Flu controls surprise travelers

How would you feel if you were detained for more than a week upon arrival in a foreign country for reasons that had nothing to do with you — and you missed your meeting or never even made it to your destination?

Thousands of passengers to Asia, where governments have implemented the most draconian measures to prevent the spread of swine flu, have been facing that prospect every day for two weeks. Unfortunately, in most cases, they were not given all the information they needed in advance so they could plan accordingly. Beginning April 28, dozens of planes arriving daily in Japan from North America have been held after landing until a team of health inspectors…

Rebook flights at no cost

Are you planning to postpone a trip you’ve booked to Mexico because of the swine flu? By now, you’ve probably heard about airlines waiving fees to change your flight. But do you know how to rebook a flight to make sure you avoid any extra costs?

The waivers issued last week, as the State Department advised Americans to delay travel to Mexico if possible, are not much different from waivers related to bad weather and published regularly throughout the year. They usually allow passengers who have already begun their journey to reschedule their return — and fly back home later, until a storm passes, or earlier, if you happen to be in Mexico right now — without having to pay the normal reissue fee…

Airlines curb award tickets

As if “award” plane tickets aren’t hard enough to come by, airlines are putting even more controls on those coveted seats — in some instances understandable, but in others apparently artificial and questionable.

Most major U.S. carriers are reporting record numbers of issued mileage tickets, but they are not a result of more available seats so much as more passengers rushing to beat rises of redemption mileage levels. As I wrote three weeks ago, the value of frequent-flier miles is dropping, and the airlines want them to be used up because they are a balance-sheet liability. With most carriers’ domestic capacity shrinking between 5 percent and 16 percent this fall, the number of mileage seats will naturally be reduced as well…

Cheap airfares endure

Who says that cheap plane tickets are a thing of the past? How would you like to go skiing in Utah this winter for less than $150 round trip from the East coast, including all taxes? Rather visit a warmer place? How about a ticket to Hawaii for less than $300?

Yes, these are real prices, but you might need to do some homework to get them. Airlines now publish low fares less frequently and often pull them off the market within hours. We’ve all heard travel experts warning that air fares have nowhere else to go but up, mainly because of record-high jet-fuel prices, as well as predictions that the era of affordable air travel is over. That may well be what the future holds. The present, however, begs to differ…

Air miles’ value drops

Next time an airline offers you 5,000 miles as a “good-will gesture” for something that went wrong on a flight, you might want to negotiate a bigger number.

Miles devaluation is here, and along with rising air fares, service cutbacks and various fees, it is likely to remain a prominent feature of the travel experience for a while. Some U.S. carriers have already increased the number of miles needed for an “award ticket,” and others, no doubt, will follow suit. Airlines have awarded so many millions of miles in recent years, thanks to numerous credit card and other promotions, that they started to weigh on the carriers’ balance sheets…