you go to your travel
agent, doing the research on your own, or to tell the travel agent to
check fares on two or three specific airlines. (Don't tell them to
check on all airlines -- nobody is going to do that much work just for
a $20 commission.)
Also, airlines sometimes sell bulk tickets to large travel
agencies at bargain basement prices if they think they cannot fill the
seats. So depending on the travel agency, you might be able to get a
really good deal. Travel agents sometimes get complimentary tickets
(e.g., one free ticket for every 25 sold), which they can sell as they
wish. (These are called "Promotional Tickets" and are for standby travel.)
But then again, travel agents get a commission on air tickets
and hotels. The commission is a fixed percentage of the fare (if you
order direct from the airline, the airline pockets the difference). So
the agent can earn more money by selling you a more expensive ticket.
So be cautious when using a travel agent. Look over the agent's
shoulder and see if they're overlooking a really cheap flight. Most
travel agents will try to find you the cheapest possible flight,
because they want your repeat business. But that's the only incentive
for them to try to hunt down an inexpensive fare, so they may not be
as thorough on the cheaper routes. All computer reservation systems
provide a method of displaying the applicable fares in order of price,
from cheapest on up.
Since discount flights have restrictions on day of week and
flight times, make sure that you let the travel agent know that you
are flexible and will change a day either way if that will save you money.
Also don't be shy of stating the obvious -- that you're looking for
the cheapest possible fare -- since (most) travel agents aren't mind
Airport ticket agents tend to be better informed than the
people at the toll-free reservation number, since they often have to
deal with special situations (missed connections, bumped people, etc.)
that require really knowing the reservation system's ins and outs.
But beware. Airport ticket agents are not beyond lying or making
mistakes. A frequent complaint of air travelers is being quoted one
price over the phone, and finding that their credit card has been
charged another. Sometimes this happens because the computer system
has trouble completing the transaction and delays it until the
following morning (whence the fare change). But other times it is due
to human error (as if computer problems aren't due to human error
either). When you get your tickets, be sure to verify that the price
charged matches the price you were quoted. If they're different, be
prepared for a fight -- airlines seem very reluctant to own up to this
kind of error. Give as much detailed information as possible, such as
the time you called, the name of the ticket agent, the price quoted,
any unusual occurrences. Get the problem fixed *before* you use the
ticket. They probably won't refund you the difference, as the price on
the ticket is almost always the correct price, but they are required
to (by law) allow you to cancel the ticket and get a full refund
without penalty. If they give you any trouble, pursue it with your
credit card company. It is worth repeating, however, that you can get
the refund only if you don't use the ticket, and initiate any
complaint promptly. [Note that this circumstance is different from
when the airline prints an incorrect price in the newspaper. Not only
is the error clearly documented, but the error occurs before the
transaction is completed, not after.]
Even though most airlines are now matching their lowest discount
fares, it still pays to have your travel agent check several airlines.
For example, USAir has a virtual monopoly out of Pittsburgh, some
sometimes they don't feel the need to reduce the fares. If you don't
mind making a connection, you can sometimes save some money by taking
Most airlines have a "tickets by mail" service which lets you charge
the tickets to your credit card over the phone, and have the tickets
mailed to you at no extra charge. Allow 5 business days for the
tickets to reach you.
When using the airline ticket agents (the ones you get when you
call the airline's reservation number), if you find that you're having
trouble with the ticket agent, try hanging up (politely) and calling
again. Some of the agents are more knowledgable and helpful than
others, and by calling again you may reach one of the better agents.
If you get very good service from an airline ticket agent, write to
the airline commending his or her performance. Thank you letters do go
into the employee's permanent file.
To find a good travel agent, ask the secretaries where you work and
your friends for recommendations. Note that most people will recommend
a particular agent -- don't assume that every agent who works at that
agent's travel agency is as good. Don't be afraid to ask for the
recommended agent by name. Most people tend to use the travel agent
that is closest to where they work or live. If you don't like the
service you're getting, try a different agent.
A good travel agent will become familiar with your travel preferences,
and keep track of your frequent flyer numbers and any special
requirements, such as special meals, seat selection (window/aisle),
non-smoking, etc. They'll also let you know if changing your itinerary
slightly will result in a lower fare. They'll also advise you of any
changes made by the airline on your tickets, by calling you (or if
they can't reach you, by mail).
When you get your tickets, be sure to check them for accuracy,
especially if they are non-refundable. Many airlines will correct
genuine errors, but only if they are reported in a timely fashion.
Subject: [2-2] Unusual Travel Agents: Commission Rebaters
Travel agencies earn their money by receiving a commission on the
base fare of the ticket (i.e., before taxes). Usually the commissions
are as follows:
US Domestic: 10%
Canadian Domestic: 8.25%
Canada-to-US: 10% (sold in Canada)
Rent-a-car companies: 10%
In some cases travel agencies will get higher commissions (so-called
"incentive", "override", or "bonus" commissions) because of
The following travel agencies will give you a small discount on your
ticket price by rebating to you a portion of their commission, or by
charging a flat fee (which is less than the usual commssion amount).
Although airlines are prohibited by the IATA from rebating commissions
to passengers, IATA rules place no such restrictions on travel agencies.
[Note: Delta announced on 24-OCT-94 that it would reduce travel agent
commissions on international full fare coach, business class, and
first class tickets from 10% to 8%.]
Travel Avenue is a Chicago-based travel agency that charges a fixed
flat fee for each ticket ($15 US domestic, $25 international). They will
rebate to you a portion of the difference between their commission and
their fee. For instance, if you were booking a ticket from Houston to
Aspen round trip for $370, TA's cost is $336.36. TA refunds the user
7% of $370 ($25.90) and then takes their $15 from that. So, traveler
pays $354.10 for the ticket. You must, however, work out your travel
plans in advance, and they only provide rebates on tickets costing
more than $300. They charge a $5 delivery fee for these tickets. If
several passengers are traveling on the same itinerary, the
per-passenger flat fee is reduced. Travel Avenue also provides the
consumer with a similar rebate for car rentals and hotel bookings.
Call 1-800-333-3335 for recorded information.
It pays to be a member of the American Automobile Association (AAA).
Besides complimentary maps, the AAA travel agencies often have special
discounts beyond the usual airline tariffs, such as extra discounts on
some international flights, and discount airfares for visiting friends
and relatives on certain flights with specific airlines. AAA also
has included dollars off coupons for airlines like USAir and United in
their membership newsletter.
ISE Flights has a special deal with Citibank through June 30, 1995.
They will give you a $20 rebate on any ticket priced over $150,
provided the ticket is purchased through ISE and issued in cardholders
name. (If you are traveling with friends and family, ISE will
be pleased to issue tickets for all of you.) To get your rebate,
1. Call a major airline and make a reservation directly.
Reservations made through a travel agent are not eligible.
2. Record the flight information, the price quoted, and the
reservation number (if available).
