10 Tips for Changing Your Airlines Ticket (or Postponing Your Trip)

Need to switch your travel plans? Here’s your guide for maximizing savings.

 

Forget paying steep Wi-Fi or baggage fees. These days, beyond getting charged for an ever-expanding list of extras – from seat upgrades to priority boarding to airport lounge access – we’re also paying for severe weather-related disruptions and cancelations. And when our plans suddenly change, we’re often hit with unexpected out-of-pocket change fees, or worse, the entire cost of nonrefundable tickets. To add fuel to the fire, with the threat of terrorism and the Zika virus, today travelers face uncertain travel conditions that can change quickly.

Still, regardless of the reason you need to modify your trip, there are strategic, pain-free ways to pivot your plans without paying a hefty fee. We caught up with industry experts to bring you 10 simple and smart ways to avoid spending a small fortune when you need to rearrange your plans on the fly.

Choose a Flexible Carrier

If you’re concerned that you’ll need to change your flight down the road, pick an airline that waives change fees should you need to modify your departure date. George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, highlights Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines as ideal carrier choices to dodge sky-high change fees, which can cost $200 for domestic flights and $500 for international routes, depending on the carrier, route and fare purchased. Interestingly, Frontier Airlines’ “The Works” bundled fare option gives travelers free checked baggage, complimentary seat selection and the opportunity to fully refund their ticket (as long as travelers do so 24 hours in advance) for purchasing a $49 package, Hobica explains. And if you compare that cost against a steep change fee, you may be better off investing in the more flexible fare option.

Alex Matjanec, CEO of MyBankTracker.com, echoes similar sentiments, pointing out that “Southwest Airlines is known for not charging any change fees” and “Alaska Airlines will waive change fees as long as changes are made at least 60 days before the flight.” That said, when you fly with Alaska, you can incur a $25 fee for same-day flight changes or a $125 change fee if you change your flight under 60 days prior to departure, so make sure to read the fine print. Delta, United and American, for example, charge $50 to $75 same-day change fees, depending on the carrier, and much higher service fees for other changes, depending on the class of the ticket, the departure date and other individual fare rules.

Make Your Reservations Early and Adjust Accordingly

To increase your odds of changing or canceling your itinerary without a penalty, tweak your plans within 24 hours of making your reservation to avoid incurring a charge, says Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com. “After that, the airlines all have fees for changes. Check with your airline on what their individual policies and fees are. Some allow lower fees if you make changes more than 60 days out from travel and bump you to a higher change fee when you are within 60 days of your departure date,” Klee says.

Matjanec also suggests securing your reservations early to account for unforeseen events. “Booking several months in advance means that the flight schedule can change as the departure date comes closer. You can reject the schedule change and insist on a different date that fits your own schedule,” he adds.

Invest in the Right Travel Insurance

Whether you opt to invest in insurance will likely depend on a wide range of factors, including the length, cost and risk associated with your trip. But if you want to minimize your chances of paying more should you be affected by unforeseen circumstances, make sure you’re covered. Though traditional travel insurance policies do not cover canceling a trip regardless of whether the traveler is in danger of visiting a country at risk of an outbreak (think: the Zika virus, for example), more extensive packages typically allow you to cancel your trip for any reason, so make sure to read the fine print before making your selection. “This list of reasons may vary by the travel insurance policy,” Matjanec says. Policies that include “any reason” coverage will likely cost more, he adds, though they can be worthwhile.

Keep in mind the cost of coverage can vary widely depending on the plan you select and the place that you’re visiting. A basic plan from Allianz Global Assistance listed on InsureMyTrip.com starts at $20 for a trip to France, while basic coverage for a trip to Nepal starts at $27 from Travel Guard and goes up depending on the plan type and coverage selected.

Klee recommends considering the “cancel for any reason” option, particularly if you’re purchasing a nonrefundable ticket and you’re planning to travel to an international destination with an unstable political climate. In this scenario, you might want to ensure you’re covered by a more comprehensive travel insurance policy.

To compare options available, check out reputable websites like InsureMyTrip.com and travel insurance providers like World Nomads. And when it comes to picking the coverage that’s best for you, consider criteria such as health factors and the cost of a medical evacuation if you’re traveling somewhere remote, plus the extra protections you might need if you paid for expensive flight seats, hotels or a cruise vacation.

Use a Credit Card That’s Protected

“Always book your travel reservations with a credit card, preferably one with a comprehensive suite of travel perks,” Matjanec says. “Many credit cards, such as those with Visa Signature and World MasterCard logos, come with various travel protections such as trip interruption and trip cancelation coverage,” he adds, emphasizing that by using these credit cards, you can receive reimbursement in the event a cruise, train, airline or car rental company denies a reservation change or full refund.

