Archive for the Category »Airline policies «

  Travel Tip Tuesday: Travelers Spent More Than $2.5 Billion in Baggage Fees in Less Than a Year…


That $2.5 billion is airlines’ profit from baggage fees in the first three quarters of 2013, so we travelers actually spent more, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The airlines say increased fuel prices warrant the higher fees… yet an analysis  by the Detroit Free Press reports airlines spend only $2 in jet fuel per bag. I am sure some of the fee goes to labor to handle bags, but even if that is another $5, the airlines are just upcharging us.

So how can we travel smarter? How can we avoid shelling out the $25 for a checked bag, or even more for luggage that is overweight?

It takes planning.

1) Before you book your ticket find out the weight requirements and luggage policies for your potential airline. Fees may increase the price of your trip by hundreds of dollars if you are traveling with a family. Seek out airlines that don’t charge (For example Southwest as of now.)

Once you find the fare to fit your budget, make sure you refer to the policies when it comes time to pack.

A great downloadable guide to airlines’ carry on and checked luggage rules can be found at Remember – sometimes policies for international flights are different than domestic.

Luggage Scale from

Luggage Scale from

2) Invest in a cheap luggage scale to weigh your bags at home so you can reshuffle or remove items before you get to the airport. They are generally hand held and clip on your bag. Here is a review of good small scales that are around $20-40 in range //




3) Pay attention not only to the WEIGHT of your bag, but the MEASUREMENT requirements too. I recently flew Spirit and they strongly emphasized only certain dimensions would be allowed as carry on – I measured my bags with a  tape measure before hand to make sure.

4) Become a member in an airline loyalty club or credit card. I don’t know many people who aren’t, but in case you didn’t know, you often get special luggage allowances.

5) You can always ship your luggage ahead…. I know people who swear by it, but I personally don’t need to add yet another step to my travel planning. And, it may not be worth it for only one bag.

6) Pack less. This may be the biggest hurdle of all for some!!!

  Travel Tip Tuesday: What the New FAA Rules on In-Flight Electronics Mean For You





Soon, within months, most airlines will allow you to read e-books, use tablets, and smartphones during take off and landing, as long as they are in “airplane” mode. This, due to the FAA loosening of the rules last week. Already Jet Blue and Delta are allowing electronic devices while taxing, and during take off and landing- Kudos to them – they worked fast  to show the FAA their planes won’t be affected by the use of electronics below 10,000 feet.

Other airlines besides Delta and Jet Blue will still have to demonstrate that use of electronics during take off and landing won’t interfere with each type of plane’s navigational equipment. Flight manuals, crew training and safety briefings also need to be brought up to date.

The electronic gadgets were previously banned during take off and landing out of  concern their signals interfere with avionics, but after in-depth research by a 28-member committee, the FAA concluded electronic use below 10,000 feet is OK.

Here’s what is still not allowed:

1) Use of cellphones calls throughout the flight  – (Amen!)

2) Use of laptops during take off and landing – they need to be stowed because their size may impede any emergency evacuation. Tablets and smaller gadgets don’t have to be stowed.

3) Possible use on foreign airlines – they follow the rules of their country’s aviation authority.

4) Internet connection below 10,000 feet. And, as I mentioned, you need to keep your gadgets in “airplane” mode.

For those of you unfamiliar with “airplane” mode, it disables your device’s signal transmitting functions …. It is also a good idea to keep it in airplane mode if you visit a foreign country so you don’t incur roaming charges.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 99% of adult  fliers carried at least one gadget with them on a flight last year. I would bet many of those who were parents traveling with children, that movie playing devices were popular.

The good news for parents is now the kids don’t have to turn off the movie early before landing – making it better for all passengers :)

TIP: If you are traveling with teens who are capable of downloading their own books or movies, remind them to do it BEFORE boarding the plane unless you are paying for WiFi, and even then they can’t access WiFi until 10,000 feet. That is something they might not think of. Yes, I am speaking from experience.