3. Ask the airline to put the flight on courtesy hold.
4. Call ISE at 1-800-255-7000, and charge the ticket to your
Citibank card. [The tickets do not necessarily need to be
charged to your Citibank card. They will ask for your Citibank
cardnumber to verify that you are a Citibank cardholder, but you
can charge the tickets to another card, such as Discover card,
America Express, MC/VISA.]
The rebate and ticket will be mailed out the same day.
Costa Online Travel offers a 5% rebate on any CRUISE or TOUR booked
through their service. For more information, see
Excelsior Travel offers Internet users a 5% discount on airline
tickets over $200, provided you obtain the reservations yourself.
Excelsior Travel, 419 Highland Avenue, Boston, MA 02144
1-800-522-1118, 617-625-1077 fax
WARNING: Be careful about sending your credit card over the network
(e.g., by email or by telnet), as it is very easy for someone on an
intermediate host to intercept the contents. If you do this, it's
at your own risk.
CitiTravel (from Citibank) provides a 5% rebate, but there is an
annual membership fee and you have to send in documentation after the
flight to get the rebate. Many other credit cards offer similar
If your company's employees travel regularly for business, have your
company negotiate a special deal with one or two local travel agents
to provide a rebate for tickets purchase through them. Many travel
agencies are willing to do this, since they make up the difference
The Discover Private Issue credit card provides a rebate of up to 2%
of purchases (in contrast to the maximum 1% rebate of the Discover
card), and has a special 5% rebate arrangement with a Oklahoma travel
agency. You get a 5% rebate of pre-tax airfare, car rental, hotel, and
cruises purchased through the travel agency and charged to your card.
There is a $20 annual fee for this card. For more information, call
Subject: [2-3] Consolidators
Ticket consolidators (wholesalers, ``bucket shops'') are often 30-40%
cheaper than buying direct from the airline. They buy blocks of unsold
seats from the airlines and resell them at a slim margin. Such tickets
are usually heavily restricted and are for a standard profile (e.g.,
no special meals, no changes, no transfers, no refunds). It used to
be the case that you couldn't get frequent flyer miles for travel on
consolidator tickets, but that seems to be changing. Cancellation
penalties are often much more severe than on regular tickets. The
greater the distance traveled, the greater the chances of saving money
through a consolidator ticket. This is especially true for
international flights. If you're planning a round-the-world trip,
definitely use a consolidator to buy your tickets. Consolidators don't
buy their tickets until a month or two before the flight, so you
probably won't be able to buy your tickets very far in advance.
The Sunday NY Times travel section has a list of such wholesalers, as
do many other major newspapers. You can also find some in your local
yellow pages, under the same listing as regular travel agents.
Although "consolidator" and "bucket shop" are often used
interchangeably, they refer to different kinds of wholesalers.
Consolidators buy large blocks of tickets at discounted rates direct
from the airlines. When an airline can't sell their tickets at regular
prices, they sell them to consolidators at lower prices. The
restrictions on these tickets are governed by the consolidator's
contract with the airline, and not by the rules for published fares.
Such contracts usually preclude consolidators from naming airlines in
advertisements, but do allow them to specify prices. Sometimes they
are restricted to promoting the fares only to a particular geographic
or ethnic market. Usually they sell only through retail agencies and
not directly to the public. Some consolidators sell tickets only to
travel agencies. Others sell both wholesale and retail. Bucket shops
are retail agencies that specialize in getting discounted prices on
tickets. They are familiar with the full range of consolidators for
all the carriers (every airline sells to many consolidators) and in
other techniques of fare construction, importing tickets, etc. Many
bucket shops don't have any direct contact with the airline, in
contrast with consolidators.
International airfares are set by international agreement and
regulated by the airline cartel, IATA. Most interantional airlines
are closely related to, if not directly owned by, their national
governments. Thus most governments have an interest in protecting the
profits of their national airline, with the result that the IATA fares
are artificially high. IATA rules prohibit discounting, and in some
countries these rules are actually enforced. Bucket shops work around
the rules by buying discounted tickets direct from the airlines or
through consolidators. These tickets are discounted with restrictions
that attempt to ensure that the airlines fill otherwise empty seats
instead of diverting full-fare passengers to cheaper tickets. Some
restrictions include limitations on the advertising of such tickets,
forbidding mention of the name of the airline, or restricting the
promotion of such tickets to a particular geographic or ethnic market.
Another method of discounting tickets is through rebating a portion of
the consolidator commission to the public.
AirHitch (212-864-2000; 2790 Broadway, Suite 100, New York, NY 10025)
is a consolidator which buys unsold seats very close to the wire. You
provide a window of times (or destinations), and AirHitch lets you
know about available flights within your window on extremely short
notice. Tickets are one-way and there may not necessarily be a perfect
match with the destination you had in mind. Since this is a form of
standby travel, it is possible that there will be no seats left when
the you arrive at the airport. If that happens you'll have to try a
different destination in the same window, maybe the same day, maybe a
day or two later. If you want to travel to "somewhere" in Europe and
then return to "somewhere" in the US, AirHitch can be a very
inexpensive method of traveling. A similar outfit is AirTech
(800-575-TECH) <firstname.lastname@example.org>. There have been reports of
complaints by consumers about both outfits. Be sure you understand the
risks and uncertainties involved in flying this particular kind of
cut-rate standby travel before buying their flight vouchers. Not for
the faint of heart.
When buying tickets from a consolidator, it is best to use a reputable
one that has been around for a while. Many are small companies and
tend to go out of business frequently. Check the out with the Better
Business Bureau. Caveat emptor. The best advice we can offer is to
purchase tickets through a travel agent who regularly deals with
+ Shop around. Unlike regular tickets, different consolidators may
offer different prices for the same destination.
+ Buy your tickets with a credit card, so you can get a refund
from your credit card company if you never get the tickets. Many
consolidators, however, do not accept credit cards, or add a 2-5%
surcharge for non-cash purchases (possibly phrasing the
difference in price between credit card and non credit card
purchases as a cash discount).
The reason for credit card surcharges has to do with the economics of
selling tickets for air travel. When a regular travel agent sells a
ticket for travel on an airline, the credit card is in effect being
charged by the airline, not the agent. Normally a merchant pays a fee
from 1% to 5% of the purchase price to the credit card company. Due to
their high volume, airlines are able to negotiate very low fees with
the credit card companies. When a consolidator accepts credit cards,
they are doing it as an individual merchant, and hence aren't able to
get the low fees available to airlines. Given how little money they
earn from each ticket, they just cannot afford to accept credit cards
without adding a surcharge. For example, if a consolidator earns
a commission of 8% of the selling price, and then has to pay 2%
to the credit card company, they've cut their income by 25%.
Most consolidators can't afford to do this and stay in business.
Credit cards also pose a risk of chargebacks, which can affect
the consolidators bottom line.
+ Deal with a local consolidator, since you can check them out
yourself (e.g., verify that they aren't just a mail drop for a scam).
