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Fetured in ABC News
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

Will Immigration Law Cost Arizona All-Star Game?

Groups Are Trying to Boycott Arizona Over Its Controversial New Immigration Law


United Adds Same-Day Standby Fee
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

United Airlines (UA) has added a $50 fee for an unconfirmed same-day standby seat.

Some information from United is Below.


Same-day travel
Confirmed same-day travel changes
On the same day of travel as your scheduled itinerary, you can confirm a seat on an alternate United flight within three hours of the time of your request. If eligible seats are available on the alternate flight, your change will be confirmed for a $75 fee.*

You can request a confirmed same-day travel change during online check-in or at an EasyCheck-in® kiosk at the airport. You may also see a customer service representative at the airport check-in counter or call 1-800-UNITED-1 (1-800-864-8331).
  • Confirmed same-day travel changes are available only for flights that are wholly within the United States.
  • Available only for identical routings (same origin, destination and connection city, if applicable).
  • Alternate flights must be scheduled to depart within three hours of your request. For flights departing more than three hours after your request, the standard change fee policy will apply.
  • The confirmed same-day travel change fee is non-refundable and will be collected at the time when the change request is made.


See the rest of the changes at the United Airlines website, here


Service to Beijing on American Airlines Delayed
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

A note to travelers from American Airlines regarding nonstop service from Chicago to Beijing.

We regret that we are unable to launch our new daily nonstop service from Chicago to Beijing as planned. Start up tentatively will be delayed until Tuesday, May 4, 2010, for Chicago-Beijing service and until Wednesday, May 5, 2010, for Beijing-Chicago service.

Customers impacted by the cancelled flights will have the option to be rebooked or receive a full refund to the original form of payment. We are in the process of contacting customers confirmed on these flights to assist with re-accommodation. If your flight has not been rescheduled or refunded, please contact American Airlines Reservations at one of the following:

   * Reservations (U.S. and Canada): *1-800-433-7300*
   * AAdvantage Reservations (U.S. and Canada): *1-800-882-8880*
   * For Reservations outside the U.S. and Canada, please visit our
     *Worldwide Reservations Numbers*
     <> page.
   * AmericanAirlines Vacations land and air vacation packages:


American Airlines


Air Travel Grinds to a ...Start
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

A week after debris from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano halted air travel, airlines and passengers are slowly witnessing a light at the end of the tunnel. Frankfurt and Munich airports say some 90 percent of their flights are operating, and after much heated debate, airspace over the UK is open; BA is operating both short and longhaul flights. Flights in and out of US Airforce bases in Italy, Germany and Britain have resumed. Stranded passengers may still have days to wait until they're re-routed, and in the meantime, are taking up refuge on trains, boats, in hotels, if there is space.

"Quite frankly we don't have..." read the rest from the AP report here

Chaos Continues as UK Airspace Opens
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

According to a report by the BBC today, UK airspace has re-opened, but it may be weeks untill the backlogged passengers can find space on flights. More information can be found here

Air Travel Updates for Today, Tuesday April 20, 2010
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

Swiss Air is scheduled to fly from North America.

The following American Airlines flights will be operating over the next two days:

Inbound (eastbound) 20 APR: AA236, AA110
Outbound (westbound) 21APR: AA235, AA111

Inbound (eastbound) 20 APR: AA68, AA36
Outbound (westbound) 21APR: AA69, AA37

Inbound (eastbound) 20 APR: AA152
Outbound (westbound) 21APR: AA151

CDG – extra section

20 APR: AA9264, Dep 1600, Arr 1815

All other Continental European flights to the U.S. have been cancelled for today.

Keep checking back for further updates...

If you need to book vacation travel for this summer call 1 800 435 8776. If you need more information about cancelations please consult the grid here to determine whether you should contact your travel agent or the airlines directly. Agents at Cook Travel have access to client records only.

Can You Say it Three Times In A Row?
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

As if it isn't already difficult enough to read "Eyjafjallajokull," NPR's Korva Coleman raises the bar for rappers everywhere with her take on the state of Iceland's volcanic eruption. Check it out here.

So Your Flight is Canceled - Call Your Travel Agent or The Airline?
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment



Waiver Code




Aer Lingus - TransAtlantic






Aer Lingus - European






Air France/KLM


















Austrian Air






British Air



BA Com Pol 15APR 2010








Travel agents may not issue refunds, only Continental Airlines can issue refunds







Jet Airways












Swiss Air





Online Form

United Airlines






Virgin Atlantic




























Helpful Phone Numbers

Virgin Atlantic: 1 800 821 5438

United Airlines: 1-800-538-2929

Delta: 800-847-0578

Continental: 800.231.0856

Austrian Air: 1-800-843-0002

American Airlines: 1-800-433-7300

Alitalia: 800-223-5730.

Featured on ABC News
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment


Iceland Volcanic Ash Stymies Celebs, Strands Thousands at Airport Cots, Foreign Cities


Blake Feetwood, who owns five Cook Travel agencies around New York, said he has dozens of passengers stranded in various airports.

