travel agents

Lufthansa, United’s major European partner, is instituting a pay-for-long-haul-seat-assignment policy of their own. Families who get separated, will not be pleased.

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These days travelers have never had a wider choice of ways to get deals. On flights, hotels, cruises, rental cars … you name it — deals are everywhere. So it would seem to be a golden age for bargain hunters. But, it is not. What’s the problem?

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No one likes paying unnecessary travel penalties. And, travel agents and consumer advocates do our best to help when travelers are unjustly charged. Unfortunately, while suppliers can and do make mistakes, there are many times when the problem could have been avoided in the first place if the travelers actually paid attention and read the contract before they put money down.

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These days, there are all kinds of commercials and online ads for great hotel websites and apps, all intimating that booking through them will get you some glorious room or suite at a good price. While certainly, there are some website deals out there on everything from the smallest rooms to suites, if travelers really care about the room they are reserving, old-fashioned human involvement could be their best bet.

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Delta Airlines has raised the frequent flier program ante, by announcing a switch in 2015 to an all dollar-based mileage system, where award miles depend solely on the price you pay.

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Many travelers who prefer to do it themselves for simple trips will only call a travel agent for something complicated or exotic. But, in many cases when someone is looking for a special short getaway to a local hotel or resort, a travel agent might be more valuable than they think.

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For 2014, United Airlines joined Delta as a legacy carrier requiring a minimum spend as well as miles for various levels of Premier Status.

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Some say, “If it’s a really complicated and/or special trip, you should consider using a travel agent, but for simple flights within the U.S, just go ahead and book online.” That’s not always true.

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As most travelers know, airline regulation has been a mixed bag for fares. Recently the government has at least stepped in to require airlines at least to be honest in their pricing. But to my mind, the most dishonest part of an airfare is not the fare but the mandatory, and seemingly arbitrary, fuel surcharge.

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Frequent fliers and regular readers of Consumer Traveler are by now familiar with most of the things that can go wrong with joint tickets on airline partners. But, this recent Lufthansa/United debacle for one of my clients was a new one and resulted in his bag being checked onto a flight that didn’t exist; and, hadn’t existed for months.

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