I went to California in May, arriving in San Jose Airport. I didn’t think to update my map since the airport has been the same complicated mess to get out of every year. However, this year, I couldn’t use the map nor did I need it since there have been some changes made to the airport exit strategy. The normal exit was shutoff and there were clear signs indicating a different exit.
I flew out on Southwest. This is the first time I’ve been able to fly all the way across the country on this airline. I received the same courteous, friendly treatment that I’ve been receiving for years flying between San Jose and Burbank airports.
I might also add that for an airline who has always had the reputation of never feeding their passengers, they did a better job of giving us free snacks. They were about the equivalent of the snacks we would have to pay for on the other airlines, not just peanuts or pretzels.
I guess this was the trip to truly test the airline and to see how well they did because I also needed their help in a couple issues of my own making:
1. When I made my reservations, I automatically ordered two round trip tickets, one between Tampa and San Jose and one between San Jose and Burbank as I have in the past since I usually flew on two different airlines. I forgot that due to Southwest’s setup I could have just bought three one way tickets, from Tampa to San Jose, from San Jose to Burbank and from Burbank to Tampa.
The connection between the flight from Burbank back to San Jose and onto the flight returning to Tampa would have been very tight if I needed to collect my baggage and recheck it and go back through security. I asked the ticket agent what I needed to do. She told me not to use the ticket kiosk, but to speak to an agent in Burbank, since they would need to override the automatic command.
I spoke to the agent in Burbank and ended up being treated as if I were just taking connecting flights on the same itinerary. They checked my suitcase all the way through to Tampa. The only glitch, was that I had been put on standby in San Jose, even though I had checked in online. The agent just changed my status to confirmed when she saw my boarding pass. I was told that I could check the suitcase all the way through since both flights were in the same day.
2. When I landed in Burbank, for the first time in all the years that I’ve flying, I left my carry-on on the plane. The man I was with had done that before, so he knew what to do. He took me to the ticket agent, where I was able to show him a duplicate of my boarding pass, which I’d printed off. He sent someone back on the plane who retrieved my suitcase.
Also, a note on a similar situation that happened years earlier, I’d needed to show my ticket to the ticket agent before boarding. It wasn’t until I was landing at my destination that I realized that the ticket had never been returned to me.
As soon as I got off the plane, I went to the nearest ticket agent and got a duplicate. Which I was able to do since I’d just arrived and the agent matched the flight number to the gate number. Now, I always carry duplicate tickets with me.
According an article by Valaer Murray, Southwest is one of the most popular airlines.
Hertz and Other Rental Car Agencies:
After I arrived in San Jose, I went to collect my rental car from Hertz. I’ve been renting from them since 2004, because they didn’t charge high deposits. They also didn’t put holds on the card for the entire credit balance as some rental agencies do.I also got a decent discount through AAA as well as some of the rental insurance covered.
But that was then when they only charged a $50 deposit from 2004 to 2006, then $100 in 2007 and $200 since 2008.
But it’s different now, where they charge the full amount of the rental plus the $200 deposit at time of rental. Then when you return the car, they charge the actual cost on top of the previous charges. which they say won’t be released for up to 72 hours, but it can actually take about a week to be taken care of.
That can wreak havoc with your accounts, if you don’t have that kind of money just lying around, as it did with ours. Our bank told us that this has become a standard, though unwritten and unadvertised practice with the car rental agencies double billing accounts as well as they say that the hotels are beginning to do the same thing.
Since we learned this, I decided to research the other car rental agencies to find out what each of their policies are and if they are even stated.
I checked out Avis, Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless,
Rent-A-Wreck and Thrifty.
All of the rental agencies accept major credit cards for both reservations and final payment, although Avis doesn’t require a credit card to reserve a car.
Enterprise, Rent-A-Wreck and Hertz accept check cards with the Visa or Mastercard logo the same as a major credit card. Avis and Budget charge a deposit for the use of the debit card. In Avis’ case, it’s $500 and in Budget’s case it’s higher than their deposit for the credit card, $300 versus $200.
Both Enterprise’s and Rent-A-Wreck’s deposit fees are unspecified for either the check cards or the major credit cards.