+ Don't put much stock in favorable references from satisfied
customers, unless you personally know the customers. Even the
worst consolidator has some happy clients.
+ If possible, pick up the tickets in person. If you don't get the
tickets within a day or two by mail, something is wrong.
+ When you get the tickets, call the airline immediately to verify
that the tickets are legitimate.
+ Airlines reserve the right to change the fares on consolidator
tickets at any time, so the fares are not guaranteed until you
actually receive the ticket. If the airline increases the fare
after you purchase the tickets but before you receive the
tickets, some consolidators will charge you the difference.
+ Airbrokers 800-883-3273
+ Best Travel Service 800-800-4788 (713-777-4888)
+ Cheap Tickets 800-377-1000
+ Council Charter 800-800-8222
+ Dixieland Tours 800-256-8747
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
+ Euram Tours 800-848-6789
+ Global Access 800-283-5333
+ IntraTours 800-334-8069 (713-952-0662)
+ Nippon Travel 800-662-6236
+ Overseas Tours 800-878-8718 / 800-227-5988
+ Sunline Express Holidays 800-786-5463
+ STA Travel 800-777-0112
Specializes in student/youth travel.
+ TFI Tours International 800-745-8000
+ Travac Tours and Charters 800-872-8800
+ UniTravel, St. Louis 800-325-2222
+ Worldwide Travel Center 800-886-4988
AUSTRAVEL is a consolidator for travel to Australia. They have offices
at 360 Post Street, Suite 606, in San Francisco, phone 800-633-3404
(415-781-4329), fax 415-781-4358. They have other offices
in New York, Chicago, Houston, Sydney, and the UK.
PASSENGER'S CHOICE 1-800-666-1026 advertises business class for up to
40% off in the San Francisco paper. They aren't really a consolidator.
They get the low fares by buying excess frequent flyer miles from high
volume frequent flyers, and then redeeming the certificates for a ticket
in your name. The selling of frequent flyer miles in this manner is a
violation of airline rules (the original certificate holder can issue
a ticket in your name, but isn't supposed to accept compensation for
doing it). This is a gray area.
Other bargain travel agencies:
+ Travel Bargains 800-872-8385
+ Airfares for Less 800-AIR-FARE
Consolidators are now also buying up blocks of hotel rooms and selling
them at steep discounts. For example, Hotel Reservation Network (HRN)
1-800-964-6835 offers rooms at 10 to 40 percent off AAA rates,
especially in New York and San Francisco.
Subject: [2-4] Couriers
One way of getting cheap international flights is to fly as a
freelance courier. There are a few companies which will pay you for
the right to use your baggage allowance, yielding a heavily-discounted
fare (typically a little more than half the regular discounted fare).
For them, this is much cheaper (and sometimes more reliable) than
paying cargo rates for shipping. Since the shipment is usually
time-critical (e.g., financial documents), it is essential that the
package be classified as baggage. Baggage is less likely to be
"bumped" from a flight than freight. The courier company can't simply
buy a ticket and leave the seat empty, since the seat must be occupied
for the freight to be listed as baggage instead of freight.
The courier company earns a percentage of the savings from the company
shipping the package. They also further defray their costs by selling
the seat to you (at a discount, of course). The courier company may
also charge you an annual registration fee (typically $50) or a
refundable deposit ($100 or $200 is common). If the courier company is
really desperate, sometimes (rarely) you can get them to pay for all
or most of your ticket. The tickets are non-refundable -- you pay the
money for the ticket to the courier company, who then buys the ticket
from the airline. The trips are usually very short notice, typically
1-2 weeks. When shipments are done on a contract, seats can be
assigned to couriers several months in advance.
Some courier companies are less shipping companies than they are
courier brokers. Such companies match couriers with companies that need to
ship packages. An annual registration fee is usually a good tipoff
that the company is a courier broker, though there are no hard and
fast rules of thumb.
You do not deal with the baggage, other than (occasionally) to
hand-carry a set of paperwork. You will not get the tickets until you
arrive at the airport (at the last minute) and meet with the freight
company's representative to get the paperwork. The representatives are
sometimes late and disorganized, so be prepared for some anxious
moments while you try to connect with them. When you arrive at the
destination you'll turn over the manifest to another representative of
the company. You'll probably have to wait for some time for the bags
to be unloaded and to clear customs.
You are allowed a carry-on. There may be other restrictions, such as
limits to the length of the stay (e.g., usually anywhere from one week
to 30-days maximum, though it can vary significantly from case to
case). Sometimes you can use the baggage space on the return flight,
depending on the company and the situation (many companies have you
couriering a shipment both ways). If the company doesn't need you to
escort a package home, sometimes you can change the return date on
your ticket. You're responsible for your expenses at the destination
(e.g., food, hotel), so you'll probably want to learn the ins and outs
of staying in youth hostels. Since only one courier is needed for a
route, you'll be traveling alone. If you want to travel with a friend,
don't courier. You must be at least 21 years of age, have a valid
passport, and be somewhat levelheaded. It helps if you have a sense of
You will most likely be flying on a major carrier. In the US, most
courier companies are located in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami,
New York, and San Francisco. There are also courier companies based in
England, various major european cities, the far east, Australia,
Argentina, Singapore, Honk Kong, Tapei, Japan, South America, Canada
(Toronto, Montreal), and so on. Courier travel between destinations in
the US is much less common these days, as US domestic airline package
delivery services have improved enough to no longer make couriering
cost effective. (For example, shipping a package from Pittsburgh to LA
with same-day delivery on an airline costs around $50.) So most
courier travel is between the US and an overseas destination. If
you're not located in a city that has courier companies, you'll be
responsible for your transportation to that city.
It is much easier to find a trip by visiting their offices in person
than by mail or over the phone. If you don't live near one of the cities
from which most couriers depart, it probably isn't for you.
There are risks involved, so be sure to use a reputable courier
company and get references. Horror stories include stranded
passengers, couriered luggage that contained contraband, and so on.
Also beware of fly-by-night outfits that advertise cheap fares and
then disappear with your money. If you haven't traveled by courier
before, be very careful.
The likelihood of finding a courier company that needs a package
escorted to your favorite destination on the day of your choice is
next to nil. Courier travel just isn't well-suited for planned
vacations. Likewise, if you have commitments or other obligations
(e.g., making a connection for your return flight home, getting back
to school on time), don't count on meeting them. Some people have
smooth trips, others don't. If you're just after cheap international
airfare, you're probably better off going to a bucket shop. The
savings just aren't enough to make the hassles worthwhile. But if
you're very flexible about when you want to travel and can leave on a
moment's notice, or you don't care where you go, so long as you go
somewhere soon, then couriering is a great way to see the world a bit
at a time.
Some books about flying as a courier include:
o The Air Courier's Handbook, $9.95
Big City Books, PO Box 19667, Sacramento, CA 95819
o The Courier Air Travel Handbook, 1993, $7.95.
