May 2004

Celebrity payback

by James Wysong on May 23, 2004

My recent column about the hardships of flying as a celebrity – and the quiz that followed – sure got your keyboards clicking.
Here are the answers:

Car rental companies are notorious for adding surprise surcharges to your bill. But what happens when a fee is the result of a misunderstanding? What if the “fee” doesn’t even officially exist? That’s the question posed by a renter from Budget in Kingston, Jamaica. After he complains about the surcharge, the company offers a partial settlement – but it’s not good enough for him. Find out what’s behind the mysterious fee, and what you can do if you ever encounter one on the road.

Why ask why?

by James Wysong on May 16, 2004

After 15 years in the airline industry, I have come to the conclusion that the word “why” will always be asked, but a rational answer should never be expected.

The airlines are finally beginning to offer business class bargains directly on their Web sites and from their reservation centers. How low are the prices? I’ve heard of some fares dropping to around $1,500 round-trip between certain US and European destinations.

When everything goes wrong on your vacation, the least you can expect is some kind of apology – if not a refund. Right? Wrong. For one passenger who endures a nightmare cruise on Royal Caribbean’s “Brilliance of the Seas” with her husband, the answer is: neither. After getting stuck in an uncomfortable cabin, suffering the barbs of snippy cabin attendants and breaking her arm, she wants something – anything from – Royal Caribbean. Instead she gets silence. Is the cruise line ignoring her on purpose? And what does she deserve for her troubles?

Celebrity sleuth

by James Wysong on May 9, 2004

I have always felt a bit sorry for traveling celebrities. Even though they are usually in a higher class of service on the plane, all eyes, cameras, and conversations are riveted on them.

A lot of hotel chains offer best-rate guarantees if you book through their Web sites. But what if you find a lower rate elsewhere? Will the hotel honor its promise? For one reader who found a cheap room at a Hilton, the answer is “no.” Although the chain says the rate doesn’t qualify, the hotel guest begs to differ. Does he have any recourse – or is the “best rate” guarantee so full of disclaimers that no one could possibly make a claim?

Bite your tongue

by James Wysong on May 2, 2004

Many poorly-chosen words are uttered by air travelers to flight attendants. And while we’ve become accustomed to hearing them, it’s never easy to be on the receiving end.

Travel insurance is supposed to give you the peace of mind that if something goes wrong, you won’t lose your vacation. But for one reader whose brother and mother tragically die within a few months of each other and is forced to cancel his cruise, trip insurance proves to be of little use. His carrier, Trip Assured, only reimburses him for half the cruise and tells him to take it or leave it. He decides to mail the check back and fight. Find out what happened next – and how you can prevent the same thing from happening to you.

On our next trip to Kauai we will bring armored beach chairs for the fine sand and an attorney for the fine print.