Remember the 24-Hour Rule and Other Cases for Reimbursement

When it comes to seeking reimbursement, the key is understanding what consumers are entitled to receive. First and foremost, the U.S. Department of Transportation mandates that carriers allow free changes and refunds within 24 hours of booking a reservation. Beyond this rule, if your flight schedule has changed and your flight is severely delayed (say, from a morning to evening departure time), you can ask for a refund if the new time no longer works for your schedule, Hobica explains.

Another important consideration is whether you have access to an involuntary refund. “If the airline makes a change to their schedule that affects your ticket more than three hours earlier or later than you were scheduled to depart, this is considered an ‘involuntary’ schedule change and means that the airline has to allow refunds and changes to your ticket without penalty,” Klee explains.

Another way to get a refund: if you purchase your ticket and then find a significantly lower fare with the same carrier, Klee says. Though this isn’t a frequent occurrence, oftentimes the airline will let you adjust your ticket and you will receive credit for the difference in the fare cost, which can be applied to a future ticket, he explains, emphasizing that going through this process is “only worth pursuing if the fare is quite hefty, as you’ll still be required to absorb the change fee.”

Know Your Rights in an Emergency Situation

“Legitimate emergencies such as a serious illness or other situation might qualify you for a waiver,” Klee explains, though he cautions that there are no guarantees, and these scenarios qualify you on a case-by-case basis. “Sometimes the airlines will extend a waiver if you can provide documentation for the cancelation (a doctor’s note, for example),” he explains.

Know When It’s Cheaper Not to Travel

“Sometimes, it is cheaper to not board the flight than to deal with change or cancelation fees,” Matjanec says. If changing your flight will cost you $200, and your flight was initially priced at $200, you’ll end up paying $400, he explains. “If you can look again and find the flight for less than $200, you’re losing less money by skipping the initial flight,” he adds. “Because airlines may cancel the rest of your flights when you do this, it’s best to use this strategy on one-way flights or the last leg of your round-trip flights.”

Klee echoes similar sentiments, pointing out that in some situations, your best bet is “to cut your losses and forfeit your ticket altogether.” With a standard change fee with legacy airlines priced at $200, “if you can find a ticket for under $200 on your own and roll the value of your existing ticket (minus any penalties) into a credit for future travel, that’s a savvier strategy,” he says. Whether you can receive credit for a future flight depends on the carrier you select and your fare purchased, but typically airlines will provide you with with a credit or refund when you cancel your reservation online or call a reservations customer service representative for assistance.

Understand the Associated Risks With the Places on Your Itinerary

“Airlines are not unreasonable,” Klee says. “When there are forces at work outside the control of travelers, they will usually make efforts to accommodate changes and cancellations,” he explains, pointing to the Zika virus as an example. “Because the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and World Health Organization have indicated Zika is an international health concern, the airline industry has been generous with cancellations and ticket changes for any high-risk travelers,” he says. Travelers who are in the “high-risk” category because of pre-existing medical conditions have been able to cancel their Delta, United and American flights to Zika-impacted areas, though many companies and hotels are offering fee-free cancelations on an ad hoc basis.

Pick the Right Train Tickets and Car Rental Policy

“With train tickets, there is generally no fee for changing your reservation. However, refund fees may apply for certain train tickets,” Matjanec says. And there are certain tickets that cannot be refunded, he adds. For example, if you purchase a coach or business-class ticket on Acela Express, you may receive a refund 24 hours ahead of your departure time or pay a 10 percent fee for refunding your ticket fewer than 24 hours in advance of your scheduled departure time. Meanwhile, if you book an Acela Express first-class seat or a non-Acela business-class seat, you’ll incur no refund fee for canceling your ticket before the scheduled departure date.

When it comes to changing your car rental reservations, policies vary by company, Matjanec explains. “Some car rental agencies will allow changes to your reservation without any fees (you may be refunded or charged for returning the car early or late, respectively), including Dollar, Alamo and Enterprise,” he says, noting cancellations tend to be free when made with a 24- to 48-hour notice, otherwise fees can apply. He suggests making a reservation for longer than you need the car and returning the vehicle early to maximize savings. “You’ll probably avoid any late fees and be refunded for the difference,” he says.

