Friday, September 21, 2018

What Happens When Your Flight Disappears From the Airline's Schedule

Good question. And one I just recently had to deal with. So what can you do? Basically, nothing!

We are traveling to SE Asia next year. The outbound air was easy. We are flying into Hong Kong first for a few days and I was able to get Business Class on Cathay Pacific with American Airlines miles  :)

From HKG we then fly to Saigon and with an alert set up on, I was able to grab a flight for $217 pp.

But planning the return was agonizing. Part of the problem was trying to decide if we go straight home or head off to one of the Thai beaches for a couple of days and/or spend some time in Singapore. That meant some research and while I used to enjoy sitting at my computer, digging through links, looking for the neat hotels and best things to do ... well, not so much anymore.

I started to do some research on the Thai island of Koh Samui. Which hotel? Which beach? I started to do some research on Singapore. Which hotel? What to see/do? I became overwhelmed. Because a couple of months on either side of our SE Asia trip are cruises and those ports of call require research and planning too. So in the end, decided we'd come straight home from Bangkok.

Air from BKK to home was cumbersome. Lousy departure times. Long layovers. Unless we wanted to pay exorbitant prices. I had enough miles to get Main Cabin on AA from HKG to home. For this long a flight we wanted Premium Economy so I figured I'd get the mileage seats then pay to upgrade to PE. Should be no problem. After all, we did just that on Delta last year. So the plan was to fly BKK to HKG, stay overnight near the airport, and fly home the next day on America in PE seats.

Called AA and guess what? You can't pay to upgrade on AA. So I'm now back at square one.

More air research. Pros and cons of flying all the way from BKK or stopping overnight in HKG. The big disadvantage of the later is that we'd have to go through HKG Immigration and Customs and then go through Security the next day. So finally, after many comparisons, found a flight on Air Canada that had one of the best prices in PE and a short overall flight time of 'only' 22 hrs. We would fly from BKK to HKG to YYZ (that's Toronto) and then home.

Now we come to the subject matter of the title of this post.

I get on the Air Canada website and the flight is not there!!! It was just there a couple of days ago. I know because I almost booked it at that time. I expected to get on the site today and find a price change but not the whole itinerary disappear! So I checked the segments. BKK to YYZ. HKG to YYZ. The first could be done with now two stops instead of one. The later had one stop instead of the previous none. So I called Air Canada and spoke to a rep. He couldn't find anything either. I told him I had almost booked this a couple of days ago. What would have happened to my reservation? He said we would have either been rerouted or we could get a refund. So guess what? There is NOTHING you can do except yell and scream (not helpful), accept the new routing, or ask for a refund if you don't like the rerouting (like a 22 hr trip going to 30 and two changes of planes instead of one) and be, like us, back to square one.

Well, after more time on Kayak and airline sites, we now have our flights home. What did I end up doing? I got to thinking about why change planes in HKG? Suppose we changed planes in the U.S.? And spent the night at a hotel near that U.S. airport and next day security is a breeze because we have TSA Pre-Check.  Plus it meant only the U.S. Immigration and Customs which we'd have to do anyway.

I checked flights from BKK to Chicago, JFK, Newark, and Atlanta. What I learned was a big advantage of doing it this way, using an air search engine like Kayak, is that I got options on non-U.S. airlines. The end result? We are flying BKK to Newark on Cathay Pacific in PE seats. We will stay overnight at the EWR airport Hampton Inn 1/2 mile away and fly home on United the next day.

And the end $ result? Air Canada from BKK to home in PE was (when it existed) $1757 pp. Presently the only other viable option was AA at $1854 pp with BKK departure times we didn't like and, most options, with 3 plane changes. The air on Cathay Pacific from BKK to EWR, non-stop, in PE is $1440 pp. The flight on United is $126 pp and the baggage fee, assuming we have to check 2 bags, is $30 pp. With the hotel at $60 pp, the grand total is $1656 pp, $100 less than the Air Canada fare I was willing to book.

