Saturday, April 9, 2011

Worst Airlines by Complaint

(image credit: KWsideB)
U.S. News & World Report revealed which airlines rank on top of several complaint list. Without delay, these are the airlines that ranked number one in each category for 2010. Do you agree?

Meanest Major Carrier: United
The airline had the second-highest customer complaint rate of all airlines including regional carriers.

Meanest Regional Carrier: American Eagle
Several contributing factors resulted in the airline topping this list of all carriers (see below for two of them).

Most Complained About Airlines: Delta
The airline had the highest consumer complaint rate but only ranked fifth among the meanest major airlines.

(image credit: Airliners Gallery)
Most Documented Incidents: JetBlue
Commercial air travel is as safe as it gets today though this airline had the most safety related incidents.

Most Likely to Bump You: American Eagle.
Another contributing factor to the airline topping the meanest carrier list.

Most Likely to be Late: Comair
The airline had the worst on time performance with only 73.1 percent of flights arriving on time.

Most Likely to Mishandle Your Bags: American Eagle
For every 1,000 passengers, 7.15 bags were mishandled by airline.

(image credit: AV8NLVR)
And the one that likely bothers most travelers:

Most Likely to Overcharge for Bags: Delta / US Airways / Continental
The three airlines share similar fee structures with some variance.

Domestic Baggage Fees
  • 1st Bag: $25 ($23 if checked online with Delta or Continental)
  • 2nd Bag: $35 ($32 if checked online with Delta or Continental)
  • 3rd Bag: $125 for Delta & US Airways;  $100-$200 for Continental
Overweight/Oversized Bags
  • 51-70 lbs: $90 for Delta & US Airways; $200 for Continental
  • 71-100 lbs: $175 for Delta & US Airways; Continental will not accept luggage heavier than 70 lbs as checked baggage
  • Larger than 62 inches: $175 for Delta & US Airways; $100-$200 for Continental

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Finding the Best Deals To & From Hawaii

The beach at Waikiki and Diamond Head (image credit: BBQMonster)
Living in Hawaii all my life, I'm always looking for ways to find the best fares to leave for a vacation. But the expensive airfares are the same no matter if you're leaving or coming to Hawaii. So USA Today reported on finding the best deals to Hawaii. By considering this information for visitors to Hawaii, residents of the Aloha State will likely find deals to destinations elsewhere.

When to go? One of the busiest times for flights to Hawaii (thus the most costly) is during the cold weather months on the mainland, so look for discounted fares in the spring and fall. Don't hold your breath for summer deals, especially not this year with oil price trends and folks holding a little extra cash in their travel budget.

How good are the deals? With fuel surcharges plus taxes and fees running as much as $500 (or more on flights to Europe, Hawaii is a relative steal if you look purely at the distance of flights. Plus, in many cases, airfare to the islands is cheaper than prices you'll find to many popular Caribbean destinations.

Pool at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (image credit: BBQMonster)
When should I start shopping? Remember that "buying" airfare is different from "shopping." Shopping means you're kicking the tires and starting early to get an overall feel for the trend in prices. The key is being FLEXIBLE enough to be able to move on a sale and ding that credit card when a deal comes along. This is why I always recommend travelers sign up for real-time price-drop airfare alerts.

There are rarely any last-minute deals to Hawaii; however, you can sometimes pick up award seats at the last minute even if you tried redeeming those miles 11 months ago with no luck. Since award tickets are based on airline capacity, your preferred carrier may release more seats for miles redemption as they get a better handle on how their bookings are going.

When should I buy? The best time to shop for domestic flights is Tuesday 3pm eastern.

Why can I be that specific? We recently conducted a three-year study that showed most airlines file a sale fare on a Monday evening, when then prompts other carriers to scramble to match those sale prices. That process is typically completed as of Tuesday, and all those newly discounted seats then hit the airline reservation systems at 3pm eastern.

In general, you should start shopping about 3 months before your departure. The only exception is when it comes to holiday travel with fares at a premium around Thanksgiving and Christmas, it can really pay to shop year round (fun fact: most airlines tickets can be sold up to eleven months in advance).

Hawaiian Airlines flight map

What else should I know about air travel to Hawaii? It can pay to fly from California: There are about 500,000 airline seats flown to Hawaii each month from the mainland, with nearly half of them originating in two cities -- Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are only 20 cities total (outside of Hawaiian destinations) with nonstop flights to the islands.

Most popular airlines: Chances are you'll fly United or Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii -- these two carriers account for almost half the seats flown to the islands.

Non-U.S. travel to Hawaii: Two-thirds of Hawaii travel originates in the U.S. The other third has been dominated by Japan, but expect that percentage to change in light of the ongoing post-quake/tsunami turmoil.

Inter-island flights: There are enough seats flown between the islands each day to accommodate every single passenger that lands that day. Some locals (and tourists) have come to think of Hawaiian Airlines as something of the Greyhound Bus-like service, offering 30 minute flights from island to island; their domination of the market was solidified by the bankruptcy of Aloha Airlines.

