A couple of passengers departing Caracas, Venezuela for Paris, France checked 31 articles of luggage on the flight, all of which were tagged under false names. Upon investigation, authorities discovered that the bags were filled with 2,866 pounds of pure cocaine. Suspicions were apparently only raised when the passengers who checked the bags didn’t actually board the plane. The flight date was on 9/11 no less, a date we all know for extra precautions at airports, at least in the United States. The unaccompanied bags of cocaine were eventually detained at the Charles De Gaulle airport.Several people have been arrested in France regarding the incident — three are Italian and three are British. Venezuelan authorities have arrested three officers of the National Guard and have said that they expect more arrests to come. According to Minister Miguel Rodriguez, Venezuelan authorities are also suspicious of the airline workers involved in this flight. While we don’t have any further details regarding just how this much cocaine wound up on this plane, it’s pretty clear that with National Guard members and possibly airline workers aiding in the transport of the drugs, a massive coverup and/or coercion may have been present. Most drug rings wouldn’t risk this much cocaine on a single flight unless they felt success was inevitable, a presumption that is contingent on corruption.
After flying with an infant to over a dozen countries and on nearly 50 flights in her 20 months, I figured I pretty much have baby travel down to a science, as much as you can call it “science” when dealing with a person who is often unpredictable and doesn’t respond to reason. While each flight gets more challenging, I’m relishing this travel time before she has opinions on where to go and what to do, and while our baggage allowance has grown, our travel style hasn’t changed much since having a baby. As her second birthday looms in July, I’m preparing for the biggest change to our travel style: having to pay full fare for her tickets as she “graduates” from infant fare. The FAA requires that all children over the age of 2 secure full fare and sit in their own seat, while babies under 2 can fly free domestically and at a fraction of the adult fare (usually 10%) internationally if they sit in a parent’s lap. So what happens if you take a trip to celebrate your child’s second birthday and they turn 2 before your return? Do you have to buy a ticket for the whole trip, just the return, or try to sneak under the wire (don’t do that)? We asked airlines for their policy on flying with a baby turning 2.
Note: These policies ONLY apply for the situation of flying with an infant under 24 months one-way and over 24 months on the return. Unless otherwise noted, a child age 2 or over for all legs of the trip will pay regular fare.Air New Zealand – Flying with the Kiwi carrier over a birthday will mean you will need to purchase a child fare (where available) for the entire journey, 75-80% of adult fare for economy tickets. Air New Zealand offers a variety of kid activities and meals, and we think the Skycouch option is perfect for young families.
American Airlines – Here’s one policy we hope new partner US Airways will honor: children turning 2 on their trip will get a free ride home with American Airlines. You will generally pay taxes and/or a portion of the adult fare for international trips, call reservations for details.
British Airways – One of the few airlines that make their policies clear on the website (they also tell you what to do when you are booking for a child who isn’t yet born!), British Airways will offer a free return for a child turning 2. More reasons to fly British: discounted child fares, families board early, you can “pool” all of your frequent flier miles on a household account, and special meals, entertainment and activity packs (ages 3 and up) are available on board for children.
Cathay Pacific – If your baby turns 2 in Hong Kong or another Cathay destination, you’ll pay a discounted child’s fare for the return only. Note that some flights might require a provided safety seat instead of your own car seat, but all flights provide infant and child meals, and “Junior VIPs” age three-six get a special activity pack.
Delta – Delta (along with partners Air France and KLM) requires you to purchase a ticket for the entire trip if your infant will turn 2 at any time before return. The good news is that on certain international routes, discounted children’s fares may be available, call reservations for details.
JetBlue – I’ve found JetBlue to be one of the most baby-friendly airlines, thanks to the free first checked bag, liberal stroller gate-check policy and early boarding for families with young children. Of course, the live TV and snacks don’t hurt either (my daughter likes the animal crackers, while I get the blue potato chips). Kids celebrating a second birthday before flying home on JetBlue will pay a one-way fare. You can book the one-way online, but should call reservations to make sure the reservation is linked to the whole family.
Lufthansa – A child fare (about 75% of adult fare) is applicable for the entire trip. The German airline is especially kid-friendly: the main website has a lot of useful information about flying with children, including how to pass time at the airport and ideas for games to play on board, and a special JetFriends kid’s club website for children and teens. On the plane, they provide baby food, snacks, and toys, a chef-designed children’s menu and special amenity kits in premium class. A nice additional extra for a parent traveling alone with a kid: Lufthansa has a family guide service to help navigate the airports in Frankfurt and Munich.