Remember, Policies Change According to Airline and Fare Purchased

“People are not always aware that changes (and even cancellations) to airline tickets can be made with most airlines within 24 hours of booking a ticket,” Klee says. “This is a very narrow window, but it’s a handy option when you need it.” And while most airlines (including legacy airlines United, Delta and American) allow you to pay a much lower price for same-day flight changes, others offer different policies, so it’s important to read the fine print.

“JetBlue has an interesting fare structure: a sliding scale that allows change fees ranging from zero up to $150, depending on which fare category you buy into, the price of the original ticket and when you make the change (more than 60 days from travel is a lower fee, closer to travel dates is higher),” Klee explains, noting that the only carrier that doesn’t impose any change fee is Southwest. Unlike other carriers, should you need to change your plans, you’ll pay the difference in fare, he explains, emphasizing the caveat: If you book a new flight close to your departure date, you could end up paying a significant cost difference when demand is high and only pricey tickets are available.

How to cancel a flight without the hefty fee

Little-known rules give air travelers an opportunity to cancel their reservations and receive a full refund. This came about as part of a larger package of new consumer protection laws regulating the airline industry.

 

You book a flight to your cousin’s wedding in Tampa, only to realize in horror a few hours later that you booked it for the wrong weekend.

You spot a killer grab-it-now-or-lose-it-forever fare to San Francisco that would be a perfect weekend getaway for you and your sweetie, but he’s stuck in an all-day meeting at work – which means you won’t be able to ask him until tonight, when it will be too late!

Or, if you’re like me, you live in Chicago and really, really want to go to the Foo Fighters concert in Los Angeles, but you’re not sure if you’ll be able to get tickets, and if not, well, then you’d rather visit Denver in October, when the aspens are changing color.

Scenarios like these used to put airline passengers in a difficult spot with hefty change and cancellation fees, but legislation rolled out back in January 2013 gives air travelers a little-known opportunity to cancel their reservations and receive a full refund. This came about as part of a larger package of new consumer protection laws designed to unmask the hidden fees and unfair policies that historically have been attached to airfares.

How does the airline reservation cancellation policy work?

 

You don’t have to stress if travel plans change right after you book!

When you book a flight, you have 24 hours to cancel for a full refund. So if you discover a scheduling error, find a lower fare elsewhere, or simply decide not to go, so long as you’re in touch with the airline within that 24 hour window, you won’t have to cough up a cancellation fee.

Our Editor-In-Chief, Brad Wilson, put the rule to the test himself, and notes that the cancellation option was not easy to spot.

“The airlines do NOT publicize this for obvious reasons,” he says, “but it’s an incredibly valuable free option if you aren’t sure of your plans but are afraid of losing a good fare – just book it and then if your plans change in the subsequent 24 hours, cancel.”

The exception to this rule used to be American Airlines.  They would allow you to hold a reservation for up to 24 hours, without paying for it, but if you purchased a reservation outright and decided to cancel within 24 hours, you were out of luck. Not anymore — they changed their policy earlier this year!

Travel editor Mark Jackson’s favorite airline for canceling flights is Southwest Airlines. “They’ll allow you to cancel your flight for a credit up to 10 minutes before takeoff. You won’t receive the money back to your credit card,  but you’ll get a credit for future travel, and it’s flexible enough that I love the policy.”

Last minute flights are also exempt from the 24-hour cancellation policy. You must book your departure at least one week ahead of time to qualify for the 24-hour window under the law.

What if you just need to change your itinerary?

Switching flights can be costly on United ($200, up to $400 for international itineraries), American ($75-$150), and Delta ($200). The law doesn’t directly address changes vs. cancellations, and the airlines are sticking to the letter of the law.

Delta has recently instituted new Basic Economy fares designed to directly compete with ultra-low budget airlines like Spirit. These tickets are not changeable for any reason at all, so while they’re super cheap, but you better hope nothing changes in your travel plans. American and United are expected to add Basic Economy fares this year as well.

In the meantime, you can still get out of a change fee by canceling according to the airline’s terms and conditions. Simply rebook a different flight once the cancellation is complete.

What else is in the law?

The 24-hour cancellation window is not the only consumer-friendly change in the law. Here are some other good-to-know facts about fees for booking your next flight:

  • All taxes and fees must be disclosed in advertised fares.
  • Baggage fees must be disclosed at the time of booking.
  • The same baggage allowances and fees must apply through each leg of your journey.

You can read the USDOT’s entire press release here:
U.S. Department of Transportation’s Expanded Airline Passenger Protections Take Effect

This article first appeared in Brad’s Deals.