Mark I. Field, Thunderbird Press, 5930-10 W. Greenway Road,
Suite 112B Glendale, Arizona 85306 USA
o A Simple Guide to Courier Travel, $15.95
Guide Books, PO Box 2394, Lake Oswego, OR 97035
o The Insiders Guide To Air Courier Bargains
1-800-356-9315. $14.95 + $2 p&h.
Inwood Training Publications, Box 438, New York, NY 10034.
o The Air Courier Guide Handbook, 5.99 pounds sterling
John Walker Books, 160 Cromwell Road, LONDON SW5 0TL
o Directory of Freelance On Board Couriers, $9.95 Canadian.
The Inside Track Travel Group, British Columbia, 604-684-6715.
o Travel Unlimited, $25/year, 12 issues (8 pages each issue)
Attn: Steve Lantos, PO Box 1058, Allston, MA 02134-1058
o International Association of Air Travel Couriers
$35 registration fee, gets you six copies of the Shoestring
Traveler newsletter and six issues of the Air Courier Bulletin
Run by Bill Bates.
International Association of Air Travel Couriers
PO Box 1349
Lake Worth, FL 33460
(Street address is 8 South "J" Street, Suite 3, Lake Worth.)
Courier Agencies in New York:
Able Travel and Tours 212-779-8530
Air Facilities 718-712-0630
ACC 212-983-0855, 800-983-0856
Courier Network 212-691-9860
Courier Travel Service 516-763-6898, 516-374-2261 (fax)
Worldwide, but mainly to Europe. Some to Middle East, Asia, and
South/Central America. 1 week stays. No fee. Hours 09:30-17:00
Discount Travel International (DTI) 212-362-8113/3636
To Mexico, South America, Asia, and Eastern and Western Europe.
169 W. 81st Street, New York, NY 10024
East-West Express 516-561-2360
To Singapore, Asia, and Australia.
Halbart Express 718-656-8189/8279
New York to Europe only. or 718-995-7019
147-05 176th Street, Jamaica, NY 11434.
Jupiter Air 718-341-2095, 718-656-6050
New York to Hong Kong and Singapore.
Now Voyager, Inc. 212-431-1616
74 Varick Street, Suite #307, New York, NY 10013.
Europe. Call between 10:00-16:30 M-F, 12-4:30 Sa, recorded
message other times. Charges $50 registration fee.
Major cities in US, routed through NY. Payment via certified
check, money order, or credit cards (3% processing fee).
Tickets are on standby. FedEx's the tickets to your address.
You courier both ways.
Rush Courier 718-439-9043
World Courier 718-978-9400, 718-978-9552/9408
9am-noon only. Requires personal interview in New York.
Does not fly to Paris. Flies mostly to Europe and Mexico.
Courier Agencies in Miami:
A-1 International 305-594-1184
Air Facilities 305-477-8300
IMS Courier Service 305-771-7545
Line Haul Services 305-477-0651
To Latin America, Central and South America
Martillo Express 305-681-6979
Trans Air Systems 305-592-1771
To Central and South America
Travel Courier 718-738-9000
Courier Agencies in Chicago:
TNT Chicago 312-453-7300 (area code 708?)
To Mexico and London.
[doesn't seem to exist anymore?]
Courier Agencies in LA:
City Link 213-410-9063
[doesn't seem to exist anymore?]
Crossroads International 213-643-8600
[doesn't seem to exist anymore?]
IBC Pacific 310-607-0125, 415-697-5985
9am-4pm T-F. Asia, Australia.
Jupiter Air 310-670-5123
Flights to Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea (Seoul).
$200 deposit required for all flights. $35/year membership required .
Max stay 30 days, one-week minimum for Seoul. Reserve 2-3 months
Midnight Express 310-673-1100
Flies only to London.
Polo Express 310-410-6822
Flights to Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, and Bangkok.
No deposit, no fee. 2-week stay, except in Australia (3-weeks).
Reserve 6 weeks to 3 months in advance.
SOS Intl Courier 310-649-6640
Way to Go 213-466-1126/1166
6679 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles 90028
Flights to Far East (Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur,
Penang, and Singapore), with some flights to Mexico and London.
$75/year membership fee. San Francisco office 415-292-7801;
San Diego office 619-224-0252.
World Travel & Tours 213-384-1000
Courier Agencies in San Francisco:
Gateway Express 415-344-7833
111 Anza Blvd. #418 Burlingame, CA 94010
Jupiter Air 415-872-0845, 415-872-6506
Flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Manila.
Polo Express 415-742-9613
Flights to Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, and Bangkok.
No deposit, no fee. 2-week stay, except in Australia (3-weeks).
Reserve 6 weeks to 3 months in advance. For info send SASE to
Polo Express, 811 Grandview Dr., South San Francisco, CA 94080.
TNT San Fransisco 415-692-9600
Call afternoons only. Hong Kong.
UTL Travel 415-583-5074
Flights to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Manila.
Way To Go 415-292-7801
Asia, London, Mexico
Line Haul Express (0973)-258-700
Air Facility (1)-3220-7720
F.B. On Board Couriers (Montreal) 514-633-0740/0951
Courier travle to London, England. Call 9am-Noon EST for info.
Located in Montreal but also serves Toronto.
F.B. On Board Couriers (Toronto) 416-675-1820
F.B. On Board Couriers (Vancouver) 604-278-1266
Courier travel to Hong Kong from Vancouver.
Jet Services 514-331-7470
Line Haul +49 69 69793260
Located in Frankfurt/Main. Flights to Hong Kong, Sydney, and possibly
Bridges Worldwide (03)-305-1413
London, Sydney, US, Asia
Great Bird Courier (03)-332-1311
Honolulu, Tokyo, Taipei
Intl Courier Travel (03)-718-1332
Jupiter Air (05)-735-1886, (05)-735-1946
Asia, US, Sydney
Line Haul Express (03)-735-2167, (03)-735-2163
London, Asia, Vancouver
Polo Express (03)-303-1286, (03)-303-1287
Asia, LA, Sydney
Courier Travel Service (0181)-844-2626, (0171)-351-0300
F.B. On Board Courier (0175)-368-0280
Line Haul Express (0181)-759-5969
Paris: To New York
Halbart Express (01)-45873230
Jet Services (01)-48626222
Rio de Janiero:
Air Facility (021)-252-9597
Jupiter Air (02)-655-6024
Courier Travel Service (02)-698-3753
Intl Courier Travel (02)-317-3193
Jupiter Air (02)-317-2113, (02)-317-2230
London, Asia, Auckland
Polo Express (02)-693-5866
Los Angeles, Auckland
Jupiter Air (02)-551-2198
Line Haul Express (02)-731-5367
Line Haul Express (03)-376-98354
Subject: [2-5] Travel Agencies that Specialize in Students
Council Charter (run by the CIEE) 800-800-8222.
International Student Exchange Flights 602-951-1177. Call toll free
800-255-7000 for US domestic flights, 800-255-8000 for international flights.
