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Bits & Pieces: Southwest & travel visa to Europe

You may have seen the news…

sw hi

Tickets are now on sale, at great introductory prices!  Flights start this coming weekend.

  • Flights between both Oakland and San Jose, Calif., and the Islands, now available for purchase through March 5 for as low as $49 one-way.
  • Interisland service to begin April 28 between Honolulu and Kahului (Maui), and May 12 between Honolulu and Kona, now available for purchase through March 5 for as low as $29 one-way.
  • Visit Southwest.com/Hawaii to learn more about Southwest’s offerings for the Aloha State.

Unfortunately, that is too late for me to take advantage of for my next trip (I’m leaving tonight).  But you can still try and book.  Keep in mind that Southwest has a general rule that they will not operate red-eye flights.  So the Hawaii schedule is a little weird when you are looking at the return to the islands in a round-trip itinerary.  Play around on the site a bit.  I’m considering telling my parents to fly Southwest on an interisland trip when they visit us in May- strictly for research purposes, you understand 🙂

The other travel news that affects US citizens flying abroad is:

Starting in 2021, Americans and travelers from other visa-free countries will have to take an extra step when visiting more than two dozen countries in Europe.

I’ve read many articles claiming that the extra step is obtaining a visa, which it is not.  A travel visa usually means you as a traveler are essentially notifying a country when you want to visit, and are given (or pay for, depending on the country) a temporary pass for that specific country, biometric information might be taken, you might need to visit a consulate, etc.  This is not that.  It’s essentially a documentation step, and is not tied to any specific travel plans.  It’s worth noting that UK residents have been using this system to visit the United States for years.

The European Commission explained it thusly:

The ETIAS authorisation is not a visa. Nationals of visa liberalisation countries will continue to travel the EU without a visa but will simply be required to obtain a travel authorisation via ETIAS prior to their travel. ETIAS will be a simple, fast and visitor-friendly system, which will, in more than 95% of cases, result in a positive answer within a few minutes.

The current cost estimate is about $7-8 per traveler.  The authorization is good for 3 years and allows an unlimited number of entries during that time.  Americans would still be able to move around in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days at a time.  People are getting a little upset about this but I see no big deal.  Just another thing for the to-do list for our next European adventure!

Well, as I mentioned above, I’m leaving to the mainland tonight.  Worry not, I will be working on the Disneyland Paris trip report post while I’m gone 🙂

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Bits & Pieces: Southwest Hawaii news, IHG and SPG card changes

Holy cannoli, things have been crazy lately.  My trip planning took a bit of a back seat, though I did manage to book some tickets from Paris to Seville on Transavia, which is a European low-cost carrier affiliated with Air France/KLM.  More on that in another post- especially as they’ve already made an unfavorable schedule change…I refused the change via email and they said they’ll be contacting me (during THEIR business hours, in the Netherlands) to discuss the alternatives.  Anyway…on to the good stuff! Read the rest of this entry »

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Hawaiian Interisland Trip Report, Island Air shutdown

Hi!  Super busy lately, but I’ve got a bit of local stuff to share, so here we go.

I recently went on a work trip to Lihue (LIH) from Honolulu.  I hadn’t been on a Hawaiian Airlines plane in at least 5 years.  We don’t use them to the mainland because: they offer a daily nonstop 11-hr (blergh) flight from Honolulu to the East Coast arriving at JFK (double blergh), which you know is not my cup of tea.  Anyway, this trip was booked on Hawaiian because a) my employer has a corporate account with them, b) the flight times worked out with the business need, and c) I could add my personal HawaiianMiles # to the reservation.  Tiny score on that last point, as the days of 500-mile minimums are gone and I earned 102 miles each way. Read the rest of this entry »

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Southwest announces flights to Hawaii in 2018

Yes, you read that right.  After months of speculation, and some recent confusion here in Hawaii, tonight Southwest announced they would start selling tickets to Hawaii in 2018!  The recent confusion had to do with the Hawaii Global Tourism Summit last month- for the first time, Southwest signed on as a major sponsor of the event.  Many (including me) thought that it was a clear sign of an imminent announcement regarding flights to Hawaii.  The Summit came and went without any such announcement.  But today…this! Read the rest of this entry »

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Bits & Pieces: Laptop ban update, Alaska CC, Southwest to HI, Referral links

    • Here’s a long article from Bloomberg News about the possible laptop ban from Europe into US airports.  They….didn’t make a final decision, and are still fighting it out.  The prediction is that they will try to implement it, get a lot of ire over it, and  retract it.  Sounds good to me.