Qantas – For flights to and around down under, the child’s age at departure is used to calculate the fare, so the infant fare is honored on the return. Qantas offers meals for all young passengers, limited baby supplies and entertainment and kits on board for kids over three. On the website, kids can also download some fun activities and learn about planes.
Singapore Airlines – Good news for families flying on one of the world’s best airlines: if your child turns 2 during the journey, Singapore will provide a seat without charge. Once they graduate from infant fare, they pay 75% of adult fare. Singapore also offers a limited selection of “baby amenities,” such as diapers and bottles, and children flying on business class or higher tickets can choose from special kids’ meals.
United – A United rep declined to clarify their policy for this specific case, only emphasizing that any child 2 or older is required to purchase a seat. Assume you will pay at least one-way full-fare.
Virgin Atlantic – Virgin charges an infant fare for the whole journey, but the new 2-year-old will have their own special seat on the return. One of the world’s coolest airlines is also pretty cool for the small set, with free backpacks full of diversions (on flights from the UK), dedicated entertainment and meals.
With all the airlines above, Junior can start accruing frequent flier miles when he turns 2. Hoping to book the whole trip with miles? In general, you’ll spend the same number of miles for your child as your own seat, while lap infants traveling on miles will pay taxes and/or a fraction of the full-adult fare (this can get pretty pricey if you are flying in premium class).
Now where to plan that birthday trip?
[Photo credit: Instagram KnockedUpAbroad/Meg Nesterov]
As if fuel surcharges, baggage fees and having to pay for food on expensive flights wasn’t bad enough, on Wednesday, passengers on board an Air France flight that got diverted from Beirut to Damascus were asked to help “chip in” to refuel the plane.
The reason for the diversion was tensions in Beirut. Unfortunately, the airline suspended flights to Damascus in March due to safety reasons.
Roland, a 23-year-old engineer on the flight, explained the flight got held up in Syria’s capital because of the fuel dilemma. He told news.come.au, “There were some negotiations going on to buy fuel because Air France doesn’t fly to Damascus at the moment and so it doesn’t have an account with Damascus airport authorities.”
According to an anonymous Air France employee, the crew at first tried to pay for the fuel in Damascus with a credit card; however, the transaction could not be completed because of financial sanctions, which have been imposed on Syria.
It is unclear how the issue was finally resolved.
[Image via Joe Jones]
We just returned from a week of international travel, and let’s just say that the international lounge is one of our favorite perks of traveling business class. Sadly, our connection in Charles de Gaulle was far too short (read: we ran from plane to plane) to catch their new S4 satellite in terminal 2E or Air France’s brand new lounge, which opened late last week.
If you’re flying with Air France or any of the SkyTeam partners through Paris, the $580 million euro new satellite offers 10,000 square meters of boarding area for international passengers and 3,000 square meters of lounge, the largest in the Air France Network.
Aéroports de Paris has paid particular attention to the needs of its passengers, offering traditional French shops and restaurants as well as 25,000 square meters dedicated to the boarding lounges – the equivalent of 128 tennis courts.
A museum will also shortly be opening at the satellite, presenting original works from famous museums in Paris.
Air France’s new $16 million euro, 620-seat business class lounge is a welcome respite for international travelers, offering numerous places to unwind and plug in as well as Wi-Fi access, digital tablets and computers. You can snag hot and cold foods (they have a risotto bar!) as well as beverages (great French wine!) and a variety of presentations focusing on French cuisine at your convenience.
Our favorite part about the facility? The on-site Clarins spa. What can we say? We’re beauty product junkies. Their business class and premium economy vanity kits already come with moisturizer but really, who wants to primp at 36,000 feet? Three dedicated treatment rooms offer body and face touch ups, and ten dedicated showers let travelers refresh as needed.
Of course, you could always just relax on one of the lounge chairs, but that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
Has anyone test driven the lounge yet? Is it as nice as photos suggest, or do you have another favorite? Weigh in with your comments, below.
There are entire websites and forums dedicated to maximizing your travel miles and getting the best bang for your buck when it comes to purchasing airline tickets. But rarely do we hear from those behind the reservations desk … until now.
Over on Reddit there’s an ongoing Q & A with “TravelAuthority,” a reservations agent for airlines like Delta, Air France and KLM. We’re sharing some of our favorite questions and answers from the thread. He shares that his Twitter handle is @Jackson_Dai and identifies himself there as the “world’s best Delta Skymiles booking agent.” He says he flies 200,000+ miles per year.
“Ask me anything about working for an airline, the flight benefits, using miles, earning miles, avoiding stupid airline fees, low fares, partner airlines, Skyteam vs Oneworld vs Star Alliance or anything really,” he challenged readers. So far, the thread has more than 1,300 comments.