His team worked through the night to get five architects out of Mumbai. They were supposed to fly back to New York via London.

"My agent was up all night trying to reroute them to come via the Pacific," Feetwood said. "The other route takes about three or four hours longer but if you have a death cloud out there, you have to go the other way."

Now they are flying Mumbai to Bangkok to Tokyo to New York thanks to an agent who spent the night searching for tickets.

"My agent was just sitting there watching the computer, as seats opened up, grabbing them," he said....

Recently Featured in Fox News:
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

The ABC's of B&B's, March 15, 2010

Unlike many hotel chains who permit you to book stays through third-party Web sites and travel agencies, most B&B’s will only accept reservations directly. It’s critical that you have an actual telephone conversation with someone who works at the property. “In New York, we have seen many couples from Europe wandering the streets in the morning with luggage and backpacks because they found a ‘bed and breakfast’ online through a site that didn't belong directly to the bed and breakfast,” observes Julie Barsamian, marketing director for Cook Travel. “When they arrive, no one is around, phone numbers aren't answered and they're scammed out of a place to stay.

Link to the full article can be found here


Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

Whether a world traveler or domestic jet setter, Smarter Travel's comprehensive airline fee guide has you covered, from pretzels and soda to blankets and baggage. Download the pdf chart here.

Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

Whether a world traveler or domestic jet setter, Smarter Travel's comprehensive airline fee guide has you covered, from pretzels and soda to blankets and baggage. Download the pdf chart

Fly Business Class, Make More Money
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment


Contact: Julie Barsamian

                      Cook-American Express Travel Representative

                       Phone: (212) 201-1827


New York, NY –Our emaciated economy has everyone tightening their belts, at home and in the boardroom. While holiday parties, Christmas bonuses and business travel all top the list of expense culprits, a recent study by IHS Global Insight says that cutting travel costs may actually bruise business profits. The study shows that for every $1 spent on business travel, companies may see a return as high as $15.

Imagine that. A $3,000 business class ticket and a well rested, happy employee, brings back a return of $45,000. Compare that to a disgruntled, cramped worker bee who spends 10 hours subsisting on peanuts and ginger-ale. Who would you rather send to meet new clients?

In this age of instantaneous communication - twitter, facebook and text messages - it seems only logical to arrange virtual meetings at a fraction of the cost of a plane ticket. But contrarian logic may apply: companies could lose much as $193 billion in corporate profits by cutting spending on business travel.

“Companies have the opportunity to choose (their) own ROI,” says Paul Metselaar Chairman and CEO of Ovation Travel Group. “ That means first understanding that travel is as much an investment as expense, and then taking a surgical approach to maximizing the return on that investment by closely monitoring and exploiting all cost –cutting and upgrade options without sending your road warriors through the wringer.”

Not only do face-to-face meetings make for a more credible and successful business relationship, but, as the study proposes, they could translate into 5.1 million new jobs, generating more than $101 billion in tax revenue.

But how much spending is enough, and how do companies get the best deals? According to the study, in 2008, companies spent $261 billion on travel expenses, but this may not have been enough.

“Knowing how much to spend on business travel varies by industry and company size, says Julie Barsamian of Cook Travel, an American Express Travel Representative. “Companies also don’t always have the luxury of planning their business travel six months ahead, but by working with business class consolidators (like us), and using 2 for 1 American Express Promotions,  they can still get discounted fares on last minute travel.”

What the study doesn’t address is why face-to-face communication is better for business or how it applies to business that doesn’t rely on client acquisition or maintenance.

“Most communication is non-verbal, it’s nuanced, it’s in body language,” says Barsamian. “As a traveling salesperson you can impart more of a lasting impression by exchanging a smile, than by exchanging e-mails.”


About Cook Travel – An American Express Travel Representative

The 35-year-old New York based company offers discounted insider fares.  They have five offices, and generate phone and online sales through their website:

More information about the IHS Global Insight  study can be found here:

Which Travel Website Works Best? One Had 48 Percent More Hits
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment