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Using the Alaska Airlines Low Price Guarantee

The eternal question: buy air tickets right away when you see an acceptable price, or wait to see if the price comes down?  Unless you have elite status with an airline, and can therefore eliminate the Change Fee, it’s generally not worth the financial hit to make a change to your non-refundable reservation to take advantage of a price drop.

Cancelling/rebooking a flight due to a price change usually falls into the “change” category.  Here is a handy chart outlining most major airline fees, as well as information on how/when to cancel or change your reservation.  Southwest doesn’t have any change fees, but they don’t fly to Hawaii so that benefit is of limited use to us.  I agree wholeheartedly with this blogger’s approach to leaving cancellations until pretty close to the departure date (tip #3).  If the carrier changes the flight schedule by ~5 hours or more (for American; other airlines use anything from 3-8 hours as the criteria), you can usually request a different route to your destination or cancel your ticket altogether without cancellation fees (even for a nonrefundable ticket) because the airline itself changed the schedule by an unacceptable amount.  You generally want to call them to see your options- be aware that they may charge a phone fee if you make changes, something nominal like $25.  Still better than $200!

On that topic, Alaska Airlines has a good benefit that I took advantage of last week.  They advertise a Low Price Guarantee.  This means that you can get a refund of the difference if you find a lower fare for your exact itinerary (including flight #s).  You can find a lower fare on a competitor’s site within 24 hrs of booking on alaskaair.com to claim a refund, or you can find a lower fare on alaskaair.com before your travel date to claim a credit into your “Wallet.”  Make sure your flights qualify, there are some restrictions (notably, it’s valid only for flights on Alaska metal and some little regional services they use).  But if your reservation fits the specifics, it’s pretty easy to go through the process using their online form.  To be clear, you can’t use this process to change your flights dates/times, only to take advantage of a price drop with your same itinerary. Here is my original receipt:

Before...

Before…

And here is my new receipt after submitting the claim:

and After!

and After!

As you can see, I was actually charged $0.45 for my Companion Traveler’s tax difference.  They used my credit card on file…I hope my credit score is OK after that 45-cent hit 🙂  More importantly, I got a credit of $84.99 into my online Wallet to use on any future Alaska flight.  I must use the funds to book travel by late January 2016; actual travel can take place whenever.

Finally, a note about change fees in general.  Many complain about having change fees at all, citing Southwest as an example.  This airline apparently can absorb the “extra administrative costs” (rolling my eyes, it’s an hourly worker clicking a few thing into a computer) incurred by having a passenger change their itinerary, flight dates, etc, while other major airlines pass the cost along to the customer.  Non-change-farers actually want the airline to track the price and refund them automatically as the ticket prices drop.  To them I say, well, you wouldn’t want to continually be charged more if the ticket price goes up, do you?  Slippery slope, that.

Others protest that having some change fee is fair, but the actual cost is outrageous (I agree, $200 is not insignificant to a travel budget).  I fall into this second camp.  Life happens, and plans sometimes need to change.  If the airlines want to foster some goodwill with a traveler and their family in order to keep them as a customer, they’d bring these costs down.  Charging a flat $200 to change a $180 fare or $1800 fare is madness.  I’d love to see a sliding scale change fee structure, based on a percentage of the base fare cost.  Anyone? Bueller?

BTW, totally thinking of using up my flight credit on a family trip to……

Never been, always wanted to.  Nonstop flights, woo!

Never been, always wanted to. Nonstop flights, woo!

 

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