Reminder: Even though you can play your electronic games or read your e-books now during take-off, let’s still be respectful of the attendants doing their job and giving us safety instructions. Hopefully you will never need to use that floatation device or overhead mask, but it is still wise to know about them.



  Travel Tip Tuesday: Save $$ On Baggage Fees This Holiday Season


Let’s face it – as often as we try to travel with only carry on bags to avoid checked bag fees, the holidays make that a tough feat. Frequently we have to pack heavier clothes, and oh yeah – the gifts! (Remember – don’t wrap them!)

One way to avoid baggage fees : Consider becoming a cardholder of an airline-aligned credit card. If you already hold an airline credit card, brush up on your perks! Many of these cards allow one (or more) free checked bag to cardholders…. some even extend that benefit to travel companions.

Even though the cards usually come with annual fees, if you travel and check bags frequently, the card will pay for itself in saved baggage fees.

Here are some cards and baggage bonuses I researched  - but please double check before becoming a card holder!!

United Mileage Plus Explorer  - First bag checked free, and one companion on the reservation also gets a bag checked for free.  Upgrade to a United Club card and you and a companion get two bags checked for free.

Platinum Select American Airlines AAdvantage – first bag checked for free, plus FOUR people on the reservation get bags checked for free – fantastic savings for a family.

Delta Gold Sky Miles – Eureka! Not only do you get one bag checked for free, so do up to NINE people on your reservation. Sounds great, but… I don’t really know anyone who books nine people on one reservation, but heck, if you do – that’s a $450 savings round trip at $25 a checked bag.

The nation’s 15 largest carriers collected a combined $3.5 billion in bag fees in 2012, according to the Bureau of Transportation. Let’s beat them at their game.


  Does the Child Who Snuck On A Plane Make You Think Twice About Your Child Flying Alone?


If you heard the story of the 9 year old boy last week who snuck past the TSA and  airline ticketers to board a Delta plane from Minneapolis to Las Vegas without a boarding pass… you may think twice about sending your child on a plane alone. How did this kid get by two levels of authority to board a plane without even a ticket? Is anyone watching?

This boy was only nine, and believe it or not, airlines let kids as young as five fly as unaccompanied minors. The thought scares the heck out of me, but many families do it – to go see a divorced parent in another city… to go stay with grandparents for a while.. or even to go to summer camp.

Here’s what you need to know before you send your child on an airplane alone:



Airlines have programs for unaccompanied minors. There are no Department of Transportation regulations on this, and each airlines’ policy is different, so make sure you check with the carrier you are thinking about using.

For the most part, here are the guidelines to many airlines’ policies:

Age 5 and under: Can’t fly alone, period. (no brainer )

Age 5-7: Can fly alone only on domestic non-stop or direct flights, with unaccompanied minor status

Ages 8-11 (sometimes 8-14)  – Can fly alone on any domestic flight, with unaccompanied minor status

Ages 12-17 – Can fly alone on domestic flights, and unaccompanied minor status is not required, but can be requested by parents.

Ages 12-17 – Can fly alone on international flights, with unaccompanied minor status.

To request “unaccompanied minor” status, you need to call the airlines to book the flight. There is an extra charge of about $100 each way, depending on the airline. Unaccompanied minor status gets you things like a gate pass so you can walk your child through security to the airline departure gate, pre-boarding to the flight, and an escort service to bring your child on the plane, and take them to a second flight flight if there is a connection.

Another benefit of unaccompanied minor status  is if there are any cancellations or delays, your child won’t  be responsible for making new plans by himself.  Even though many airlines don’t require unaccompanied minor status at a certain age, parents can still, and should, request it and pay the fee for this reason alone.

Other things you  should know:

—When you do take your child to the airport, do not leave the gate until your child’s plane has departed.

