>Q: I'm researching tickets from Seattle to London for travel at the beginning of April. I've found that the same plane (same time, flight number flown by British Air) leaves under three different airline names with fares from $719 (Iberia which breaks down to $270 plus $449 taxes and fees) to $1,247 (American, $1,050 plus $197 taxes and fees). What's going on here? I've looked at Cheaptickets.com, Expedia and Priceline.
A: What you're seeing here is a code share situation. British Airways has a marketing agreement with American and Iberia, both of which buy seats on British Airways and are free to sell them for whatever they wish. The flight is being flown by British Airways. This is one reason why online travel agencies are so important. Had you researched the flight on AmericanAirlines.com, you would only have seen the higher $1,247 fare on American. Sites like Expedia show you all the possibilities. On another travel date, it's possible that American would have had cheaper seats than British Airways (by the way, for the time being, Expedia is no longer listing American's fares, nor does Orbitz, which owns cheaptickets.com). So just buy the cheapest fare. It's the same flight, same airline, same service no matter how much or little you pay.
>Q: I have flown United a lot and have never been offered a last-minute upgrade opportunity at check-in to first class while vacationing. However, when my company sent me to Vancouver for a business trip, I got asked at every leg of the flight upon check-in. I happily forked over the $70 to enjoy the privileges, at least on one leg of my journey (and it worth was worth every penny, I might add). The Maple Leaf Lounges in Canada have self-serve beer on tap (Molson -- how very Canadian)!
My question: Did United somehow know I was on business? Are they trying to woo me and turn me into a loyal United flier? I personally didn't buy the ticket, rather it was my company's travel vendor (Carlson-Wagonlit). Did they happen to buy an upgradeable fare code? Maybe it's a fare that only travel agents can buy? If so, how do I buy the right fare code? Y, B, M, E, U, H Q? It's all gibberish to me.
A: Airlines are increasingly offering last-minute airport upgrades to first class, often for very little money. As long as there are first class seats going begging a few minutes before flight time, why not fill them for whatever the market will bear? It's possible that the fare your company paid for your business trip was in a higher fare class (such as Y, B, or M which business travelers typically use) and was therefore more eligible for upgrade than fares you paid for your leisure trips. In fact, the more you fly United, the more often you'll be upgraded to first class automatically, often for free, as long as there are empty seats. Whenever I am offered a cheap upgrade at check-in, I jump for it. As you noted, it's well worth it.
>Q: My husband and I would like to spend a week in Paris in May. He is a World War II buff and would like to spend a day in Normandy. He does not want to travel with a large group. Can you recommend a good agency that does small groups, or do you think we can do this on our own with a rental car?
A: You could do this on your own, but I've found Normandy tours are money well spent.
The real question is how to travel. If you take the train, you will arrive in Normandy in about two hours. Driving tours will double that travel time.
In the past year, a colleague and his wife took a tour offered through Link Paris that included early morning train transportation from Paris to Caen. He was impressed by the size of the tour (maximum of eight people), the itinerary and the knowledgeable guide.
The guided Normandy D-Day Tour includes the following: Caen War Memorial, lunch, a landing beach segment that features the artificial harbor at Arromanches, Germany gun battery at Longues-sur-Mer, American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach and the Pointe du Hoc. Visitors travel in an air-conditioned minivan between the sites.
Per person costs for the full-day tour is $260 on second-class rail or $304 on first-class rail. Details: www.linkparis.com/normandy-dday-tour.htm; 866-996-9727.
For travel by minibus, Florida-based France.com offers full-day small group tours Tuesdays and Saturdays that include pick-up and drop-off at your Paris hotel. The guided tour for a maximum of eight people covers the Caen Memorial, Arromanches, battery at Longues, Pointe du Hoc, the American Cemetery and Omaha Beach. Lunch also is included.
The tour costs $280 per person. Details: paristours.france. com/tours-in-france.php.
>Q: Should I leave my iPhone at home when I go to Europe?
A: An iPhone can be either a friend or lousy travel companion due to its use of rich data that automatically downloads.
When traveling abroad, turn off the "data roaming," switch "fetch new data" to manual, and use Wi-Fi services, not the 3G system, to check e-mail, AT&T recommends. Since iPhone charges about $19.50 per megabyte of data downloaded internationally, you'll face a huge bill if you aren't careful.
Also remember that not every American cell phone works in Europe. In general, AT&T and T-Mobile phones do while most Verizon and Sprint phones don't.