THE 11 CRAZIEST ELITE AIRLINE PERKS

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Entrance to the cushy lounge, upgrades to business class, priority boarding — those are airline perks for chumps. The real elites — especially those who fly a million miles or more, or generate more revenue for airlines than any other passengers — are collecting perks that the proletariat only dream of.

Here are some of the most mind-boggling perks enjoyed by the high flyers.

1. Go by Private Jet

Delta made news when it announced that select frequent flyers could pay a small fee ($300 to $800) to upgrade from a commercial flight to one of the company’s executive jets, which hold a few dozen passengers max. These lucky customers get an email from the airline when the option to upgrade is available.

2. Make Your Connection in a Porsche

Have a tight connection? Members of United’s ultra-elite Global Services program can get transferred across the tarmac via Mercedes, and members of Delta’s invite-only Delta 360 program can get picked up in a Porsche, right at their plane. These services are only available at certain airports.

3. Have a Car Waiting for You

Why should the airline only transport you from airport to airport? Emirates provides a chauffeured Range Rover to pick up members of its Invitation Only elite club at home and drop them off at their final destination after the flight.

4. Have a Jumbo Jet Wait for You

British Airways may delay flights up to 30 minutes to accommodate their high-value passengers, according to the website LoungeBuddy.

5. Get Downton-Abbey-Level Personal Attention

Wouldn’t it be grand if you arrived at the airport to find Downton Abbeybutler Carson waiting to take your bags, whisk you through security, and settle you in the lounge, where another staffer waits with your favorite cocktail? What if you need someone to run an errand for you?

6. Hang Out in a Secret Luxury Lounge

Qantas Chairman’s Lounge members aren’t just people who fly a lot — they’re influencers personally selected by the airline’s chairman. Once you’re in the club, you can stroll up to frosted glass doors usually marked “PRIVATE” and enjoy an all-day self-serve bar and gourmet food served up at any time. Chairman’s Lounge members can also use those ordinary first class Qantas lounges anytime they want, event if they’re not flying that day.

7. Get Guaranteed Seating — Event When the Flight Is Sold Out

This perk is more at the rumor level, but they say that if you are a super-elite flyer and your flight is canceled or delayed, the airline will boot a less-valued passenger off a fully-booked flight to make room for you. More widely confirmed is the fact that airlines have dedicated staff tracking elites’ itineraries, and will automatically rebook them as soon as a delay or cancellation occurs.

8. Take a Shower

In normal life, most of us don’t consider showering a privilege. But at 40,000 feet? Only people willing to pay thousands of dollars per flight or elites who snag upgrades get to suds up. On Emirates A380s, the first class Shower Spa is decked in walnut and marble, has heated floors, and, according to the blogOne Mile at a Time, is stocked with “enough amenities to start a toiletry resale business.” But for obvious reasons, even an elite flyer can’t take a long shower in the air — first class passengers are limited to five minutes of water.

After you’ve showered and shaved — using the complimentary Bulgari shower kit — you’ll be ready to rub shoulders with other elites over a cocktail at the bar of the Emirates first and business class lounge.

9. Stretch Out

Airlines’ luxury first class suites like the ones on Singapore Airlines, where your seat converts to a bed and you have total privacy, have gotten a lot of “ooh”s and “ah”s online. One Mile at a Time explains that you don’t have to spend $23,000 to fly in one of these suites; they’re actually pretty attainable for frequent flyers with points to spend.

10. Take Home a Luxury Amenity Bag

When my brother was in high school, he and his best friend were almost bumped off an American Airlines flight while on their way to visit me in Paris. Somehow my mother persuaded the airline to bump them to business class instead, and the boys were delighted not just by being served wine onboard, but by the little vinyl pouches containing toothpaste, toothbrushes, and combs.

As nice as those pouches were, they’re nothing compared to the Bulgari pouches and leather dopp kitsthat Emirates gives business class travelers, stuffed with Bulgari-designed lotion and even a pair of PJs. First class female passengers also receive Bulgari perfume in their kits. While these bags aren’t reserved for elite frequent flyers, such flyers are a lot more likely to end up in the cabins that get them, because of their upgrade privileges.

11. Drink $1,000 Worth of Champagne

Frequent flyer “macabus” on the FlyerTalk community describes consuming eight bottles of Dom Perignon on a first class journey from Los Angeles to Bangkok, which he estimated was worth more than a grand. You don’t have to be an elite flyer to down a lot of champagne in first class, but since the flight attendants know who the elites are, they’re more likely to keep your glass full without you having to so much as look up. One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig even found a bottle of Dom on ice waiting for him in the shower on one flight.

Have you ever experienced first class service or perks while flying? What’d you get?