Contact: Julie Barsamian
  Cook American Express Travel
  Phone: (212) 201-1827

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Cook Travel, an American Express Travel Representative, has increased conversion rates by as much as 48 percent . The company caters exclusively to international corporate and leisure travelers who fly in First and Business Class. The 35-year-old New York-based company offers discounted insider fares. Cook Travel uses its Web site,, to generate both phone and online sales.
The Cook Travel Web site represents a unique opportunity to drive business from immediate and potential purchasers. A double call-to-action, phone and online form-fill, gives Cook American Express the ability to drive immediate purchasers to complete their transaction by phone and to fulfill on the second group’s need to shop around for the best price by driving them to click for a quote. 
Credibility is crucial in online travel. The current site,, had weak credibility because of dated and hidden logos, out-of-date award seals and value propositions that appeared well below the fold. An overabundance of navigation buttons and calls-to-action complicated customer action. Plus, options for the last-minute traveler seemed to be missing altogether. WiderFunnel created three redesigned pages to be tested against the original page:
  • Variation 1: “Credibility": Calls to action were reinforced and customer’s pain points were addressed as benefit statements in bullet points. Calls to action were placed on the right with the addition of prominent airline logos.
  • Variation 2: “Hero”: This variation depicted the business or high-end traveler as the ‘hero’ at the top of the left hand side section, with the calls to action placed right underneath the photos.
  • Variation 3: “Offer”: This variation was very similar to “Hero” but the placement of the photo and the calls to action were reversed, now to the right hand side. This emphasized the theme of “offer first”. The up-front headline focused on Planet Amex’s core benefit followed by a ‘Save up to 60%’ subhead and then the ‘Why Book With Us’ bullet points.
Variation 1 won with a conversion rate lift of 48.41 percent for phone call conversions and an overall 17-percent conversion rate lift for Cook Travel. For more information about the study and conversion rate optimization, visit
“I was amazed to see the 48-percent increase in phone calls that WiderFunnel’s new landing pages produced. The analysis, recommendations and winning page are obviously better now that I see them, but we wouldn’t have come up with these ideas on our own. The phones are ringing off the hook and now I have to hire more phone reps!” said Blake Fleetwood of Cook, an American Express Travel Representative.
About Us
Founded in 1974, Cook-American Express Travel Representative specializes in international first and business class flights. We have offices in Manhattan, Southampton, East Hampton and Greenport. For more information, visit To request a quote, call 800-435-8776.


Buy One Get One Free: Always the Best Deal?
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment


The American Express Platinum card will give you good 2-for-1 business class fares on certain airlines, but it isn't always the best deal for Europe and the Far East. At Cook American Express Travel, we can advise you of the best alternatives: 2-for-1 fares or advanced purchase sale/consolidator tickets that may be cheaper.

If you're traveling last minute to Australia on Qantas, it's a great deal, and for South Africa, the Platinum card program savings are unbeatable.


Overall the Platinum program gives users access to business and first class lounges as well as hotel and cruise upgrades.


But there are still better deals out here for advanced purchase air, and we have access to them. For example: under the Platinum program, one business class ticket to London costs $9,000, and you get one free which gives you an effective cost of $4,500. But there are net fares and sale fare deals out there for under $3,000 apiece. 


Cook American Express Travel can provide you with unbeatable deals to Europe, South America and the Far East with savings sometimes greater than the Platinum Program.


Call 1(800) 435 8776 or request a fare quote.


Chances are you're a savvy consumer, our favorite kind!





Business-Class Bargains for Overseas Travelers
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

 Business Class for a Fraction of What it Used to Cost

NYT Columnist Joe Starkey writes...

...A crisis for airlines has created opportunities for business travelers bound overseas and determined to make the trip in productive comfort-- without buying a ticket that can cost as much as a good used car.


 You can now fly overseas in business class for a fraction of what it used to cost. Airlines started introducing spot fare sales for international premium seats last fall when demand fell in a deteriorating economy. Now, as conditions have worsened, airlines seem to be settling into a basic restructuring of international premium-class fares.


"I don't know even what counts as a sale anymore," said Joe Brancatelli, who publishes, "Airlines are now yield-managing fares up front like they do in the back. It's looking like a permanent sale environment."

Business class from New York to London? For the British Airways swanky Club World cabin, that will be about $2,544 round trip for late summer travel, with an advance purchase. The walk-up fare for Club World on that route used to be about $11,000 and is still about $7,500.


Check the fine print on advance purchase restrictions and fees.

Will Airline Prices rise?
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

Joe Starkeys article in the New York Times talked about how airlines are lowering capacity and had experts predicting that airline prices might rise after the cuts. So this is the best time to fly.
Joe Brancatelli says this is not true and argues that the only thing that will effect prices is demand.

"The fare increase shouldn't come as a surprise since oil prices have more than doubled since bottoming out in the mid-$30 range last fall. Besides, the $10 one-way increase isn't likely to matter much since airlines weren't selling tickets at the lower fares and, as far as I can tell, the carriers still can't raise the price of not flying. The route and capacity cuts, which have been coming in waves since last summer's oil shock and the economic collapse of the fall, is more of the same: You can't deprive a traveler of a seat when they aren't flying in the first place."

"But logic has never been the strong suit of many of my colleagues in the mainstream media. They came to the astonishing conclusion that capacity cutbacks at the airlines will lead to your paying higher prices to fly this fall. No matter that they leapt to the same bone-headed conclusion when the airlines slashed capacity earlier this year, late last year, last summer and, with vary degrees of permanence, since 9/11."

"So let me spell it out again for them and for any of you who misunderstand basic economics: The price you pay to fly has almost nothing to do with the number of airline seats that airlines choose to operate. The only thing that drives up the price of an airline ticket is demand. If you want to fly, the airlines can raise the price you pay. If you don't want to fly, or if airlines raise published fares too high, the lack of demand drives the price of travel down."

