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FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 4/4 [Monthly posting]
Section - [4-11] Miscellaneous Notes

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   The largest travel agency in the US is American Express. They bought
Thomas Cook Travel in September 1994, making them larger than Carlson
Travel Network.

   Keep in mind that travel agents, ticket agents, and gate attendants
are people, and if you're nice to them, they may be able to bend the
rules.  Be honest and tell them what you're trying to do, and they
will often be nice to you in turn. The same thing goes with airport
staff and flight attendants -- ask for help, don't demand it.

For travel within the US, you might want to get the LDDS-Metromedia
calling card provided by the American Travel Network and Hospitality
Services Group. LDDS-Metromedia is the 4th largest long telephone
distance company in the US. The LDDS-Metromedia card charges a flat
rate of 17.5 cents per minute for interstate calls with no surcharge,
regardless of the time of day. Most other calling cards add a
surcharge to the first minute and charge higher rates at peak times
during the day. The Metromedia card is free, has no monthly minimums,
billing fees, or other hidden costs. In-state rates are higher, as are
international calls, but those rates are still competitive. You do not
need to change your home or business carrier to get the card. For more
information, call 1-800-477-9692, fax 1-716-886-6569, or send email
to hsg@ypn.com.

   Unpaid reservations are often cancelled by the airline 24 or 48
hours in advance of the flight, just after midnight. So if you want to
book a flight that is already full (e.g., changing your return flight
in the middle of the holiday season, getting a reservation for your
frequent flyer ticket), try calling the airline reservation number at
12:30 am. Note that the time zone matters here -- you have to call
after midnight in *their* time zone. This trick won't always work,
since the flight in question might have no cancellations.  If it
works, you'll have to pay for the ticket by credit card, or, if trying
to change your flight, have all the flight information in front of you
(including your ticket) and pay for the change by credit card. After
midnight is also the best time to get the seat assignments you prefer.

   When giving your name to your travel agent, be sure to spell it the
same way as on you passport.  Many airline reservation systems don't
allow name changes on a reservation, so if you don't get it right the
first time, the agent may be forced to cancel and reissue the
reservation. If space on that flight is tight, they may not be able to
reissue the reservation under a different name. (Airlines do this to
prevent agents from using dummy names to lock in reservations for
cheap fares and changing the names later when they have a real person
to sell the ticket to.) For US domestic flights this isn't as much of a
problem, but when traveling overseas, they like the name on the ticket
to match the name on the passport.

   Non-refundable, non-changeable, non-transferable tickets are
the default; you might have to pay more to have a transferable ticket.
But then you might be able to sell half your ticket, and thereby
recoup some of your costs. (This only works on US domestic flights, where
you don't need to show a passport.)

As a general rule, ALWAYS check your tickets upon receipt. If there's
an error and you don't point this out promptly, you may be stuck with
it. On the other hand, if the error isn't yours, and you paid for the
tickets by credit card, you can usually contest the charge through
your bank.

Record a list of your credit card numbers and the toll-free bank
telephone numbers, and keep it in a safe place at home.  This will
help you if your cards are lost or stolen during your trip.  You
should also carry a copy with you (to let you notify the banks as soon
as you find the cards are missing), but don't keep it in the same
wallet as your credit cards.

Confirm your flights one or two days before departure. It is also wise
to call the day of your flight to verify the departure time -- you
don't want to arrive at the airport only to discover that the
departure was moved up by an hour. Arrive at the airport at least an
hour before departure for domestic flights, two hours for
international and charter flights.

Keep receipts for any items you purchase while abroad. If you bring
foreign-made valuables with you on a trip abroad (e.g., jewelry,
photographic equipment, etc.), bring photocopies of the receipts or
other proof of ownership with you. You don't want to have to pay a
duty on stuff you brought with you.

If your flight is delayed, call your hotel to let them know you'll be
late so that they'll hold the room for you.

   Bargain seats are almost always limited, so start looking
early and be flexible with your times and dates.

   January, February, September and October are the slack travel
months; ticket prices will be cheapest around then.

   Because of the way airlines price tickets, it is sometimes cheaper
to buy a ticket from point A to point C making a mid-trip stop in
point B (i.e., two tickets A-to-B and B-to-C) than it is to buy a
ticket direct from point A to point B. Note, however, that if you do
this your luggage should be carryons, since the airline usually checks
the luggage direct to the ultimate destination. Also, some airlines
will cancel your entire ticket if you skip one leg of the trip. (For
instance, if you discard the B-to-C part of a round-trip ticket from A
to C through B, you may find the tickets for your return flight
cancelled by the airline.)