Why planes are nearly always white?

WHEN you walk along an airport terminal to board the plane, it’s normally easy to tell which one you’re flying in — thanks to the branding, reports The Sun.

 

Whether you’re going with British Airways or Easy Jet, the colourful writing on the side of the plane is sure to make it stand out.

But have you ever wondered why commercial aircrafts are nearly always white? It turns out there are a number of reasons.

Firstly, white is the easiest colour to identify cracks, oil spills and any other issues on the plane itself — ensuring that these are dealt with before they become a major problem.

While white, as we all know, is a great reflector of light and heat. Keeping such a huge metal tube cool is already a mammoth task, without it attracting yet more sunshine.

White makes it easier to see cracks and leaks, and it also reflects heat from the sun.White is also one of the easiest colours to spot in the sky, if there is a crash or turbulent weather, and will never fade.

And painting a plane is a pain — both in terms of cost and effort.
Painting a plane white is also much more cost effective
It could take anywhere between two days and two weeks to paint the whole plane, depending on what your budget is.

Heavily painted planes are also harder to sell onto other companies.

Why do airlines close the blinds on daylight flights?

why-do-airlines-close-the-blinds-on-daylight-flightsWHY DO AIRLINES INSIST ON CLOSING THE BLINDS ON DAYLIGHT FLIGHTS?

This conundrum is proposed by T. Denham, but it’s not universal.

Apart from take-off and landing, when raised shades are obligatory, some airlines request window shades down during daylight, but no airline has the right to require it.

Blinds closed is more likely to prevail on long sectors, especially on an overnight flight travelling in an easterly direction.

Darkness might last only four to five hours and closing the blinds beyond that timeframe makes it easier to sleep.

Even when we board a flight feeling perky, there might be others who have just transferred from a red-eye and need sleep.

A darkened cabin also makes it easier to watch your video screen. During mealtimes it is only reasonable to open the shades to see what you’re doing, but shades down is democracy in action, the tyranny of the majority.

 

Australian kick boxer accuses Jetstar flight attendant of racially targeting him

 An Australian champion kick boxer has accused Jetstar of racism after a flight attendant forced a plane from Sydney to turn around, he claims because ‘he looked Middle Eastern’.

Shadi Chebib says he was ‘left feeling like a criminal’ after he was escorted off the Phuket-bound flight on Wednesday by Australian Federal Police.

The 24-year-old, who is of Lebanese background, says an airline hostess accused him of sitting in the wrong seat and failed to check his boarding pass correctly, and he believes he was targeted ‘for no other reason than how l look’.

Jetstar told Daily Mail Australia he was ‘disruptive’ and ‘verbally abusive’ to their cabin crew – which prompted the captain to turn the flight around.untitled

 

Shadi Chebib claims he was targeted by Jetstar workers purely because of his appearance

‘The plane was moving, we were getting ready for take-off when one of the attendants was asking me if I was sitting in the correct seat,’ Mr Chebib told Daily Mail Australia.

‘She asked me for my boarding pass to check and I was happy to grab it for her, when she said it was fine and to wait until the plane was in the air.

‘It wasn’t long after when another woman came, I think she was the manager, she had a piece of paper rolled up in her hand, no hello no nothing and she smacks me on the shoulder with it and tells me to give her my boarding pass.’

As a result Mr Chebib was left feeling targeted.

‘I didn’t know what was happening,’ he said.

‘I said [to her] “Don’t you know how to say hello? I’m not a f**king dog.”

‘She kept harassing me and saying don’t swear…I was frustrated and the one word slipped but she stuck on it… I told her “I’m not hiding, I’m not running away so I don’t know what your problem is, the other attendant just told me to show her [my boarding pass] later”,’ Mr Chebib said.

Shadi Chebib says he was ¿left feeling like a criminal¿ after he was escorted off the Phuket-bound flight on Wednesday by Australian Federal Police

Shadi Chebib says he was ‘left feeling like a criminal’ after he was escorted off the Phuket-bound flight on Wednesday by Australian Federal Police

Five minutes after the attendant walked away the captain made an announcement informing the passengers the flight had to be turned back around.

A number of AFP officers then entered the flight to escort Mr Chebib off the aircraft.

‘I had no idea the flight was turning back because of me when the captain made the announcement. I was so confused with what was happening.

‘I had no idea it had to do with me…it was a little argument and they kicked me off because I said one single swear word.

‘All the passengers around me were saying this wasn’t right and a person next to me said “this was a disgrace.”’