Subject: [2-6] Visit USA
Several airlines have a program called "Visit USA" (VUSA) which allows
foreign nationals or US citizens who reside abroad to purchase tickets
that have unlimited standby travel within the US during their stay.
The tickets must be purchased abroad (usually in conjunction with an
international roundtrip ticket) and residents of Canada and
Mexico are ineligible. (Some of the programs are also not available to
people living in the Carribean.) Other airlines with this program include
United Airlines, Northwest, and Delta. Delta's program is called
The pass is actually a set of coupons, with each coupon being good for
a sector. You must purchase at least N coupons, where N depends on the
airline. For United, the minimum is three coupons. There may also be a
maximum number of coupons. On United the price is about $90/sector if
you purchase the minimum number of coupons, and falls to $60/sector if
you purchase 10 coupons. There is also a two-tier pricing scheme
depending on whether the Visit USA pass is issued by the same airline
you used to travel to the US. The difference is about $15/sector.
Prices and programs may differ on other airlines. For example, Delta
Airpass gives 30 days unlimited travel for about $500 (60 days $800).
No rerouting or refunds are allowed. (Some airlines will refund a
completely unused pass -- ask when you buy it -- but none will refund
a Visit USA pass after the first flight segment has been flown.) You
must make confirmed reservations for the first sector. There is a
charge for changing the date on the first sector flight. Travel must
start within 30 days and must be completed withing 120 days of entry
into the US (for travel on United; other airlines may have different
policies). Open jaw travel is permitted. You may be limited to one
trans-continental direct flight per Visit USA pass, depending on the
Council Travel has been known to sell Visit USA tickets on USAir
without any restrictions at all -- you don't have to be a foreign
resident or national, and you don't have to be a student. Many travel
agents outside the US don't check whether you reside outside the US,
so you can buy the Visit USA coupons even if you are a US citizen.
They won't, however, send the tickets overseas; you have to be
physically present to pick up the tickets.
Many foreign carriers offer similar programs in conjunction with the
purchase of an international round-trip ticket. The following should
give you an idea of the range of programs; call your airline and check
if they have similar programs (you may have to ask for the tour desk).
Air France (France Pass). The pass gets you unlimited flights
within France, but must be used during a single week for off-peak
Alitalia (Visit Italy). Each voucher lets you fly two one-way
segments within Italy for $100. A great deal, considering that a
Rome-Milan coach roundtrip ticket costs more than three times as much.
Aloha Airlines (AlohaPass Commuter). The pass provides unlimited
interisland travel on Aloha Airlines and Aloha IslandAir for one
month. Reservations are guaranteed when booked 48 hours before departure.
Includes other minor perks, such as bonuses in the frequent flyer
program and some free first class upgrades.
British Airways (UK Air Pass/Visit UK). Flight segments cost around
$80, with a 3-segment minimum. Destinations and travel dates
must be booked seven days in advance, and the dates cannot be changed.
Hawaiian Airlines (Commuter Airpass). The pass provides unlimited
interisland travel for one month. Reservations are guaranteed when
booked 24 hours before departure. Includes other minor perks, such
as a free one-day car rental, bonuses in the frequent flyer
program, and some free first class upgrades.
SAS (Visit Scandinavia). Each coupon costs $80 and covers one
flight segment within Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. 6 coupon maximum.
Thai Airways (Discover Thailand). Each pass costs $239 and covers
four flight segments within Thailand.
Varig, VASP, and Transbrasil (Visit Brazil). The pass is a very
good deal for travelers who are flying from one end of Brazil to
the other, but not as good if you're just flying between Sao Paulo
and Rio De Janiero.
[Yes, yes, I know Hawaii is part of the United States.]
When buying one of these passes, always compare the cost with the
prices of basic excursion fares. Sometimes the excursion fares are
Subject: [2-7] Free Upgrades to First Class
The main method of getting first class seating without paying the
exorbitant fares is to belong to a frequent flyer program like TWA's
program, where gold and silver members get unlimited free upgrades to
first class on a space available basis. Some airlines, like USAir,
sell booklets of upgrade certificates, at an average cost of $15 per
certificate. Of course, with both programs, you won't always be able
to get first class seating.
The other method is to fly on an overbooked flight where first class
is underbooked. If you have a confirmed reservation, the airline will
usually prefer to upgrade your ticket over bumping you.
Even though American gold upgrade stickers have an expiration date,
American ticket agents rarely turn someone down because they tried to
use expired upgrade stickers. The same goes for similar programs at
other airlines. (It doesn't hurt to try.)
Wearing business attire probably helps your chances of getting a free
upgrade. Upgrades are often at the discretion of the gate agent. If
you look like a businessman, you'll get treated better. So try
wearing a suit the next time you ask. On the other hand, if you look
like bum, you probably won't get the upgrade, if for no other reason
than to not degrade the appearance of first class.
Subject: [2-8] Companion Tickets
Many airlines are now offering free or cheap companion tickets.
Northwest currently has certificates which will allow a companion to
fly at a reduced price ($199 round trip between the east and west coast,
cheaper between shorter hauls). Travel must be completed by 1/15/94,
Saturday night stay is required, and there are a lot of holiday period
blackout dates. Companion earns frequent flier miles.
Continental offers a deal to their One pass members where for $50
you can get a package which includes 5000 miles and a $99 RT companion
ticket certificate. There may be some blackout dates on the certificate,
but I was able to use this around Christmas time. Companion earns
frquent flier miles.
TWA is currently offering promotions by which it is possible to fly with
them and get a free companion ticket certificate valid some months in 1994.
Subject: [2-9] Avoiding Travel Scams
When planning a trip, here are some tips for avoiding travel scams.
+ Beware of unsolicited travel opportunities.
+ There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. If a travel
opportunity sounds like a "great deal", it probably isn't.
Either they'll take your money and run, or there are hidden
charges. For example, many so-called "free vacations" or
"vacation giveaways" require you to stay at a specific hotel --
at exorbitant rates.
+ Beware of extremely low-priced offers, unsolicited offers
involving Florida or Hawaii, and opportunities that try to pressure
you into buying on the spot.
+ If you're elderly, be especially careful. Scam artists will try
to confuse and manipulate you.
+ Ask detailed questions (e.g., what is covered by the price and
what isn't, whether there are any additional charges, the names
of the hotels, airlines, airports, and restaurants, exact dates
and times, cancellation policies, and refund policies), and get
it all in writing before you buy anything.
+ Never give personal information, including credit card numbers,
social security numbers, bank account numbers, or similar
information to an unsolicited telephone salesperson. If you
must, ask for a telephone number and call them back the next day,
after you've had time to check them out. Call the Better
Business Bureau and use the telephone number to verify if
they're a legitimate business, and if so, whether there have
been any complaints. You can also check out the company with the
state attorney general's office and the local consumer
+ Pay for purchases with a credit card, never with a check or
money order. When you pay for purchases with a credit card,
you're protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act against
+ Never give out your frequent flyer number over the phone, unless
you initiated the call.
