You're now owed a lot of cash if an airline bumps you
A reader has a question about the U.S. government requiring airlines to give fatter payouts to passengers who get involuntarily "bumped" from oversold flights.
As Budget Travel recently reported in its story, "8 Common Air Travel Snafus (And How to Beat Them)," the DOT has increased by hundreds of dollars how much airlines have to pay passengers for bumping them off an oversold flight against their wishes.
Starting this August, most bumped domestic fliers who get to their destination more than an hour late than planned must receive double their one-way fare back, up to about $650 in cash. Delayed much longer? You'll get four times your one-way fare, up to $1,300. But in most cases, you'll have to go to an airport customer desk and demand what you're owed.
Here's the great question about this from Romeo Raabe in Green Bay, WI:
In this and many other articles about being bumped off an airline, I've read to only take cash. Please define "cash". Does this mean I must demand cash, greenbacks, US currency? Or a check, in my hand, or promise of being mailed to me? What, exactly, is cash? I'm sure other readers wonder about this too.The answer: You want cash—as in, the green stuff you hold in your hand. (While a paper check or direct deposit would probably also be legal in theory, no airline we know of gives its airport service agents the power to write checks or issue direct deposits in its name. Cold, hard cash is what you want and what you can reasonably expect.)
Last year, 59,250 passengers qualified to receive cash compensation by being bumped against their will.
Airlines rarely paid out cash to these fliers, though.
They instead wooed passengers with voucher credits for future flights. The problem with these flight vouchers—which work like gift certificates—is that they come with more restrictions than cash. There may be an expiration date on the flight voucher. You'll have to use the voucher on that specific airline—even if the lowest fares for your upcoming trips may be on other airlines. You'll probably have to make the reservation over the phone if you're redeeming a voucher.
In short, how sure can you be that you'll be flying this particular airline again soon enough to be able to use the voucher? Rather than worry, just ask for cash. Cash is specifically what the DOT says in its rules that airlines must be able to pay out.
(For international trips, an airline must get you to your destination within one hour of your scheduled arrival time. After that, it must pay you compensation of double your one way fare up to $650. For delayed arrivals longer than four hours, you are entitled to four times the value of your one-way ticket up to $1,300.)
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Money is biggest stress on vacation, survey shows
Yes, vacations are supposed to be about de-stressing. But there can still be plenty of tension no matter how hard we try to make getaways relaxing. The top three things that cause friction on vacation are money, sightseeting and food, according to a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted by independent research company TNS, and commissioned by SpringHill Suites by Marriott. Some 26 percent of Americans said they squabble about how much money to spend when they are on vacation, 22 percent disagree about what to do while traveling, and 9 percent disagree about where to eat while on vacation. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('7b4ef9a7-365a-450f-b94f-19e10d934b85');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)Three-quarters of survey respondents said that taking a vacation this year will be vital to their mental health. Among the reasons why, 44 percent cited de-stressing, 37 percent are hoping that getting away will lift their spirits, and 8 percent are hoping that a vacation will help get their relationship back on track. But despite a resolve to relax, financial stresses find vacationers even when they're trying to disconnect from it all. According to the survey, 64 percent of women and 41 percent of men report feeling guilty about spending money while on vacation. Certainly, traveling with kids can also add to the stress. To deal with kids who act out on the road, parents said they either snapped at youngsters, ignored them or took some deep breaths. So, how do vacationers bounce back from a stressful scenario? There's nothing like a good nap, or a long night's sleep to relieve tensions. Americans cited sleep as the number one activity that is most likely to relieve stress after a conflict while on vacation. What about you? What stresses you out most while on vacation, or do you successfully detach and relax? Let us know by voting in our poll or sharing your best, and worst, stories of tension and relief below. More from Budget Travel: Got Stress? Get to Puerto Vallarta 9 Great Memorial Day Getaways Dining Destinations to Watch in 2011
Will you be flying this summer?