–Medicine – If your child needs to take medicine, most airlines do not allow their employees to administer any. Contact your doctor and make other plans.

–Bring your child’s birth certificate to the airport to prove age, and bring your appropriate photo ID too so you can get through security with your child. Also tell the person picking up your child at the other end to do the same, so your child can be released. The photo ID has to match the name on the paperwork for unaccompanied minor status.

–Unaccompanied minors are usually given one complimentary food item on board, but if your child has allergies, or is picky, it is always wise to pack snacks. Cash isn’t good enough – some airlines don’t take cash and are credit card only .

–Pack anything your child may need in the next 24 hours in his or her carry-on in case the checked bag is delayed.

BTW – The young boy who snuck on the Las Vegas flight won’t be going home anytime soon. A judge has ordered therapy for his family, and a hearing is scheduled for next month to decide when he can return home. Apparently, according to reports, he has had behavioral issues before – episodes of running away from home, stealing a truck, and suspensions from school.


  Travel Tip Tuesday: When an Airline Gives You a “Gift” For Bad Service… Thanks A Lot #AlaskaAirlines!

Alaska Airlines 737-900ER Artwork K65104You may remember a post  I made about a horrendous experience I had on Alaska Airlines. In just one evening,  I boarded two Alaska flights, got cozy in my seat each time, only to be asked to de-board with all the other passengers. Both times Alaska said it was  having mechanical difficulties. Finally, hours later, Alaska shuttled us to a different terminal, and 5 hours later at 11PM, got us on a flight home.

Throughout the ordeal,  the staff was incredibly rude, yet one bragged about how JD Power and Associates voted them tops in service. Boy did that come back to bite that employee who . about an hour later was passing out mileage gifts to hundreds of passengers because of horrible service.

So – isn’t that thoughtful of Alaska Air? For the terrible delays,  and boarding and de-boarding, we all got an extra 2000 miles to our mileage plus account. And for those who don’t have a mileage account and don’t want one, that really is meaningless.

To Alaska’s credit though, after we did arrive home, we passengers did get $200 toward… yes, another flight on Alaska. Really?

I finally decided to cash in on that $200 for an upcoming trip.  I only needed a one way ticket, which was $70. I thought I could keep the $130 to use toward another flight, but – no.  I absolutely lost the other $130. So even though Alaska gave me $200, I had to use it in one transaction, or lose it.

My tip: If an airline does reward you with some sort of credit I would call the airline immediately and get the restrictions or limits. If you aren’t happy with it, complain right then when the heat is on, and the airline is trying to resurrect itself from whatever event caused it to hand out miles.

Also – make sure you post your grievances on social media – and use hashtags. Many companies have staff responding to complaints this way…. I’ll let you know if I hear from #Alaska.

  Are Foreign Airlines as Safe as Ours? A Question Many of Us Have Pondered Since Asiana Crash Landing…

What you may not know is that there are different standards of  pilot training and airline safety country by country. And although accident rates have been declining since the year 2000,  foreign based airlines have accounted for 87% of almost 300 crashes worldwide in the past 23 years, according to the LA Times.

One potential reason is that foreign pilots often lack the same amount of experience making frequent landings that US pilots do, mainly because those pilots are flying long international routes.

Not to completely frighten you  – don’t worry – the FAA has restricted or forbade airlines from 23 nations from entering our airspace because they are not up to par.

But one fact that I find crazy is that Asiana Air, and others, are not subject to the same scrutiny as US airlines. The Asiana crew did not have to undergo mandatory alcohol and drug testing after the San Francisco accident, because under international law the US government cannot impost such tests – this according to the LA Times. So what if drugs or alcohol were involved – there are major injuries and lives lost over this. How can this be?

A great article from the LA Times detailing this subject further is below. It does make you think twice about booking your next international flight – or using miles on a foreign partner airline. The article shows which countries’ airlines don’t mean certain standards.,0,7011249.story

Safe travels.