+ Don't assume that just because a company places advertisements
in a newspaper or has a toll-free 800 number, it must be safe. It
takes time for a company to generate enough complaints for a Federal
Trade Commission to start an investigation. Moreover, not all
800 numbers are toll-free these days, and its possible for an
individual to get their own toll-free number.
+ Do not give your tickets to anyone other than an agent of the
airline at the ticketing/check-in counter, the gate, or the
airlines offices. A common scam is for someone wearing a uniform
similar to that of the airline to provide some excuse for taking
your tickets (e.g., claiming there is a problem with the tickets).
If you're not sure that someone is an airline employee, check
their ID with the airline.
+ If you've encountered a problem, or are suspicious of an offer,
call the National Fraud Information Center, a hotline operated
by the National Consumers League. The number is 800-876-7060 and
can be reached from 9 to 5 EDT during the week. You can also
call the local Better Business Bureau, the State Bureau of Consumer
Protection, and the Attorney General's Office.
A good booklet to read is "Telemarketing Travel Fraud", a free
publication of the Federal Trade Commission. Call 202-326-2222 for a
copy, or write to Federal Trade Commission, Public Reference Branch,
Room 130, Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580.
Subject: [2-10] Missed Connections
If you ever miss a connection because your plane was late and the
lines at the service desk are very long (e.g., everybody else on that
flight needs rebooking), call the airline's 800 number. Sometimes
they'll let you rebook because of a missed connection over the phone.
You may still have to pick up the flight coupon at the service desk
(though sometimes you'll be able to get it at the gate), but at least
you'll make the next flight. If you wait on the line, you may not make
the next flight if everybody in front of you is also waiting for the
next flight, or the next flight leaves in a few minutes.
Depending on the airline and the airport, you may be able to be
rebooked on a flight by going directly to the gate. Some airlines will
force you to go to the service desk. (For example, TWA in JFK requires
that all changes go through the service desk.)
If the flight you want to be rebooked on is "full", it may pay to
ask the agents whether upgrading to first class will make a
difference. It'll cost you, but it may save you from being stuck in
the airport for a few hours.
When buying a ticket with a connection, allow enough time to get from
one gate to the next at the connecting airport. The airline computers
have an estimate of the minimum time required to make a connection,
but this isn't always accurate, especially if the gates are at
opposite ends of the airport, or you're seated at the tail of the
plane. The connection times are based on the arriving and departing
airline, whether the flight is international or domestic, and other
factors such as the flight number. The most common connection time for
domestic flights is 45 minutes, which is the default minimum. Flights
on the same airline at adjacent gates, however, may have shorter
connection times. International flights will, of course, have greater
With the new on-time rules, airlines are reluctant to hold
flights for passengers coming from connecting flights that are late.
The connection times, of course, do not allow for late flights
(except insofar as there is a small built-in allowance for slight
variations in arrival).
If you're carrying your own baggage, have kids, walk slowly, or want
to take a pit stop at the bathroom, allow yourself extra time the
first time you fly a particular route. Ask your travel agent whether
there will be enough time for you to make the connection, and if they
think it's close, what other flights are available that leave the
connecting city a little later.
Subject: [2-11] Getting There Faster
On the flip side of the coin, airline reservation systems use a
minimum connection time of 45 minutes. They won't let you make a
reservation for a shorter connection time. You can get around this by
buying two separate pairs of round-trip tickets to/from the
connection, or by booking different legs on different airlines, but if
you happen to miss the connection, the airline is under no obligation
to rebook you on a later flight.
However, if you travel light enough that you can carry on all your
luggage, and you know the connecting airport, trimming the connection
time can get you to your destination faster. If you get to the
connecting airport on time or early, you might try going to the gate
of the earlier flight to your destination, and ask to be put on. If
the flight isn't full, they'll probably let you board.
Some travel agents and airline ticket agents will sell tickets that
have less than the "legal" connection time printed in the schedule,
but whether they'll let you do this depends very much on the agent.
Subject: [2-12] Airports Monopolized by One Carrier
If you live in a hub city, where the airport is monopolized by a
single carrier, you can usually get nonstop service to most
destinations. Unfortunately, you'll probably also be paying
exorbitant prices for that service. Airlines only provide good prices
for competitive markets -- those serviced by multiple carriers. If
they are the main carrier in a given market, they keep the prices
high, and will even (arrogantly) refuse to match prices with other
The other national carriers might have one or two gates at this
airport. If so, you may find them offering cheaper fares than the
monopoly carrier. There is, however, one drawback to this. Since your
airport isn't one of their hubs, the flights they offer will almost
always involve first flying you to their closest hub, and getting a
connection there -- even if their hub is in the opposite direction
from your destination. On the other hand, if their hub is your
ultimate destination, then you're in luck.
There is another workaround to dealing with a hub carrier. If there's
another major airport within an hour or two drive from your home, you
could fly out from there. (The same thing is true of using frequent
flyer certificates for free travel. If there's no seats available on
the days you're interested in from your local airport, try another
airport nearby. Also, sometimes regular air fares may be cheaper out
of an airport in a different city. If driving 100 miles saves you
$300, isn't it worth the bother?)
Subject: [2-13] Hub Cities
Try to avoid hub cities. For example, since USAir's hub is
Pittsburgh, they have a virtual monopoly on flights to PGH, so if
you're so unlucky as to be flying to Pittsburgh, the rates are not cheap.
Occasionally you may be able to take a flight which makes a stop or
connection at Pittsburgh, and walk off the plane in Pittsburgh (i.e.,
a ticket from Boston to Cleveland on a plane which makes a stop in
Pittsburgh might be cheaper than a ticket from Boston to Pittsburgh on
the same plane). This only works when you can carry on all of your
baggage. Or if your connecting flight is more than two hours after
your flight arrives or on a different plane, you can usually arrange
to claim your baggage at the hub and recheck it yourself. (See also
[1-20] Hidden City Fares.)
Several airlines are currently being investigated by the Justice
Department for anti-trust violations based on their dominating the
airports at their hubs.
Here's a list of airline hub cities. I've asterisked those
that I'm sure are monopolized by that airline. # indicates the main
hub of the airline.
Alaska Airlines (AS): Anchorage (ANC)#, SEA
America West (HP): Phoenix (PHX)#, Las Vega$ (LAS), Columbus OH (CMH)
American Airlines (AA): Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW)#, Raleigh/Durham (RDU)*,
SJC*, SJU, ORD, BNA,
Continental Airlines (CO): Newark (EWR)#, Cleveland (CLE)*, IAH, DEN, MSY
Delta Airlines (DL): Atlanta (ATL)*#, Salt Lake City (SLC)*, DFW, CVG, LAX,
JFK and FRA (Frankfurt, FRG), Orlando FL (MCO).
