Our consumer editor Alex McWhirter answers your travel queries.
Simply email email@example.com. Please note that due to the popularity of Alex's advice, we cannot guarantee a reply to every query.
Fuel surcharges 30/04/2013
My husband and I recently booked return British Airways tickets from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi. We redeemed coupons resulting from use of our BA Amex card. But although the fare was zero, the taxes and surcharges amounted to almost £1,000. On each ticket, there was a fuel surcharge of £319, a service charge of £34.99, APD [air passenger duty] of £130 and airport security charges of £13.90 – a total of £497.89 per person. Is there any recourse to the extortionate fuel surcharge?
Anna Palejowska-Gregory, Dubai
Missed flight connection 30/04/2013
My fiancée recently travelled from Harbin in China to Johannesburg. She booked one ticket with Air China for Harbin-Beijing and another [separate one] with South African Airways [SAA] for Beijing-Johannesburg.
The plane leaving Harbin was delayed by five hours owing to technical problems. So although she had allowed ample time – five hours – to change planes, she missed her SAA connection. And SAA flies to Johannesburg only three times a week.
The Air China duty manager at Beijing said it wasn’t their problem but agreed to put her up in a hotel overnight. She was unable to find an SAA call centre that was open so after a night in the hotel, and not wanting to stay in Beijing for three days, booked a single ticket with Cathay Pacific [via Hong Kong] to Johannesburg for £500. Surely Air China has some responsibility if someone misses their flight?
Gordon Gillies, Johannesburg
Longer routings 30/04/2013
I often wonder why some of your readers fly with a Gulf carrier when their destination is in Africa or China. Surely the routing is a dogleg so takes hours longer. Wouldn’t it be better to save time and take a shorter routing?
Geoff Saunders, London
Passenger rights on Asian low-cost carriers 28/03/2013
I regularly fly with a regional airline called Firefly [a budget subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines] between Singapore and various cities in Malaysia. Its pricing policy is such that it charges me S$100 (£53) in amendment fees to change a flight, even though that flight might cost only S$200-S$300 (£106-£160). In recent months I have had to pay these fees when changing flight bookings.
Now, two days before I am due to travel with Firefly from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, it has cancelled both my flights and booked me on later services without giving me an explanation. The new timings cause me great inconvenience. Why is it fair for Firefly to charge me a rebooking fee when it will not compensate me for flight changes of its own making? Quid pro quo?
Dr Ronald Yeo, Singapore
Alternatives to round-the-world fares 28/03/2013
How do I get a round-the-world business fare online? I need to fly London-Singapore and return from Auckland to London a month later. Singapore-Auckland will be by sea.
Eric Walmsley, Kent
Refund for choosing the wrong flight date? 28/03/2013
I just got back from Shanghai with Lufthansa. When I checked in on the way back, I was told my return date was a month later. I had to purchase a new ticket at a cost of e1,200.
I had no recollection of choosing a return date that was one month later [than my desired date]. I went back on to the Lufthansa website to try to work out what had happened and then realised that the system always opens two windows – two little calendars. They can lead you to choose a date in the wrong month, because you think the second calendar is related to the second leg of the flight, rather than showing you the calendar for the following month.
It is my mistake, of course, but I still find the scheme rather confusing. Is there any chance I could get my money back?
Paolo Rampetta, Brussels
Pre-allocation of airline seats 27/02/2013
Does British Airways pre-allocate seats? Earlier this year I booked two BA return tickets from Hong Kong to London for my aged parents, who wished to sit together. They are not Executive Club members so we couldn’t pre-book seats free of charge. We decided to wait until nearer the time.
On the dot [24 hours before departure] we checked in online, only to find that my parents had not been assigned seats next to each other. We decided to see if the seats could be changed at the airport the next day. Despite reporting three hours before departure, there were no adjoining seats available anywhere on the plane. I would have thought it was common sense for an airline to allocate adjoining seats when two passengers travel together.
Nancy Leung, Hong Kong
Why purchase separate tickets? 27/02/2013
Why do people persist in buying separate tickets? Aren’t they aware of the pitfalls – no compensation for missed connections, likelihood of no baggage through-check – should anything go wrong? From what I read in this column, many people are buying two or more tickets (rather than one) for a trip, despite the drawbacks.
Alan Carsons, London
Surprise at Ask Alex response 27/02/2013
Do you get paid by the airlines or do you expect any benefits from them? When I read your reply to Mohsan Elahi in December last year, I was surprised you gave such an answer.
If you buy a ticket with any quality airline, you have to be able to use the in-flight entertainment and have enough light to read a newspaper or book.
Compensation of 10,000 frequent flyer miles isn’t worth a dollar if you aren’t an Etihad Guest member. You should not be the voice of the airlines, you should speak up for travellers who have faced bad experiences.
Marcel Zink, Stuttgart
Passport name changes 30/01/2013
My wife and I are shortly flying to Amsterdam. Last month we booked online to fly with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. Now I have discovered that when I booked the flights, I typed in a slightly different name than the one on my passport.
Turkish Airlines said it would not allow a correction unless I bought a new ticket, which would cost €620. I understand airlines may charge a change fee to cover their admin costs, which I am happy to pay, but I cannot afford a new ticket. What can you advise?
Martin Nel, Johannesburg
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