"Got that? Airlines can slash their route networks and it doesn't mean a thing to the price of tea in China or the price you pay for a seat. The only thing that drives price is demand. Whether they fly one seat or a million, the only thing that matters is what you are willing to pay for it."

"Only demand matters. And, lately, no matter how low the airlines price their seats, there is no demand. According to the government, there were about 162 million "revenue passenger enplanements" during the first three months of this year. That's down more than 10 percent--or about 19 million--compared to the first three months of 2008.

Demand down, prices down. That's how it works, folks."
Excerpts from;
By Joe Brancatelli

Ten Secrets The Airlines Won't Tell You...
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

Trying to beat the airlines at the their own game is like playing three dimensional chess in your head. On any given flight 100 passengers could all be paying different fares. It's called "yield management", but there are things you should know about the airlines and ticket prices.


1. Good things come to those who complain.

It’s no secret that if you complain, the airlines will try and buy you off with frequent flyer miles or a voucher for a future flight. Normally, if your beef is minor (bad food, late plane, lumpy seat, rude gate attendants, lost baggage), they will offer you 5,000 frequent flyer points without any significant inquiry.


One United passenger exploited this to the extreme. George Yen, according to UA, complained about 200 times in six months. And it seemed to be working for him. United gave him mileage compensation totaling 68,500 miles, numerous upgrades, and $5,125 in certificates.


But as Christ Elliot explains, eventually Yen’s scheme ran aground: United froze his Frequent Flyer account and wrote him to say that his complaints appeared to be directed towards securing goodwill compensation in the form of entitlements.


So, complain, get free tickets, but… don’t overdo it.


2. Pay coach, fly business.

An implausible gimmick, right?  Surprisingly, no.  First class seats are available at coach prices, especially for last minute international travel. Large corporate travel agencies have deals with the airlines whereby their clients can often pay a full coach fare (pricey, but not as pricey as a regular business class ticket) and then be upgraded to business class, effectively saving thousands of dollars.

Domestically, coach tickets can be booked under codes like Y, Q, or Z, which award ticket holders automatic upgrades to first class.  You can expect to save about a $1000. Roundtrip flight from
Dallas to New York on American Airlines, the Y fare is $1167, which is nearly $1000 less than the regular first class fare.

Internationally, AA just started allowing Y upgrades to
London.  Definitely keep this in mind when flying to Europe


3. Airline’s promises of good food are just that: promises.
 Sure, airlines brag about their new menus. 
Continental Airlines: hot gourmet sandwiches, roast beef and oven-roasted turkey with gouda cheese on marble rye bread. Delta Air Lines: smoked salmon and egg salad croissants and roast beef steak cobb sandwiches. United Airlines: sweet crab salad on fresh bok choy and citrus-cured smoked salmon.

Sounds great, sure. But don’t expect anything special on domestic flights under four hours, says travel ombudsman Chris Elliot.  For example, the Todd English sandwiches were only available on flights between New York and Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

Realistically? Expect dry roasted peanuts.
Eat first of bring your own food.

4.  You don’t have to fly business class to fly comfortably.
Book three seats for two people and have as much space as sitting business class but at one-third of the price. Two business class seats from
San Francisco to London on BA cost $6,800 + taxes, but you can buy three coach seats with more room for only $825 + taxes. Sure you won’t get the fancy meals, but you’ll be comfortable and save close to $6,000! Also consider buying exit row seats on Qantas, United, Virgin, and Southwest. You get a ton of exra legroom.


5. Buy upgrades at the airline’s terminal counter.

 It's a dirty secret: airlines--US Airways, United, and American-- are upgrading flyers from full coach to business class with a payment at gate of $500 or so, if the seats are available.  Airlines don't publicize these upgrades-- it's up to the gate agent.

But if you're a frequent flyer or fly on a large corporate account, many travel agencies are able to upgrade passengers from a full coach fare for free.  Full coach fares are not cheap, they run from $3,000 and up, but they're a lot better than $8,000 last minute refundable business class fares.

And upgraded full coach fares are fully refundable and changeable, unlike business class sale fares,  which are non-refundable and non-changeable except at a fee.


6. Holidays are a tough time to fly, but a great time to book.
Look for special sales during holidays. BA has a habit of launching short sales during holiday periods, giving travelers a very small window to book… Typically, these fares are at least 20% lower… For example, a European trip in business class last week that was booking at $3,400, was pricing at $2,800 over Valentine’s Day weekend.


7. The airlines don’t always offer you their lowest fares.
Everyone knows of Expedia or Kayak, but most travel sites (the big boys included) do not sell consolidator or net fare airline tickets. Even the airlines themselves don’t sell these fares directly.  Instead, they offer them to consolidators and large corporate agencies to ensure that they fill empty seats without publicly devaluing their inventory. 

Before booking, ask a savvy travel agent. This is their business. They have access to consolidator and net fares that the airlines don’t sell, especially in international business and first class. You haggle with your mechanic and your broker for better prices…why forgo angling for a better business class ticket price?  They’re out there. Do a Google search for “Business Class Discounts.”