Midwest Express (YX): MKE
Northwest Airlines (NW): Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP)#, DTW*, Memphis (MEM)*,
Milwaukee (MKE)*, BOS, NRT (Tokyo Narita).
Southwest Airlines (WN): Chicago (MDW), St. Louis (STL), Dallas Love (DAL),
Houston Hobby (HOU), PHX, ABQ
TWA (TW): St. Louis (STL)*#, New York (JFK), Paris (ORY or CDG)
USAir (US): Pittsburgh (PIT)*#, Philadelphia (PHL), Charlotte (CLT)*,
Baltimore (BWI)*, LAX, SFO, SYR, IND
United Airlines (UA): Chicago#, DEN, Washington Dulles (IAD), SEA, SFO,
Raleigh, Tokyo, LHR (London Heathrow)
Airport Abbreviations and Hubs:
ABQ Albuquerque, NM WN
ANC Anchorage, AK AS
ATL Atlanta, GA DL
BNA Nashville, TN AA
BOS Boston, MA NW
BWI Baltimore, MD US
CLE Cleveland, OH CO
CLT Charlotte, NC US
CMH Columbus, OH HP
CVG Cincinatti, OH DL
DAL Dallas (Love Field), TX WN
DEN Denver, CO UA
DFW Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX AA DL
DTW Detroit, MI NW
EWR Newark, NJ CO
HOU Houston (Hobby), TX WN
IAD Washington (Dulles), DC UA
IAH Houston (Intercontinental), TX CO
IND Indianapolis, IN US
JFK New York (Kennedy), NY TW DL
LAS Las Vega$ HP
LAX Los Angeles DL US
MEM Memphis, TN NW
MKE Milwaukee, WI NW YX
MSP Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN NW
MSY New Orleans, LA CO
ORD Chicago, IL AA UA
MCO Orlando, FL DL
PHL Philadelphia, PA US
PHX Phoenix, AZ HP WN
PIT Pittsburgh, PA US
RDU Raleigh/Durham, NC AA
SEA Seattle, WA AS UA
SFO San Francisco, CA UA US
SJC San Jose, CA AA
SJU San Juan, PR AA
SLC Salt Lake City, UT DL
STL St. Louis, MO TW
SYR Syracuse, NY US
AA American Airlines
AS Alaska Airlines
CO Continental Airlines
DL Delta Airlines
HP America West Airlines
TW Trans World Airlines
UA United Airlines
US U S Air
WN Southwest Airlines
YX Midwest Express
Subject: [2-14] Lost Baggage
The US domestic baggage liability limit is a maximum of $1,250.00 per
passenger. (The DOT is proposing to raise this limit to $1,850,
possibly $2,000, and maybe indexing it to the inflation rate.) Some
airlines may provide greater limits for checked/unchecked baggage.
For international flights, the baggage liability limit is
approximately $9.07 per pound ($20 per kilogram) for checked baggage
and $400 per passenger for unchecked baggage. A minimum waiting period
of one week is required before baggage can be declared lost. About 98%
of bags reported missing are returned to the owners.
When a bag is declared loss, you will have to submit paperwork to the
airline documenting the value of the bags and their contents. You may
not necessarily get full value for all the lost items. Reimbursement
will come 2-6 weeks later.
Airlines will not reimburse for currency, photographic or electronic
equipment (e.g., cameras, stereos, VCRs, camcorders, CD players,
telephones, etc.), rare and expensive jewelry or artistic works, or
medication, unless prior arrangements were made (e.g., excess
valuation insurance was purchased). Some credit cards will cover these
items if the tickets were purchased with the card.
Most lost baggage doesn't disappear to the same black hole that eats
socks from your laundry, but eventually makes its way to regional
warehouses owned by the airlines. If the airline can't identify the
owner, they sell it at auction, just like the post office's lost
letter department does. Airlines keep all unclaimed baggage for three
months before selling it at auction. There are even stores that
specialize in buying the lost baggage, sorting the contents, and
selling the merchandise and clothing that's in good condition. The
Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, is one such store,
and a fun place to visit.
If your bags are damaged, the airline will either fix them, reimburse
you for the cost of repairs, give you new bags, or pay for the cost of
replacing them, depending on the amount of damage. You must report any
damage within 7 days. If your bags are damaged before you check them,
the airlines will ask you to sign a damage waiver at check in, which
states the nature of the damage and exempts the airline for that
damage. Otherwise, if the bags arrive damaged and the airline didn't
have you sign a waiver, the airline is fully liable for the condition
of the bags. Normal wear and tear, of course, is not subject to a
damage claim. Carry-on bags are not subject to damage claims, except
in clear cases of airline negligence (e.g., flight attendant moves
your bags, damaging them).
Subject: [2-15] Baggage Limits
Checked baggage weight/size/number limits vary depending on the
airline, the class of fare, and the country of origin. For US domestic
flights, one is typically limited to 2 pieces of checked baggage
(excluding luggage carriers), each of which has a total length + width
+ height less than 62" (or 72") and weighs less than 70 pounds (32
kg). For domestic travel within a foreign country, however, the limit
is by weight, not piece count, usually 20kg.
For international travel the weight limits for couch, business class,
and first class are 20kg, 30kg, and 40kg, respectively. But if the
fare is for travel to or from North America, the baggage limit is that
of the entire journey, even if one leg would normally have a lower
limit. So for international travel from the USA, for example, coach
passengers would be limited to 2 bags (piece rule) and not just 20kg
(weight rule). The key here is that the fare is a 'through fare'. If
you switch airlines instead of taking a direct flight, you may be
subject to a lower baggage limit for that portion of your journey. If
this matters to you, make sure either that you are ticketed as a
through fare, or that the tickets are endorsed to permit the higher
piece rule baggage limits (e.g., "2 pieces allowed with trans-Atlantic
Unchecked carry-on baggage is usually limited to 2 bags, which must
fit under the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartment.
Purses, cameras, coats, and similar items are usually excluded from
the limit. Garment bags are also often excluded, especially for first
class customers. Sometimes the limit will be reduced to 1 bag,
especially on very full flights. Oversize articles (e.g., skis,
bicycles, moose heads) must be checked.
For US domestic flights, the official size for carry-on bags is 21" x 14"
x 9", and 2 bags is the usual limit. If the flight isn't full, you can
usually get away with slightly bigger bags. If they see you struggling
with your bags, or you're carrying far too many bags, or you ask if
your bag is ok, they'll probably ask you to check the bag at the gate.
Purses usually don't count towards the number of bags limit (depends
on the purse of course -- there are some mammoth purses out there). If
you're carrying non-checkable items (e.g., computers or electronics),
they'll probably let you carry them on. If your bag is extremely
heavy, DO NOT put it in the overhead bin -- the latches aren't very
strong, and having a 40 pound bag fall on your head during a flight
If you do have excess baggage, it is cheaper to pay the excess baggage
charges than to ship it by air freight. (This is why courier travel
exists -- it is often cheaper for a company to pay for an airline
ticket than it is for them to pay freight charges.) Rates airlines
charge for excess baggage vary considerably, so it pays to call around
before purchasing a ticket. For international travel the charge is
typically 1% of the first class fare per kilogram.