if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('bf533ab3-800b-4996-a4c8-ec2ddbd5e6e2');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)According to the country's largest airline trade group, Air Transport Association of America (ATA), things are looking up for the travel industry. Despite a tough economic climate, Americans are still flying—and they're going abroad in record numbers. Major U.S. airlines are expected to carry 206.2 million passengers during the peak summer season, a 1.5 percent increase over the summer of 2010. Sure, these numbers aren't quite up to the pre-recession highs of 2007, when an all-time high of 217.6 million people flew during the summer. But in a time when rising fuel costs are making headlines almost every day, even modest annual gains seem to be a healthy indicator that nothing will stop Americans from going on a well-deserved vacation. Here's a quick look at their findings: if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('c33f6ceb-5af1-4bb4-92d7-103e3245d4a5');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)How many of those travelers will fly domestically? The ATA estimates that about 180 million Americans will fly domestically, an increase of 2.7 million over last summer. How many are heading overseas? Perhaps the most surprising finding from this year's study was that international air travel is expected to hit an all-time record high of 26.3 million passengers. The previous record was the summer of 2010, which saw 25.8 million passengers flying abroad. How much will an average ticket cost? Surprisingly, airfares have remained relatively steady over the past decade. The average price of a round-trip domestic ticket in 2000 was $314. This summer, the average ticket is $316. (I dare you to find another product or service that has only rose $2 over the past ten years!) Now it's your turn: Sound off below about your summer travel plans. Will you be flying this summer? If so, where? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: The Threat of Rising Airfares Finally! Affordable Hotels Have Arrived in New York City Vote Now for the World's Best Cruiser
Finally! Affordable hotels in New York City have arrived
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Is it time for major bus companies to send drivers to charm school?
From time to time, companies decide to send their workers to "charm school" to learn how to interact positively with customers. In the world of travel, there's a strong history of this type of staff education. In February of 2010, for example, Delta reacted to horrible customer service ratings by sending all of its consumer-facing employees to charm school. Just a month earlier, the city of New Delhi started signing cabbies up for charm school in advance of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. And as far back as 1991, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey created a program called "Airport Nice" to train airport employees on how to greet arriving travelers in a more pleasant manner. Customer service education is not a bad idea. Often times, a company's ability to retain its clientele has as much to do with the level of service it provides as it does with the products it offers. I'm a veteran bus rider. I have friends across the Eastern Seaboard and I frequently find myself four-wheeling it between cities. Sometimes, the bus drivers are kind and considerate, but other times they're downright surly. I'll never forget the bus ride I took where the driver ranted for at least 15 minutes about how cell phone calls were not allowed. He threatened to leave offenders on the side of the road. When I tried to call my family to let them know when I would be arriving, he screamed at me so forcefully that I wouldn't be surprised if he scared passing automobilists. Then there was the driver who, in an effort to be helpful, I'm sure, gave a 30-minute welcome spiel on an ear-shatteringly loud sound system that covered everything from the location of the bus bathrooms (in the back of the bus) to the current weather (sunny) to polite requests to keep phone conversations to a minimum. He reminded us (repeatedly) to let him know if we needed anything (change in temperature, rest stop, questions about our destination). He encouraged us to get to know our seatmates. He told us what he had had for dinner. He assured us he was well rested. And he did this every time he picked up new passengers—as this was a local bus, this happened five times. It was thoughtful, but it was too much. Even my iPod couldn't drown him out. I arrived in New York with a headache and an eye twitch. On my most recent bus trip, the driver, while kind and jovial, showed a complete lack of filter by declaring loudly into her walkie talkie "oh yeah, I'm back on the road now. My lawsuit is pending, they said they saw me at the bar but they didn't. I was just dizzy." Now, I'm not saying that her lawsuit was justified or not or even questioning whether or not she was drinking—I have no way to know. But I do know that that was an unsettling conversation to overhear just as we were taking off down the highway. I texted the conversation to a friend who promptly responded "wow, she must be wasted—buckle up!" Not funny. (For the record, we made it to New York without incident.) I reached out to Greyhound to see what kind of customer service training their staff must go through and they responded with this note: Customer service training is an integral part of the Greyhound driver education program. New Greyhound drivers receive extensive customer service training as part of their orientation and driver school. The training focuses on foundational service skills that build customer loyalty and help drivers work through challenges if they occur. In addition, drivers are trained on wheelchair and special needs safety, as well as how to assist passengers with different abilities. Once students complete training school, they return to their home terminals for additional training under the direction of their certified instructor. I'm not sure what exactly that customer service training entails and, to be fair, the majority of bus drivers I've experienced on Greyhound are perfectly pleasant. But the exceptions have been so outrageous that they're blog-post worthy. It's possible that as a frequent bus traveler I am not only more exposed to situations, I'm also more sensitive. But I'm wondering—has anyone had a similar experience? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: A Neat Freak's Guide to a Clean Suitcase The 7 Most Dangerous Travel Jobs Secret Hotels of Paris