The 24-year-old was heading to Thailand on a sponsored flight by AJ Force to train for an upcoming fight in hopes of maintaining the Australian title for the third year in a row.

Mr Chebib the captain who made an announcement informing the passengers the flight had to be turned back around was because of him (stock photo)

Mr Chebib the captain who made an announcement informing the passengers the flight had to be turned back around was because of him (stock photo)

Mr Chebib claims an AFP officer realised the incident was ‘not major’ when they addressed the situation off the plane.

‘They wanted to arrest me but I said I was happy to co-operate with them so they didn’t. They kept my hands behind my back and they walked me off the plane,’ he said.

‘They eventually told me the incident was not major and if it was their choice they’d let me back on the plane but once a decision is made by the captain they can’t go back…they told me they weren’t going to charge me because I didn’t cause a public nuisance.’

THE BEST AIRLINE IN THE WORLD JUST ADDED A NEW FEE ITS CUSTOMERS WILL HATE

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Dubai-based Emirates Airlines just made a policy change this week that probably won’t make its customers very happy.

The world’s largest international airline announced that it will “institute a minimal charge” for certain economy class passengers who wish to select their seats in advance of their flight.

Passengers should expect to pay $15 per person for short flights and $40 per person for long-haul flights, AP reported.

The new policy, which will come into effect on October 3, applies only for customers traveling in economy on discounted Special or Saver fares.

In a statement to Business Insider, an Emirates spokesperson wrote:

“Emirates can confirm the introduction of a minimal charge for those looking to select their Economy Class seat in advance, for tickets issued on or after October 3, 2016. The charge is only applicable on Special and Saver fares in Economy Class and will vary depending on the duration of the flight. Children below the age of 2 and accompanying passengers on the same booking will be exempted from the fee. This charge is also not applicable once online check-in opens, which is 48hrs before flight departure. At this stage, seat selection is free.”

Seat selection fees are nothing new in commercial aviation. However, these fees are usually associated with more value-oriented airlines. As a result, this announcement is a departure from Emirates’ traditional place as a high-end carrier.

Emirates, who was named the best airline in the world by aviation consumer website Skytrax in July, reported $1.93 billion in profits for the last fiscal year. The airline currently operates the world’s largest long-haul international fleet with roughly 250 aircraft – consisting mostly of Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 jets.

[via businessinsider.in]

The U.S. Government Breaks Its Own Airlines Rules. Again.

For the second time in less than a year, the U.S. government has hired Emirates, a massively subsidized, state-owned airline, to fly federal employees, this time between New York and Milan, Italy. This is not just an odd choice, but violates a federal law, the Fly America Act. The act requires federal travelers to use U.S. air carrier service for all air travel and cargo transportation services funded by the U.S. government.

To enable this ruse, Emirates has signed a “codesharing” agreement with JetBlue, and technically JetBlue, a U.S. air carrier, is the government contractor. JetBlue operates no international long-haul service whatsoever, and has no aircraft capable of operating a 4,000-mile flight across the Atlantic. Codesharing means that JetBlue will sell seats under its “B6” JetBlue code – directly and via intermediaries like travel agencies and Expedia – on Emirates-operated New York-Milan flights. This partnership allowed JetBlue to bid for the U.S. government’s business, even though Emirates will do 100 percent of the flying and get virtually all the revenue. Thus, JetBlue essentially serves as the bag man, collecting revenues and remitting them to government coffers in Dubai. Prior to this award, American Airlines held the Milan contract with the General Services Administration (GSA, the procurement arm of the U.S.).

In late 2015, GSA awarded JetBlue the contract to fly federal employees (including military personnel and intelligence officials) from Washington to Dubai. United previously held the Washington-Dubai GSA contract, and the loss of 15,000 government passengers per year was one factor in United’s decision to discontinue its Washington-Dubai route.

Although American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United also use codeshare relationships for some of their government-contract flying, all three are global carriers with extensive international networks, and each is capable of operating any of those contract routes on its own, without codesharing. That is not the case with JetBlue, which must rely 100 percent on Emirates to meet its obligations to the U.S. government.

Decades ago, Congress passed the Fly America Act to ensure all air travel ultimate paid for by U.S. taxpayers would take place on U.S. air carriers and flights operated by American workers, “to help improve the economic and competitive position of U.S.-flag carriers against foreign air carriers.” The Emirates-JetBlue contract is a cynical manipulation of the law.

Emirates and the other two state-owned Gulf airlines, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, have received more than $50 billion in subsidies and other unfair benefits from UAE and Qatari government sponsors. This massive support contravenes official U.S policy, and violates the Open Skies agreements which grant airlines from these two countries unlimited, unrestricted access to the U.S., the largest aviation market in the world (in return, U.S. airlines can fly to two countries with a combined population about the size of Ohio.