For deposits on major credit cards, Budget charges 25% or $200, both Dollar and Thrifty charge 15% or a minimum amount and Hertz claims that they charge up to $140, even though they charged me $200 and they don’t mention a deposit on the AAA website where I have been reserving my cars. Neither Avis or Payless specify a deposit and Alamo only mentions a $300 deposit without a credit card.
National, Avis and Alamo require a travel ticket, passport or utility bill with the use of a check card, and Thrifty, Dollar, Avis and Rent-A-Wreck require a credit and or check card check to use a debit card for the initial rental.
Most of the rental agencies accept the check cards for final payment and some also accept other forms of payment, such as cash, money orders, gift cards and travelers checks as well as credit cards.
All of the agencies will put a hold on the card that you use and they say that the refund of the deposit can take from five to ten business days to be credited back into your account. But that may not be the case. It could take longer.
I would suggest that the best way to deal with the agencies, is to research their websites before you reserve your car, call and ask them questions if the website answers aren’t clear. In any case, printing off the particular specifications on the particular website that you use and taking it with you to the agency might help or it might not as it didn’t in my case, since I had an officious and self important agent who didn’t know what she was
talking about and was determined to be the winner of the situation.
Airlines and the Increasing Hidden Fees:
In this section, I’m not listing the individual airlines and their charges because by the time you read this article there’s a good chance that the prices will have been changed again. I would suggest that you go with an airline that you are familiar with and check out their website before you buy your ticket and also check out the discount
websites such as Orbitz, Yahoo Travel, Hotwire or any of the others who are on the web. Most of them will list what all the mandatory and optional charges are before you buy the ticket.
It used to be, not so long ago, that a traveler could check two 70 pound suitcases, carry on a smaller suitcase and a couple of personal items and expect meals, snacks and drinks included in a domestic ticket whose price was clearly stated with just some fees and taxes to be added. Now, the sky’s the limit on what unexpected and unpleasant fees you might not know about until either you pay for your ticket or even arrive at the airport. Plus almost nothing is included any more in the ticket except the privilege of flying, maybe.
The checked suitcases are now only 50 pounds each and except for Southwest who still allows for Two free checked bags and Jet Blue who does charge for the second checked bag, all other airlines charge for all checked domestic bags. No one is feeding us anymore unless we pay for it, except for the peanuts, pretzels or drinks, unless it’s Southwest, who does give out better complementary snacks.
To add to this, the airlines have increased their fines for canceling or changing tickets and added charges for early boarding, early checkin,premium seating which could include just reserving any seat on the plane and now added charges for fuel on top of the fee already included in the ticket for fuel and added fines for high travel days which are usually more expensive anyway.
The DOT is asking for public comment on several proposals which they are planning to put into effect which would affect how the airlines publish their fares, those sneaky little checked boxes that include optional services for a fee if the buyer doesn’t see them and leaves them checked and unstated post purchase cost increases
among other items. This was posted June 2 and has a 60 day open period for public comment.
There are several venues where you can go to participate in the comment period, such as www.regulationroom.org, which isn’t a government website, www.regulations.gov which is a DOT website, Docket No. DOT-OST-2010-0140.
The Illogical Pricing of Some Airline Routes:
Most of us who have done more than the occasional trip have noticed that some flights are quite a bit more than other much longer flights. I thought it was because the more expensive market was a less popular destination with less competition or that the particular airline was promoting one route over the other.
But according to articles written by Jonathan Tucker and Jay Boehmer, the reason behind the price disparity
has to do with whether a particular airport is served by discount airlines or not. Where there are the low priced airlines, there is more competition which will bring down the cost of the ticket even if the lower ticket has connections and the higher, shorter distanced ticket is a nonstop.
I would suggest checking out the different airports that service your destination to see if the prices are different. Also, if there are several airports in your home territory check out their prices and see if it is worth the extra travel.
Jay Boehmer, http://www.btnonline.com/businesstravelnews/headlines/frontpage_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1004094819
Jonathan Tucker, http://www.time.com/time/travel/article/0,31542,1988422,00.html