USA Today report by Fare Compare CEO Rick Seaney is an airline industry insider and top media air travel resource.

(image credit: Hawaiian Airlines)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The ABC's of Using ATM's Abroad

(image credit: garryknight)
There was a time when travelers used cash and travelers checks as their primary source for their spending needs. Travelers checks appears to be headed the way of the dinosaur as credit cards are commonly accepted event to charge small amounts. But when in the need of cash, banks and credit card companies have made it easy to use ATM's (in addition to charge fees) and more travelers are finding it convenient to withdraw cash at their destination especially when traveling abroad.

Magellan's Travel Supplies reports some useful tips about using an ATM internationally:

(image credit: Alex Segre)

  • Visa and Mastercard charge a one percent fee for foreign transactions, and most banks tack on an additional two percent to convert the transactions to US dollars. Check with your credit, debit and ATM card providers to determine which of your cards are most travel-friendly, or sign up for a new card with a provider that waives or reduces the fees (for example, Capital One adds no fee, and absorbs the one percent Visa and Mastercard charge, and Wachovia charges just the one percent.) 
  • Make sure you have ample available credit and/or funds deposited, and check expiration dates on the cards you have chosen. Remember, many foreign ATM's accept four-digit PINs only, and typically don't display letters on the keyboards. If you use a word to remember your PIN, memorize the numeric equivalent before leaving home. 
  • Unusual foreign transactions may be flagged as fraudulent, so let your credit, debit and ATM card providers know of your travel plans to avoid a freeze on your account. Take more than one card with you to ensure that you have an alternative should your account be frozen.
  • Make a list of convenient ATM locations in your destination cities before you go. Both Visa and Mastercard have on-line worldwide ATM locators covering more than 210 countries. Make sure that your ATM card displays a Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus or Plus logo for worldwide acceptance.
  • Prepaid debit cards are a safe, albeit more expensive, alternative to a traditional debit or ATM card. You simply purchase the value needed ahead of time and use in ATM machines while traveling. Since the card is not connected to your checking account, there is no danger of being wiped out should it be stolen or lost, but there are usually extra fees involved.
  • Make all of your purchases in local currency, and beware of merchants offering to convert your purchases into US dollars. These merchants typically inflate the exchange rates by as much as five percent.
  • Cash-to-Cash machines are common, especially in Europe. They look like ATM's - the difference being that you feed in currency rather than a card. While they seem very convenient, they are best avoided as they charge inflated exchange rates. The same is true for the currency exchange booths at many international airports. 
  • Exchange rates and commission fees can be very expensive when converting foreign currency back to US funds, so try to limit your cash withdrawals to just what you need. Use your remaining currency for a last lunch or souvenir, or tuck it away for your next trip. 

Visit for more travel planning articles and travel supplies

(image credit: Beatnic)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Closing!!! 'Umbrellas of Cherbourg' in London

Another stage musical based on a feature film posts a closing notice. 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' the stage musical is based on one of the most romantic musical films of the 1960s. Released in 1964, the film of the same name is noted for being a French film that is a musical that is all sung. Starring Catherine Deneuve the film was nominated for five Oscars including Best Foreign Language Film. It also received a nominations for writing and for "I Will Wait For You" from the film's soundtrack.

Story is about a twenty-year-old French auto mechanic named Guy Fouchier (Andrew Durand) who has fallen in love with 17-year-old Genevieve Emery (Carly Bawden), an employee in her widowed mother's chic umbrella shop. On the evening before Guy is to leave for a two-year tour of combat in Algeria, he and Genevieve vow to remain lovers. After discovering she is carrying Guy's child she must choose between waiting for his return or accepting an offer of marriage from a wealthy diamond merchant.

In The Guardian, Michael Billington wrote:
Suspiciously thin would be my verdict on this stage version adapted and directed by Emma Rice for Kneehigh. The Michel Legrand score still offers its fitful pleasures, and the bittersweet ending is retained; but it seems an oddly gratuitous translation of a highly successful film into theatrical terms.

What is lost are the very things that made the film so original. One is the way in which the fluid camera movement matched the seamless recitative of the Legrand score: take that away, and you are left with a show that, with the exception of "I Will Wait For You," seems strangely lacking in musical or dramatic highlights. The other missing ingredient is the candy-colored artifice of the film, in which even the wallpaper matched the characters' costumes.

Watching the stage version is like seeing a Technicolor film rendered in black and white: Les Brotherston's set, with its partitioned steel structures, seems determined to evoke the reality of Cherbourg, whereas the point of the story is that it is a romantic fairytale.

A previous stage version was presented in London in a different short-lived production at the Phoenix Theatre in 1979. The song "I Will Wait You" has been recorded by many artists including Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darrin, Tony Bennett and Liza Minnelli.

The producers of the show cite economic reasons for the early closing. The musical opened at London's Gielgud Theatre on March 22, 2011 (after previews from March 5) and will close on May 21, 2011. Show was originally booking to October 1, 2011. More info at

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