August 2003

Vegas on the web

by Charlie Leocha on August 27, 2003

I have been going to Las Vegas for years. I remember when it seemed to be a string of about a half-dozen big hotels (well, if the old Flamingo could be considered big), dismal downtown and the convention center with its Hilton. The rest was sand.

When faced with a disappointed customer, a travel company often tries hard to make things right. But sometimes its answer is wrong. Here are two cases in which the company dropped the proverbial ball, in my opinion – but not for lack of trying.

It takes a long time for old ways to die or fade away. One of the “old ways” that is in the process of going through radical change, is the tour package. Once upon a time putting together package tours was a long process that required negotiations with hotels, group airfare departments and transfer experts. Specialists bargained with B&B owners and hotel chains months before anyone was expected to travel, in order to nail down the best rates. Airlines created special fare structures to offer bargains to groups. Incoming professionals tracked tour buses, vans, trains and rental cars.

His daughter and her boyfriend are on their way to Palm Beach, Fla., for a Passover Seder. But wait! Now their airline is telling them the reservations they booked through Expedia don’t exist? So he buys new tickets for them, but now their airline isn’t refunding them the money for the old ones. Don’t worry, help is on the way.

Most letters I receive are legitimate requests for help from travelers who have been wronged by an airline, hotel or car rental agency. But not all of them are. Here’s a selection of gripes that didn’t make the cut – from bad plumbing in hotel rooms to rude airline employees.

Using your credit card while traveling overseas may get you the best exchange rate. But travelers must watch which credit card they use while traveling. Some credit cards end up charging unaware travelers up to 7% for transactions overseas.

Save me a seat

by Terry Riley on August 4, 2003

Ever tried to sit in a “saved” seat? Short of creating a scene or turning the situation into a donnybrook, what can be done to defy a seat-saver’s claim?

Punish me, United

by Christopher Elliott on August 4, 2003

She books a flight on United Airlines from Cedar Rapids, IA, to Amsterdam. The ticket agent tells her any change will cost $200, which is fine with her. But when she tries to switch schedules, the airline changes its tune. Now she stands to lose lots of money. What’s going on here? And why did United suddenly add new restrictions to her ticket?