  Would You Pay the Airlines for a Subscription for More Leg Room?


In the same week the airline industry is projecting $13 billion in profits – from packing planes and charging more fees - United Airlines is introducing a new packaging of fees in the form of yearly subscriptions for fliers who want various accommodations.

For instance, travelers who want four inches more leg room in United Economy Plus can pay a yearly subscription. It will cost $499 a year to fly Economy Plus to mainland USA and Canada – and $599 for all of North America, $699 for global access.

The average price of upgrading to Economy Plus is reportedly about $200 RT, so to make it worth it you’d take three round trip flights a year on the mainland USA plan.

United is also offering subscriptions for checked bag costs – Fliers can pay $449 for one year of checked bags…. $499 for two. Checked bags normally cost $25 for the first and $35 for the second, so you’d have to take about seven round trip flights to make it worth it.

For family travel, there are options to add other travelers on your plan.

United is trying to get you to commit upfront with this new bundling of costs…. Will it work? It just may be worth it to the business traveler. Would you subscribe?



  Air Travelers: Don’t Plan on Packing Golf Clubs as Carry On Bags Just Yet… #pocketknifeban


Tomorrow was supposed to be the day pocket knives, ski poles, pool cues, lacrosse sticks, and golf clubs would be allowed  in carry-on bags on commercial flights. They were banned post 9/11.

BUT – if you’ve already packed them for a trip – go remove them.  The items will no longer be allowed to be brought on in a passenger’s carry on bags. The TSA’s plan to allow them back in passenger cabins has been delayed due to backlash – mostly against the pocket knives.

The TSA wants more time to consider the safety of the idea. The benefit to allowing them, according to the TSA, would be faster security lines so agents could focus on greater threats.

According to a survey of 1800 Americans, about 73% say they don’t want pocket knives in plane cabins. The TSA was only going to allow knives with blades of 2.36″ or less. What do you think?

Here is a list of banned and allowed items from



  Travel Tip Tuesday: How to Best Avoid #Air Delays


As the air traffic controller furloughs kick in due to budget sequestration, we are starting to see air delays and travelers missing their flights! Not a huge number of delays so far, but if you are one of those who missed a flight for your Fiji vacation, or your Boston funeral, you know it is a big enough number to impact people’s lives.

Air traffic controllers now are required to take one furlough day in every two week pay period to help cut more than $600 million. The controllers on duty are spacing planes further apart so they can manage the traffic appropriately with a smaller staff.

So – what can travelers do about potential delays- especially with the busy summer travel season approaching?

1) Book your flight to depart early in the delay when back ups have not been developing over the hours.

2) Book your flight the day BEFORE you really need to be there if you are flying for something important like a funeral or business meeting. I know this may add to the cost of the trip with an overnight stay, but if you really need to be there, it is worth it.

3)  Allow enough time between connections. If you are delayed for a while, there is a chance you could miss a connecting flight.

4) If you are traveling with a family, remember to pack snacks, extra diapers in your carry on bag if needed, and activities to keep the kids happy :)

5) Try not to connect through an airport with notoriously bad weather any season – like Chicago! When the weather is another factor, there could be more delays.

Hang in there and get out there to see the world!


  A New Airline Fee..This Time From – Gasp – Southwest


The airline that has prided itself in no change fees and the first two bags fly free has just added a new fee to offer it’s fliers. Ticket buyers will have an option to pay $40 to be in the first boarding group – one of the first 15 people. Southwest doesn’t have an upper class so to speak, so you are basically paying to sit with everyone else, but just board first – pretty much guaranteeing your bags will fit in the carry on space.

So – you can add $80 to a round trip ticket if this is important to you.

But I’m curious – IS this important to you?  It seems fliers who choose Southwest don’t really mind the airline’s current system in exchange for low prices, no other added fees, friendly service, and frequent flights to certain destinations. Would you pay it?