For the past 18 months, American, Delta, and United have urged the U.S. government to address these violations. And in July, the Department of State took a big step and held meetings with the UAE and Qatar to discuss the issue. While these conversations continue, the GSA contract for travel to Milan is a disappointing development. It’s also a big poke in the eye to Congress, which made it clear quite some time ago that government travel must take place on U.S. airlines.

The U.S. airlines and their workers can compete in the global market, but not when the playing field is dramatically tilted. Congress and the White House need to tell GSA to follow the law and award government-paid travel to American carriers.

Is it possible to pick someone up on a plane?

I should preface this with an admission: I’ve never picked up on a plane. Never even gone close. I’m not even the sort of guy who picks up in bars, let alone on long-haul flights.

I once sat next to a Dutch girl on a flight to Fiji. We got chatting and realised we were staying in the same hotel in Nadi, so decided to share a lift from the airport. We then had sort of an awkward goodbye at the check-in desk, and never saw each other again. Come to think of it, if I’d be able to see things a little clearer through the fog of jet-lag (I was coming in from LA, rather than Sydney), that might have been my one opportunity. But that’s it.

The way I see it there are a few major obstacles to picking up a girl or guy while you’re on a plane. The first is that there’s such a minute chance of winding up sitting next to anyone you’d even be remotely interested in. In my experience you’re far more likely to end up next to the chatty American pensioner than you are the 20-something hottie.

There’s also the fact that, when flying, you’re not exactly looking your best. Short flights are fine, but on anything going outside of Australia you’re usually wearing a pair of sleep-friendly trackie dacks or unflattering but hopefully DVT-busting tights, you’ve got teeth-jumpers because you haven’t brushed in about 24 hours, and you smell like a football change-room. Sexy.

The other major obstacle, for me at least, is that I really don’t like talking to strangers on planes. I’m not there to make friends – I’m there to watch movies, guzzle some free wine and then try to knock myself out with sleeping pills. I’m not there to listen to stories about your dogs.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen though. I’m sure there are plenty of tales of people who’ve met their current partner – or even just a very short-term former partner – in between take-off and landing. There are probably plenty of people smooth enough and enthusiastic enough to make a connection happen before the seatbelt light goes off (And my editor confirms a friend of his met a guy on a flight and they later married).

Now, for anyone who fancies that idea but doesn’t have the luck of sitting next to someone they’re interested in, there’s Wingman.

What’s Wingman? It’s a dating app for people in the air, the “Tinder of the skies”, if you will, designed to hook you up with “attractive people on your flight”.

Do you find the idea of searching for romantic matches or mid-flight hook-ups on your red-eye to Perth a little creepy? Well, this is not the app for you.

Wingman is the dating device for airborne desperados – or at least it will be if Apple approves it (and it passes the beta stage). The idea is that you log in, create a profile, and then enter the details of the flight you’re about to board. Then, with the use of Bluetooth (or onboard wifi, if it’s available), the app will find others on your aircraft who are also logged on, and attempt to introduce you.

It’s kind of like Tinder from there – you “swipe” left or right, depending on whether you’re interested in the person’s profile, and if you have a match you’re free to communicate.

What you do next I’m not really sure, given you probably won’t be sitting next to any of these flying philanderers. Hang out for a chat near the loos? Exchange flirty messages in between episodes of Big Bang Theory? Take your meal trays down the back for an intimate dinner? (“You gonna eat those crackers? Thanks.”) Whatever you choose, you’ve got up to 14 hours stuck in a metal tube together to creep it up.

Sounds kind of weird, right? Long-haul flights, for me, don’t lend themselves to romance. They lend themselves to people being at their absolute worst: unkempt, tired, and probably grumpy after endless airport queues and a flight.

Plus if you do end up having a mid-air rendezvous with this person and realise that you aren’t going to get along, there’s no emergency phone call from a friend to save you from the situation. You’re stuck with them till landing. Awkward.

For some people, however, this kind of mid-air romance might sound like a great idea, the perfect way to spice up an interminably long flight with a little potential passion.

And to those people, I say: good luck. I’ll stick with movies, wine and sleeping pill.

Have you ever picked up someone on a plane? Did it work out? Do you think Wingman sounds like a great idea, or is it just kind of creepy?