   Reconfirm your flights 2 days (48 hours) in advance for US domestic
trips, 3 days in advance for international travel. Flight schedules
are subject to change without notice, and you don't want to get caught
15 minutes for a flight that was moved up by half an hour. I've found
USAir to be very good about calling me to let me know about schedule
changes on tickets bought through their Ticket By Mail program.

   Some non-refundable tickets can be changed by paying a fee,
typically $35. But you cannot change the departure, only the return
flight. The change must also conform to the rules under which the
ticket was purchased, or you'll have to pay the difference in fares.
Changes are also limited to the same class of service as originally
purchased. 

Many gold cards (Visa, Mastercard, Discover) automatically provide
some form of insurance. Check if your homeowner's or renter's
insurance covers your belongings even when they aren't at home. Make
sure you're covered in case of loss or theft while traveling.

When talking to customs and immigration officials, answer all
questions directly and do not volunteer information. Have all your
travel documents ready before they ask for them.  Keep receipts for
any purchases in an accessible location in case they ask for them. Be
sure to be clean and neat; an untidy appearance will arouse
suspicion.

If VAT (Value Added Tax) was added to your bill, ask the vendor for a
refund application. You may be able to avoid the VAT by having the
items shipped home. Address the package yourself, and ask for a
shipping receipt (bill of lading).

In addition to attaching a luggage tag to the outside of your luggage,
tape your name and address to the inside of the luggage. You may want
to tie a brightly colored piece of string or tape to the handle, to
make it easier to identify your bag. But remember, others may have the
same idea, so always check your tags to make sure you have the correct
bag. 

   Most airlines have a rule requiring you to show up AT THE GATE 15
or 20 minutes before flight time, or they will release your seat.
That's 20 minutes according to the watch of the gate agent -- give
yourself 10 minutes to spare. If you have your ticket and you're late
(e.g., 30 minutes or less to flight time, and there are long lines at
the main ticket counter), go directly to the gate. Baggage can always
be checked at the gate. But if your ticket needs changes or has to be
picked up, you can't go directly to the gate. If your flight is
leaving very soon and there's a long line, ask the people ahead of you
if you can cut in front of them (explaining why). Most people will let
you.

   Airports notorious for heavy traffic and air-traffic-control
snafus: Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, Logan Airport in Boston, O'Hare
in Chicago, Stapleton in Denver, JFK in New York, and San Francisco
International.  All are also among the busiest airports in terms of
passenger traffic. Other busiest airports include Dallas Fort Worth,
London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Atlanta Hartsfield, Tokyo Haneda,
Frankfurt Main, Miami, Paris CDG, Newark, Hong Kong, and Detroit Metro. 

   Among the busiest routes in the US (and hence the most competitive)
are: New York to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, Los
Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, San Juan, and Washington; Los
Angeles to Honolulu, Las Vegas, Oakland, Phoenix, and San Francisco;
Chicago to Detroit; Boston to Washington; and Dallas Fort Worth to
Houston. The busiest international routes out of the US are: New York
to London and Toronto, and Chicago to Toronto.

   If you don't like delays, fly earlier in the day. A flight that
leaves early in the morning (before 8 am) often uses an airplane that
was at the airport the previous night, and so is already prepped and
ready to go. A flight that leaves in the afternoon uses an airplane
that started its day in another city, and hence is more likely to
suffer from delays (especially if it was delayed on one of its
previous flight segments). 

Reward for Crime Tips: The Travel Industry Association of America and
Crime Stoppers International will pay cash rewards of up to $1,000 for
anonymous tips about crimes against travelers (including US and
foreign citizens on business and pleasure trips). To make a report,
call 1-800-474-8477.
     
If there's a promotion on airline A, you prefer to fly on airline B
(e.g., you're a frequent flyer on airline B), but airline B doesn't
have a similar promotion, you might be able to negotiate with airline B.
Try calling up airline B, state the terms of airline A's offer, and
say that if they match it, you'll buy the tickets right then and
there, otherwise you're going with airline A. This will sometimes work
quite well.

Car Rental Agencies, National Numbers:
   Avis            800-331-1212
   Budget          800-527-0700
   Dollar          800-421-6868
   Hertz           800-654-3131
   National        800-328-4567

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Top Document: FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 4/4 [Monthly posting]
Previous Document: [4-10] Airline Antitrust Litigation
Next Document: [4-12] World-Wide Web (WWW) Resources

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM