Tidbits for travelers: parks, pillows and perks

A couple of fun and possibly useful notes:

Southwest Airlines begins service between New York’s LaGuardia Airport and both BWI and Chicago’s Midway airport at the end of June (2009). To celebrate, the airline is sponsoring the Southwest Porch in New York City. It’s in Bryant Park, at appropriately enough, the park’s southwest corner and has porch swings, rocking chairs, Adirondack chairs, umbrellas, and space for about 175 people.


Also, those crisp white Westin Heavenly blankets and pillows that travelers on some United flights have been getting to snuggle up with are now being made in a travel-size version that the rest of us can buy.

Westin travel blanket

And, if you’ve been irritated by all those new (and old) checked baggage fees airlines are now charging, keep in mind that some hotels, most notably the nationwide chain of Kimpton Hotels,  offer a $25 room credit if you show a receipt for a checked bag.  Kimpton’s “We’ve Got Your Bag” promotion has been extended indefinitely.

Good, bad and just plain wacky air travel fees and amenities

Heading to the airport this holiday weekend? Check to make sure you’re up on the latest changes.


Shoes out of the bin, buddy!

Like what? Well, the TSA has decided that you still need to take off your shoes and send them through the X-ray machine, but now those shoes need to ride on the belt on their own, outside of the plastic bin.  Got that?

There are other changes to make note of. Some are good, some are bad and, as I outlined in my Well Mannered Traveler column this week on MSNBC.com, some are just plain wacky.  Here’s what I mean:

No Kiss ‘n Drop tax; for now

In April, London’s Luton Airport announced that it would soon be charging a fee for the privilege of dropping passengers off outside the terminal. That “Kiss ‘n Fly” tax is now on hold.


(O’Hare Airport has a Kiss n’ Fly drop-off spot with a free shuttle)

Ryanair’s “let just say everyone’s fat” tax

Ryanair was going to institute a large-passenger charge, but instead decided to just go ahead and charge everyone a new fee.  Print out your boarding pass before you go to the airport and you’ll pay a fee of about $5.  Forget to print out your boarding pass before you get to the airport and pay a much fatter fee of close to $60.  Ouch.

Loads of reasons to lighten your load

You’ll soon pay an extra fee on United and US Airways if you don’t go on-line and pre-pay the charge to check your luggage.  And Air Jamaica will soon begin taking your money for checking a second bag, but in return only promise to deliver it within seven days.

Pillows, snacks, fee-waivers, refunds, and perhaps a marriage proposal


There’s  some good news. Experts predict that on-line travel booking agencies will continue to waive booking fees. Air Canada may bring free pillows back.  And JetBlue is extending the “Lose your job, get your money back” program through the end of the year.

There’s more.  To find out about matchmaking flights and on-board weddings, see my Well Mannered Traveler column this week on MSNBC.com.

Guide to airline ‘swine flu’ refunds

question-markIf you’re still trying to figure out whether or not you’re going to take that scheduled trip to Mexico, one of the variables is certainly the policy set forth by your airline.  Will they refund your ticket price? Waive the change fee? Allow you to go Montreal instead of Mexico City?question-markDuring the initial flu-frenzy, many airlines set and then revised their policies, in most cases extending the dates during which they’d waive change fees.

For a round-up of the airline swine flu change policies as of Friday, May 1st, 2009, see this handy chart put together by the folks at Airfarewatchdog.com.

Keep in mind, though, that policies might be in flux and that many airlines have announced significant cuts in their scheduled flights to and from Mexico even since this list was put together.

So, as always, the advice is – check your airline’s Web site and/or call to get the latest information.  Then – check again.

Source: Airfarewatchdog.com May 1, 2009


Original Travel Dates

Changes allowed during these dates

Voucher valid for alternate destination?


Aeromexico 4/24 – 12/10/09 4/24 – 5/15/09 Not Specified A US$150 fee for No Shows may apply for some Intl cities.
Air Canada 4/28 – 5/31/09 Up to 5/31/09 Not Specified Suspending all operations to Cancun, Cozumel, and Puerto Vallarta until June 1st.
Air Tran 4/29 – 5/15/09 4/29 – 5/15/09 Not Specified Call AirTran directly to change travel to/from Cancun.
Alaska 4/27 – 5/20/09 4/27 – 5/20/09 Yes Possible credit if new destination fare is lower than original ticket.
American 4/25 – 5/31/09 Not Specified Yes Non-refundable fares will be refunded via a travel voucher.
Continental 4/24 – 5/31/09 Not Specified Yes If traveling on a OnePass Reward, call Continental to rebook.
Copa 4/24 – 5/15/09 Not Specified Yes Add’l fees may apply for revised itineraries starting May 30th and beyond.
Delta 4/26 – 5/16/09 Not Specified Call Delta Canceled ticket may be used to purchase a new ticket good for travel one year from original travel date.
Frontier 4/27 – 5/16/09 4/27 – 5/16/09 Not specified Those already enroute to Mexico, your adjusted return date must occur by May 20th. Otherwise, revised travel must be completed within 30 days of original travel date.
JetBlue 4/25 – 5/15/09 5/01 – 5/15/09 Yes Revised travel dates must occur no later than May 20th.
Mexicana 4/24 – 5/06/09 Not Specified Not Specified Refund by travel voucher valid for one year from date of issue.
Northwest 4/26 – 5/16/09 Not Specified Not Specified Use NWA.com “Mange My Reservations” to change your flight.
Spirit 4/24 – 5/15/09 Not Specified Yes Non-refundable fares will be refunded via travel voucher, good for one year from original ticket’s date of issue.
Sun Country 4/27 – 5/16/09 Not Specified No Starting 4/29/09, those passengers departing Cancun will undergo a breif temperature and flu symptom check.
Taca 4/24 – 5/06/09 Not Specified Yes New travel dates must occur within one year excluding Dec. 10-24, 2009 and Jan. 2-10, 2010.
United 4/26 – 5/31/09 Not Specified Not Specified Call United to make any changes to your purchased ticket.
US Airways 4/24 – 5/31/09 Not Specified Yes If changing destination, travel must originate within 14 days of original departure date. US Airways has revised its policy and now allows departure after 14 days from original departure date but does not specify when alternate travel must be completed by (most likely within one year of original departure).
USA3000 4/25 – 5/13/09 Not Specified Yes Revised travel must end by Dec. 15, 2009.
WestJet 4/28 – 6/20/09 Not Specified Will provide full refund Service to Mexico ends 5/4/09. Flights resume 6/20/09.

Ryanair asks: would you pay for toilet paper?

After alarming travelers with the ‘joke’ about on-board pay-toilets (don’t be surprised…), Ryanair officials asked travelers to send in their own ideas for other discretionary fees that could be charged.

They did.

As of today (April 14th) close to 45,000 votes have been cast.  And sadly, so far more than 20,000 people have voted in favor of charging excess fees for overweight passengers.

Other survey choices include charges for bringing your own food onboard, for using airplane toilet paper, and for smoking in a converted lavatory.  Click here to take the Ryanair survey.  The winning idea gets a cash prize. Voting closes Friday, April 17th.