8. Buy a package deal and save thousands.

Even if you don’t need/ can’t use the entire package, sometimes booking hotel/cruise/car and airfare can be CHEAPER than booking just the airfare.  Keep an eye out for tour operators advertising these ridiculously low fares and package deals, especially if you’re traveling with little advance notice. You’re most likely to see advertisements for these deals in the Sunday Travel Section.


9. Consider buying roundtrip when you fly one way.
Airlines charge exorbitant prices for one-way tickets, and it is often the case that you can get cheaper roundtrip Saturday-stay tickets.  Why is this?  Because chances are, you’re flying one-way for something that demands that you fly no matter the cost (school, new job, etc.), whereas roundtrip flights must be priced to entice lower priority travel. Book a roundtrip ticket.  The airlines don’t like it, but chances are you won’t be pushed on your "no return". Supreme Court Judge Scalia did this when he got a complimentary ride on Cheney’s private jet to kick off a duck-hunting trip but then booked roundtrip airfare (price $218) for his return one-way flight (which was pricing at $698). There was a lot buzz in the travel industry about his choice.  One thing is certain: he saved money and he wasn't charged the difference.


10. Rule 240.
Understanding your rights under Rule 240 is essential. Read This article from, which explains the ins and outs of Rule 240: “if an airline [can't] get you to your destination on time, it [is] required to put you on a competitor’s flight if it would get you there faster than your original airline’s next flight.” Some airlines, including Delta, “no longer make any mention of transporting passengers on other airlines in the event of a flight disruption,”. So in a difficult situation with a canceled flight, its always in your best interest to firmly voice your rights.


Air Travel Fees, Bumps and Hassles
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

By Peter Greenberg,

And just when you thought it couldn't get worse;

Within the next few weeks, airlines in the U.S. will be cutting their domestic capacity by up to 16 percent across the board. Southwest Airlines will cut 200 flights from its winter schedule this fall. In September, Jet Blue ended on the following routes: Boston to San Francisco, Boston to San José, New York to Ontario, Washington to Burbank, Washington to Las Vegas, and Washington to San Diego.

This means that major airlines will be parking (i.e., taking out of service) planes. Continental will park nearly 70 planes, American will retire more than 80 and United could park more than 120. Midwest is cutting one third of its fleet, and Frontier—currently operating under bankruptcy—is removing 17 percent of its capacity.

The best advice is basic common sense: Book as early as possible. And since your odds of getting bumped off a flight have increased, get to the airport early if you really need to get somewhere.

Try to book the very first flight of the morning. Reason being: There's a good chance that the aircraft assigned to your flight—as well as your flight crew—overnighted at your airport the night before. You therefore stand a better chance that the flight won't be delayed, or get stuck waiting for a crew.

Buy travel packages whenever possible. Tour operators often block space on flights that may not show as available on other websites or through the airlines themselves.

Hyper-Inflation of Frequent Flyer Miles; It's Zimbabwe!
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

Cashing in your frequent-flier miles? Get ready to spend some cash.

New booking fees on tickets bought with miles are among a barrage of surcharges and cutbacks hitting frequent-flier programs in the next few weeks. Pinched by high oil prices, airlines are also increasing the number of miles required for flights and cutting back on program benefits.

Today, US Airways Group Inc. will stop giving bonus miles to elite frequent fliers. It will also start charging between $25 and $50, depending on the destination, for booking award tickets.

On Aug. 15, Delta Air Lines Inc. will add a fuel surcharge to award tickets -- $25 for U.S. and Canada and $50 for other destinations -- and on Sept. 15, Northwest Airlines Corp. will add a fuel surcharge of $25 to $100 to WorldPerks tickets issued in North America.       

Several airlines have recently introduced or increased fees for booking or changing award tickets on the phone, booking a leg on a partner airline or redepositing unused miles from a canceled ticket. AMR Corp.'s American Airlines has added a $5 online booking fee and will increase the number of miles needed to buy certain award tickets as of Oct. 1.

On Friday, Continental Airlines announced the company will no longer allow frequent-flier members to buy the last seat available on certain flights "where demand is high" after Sept. 3, though the restriction won't apply to elite fliers. On Aug. 17, the airline will increase fees for booking award tickets close to the date of travel.

The moves have some fliers questioning the value of miles programs, says Joe Brancatelli, editor of travel Web site "Inflating the currency and then having less product to buy and charging you fees to do it -- it's hyper-inflation," he says. "It's Zimbabwe."

US Airways' decision to end bonus-miles privileges for elite members was the "final straw" for Michael Dukart, who had amassed over a million miles with the carrier earlier this year. When the airline announced it would stop awarding bonus miles to elite members of its Dividend Miles program, Mr. Dukart, who lives in Wilmington, Del., decided to start flying United Airlines instead, even though the airport closest to him is a US Airways hub.

A broad consumer protest has emerged on, a Web site put up two weeks ago by Randy Petersen, the frequent-flier specialist who runs the popular travel forum A petition on the Web site asking US Airways to bring back bonus miles has been signed by 1,570 people.