Baggage limit rules are enforced very unevenly, particularly on
flights which aren't very full.
Most aircraft have room for onboard storage of one folding wheelchair.
If the wheelchair is checked, the airline is responsible for
reassembling it if necessary.
Subject: [2-16] Pets
If you are travelling with a dog or cat, you must say so when you
make your reservation. All airlines will allow at most one dog in the
presurized portion of the cabin (to prevent barking fights). The dog
must be in a travel cage which fits under the seat in front of you and
sedated. (If the dog is small, try to get a cage which fits under the
seat, so you can keep watch on the pet. Otherwise, the dog will travel
in the pet area of the baggage section, and you won't see the dog
until the flight is over. The pet area is pressurized but may not be
heated/cooled. Get nonstop flights since the pet area can get pretty
hot while on the ground.) Cats can travel in a carrier that fits under
the seat in front of you. Only one cat per carrier except for kittens.
Most airlines will allow at most three cats in the main cabin, with
sufficient number of rows separation. Some airlines will charge you
extra (~$50 each way) for a small dog or cat.
Many airlines require that the dog be given a tranquilizer supplied
by your vet. Most veterinarians no longer recommend sedating your
animals when transporting by air.
If you let your cat out of its carrier, be sure to watch it
carefully. Most cats tend to run when in an unfamiliar place.
In the US, service animals travel free of charge on all airlines and
can accompany their master in the main aircraft cabin. Service animals
include guide dogs for the blind, signal dogs for the deaf, and
assistance dogs for the mobility impaired, among other animals. Proof
of disability may be required (i.e., attaching a harness to your dog
won't get the animal on for free). Canadian provinces have similar laws
for service animals. If traveling to a foreign country, be sure to
check the local regulations, as some countries restrict the travel of
animals and do not make a special exemption for service animals.
America West and Southwest do not take pets, with the exception of
service animals. AA, UA and US all take dogs. US charges $30. AA and
UA charge $50. (Small dogs.) United charges $50 per carrier for cats
in the pet area, $30 for cats as underseat baggage.
All carriers require a recent (10 days old or less) veterinary
certificate of health, but rarely look at it.
All airlines embargo pets if the outside temperature is in the
90's (or perhaps even 80's). AA won't carry a pet if the temperature
is less than 45F (enforcement of this rule is uneven). UA says they
won't handle pets when it is -10F. US says they always handle pets
except on certain commuter flights.
US allows you to bring your pet out to the gate and have it
boarded just before you get on the plane. AA sometimes will, but
usually won't, allow this.
The following is what the airlines charge (1-way) for a pet which fits
under the seat in front of you, as of August 1, 1992.
$45 Delta, Northwest, USAir
$50 American, America West, Continental, TWA, United
You may want to consider using a boarding service instead of bringing
your pet with you. Many veterinarians provide this service for short
Subject: [2-17] Bicycles
Most airlines charge about $45 one way to ship a bike. If you belong
to the League of American Bicyclists ($25 annual membership fee for
individuals, $30 for families, call 1-800-288-BIKE (1-800-288-2453)
for info), you can get free bike passes on America West, Northwest,
TWA, and USAir if you book your tickets through the Sports National
Reservation Center, the LAB's travel agency. [LAB formerly known as
League of American Wheelmen.] Some folks report that you don't have to
use the LAB's travel agency; call your airline to check.
Bikes fly free on Northwest if you're a member of an Adventure Cycling
Subject: [2-18] Restrictions on Electronics
The navigation equipment on most airplanes is unshielded, and hence
subject to interference from electronic devices such as radios or
personal computers. The latest FAA advisory leaves it up to the
airlines to set their own rules, but prohibits the use of cellular
phones during taxi before takeoff and during takeoff itself. Many
prohibit the use of certain types of equipment belowt's probably best to keep them clear of *both*
the metal detector and X-ray machine, just in case.
Do not rest your film or notebook on top of the x-ray machine -- they
aren't as well shielded as they could, especially on top. The
electrical transformers in X-ray machines, if not properly shielded,
can harm magnetic media.
Unless you rub your wallet along the coils of the metal detector, and
the field strength is set very high, walking through is unlikely to
wipe the magnetic strip on your credit cards.
Subject: [2-20] Packing Tips/Checklist
Checklist of things to bring with you:
[ ] Fanny Pack or Money Belt
[ ] Small Screwdrivers
[ ] Swiss Army Knife (one with scissors), Can Opener, Flashlight
Pocket knives should have blades no longer than three inches.
[ ] Camera, Batteries, Film (especially for overseas travel)
[ ] Business Cards
[ ] Sewing Kit, Safety Pins, Shoelaces
[ ] Bandages, Sun Block, Lotion, Insect Repellent, Cough Drops,
Decongestants, Aspirin, Lip Balm
[ ] Toilet Paper (especially if traveling in some parts of eastern
Europe, Asia, and the third world)
[ ] Shaving equipment, Mirror, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Soap, Shampoo,
Towel, Tampons, Dental Floss, Nail Clippers, Comb/Brush
[ ] Plastic Baggies (Ziploc), Duct Tape, Scoth Tape, Rubber Bands,
Small Box, Nylon Cord
[ ] Medication should be carried in the original bottle. Bring a
copy of your prescription, if possible. If the medicine
contains narcotics or other controlled substances, carry a
letter from your doctor certifying your need for them.
[ ] Washcloths
[ ] Umbrella/Raincoat
[ ] Alarm Clock/Watch, Earplugs, Night Shades
[ ] Padlock & Coated Wire, Compass, Binoculars
[ ] Extra small change. A roll of dimes in the US; a pocketful of coins
overseas. (Public restrooms in Europe are often coin-operated.)
[ ] Small tape recorder or pad of paper and pens, for notes/journal.
[ ] Empty backpack or duffel bag. A canvas bookbag may also be useful.
[ ] For wet climates, don't take cotton clothes, which get soggy
and don't insulate as well when wet.
[ ] Clean clothes
[ ] Documents: Passport, visas, tourist cards (for Mexico and
certain South American countries), money, driver`s license,
credit cards, travelers checks, credit cards, international
certificates of vaccination (the so-called "yellow card"), and
Bring photocopies and keep them separate from the originals,
plus a few photographs if you lose your passport. Leave a
second copy at home with family or friends.
Pack liquids in plastic bottles and then double wrap in a zip-lock
The following items should be included in your carry-on and not in
your checked luggage:
[ ] A change of clothing.
[ ] Prescriptions.
[ ] Passport, visa, and other important travel documents.
[ ] Basic toiletries.
[ ] Valuables, including jewelry and cash, and any fragile items.
If going on an extended trip, cut your hair and go to the dentist
before departing. Don't forget about rent, bills, taxes, and so on,
and let a friend know where you'll be.