Note, quotes are taken verbatim.
Q. Any general advice? Like the best time to shop for a fare, the best agency or website, how far in advance to book…
A. Best website: Bing.com/travel – the fare predictor is pure genius. Not even Delta agents have access to that information. A close second would be Skyscanner. In general you want to book 6 weeks to 12 weeks in advance. Any earlier and the flights won’t be on sale, any later and the others will have already snapped up all the low fares. Award tickets are another animal though.
Q. What is the fastest way to rack up miles? Credit Cards? Special promos or secret deals?
A. Credit Cards are the best. Some people run their businesses off their credit cards and rack up millions of miles pretty easily. Suntrust Bank also has a checking account with a Skymiles debit card. That account is nice because the electronic bill pay also earns miles. So you can pay your rent/mortgage via bill pay and get miles for it. And if the person or org you’re paying doesn’t accept electronic payments it mails them a check.
Q. I’m 6’6″. I’m flying back from Shanghai to DTW in a few weeks. Can you help me figure out the best way to get a seat with legroom? In general I arrive at the gate early to see if I can find my way into a better seat. Is there anything else I could do?
A. Go with Economy Comfort or Exit Row. That may cost you a bit though. Also take a look on Seatguru.com to determine witch seats have the most legroom. Unethically, you could call the reservations agents and say you have a medical disability that requires a bulkhead seat (you don’t have to state exactly what it is and Delta agents are forbidden to ask).
Q. … any tips on how to get any freebies/upgrades/benefits?
A. Yes, after your flight you should call or email (preferably the later) and let them know about every single thing you didn’t enjoy about your flight (food, movie selection, rude flight attendant, tray table didn’t work, Wi-Fi didn’t work etc.). The airlines have a specific department to deal with complaints and they’ll give you tens of thousands of miles, free business lounge passes, travel vouchers, drink tickets, etc.Q. … any special “tips” for international flights and getting the lowest fare? Does it even help if you book super far in advance? (+6 months)
A. Unless you’re booking business/first class, booking super far in advance is always a bad move. Airlines charge higher fares for those reservations. It’s just like in the tech world where the early adopters pay more. What kind of “tips”? Ethical or Unethical? I have lots of both. There are lots of unethical ones like booking child fares for adults to get 10-20% off or using bereavement/medical exemptions to get cheaper last minute fares or to get agents to waive change fees. Delta/AirFrance/KLM require a bit of info such as a hospital name, address, and phone number for a medical fare but they NEVER call to check up on it so I’m surprised more people don’t just lie about it.
Q. What qualifications do you need to be a reservation agent?
A. They prefer 2 years of sales or call center experience. Nothing other than that. Well, you do have to pass an incredibly thorough FBI background check but that’s all.
Q. Would this be a viable career for someone with a family?
A. Yes, definitely. The average age of the reservations agents and flight attendants in pre-merger Northwest cities (Minneapolis, Detroit, Seattle etc.) is probably 45 or higher so most of them have families. The hours are super flexible, the health benefits are decent, the pay is solid, and your spouse, parents, and kids fly free.
Q. Wow, everyone flies free? That is such a great deal. I need to look in to this. What airline is the best employer?
A. If you’re in the US it’s Southwest Airlines. No Question. Highest pay, best benefits, best management. Delta or United/Continental will offer better flight benefits because of their larger network but that’s about it.
Q. Is it possible to work for Star Alliance in general and then get flights all over their network? Is that what happens when you work with United or continental?
A. Flights on other airlines are heavily discounted (75-90%+) but not free. Actually, most airlines extend those heavily discounted travel tickets to employees of competing airlines too. For instance, Delta employees get 90% off tickets on United, British Airlines, Finnair, JetBlue, US Air, Alaska, Hawaiian, Japan Airlines, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Korean Airlines etc.
Q. I have a United Mileage plus rewards program. How would you rate it?
A. United’s program is really good for award redemption, much better than Delta actually. Delta’s program is better for complimentary upgrades and accruing miles.
Q. Another question, about how to send in complaints.
A. Did you use the comment/complaint form on Delta.com? Or did you mail in a letter? If you send in an email it should have the words “Platinum” or “Diamond” in the text somewhere (e.g. “I’m not yet a Diamond Medallion but…”). The system will flag your email and give it higher priority because it tries to pick out the complaints from “high value” customers and move them to the front of the queue. It’s unethical but it helps. If you call again make sure you talk to a supervisor. Updated: Better yet. Call the customer care dept. 404-773-0305 At the first prompt use option 1 if you have a Skymiles account and option 2 if you don’t. At the second prompt use option #7 to get to an agent.
[Flickr via simon_sees]