Monday, October 27, 2014

The Best Sites for Air Travel

I used to travel a lot.  Because the airlines have turned flying into such a miserable experience, I fly a lot less these days.
I still do keep up with the rules and regulations regarding air travel.   I've been a United elite-status flyer for a long time, and I am very familiar with their policies.
Here's a little-known fact: all airlines are required to allow you to cancel your flight within 24 hours of making the booking at no charge, as long as the flight booking as 7 days out or more.  If you book a flight on the United website, you can cancel that booking within 24 hours easily on their website.
Not so with US Airways! With US Airways, once you book and pay for a flight, you are ostensibly given that 24 hour window, but the truth is that they make it just about impossible to cancel the flight. You can't cancel a flight on the US Airways website.  Instead, you get a message as follows:
You're allowed to cancel your refundable or non-refundable ticket for a full refund (and no change fees and/or difference in fare) within 24 hours of booking.

   You must call 800-428-4322 (800-245-2966 TTY) within 24 hours of purchase to cancel the reservation and request a refund.
    The reservation must have been booked at least 7 days before scheduled departure.

I tried calling the above number twice this past Sunday at 10am and 11am (to get a seat assignment, same phone number) and guess what?  I never was able to get a representative!  So if you book a flight on US Airways, then you will have a really, really hard time cancelling that flight within the 24 hour window.  Be prepared to sit by your phone, on hold, for hours. 

The US Airways site was deficient in another way.  While and after booking a flight on the US Airways site, I could not assign myself an aisle seat. I always got the message “seat map not available.” Yet if I looked at the flight on the Expedia website, it showed the seat map for the second flight, and showed that the flight was only half full. Expertflyer showed available seats on both flights. The Expedia website had seatguru's seat recommendations on the seat map, which was nice.

I kept checking the US Airways website to try to change my seat assignment.  On Sunday around 10am, I was able to get a seat map to come up for my second flight, and I was able to change to an aisle seat.  I kept trying to call US Airways to change my first flight seat assignment.  They have an option for you to check your seat assignments on the phone, but you can't change those seats on the phone using their phone robot – he tells you to hold for a representative (yeah, right) and do it online (but I can't get the seat map to come up online!).  As I mentioned above, I never got a representative despite waiting on hold for a total of 30 minutes. 

I finally was able to get a seat map to come up online for my first flight and was able to change to an aisle seat.  Finally. 

Expedia seems to be a good way to buy a ticket.  I have never used them or similar sites like Orbitz to actually book a flight.  I wonder if Expedia charges a fee to issue a ticket, if they generally let  you choose your seats from a seat map, and if they allow you to cancel your booking within 24 hours easily. 

Here are some travel sites that I use regularly and recommend:
ITA Matrix site to research flights
Kayak to research and book flights
Hipmunk to book flights (occasionally)
ExpertFlyer: this is a service that seems to have a ton of potential if you want to research seats on flights, and upgrade.  I've just started using this site.

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