These are the worst inflight meals we’ve ever seen

We asked some of Britain’s top travel writers – people who have travelled with more than their fair share of carriers all over the world – to tell us about the worst airline food they ever endured

 

 

The news that British Airways is to cut the free food from its short-haul routes has been met with anger by some and relief by others. Is it a real loss, the latter group ask, when inflight food is so bad anyway? With that in mind, we asked a few of our travel writers to tell us about the very worst piles of slop served to them in the guise of an “inflight meal”.

“Somewhere in the skies over Central Europe onboard an Oman Air flight to London Heathrow, I was served this limp excuse of an inflight meal (see main picture): a mushroom sandwich. I took one small bite, spat it out, informed the flight attendant it was the sorriest sandwich I had ever encountered and spent the rest of the flight nursing my rumbling stomach.”

Nick Boulos
@Nick_Boulos

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Part of the “fun” of an inflight meal is trying to figure out exactly what it is you’ve been served (Twang_Dunga/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

“Vegan inflight meals can be really hit and miss. The worst I’ve encountered was an economy breakfast aboard a British Airways flight from Istanbul to London: two miniature triangles of white bread marinated in cold, tinned tomato juice. More a nightmare smoothie than a meal.”

Liz Dodd
@liz_dodd

“Dinner aboard a Dakar (Senegal) to Paris flight on Air France in business class in 2014, featuring a steak tougher than the plane’s tyres and a red wine sharper than jet fuel. An M&S ready meal from Heathrow Terminal 5 never tasted better the day after that.”

Julian Eccles
@julianeccles

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This is what you could have won: a display of business class meals typical on Sri Lankan Airlines (Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images )

“United Airlines by an easy mile served me the worst meal I’ve ever had anywhere. When I asked what the red-hot package I’d been slung was (containing unidentifiable sludge) the air hostess told me ‘how should I know!'”

Georgina Wilson-Powell
@Georgina_WP

“The worst I ever had was the first time I ordered the diabetic meal on a Middle Eastern airline. Half of the things on the tray weren’t diabetic friendly at all: there was a yoghurt (full of sugar) and a bowl of fruit (also sugar). Whoever had slung it together seemed to have confused low-fat with low-sugar. For reasons I do not understand there was also a gluten-free bread roll. So half of it was dangerous for me to eat, but I’d have rather forced that down than the main: moist, pungent salmon, served with damp vegetables floating in fish-juice. I no longer order diabetic meals.”

Jamie Lafferty
@MegaHeid

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The only thing more frightening than the fish noodle breakfast is the deadpan stare of the cabin crew (Stefan Krasowski/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

“No contest: pungent fish noodles for a very, very early morning breakfast aboard a China Eastern flight from Shanghai to Paris, nine years ago. It was the same as we’d had for dinner a few hours earlier; unable to stomach a second helping, I declined.”

Nicola Trup, head of travel at The Independent
@nickytrup

“Back in the days of the USSR,  Westerners with hard currency were in a strong position to procure cut-price travel — particularly in 1991, when the USSR fragmented. Aeroflot, then the world’s biggest airline, flew on, but it took a while before the accountants started pricing flights properly. So I made it from Minsk to Kiev for less than a pound. But the inflight meal wasn’t an added bonus so much as a punishment. It was a grey globule of reconstituted gristle going by the name of a ‘cutlet’. To raise the colour temperature, passengers were also served a luminous orange liquid that you really wanted to test with a Geiger counter (especially since the route between the capitals of Belarus and Ukraine passed very close to Chernobyl). Yet now I actively seek out Aeroflot flights, because the 21st-century catering is, in my experience, superior to BA’s economy offering.”

Simon Calder, travel correspondent at The Independent
@simoncalder

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The five-strong dessert course in business class beat the pasta coated in cold soup a few rows back (Laura Chubb)

“It absolutely infuriates me when cabin crew offer ‘chicken or pasta’ – as though there are not multifarious ways in which these ingredients might be served. I will always make a point of asking ‘but chicken/pasta with what?’, and am disheartened to report that oftentimes the answer is: ‘I don’t know.’ This blatant disdain for economy passengers – who, I might add, are still paying a fair whack for their ticket on long-haul routes – was compounded by the ‘safe’ pasta option I chose aboard a flight from Tahiti to Los Angeles. Lukewarm, stuck-together penne topped with glutinous cold mushroom soup does not a happy passenger make. Funnily enough, my best ever inflight meal was with the same airline when they upgraded me on the Los Angeles to Paris leg. A lobster starter, followed by a creamy tropical prawn curry, five-strong dessert course and cheeseboard showed what airline kitchens are capable of – and that they appear to be wilfully torturing those in cattle class.”