Mr. Dukart says he signed the petition and is trying to "burn through" his miles so he can make a clean break from the airline. On Monday, he left for South Africa with his wife, using first-class seats bought with miles.

Scott Kirby, president of US Airways, says, "I wish it wasn't the kind of decision we felt we had to make," but the changes and fees "are necessary realities of $125-a-barrel oil." US Airways polled frequent fliers and found that "overwhelmingly" they value a free upgrade to first class more than bonus miles. Mr. Kirby says the airline has received complaints from consumers, but not more than it received after announcing other changes, like charging for food. "Changes are hard," says Mr. Kirby.

Surcharges Soar
Some of the carriers' latest moves:
• US Airways will charge for booking award tickets and will stop giving elite fliers bonus miles.
• Delta and Northwest will add fuel surcharges to many award tickets.
• American has added a $5 online booking fee and will increase the number of miles needed for certain award tickets.

The fees and benefit cuts come at a time when frequent fliers are already upset about a problematic imbalance -- a lot of miles and not many seats available for award tickets. Airlines make a large profit from selling miles to "partners" such as credit cards and hotels. Partner deals have gone up significantly over the years, but award seats haven't.

Delta issued 25% more miles in 2007 than in 2004, says Jeff Robertson, managing director of Delta's SkyMiles program, but the number of available seats on its planes didn't increase. Recent capacity cuts have made the imbalance worse, because airlines are maintaining the same percentage of awards seats on fewer flights.

Still, some airlines are taking measures to make their frequent-flier programs more attractive. Earlier this year, both Northwest and Delta introduced new options that allow fliers to buy tickets with a combination of cash and miles, so small increments of miles could be redeemed. In April, the two companies announced they intend to merge.

Delta recently announced it would replace its awards program in September with a three-tiered system that's similar to American Airlines' program. Instead of offering domestic tickets for either 25,000 or 50,000 miles -- with many more tickets available for 50,000 miles -- the airline will offer about 50% of its total seat inventory for 40,000 miles, while maintaining the same amount of seats in the 25,000-mile tier. The rest of the seats will be in the 60,000-mile tier.

In addition, the airline will again allow frequent fliers to book the last seat available on flights -- a benefit denied to frequent fliers last winter. Such seats will go to those willing to pay a hefty mileage price. "This new structure will attract more new customers, benefit current customers and help differentiate Delta from other carriers," says Mr. Robertson.

In November, Alaska Airlines will add more award levels, in an effort to make it easier to use miles. The airline already offers a cash-and-miles award ticket.

Discount carrier AirTran Holdings Inc. added a program in March that lets passengers pay for extra miles to reach the level needed to get an award ticket. Before, fliers could buy award tickets only with miles.

Airlines "are trying to stay competitive and be a little more innovative," says Rick Seaney, chief executive of the travel Web site "Fuel and luggage surcharges have been bad press. They are trying to tweak some things to mitigate that."

But some of the new award-travel systems have drawbacks. Under Delta's new three-tier structure, award travel is more expensive in some cases. A premium-class seat to Europe used to cost between 90,000 and 250,000 miles and will now cost between 100,000 miles and 350,000 miles. The top price now guarantees the last seat on a flight, unlike before.

Northwest's cash-and-miles offer, PerkChoice, includes a clause that has rubbed at least one customer the wrong way: If you need to cancel the ticket, you don't get the cash part of the purchase back. Jackie Engelhart bought three airline tickets to Calgary, Alberta, earlier this year, three days after the soft launch of PerkChoice. After her eight-year-old daughter spent several months fighting colds, flu and asthma, Ms. Engelhart decided to cancel the trip, assuming the cash part of her tickets would be treated like most canceled Northwest tickets -- as credit with the Eagan, Minn.-based airline.
Instead she had to pay a $50-per-ticket fee to put the miles back onto to her account and couldn't get any credit for the cash.
Northwest says that it hasn't had many complaints about the rule and that the terms of PerkChoice "are given when a customer books a ticket," and "must be agreed to before the customer is allowed to complete the purchase." But like other aspects of the relatively new program, the rule "could be changed," says a company spokesperson.

Regardless, Ms. Engelhart says she won't book a PerkChoice ticket again. "Not flying Northwest cost us more than $1,000," she says.

Write to Sarah Nassauer at and Stephanie Chen at
Copyrighted, Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Nothing Beats A Real Agent
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

Most agents have:

1. Knowledge of various forms of transportation to the suggested destination; knowledge about the destination and knowledge about the carrier / tour op;
2. Most on-line systems aren't bonded or offer financial security other than those offered by a credit card company;
3. What travel agent has long pages of terms and conditions? These are only necessary when a business seeks to escape, or minimize, liability;
4. On-line bookers are useless at booking multi-segment flights. I always test them with a Quebec City or Winnipeg start point and a destination of Phnom Penh, Cambodia or Vientiane, Laos. I bet none will offer either optimal routing (avoiding the USA) or the cheapest flights;
5. A real live travel agent can offer many services, either unavailable or only with hassles from on-line hustlers, before, during and after a journey. Although I use my hand / cell phone for booking domestic / regional flights, I always use a real live agent, in Canada which is on the opposite side of the world from where I live, and have done for 30+ years, because I know a quick e-mail will get any problems sorted out by the time I hot my e-mail at my next airport;
6. Many on-line ticket sellers scrape the dregs of seats so they can fill every seat, for hidden financial benefits from the carriers, whereas a travel agent gets better seating.
7, No on-line system will hold a clients travel requests for days or weeks whilst it checks out many carrier / routing options as a real live travel agent can. They operate in real-time which is not always the most optimal way of purchasing travel. 
Guidebooks are dated when they hit the bookstands, particularly the one owned by the BBC.
Real live travel agents have so many ways to better the on-line majors.
Jon Hewson
11 July 2008, 22:11:37 GMT
Urgent BA Sale !!! Purchase by 7/6
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment


New York (JFK and Newark), Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore OR Washington DC

FOR just $1776* round–trip plus taxes!! 
That's an unheard of $888* each way, when you travel through December 31, 2008.


To price an itinerary,




CALL NOW!  800-435-8776

*Terms and conditions of BA July 2nd-6th Sale
  1. Redesigned Club World is being rolled out across our fleet and is currently only available from JFK, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, Seattle and San Francisco.
  2. If you book through a British Airways call centre, you will be charged an additional $20 per ticket for processing.
  3. $1776 price shown is round–trip including fuel, based on select 21–day advance purchase, midweek (Sunday - Wednesday) Club World business class fare from New York (JFK and Newark), Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore or Washington DC to London for travel through December 31, 2008 on British Airways only.
  4. $888 price shown is each way including fuel, based on round–trip, select 21–day advance purchase midweek (Sunday - Wednesday) Club World (business class) fare from New York (JFK and Newark), Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore or Washington DC to London for travel through December 31, 2008 on British Airways only.
  5. Price may vary for other travel dates, from other departure cities and to other destinations.
  6. Valid for new bookings only made during the promotional period July 2 – 6, 2008 only.
  7. Offer valid for travel July 23 – December 31, 2008 only.
  8. All fares are subject to government approval and do not include government fees and taxes of approximately $265 plus a $2.50 September 11th Security Fee.
  9. Minimum stay Saturday night. Maximum stay 11 months.
  10. Weekend (Thursday - Saturday) surcharge of $30 applies each way
  11. Prices advertised are subject to availability.
  12. Free room upgrade is valid for new bookings only made during the promotional period July 2 – 6, 2008 when purchasing a transatlantic flight originating in the US in our Club World business class cabin for travel July 23 – December 31, 2008 only.
  13. Free room upgrade is only available at selected London hotels and room types. You must book the upgraded room type, which will reflect the free upgrade in its prices.
  14. Offer subject to availability.
  15. Other significant restrictions apply.

            All prices are subject to availability in qualifying inventory.  There may be restrictions regarding changes and cancellations.
            Important!  These offers may be time-sensitive.  All promotions/pricing are subject to availability at the time of booking. 
Fares are seasonal, subject to change and do not include taxes or fuel charges. The prices on this page are approximate due to extremely frequent fare changes. Please call for current fares.

BA vs Virgin
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment
Dear  Monty,
Everything was ok, Maggie's on her return  home as we speak.  Overall, I think that BA is  quite a bit better than American, vastly better than Virgin, but the bottom line is that all commercial flights are really the pits. Too bad the Concorde is history!  I will call you the next time we need you, as you delivered everything as promised. Good job!
With best regards,
Don’t let blowing your nose or sipping your vodka land you in hot water when you travel.
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

Travel + Leisure

By Sallie Brady

It seemed simple: beat the bitter March temperatures—and my jet lag—by visiting the Finnish sauna at the luxurious Hotel Kamp in Helsinki. Just when I felt myself begin to relax, two naked men opened the glass door and stood staring at me, seemingly dumbstruck. Sure, my bathing suit was soaked in sweat and my legs streaked in magazine ink, but since it was my first visit to Finland, I didn’t understand the open jaws. Later, my Finnish friend erupted in peals of laughter: “No one wears a bathing suit in the sauna! And you don’t read there—it’s a place for contemplation. Those men had never seen that before!”

Cultural practices, cultural differences, local manners, and mores: traveling the globe can be a behavioral minefield, even when you have the best intentions. Everything from greeting to eating can be an opportunity to do the wrong thing, and not only embarrass yourself, but offend your host countrymen.

As more travelers venture further into less-explored destinations, there’s a greater likelihood of not just putting your foot in your mouth, but putting “your wrong hand in the couscous,” says Mark McCrum, author of Going Dutch in Beijing: How to Behave Properly When Away from Home. “I found myself in that situation in Azerbaijan, where I just got it a bit wrong. I put my left hand in the couscous and someone came up to me and said, ‘That’s for wiping.’ Now I know that anywhere east of Istanbul, the right hand is for eating and the other is for….”