On top of that, we get to fly Cathay Pacific which is a top rated airline, we leave at a reasonable hour of the day (1:05 pm - Delta had flights leaving 1:05 AM), arrive in the U.S. at a reasonable hour (9 pm local time) and get home the next day at a reasonable hour (3:30 PM instead of midnight) for friends to pick us up at the airport.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Michael Palin of Monty Python Fame Donates His Personal Papers

British actor, writer and adventurer, Michael Palin donated his personal archives to the British Library and On August 7, 2018, they went on display in the Sir John Ritblad: Treasures Gallery. The archives include diaries, photos, and scripts plus more than 50 notebooks of Mony Python material, including unfilmed skits.

Entry is free to the British Library and it is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Lonely Planet Publishes Books on Cruise Ports

In May 2018, Lonely Planet released its first-ever guidebooks about cruise ports. Titles available are "Cruise Ports Caribbean," "Scandinavia & Northern Europe," and "Alaska."

Each book has information on sights in and around the port cities, advice on booking excursions and cultural information. The guides cost $19.99 each.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Cruise Ships Leaving Home Fleets

Two well-known cruise ships will be leaving their fleets in 2019

Built in 1988 and holding 835 passengers, Holland America Line's Prinsendam will join the fleet of German cruise company Phoenix Reisen in July 2019.

Built in 1995 and holding 1,822 passengers, P & O Cruises' Oriana will exit in August 2019. No word yet on future plans for the ship.

Monday, August 27, 2018

New Roman Museum in Nimes, France

With more than 5,000 pieces on display, the Musee de la Romanite opened on June 2, 2018, across the street from the Arenes de Nimes, the ancient Roman coliseum located in that city.

Among the displays is a large mosaic, unearthed during the museum's construction, depicting the Theban king Pentheus being murdered by his mother.

Open daily at 10 a.m. Closing varies from 6 to 8 p.m., depending on the season. Entrance is € 8 (about $9).

Friday, August 24, 2018

Frankfurt "Old Town" Being Rebuilt

Before it was destroyed by Allied bombing in 1944, the Altstadt (Old Town) in the city of Frankfurt-am-Main was home to the largest collection of wood-frame buildings in Germany. A new, reconstructed "Old Town" has been built, with a grand opening scheduled for Sept 28-30, 2018.

The site contains 15 buildings constructed according to the original plans plus another 20 buildings (shops, restaurants, etc) in the appropriate style.

A guided tour in English can be booked at any Frankfurt Tourist Information Office for € 12.90 (about $15). 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Change to Belarus Tourist Visa

Minsk Academy of Sciences
On July 25, 2018, Belarus increased the number of days that some visitors can stay visa-free from five to 30.

To qualify, you must be a citizen from one of 80 counties (the US is among them) and enter the country through Minsk National Airport (MSQ). You also must present evidence that you will be flying out of MSQ within the allotted time. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Limits To Stays on Easter Island

As of August 1, 2018, tourists who visit Easter Island (Rapa Nui) are limited to 30 days.  The previous limit was 90 days.

In order to board a flight to Rapa Nui, the traveler must present a passport, a ticket showing return within the 30-day limit, proof of hotel or other accommodation and the provided Immigration form stamped by the Chilean Police Investigations Division.

Stays of longer than 30 days can be applied for in advance. For info contact the Chilean tourist office. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Edinburgh, Scotland to Dublin, Ireland

 This turned out to be an incredibly long day. We did pass beautiful countryside and we had a ferry ride to Belfast. But the bus ride was long and then add to that the time at the Titanic Museum. We didn't get to our Dublin hotel until about 8 pm and we were tired and hungry. Not a great beginning to our Ireland tour.
More of the Scottish countryside

Approaching the ferry point to take us to Ireland

The Titanic Museum. Unfortunately, the inside wasn't very conducive to taking photographs.

And now the Irish countryside

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


From the outside ... this was a BIG castle
Today was a full day in Edinburgh. We had a scenic drive around the city and then the afternoon on our own. The bus dropped us off near the Castle entrance and afterward, we walked the street known as the Royal Mile. It sloped gently downhill (thank goodness!) directly away from the castle, as we strolled back to our hotel.

A view of Edinburgh from one of the gunports

Loved the idea of a dog cemetery

Looking down on just one of the many 'floors' of the castle

Giles Cathedral along the Royal Mile

The most popular non-alcoholic drink in Scotland