It’s not just foreign cultures that prove problematic, but ones in which we tend to feel very familiar. Despite a shared language, Brits and Americans frequently slip into misunderstandings; U.S. mainlanders unknowingly offend Hawaiians when vacationing in their islands; and the forthright manner of a New Yorker might be considered downright rude in the genteel South.

There’s a reason major corporations employ cultural trainers before dispatching an employee to Moscow or Shanghai—an innocent blunder can instantly result in a lost deal or, worse, a broken relationship. But few leisure travelers have the time or resources to tackle the vast field of intercultural studies before heading to the airport. While McCrum suggests reading up on a country and its practices before journeying, you can start with the basic information on the U.S. State Department’s consular information sheets. Once on the ground, of course, you should remain highly sensitive to native behavior, he says.

“Never be completely surprised by anything; try to take it in stride,” says McCrum. “And don’t be offended if something seems offensive—like queue jumping. We kid ourselves that this is a global village, but we are all very different.”

Secrets to Getting Affordable Business Class Travel
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment
Lufthansa, British Airlines, Delta, and other airlines are offering cheap sumertime sales. 

Air travel doesn't have to be either unbearably uncomfortable or outrageously expensive.

There are innumerable loopholes and anomalies in the airline flight schedules that, when detected and exploited, can enable you to claim a ticket in the Business or First Class cabin at deeply discounted rates -- often for little more than the price of coach.

NY lawyer sues Delta
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment
May 28, 2008

A New York lawyer is suing Delta Air Lines for USD$1 million, saying his family vacation turned into a nightmare after they were stranded in an airport for days and treated disdainfully by airline employees.

Richard Roth, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of himself and his mother, said he planned the Christmas 2007 trip to Buenos Aires to celebrate his mother's 80th birthday. She had grown up in the city, but had not returned in years, he said.

Instead, Roth said he, his wife, two teenage children and mother spent three days in airports, went days without their luggage, were treated rudely by airline employees and were forced to spend USD$21,000 on unused hotel rooms in Argentina, replacement clothes, and other costs.

"Through its gross negligence, malfeasance and absolute incompetence, Mr. Roth holds Delta responsible for ruining his vacation," said the lawsuit, filed in New York state court.

Delta Air Lines had no immediate comment.

Middle Seat Hell? Your Ticket(s) to Salvation.
5/18/2010 2:07:12 PM Link |  | Add comment

To your left, the big guy in the window seat.  The really big guy.  You’ve lost the armrest, fine.  But Mr. 17A is also spilling a good three inches into your dear 17B…You shift right.  But only so far.  The woman in 17C has a large tote bag of Danielle Steel novels on her lap and breath that last saw a mint in the Cretaceous period.

5 hours, 55 minutes to go… 

You tried, oh how you tried, to avoid this fate.  But despite your miles and your American Express card and all your memberships with misleadingly named traveler’s programs…there you sit…and suffer.

Just another loser in the upgrade lottery.

Even miles up the wazoo mean nothing unless you book at least 11 months in advance.  And you might as well forget about those pretty numbers when traveling on a holiday-- they won't help you.

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Very few travelers pay full price for first and business class seats.  Even those blessed ones flying on bigwig corporate expense accounts usually have tickets secured through some type of 40% off deal.  Truth is, those first and business class tickets you were vying for aren’t always full.  They just require a little insider help to obtain…

1)  Secret Y-Up fares

Sure, airlines could give those empty seats to upgraders, but you can’t spell profit with “Free Upgrade.” 

Hence, airlines offer Y-Up fares.  They don’t bring in the huge revenue that full-fare arm-leg-kidney priced first class do, but it’s not like they’re asking for peanuts. 

So why should you care?

Because these Y Up fares are comparable to—or even cheaper than-- last minute coach.  And just because you can’t find them searching on your own, doesn’t mean they’re a myth.  You probably won’t find Y-Up fares online.  Ask your travel agent!

2)  Traveling internationally? Buy consolidator or net fare. 

There’s a network of consolidator fares that are 60% lower than published prices particularly if your trip is within one or two weeks.  Travel agents can help you with the ins & outs of buying cheaper rate consolidator tickets.

Large travel agencies have negotiated net fares that can save you thousands.  Normally, a last minute flight from NY to London is more than $8,000, but if you buy a tour ticket with a hotel, you can pay less than $4,000.

Also, all-business airlines L’Avion, Silverjet, and Eos have deals to select agencies at less then the published fares.

Once again, ask for help.  Some large travel agencies have negotiated upgrade deals and 2-for-1 deals that you won’t find online.

Sound too good to be true?  Cheaper business class tickets do almost always have some restrictions and they are about three times the cost of economy class, BUT they are still about half the cost of full fare business or first class. 

3)  Book three economy seats for two passengers.   

You get as much room as in business class for about 25% of the cost.  Sure, sure, it is economy.   You don’t get fine meals or the solicitous flight attendants, but you can save $6-12 thousand on that six-hour flight (or 5 hours and 55 minutes and counting…) to Rome.

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