Tiny Samoa Air First To Charge Passengers Based On Weight

Samoa Air will now charge passegners by weightConsidering the number of fake travel stories we posted in celebration of April Fool’s Day on Monday, we can understand why you might be skeptical of the following post. But it has actually been confirmed by a number of news outlets across the globe, including the BBC. Still, considering the timing, I was double and triple checking the news.

Samoa Air has announced that it will now start charging passengers based on weight. The controversial new pricing means that it will now be cheaper for thinner customers to travel with the tiny airline, which operates just two aircraft over a few relatively short routes. Those planes are small, which makes them more susceptible to heavy loads as they fly between Samoa, American Samoa, North Tonga, Niue, the North Cook Islands and French Polynesia.

According to the new policy, passengers, along with their bags, will be weighed at the airport to determine just how much they’ll have to pay. They will then be charged a fixed rate per kilogram, which varies based on which route the passenger is actually flying. Those rates range from as little as $1 all the way up to $4.16 per kilogram. There are no extra bag fees of any kind, just a simple scale based directly on weight.Chris Langton, the Chief Executive of Samoa Air, has been widely quoted in the media as saying that this is “the fairest way of traveling,” and I’m sure many would agree. Sitting next to a particularly large passenger who takes up half of your seat isn’t especially comfortable and while this new pricing scheme won’t alleviate that issue, at least svelte customers will have the satisfaction of knowing that they paid less for their fare. Langton also says that the policy will help promote a greater awareness of health in Samoa, a country that is known for having one of the highest obesity rates on the planet.

This is an interesting approach to pricing to say the least. As someone who tends to travel light, I personally wouldn’t mind seeing some of the bigger airlines adopt a similar approach. But considering the size of many passengers, not to mention their bags, I’m not sure how popular it would be with the general public. Besides, going through a TSA screening can be harrowing enough, how bad would you feel if you had to step on a scale at the ticket counter too?

[Photo Credit: Samoa Air]

Everything You Need To Know About Flying With An Infant Turning 2


flying with infant turning two

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.

DeltaDelta (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?

For tips on getting through the actual flights, check out our guides to flying with a baby, winter and holiday travel with a baby, traveling abroad, and more in the Knocked Up Abroad series.

[Photo credit: Instagram KnockedUpAbroad/Meg Nesterov]

Spring Break deal: $100 off any Lufthansa flight from the US

lufthansa spring break

Bored with the usual Spring Break destinations? You could consider checking out 5 tips for alternative destinations from our friends at AOL Travel, or if you’d like to get really creative, head to Europe for a bit. Thanks to a promotion from Lufthansa, you can now book a flight on one of their routes for $100 off.

The promotion requires you to enter your name and email address, and minutes later, you’ll have a unique promo code in your inbox.

The fine print is pretty simple – book and redeem between now and February 21 for travel between now and March 31. Promo codes can only be used on Lufthansa flights (so no codeshares) and only on flights that depart in the US. According to the terms and conditions, the promo can be applied to any ticket code! Promotions like this don’t last long – so snag yourself a code as soon as possible.

Found yourself a flight for a nice price? Share it in the comments section!

[Photo: AFP/Getty Images]

Google acquires ITA: the search for bargain airline deals is about to get even easier

You’re an avid traveler, right? Sure, why else would you be reading this? Chances are that you’ve spent some quality time at either Kayak, Airfare Watchdog, Bing Travel or one of the many other niche ticketing sites in search of deals over the past few months. To that end, you’ve probably spent next to no time at Google searching for the same thing. But the obvious question is this: “why not?”

That’s a question that has obviously been bugging Google, which is a master of all things search in most every other category. For whatever reason, Google has allowed a number of other, typically smaller competing sites to grow their user base without any interference. But if Google’s so great at finding images via keyword, remedies to your strange medical conditions or more details on that vehicle you’ve been meaning to investigate, why can’t it do the same for travel?

Enter ITA Software, a Cambridge-based software firm that was born from an idea within the minds of a few bright computer scientists from MIT. Currently, the outfit is home to a highly advanced QPX software tool for organizing flight information, which is used by leading airlines and travel distributors worldwide including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Bing, Continental Airlines, Hotwire, Kayak, Orbitz, Southwest Airlines, TripAdvisor, United Airlines, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and others. Moreover, it’s now offering a completely new airline passenger reservation system to improve the customer experience. And as of today, the company is an integral part of Google…
Google has ponied up $700 million in order to acquire ITA and turn the tables in the online ticket search business, but what’s most interesting here is that there’s a good chance the resulting search engine will not only do its own thing, but also bring in results from your existing favorites (Kayak, for instance). In a way, it’ll be the ultimate airline ticket search engine, pulling information from every nook and cranny available and organizing it in a way that the Average Joe or Jane can fully understand and take action on.

Once the acquisition is complete, Google aims to “make it easier for you to search for flights, compare flight options and prices and get you quickly to a site where you can buy your ticket.” It’s important to note that much like Kayak, Google won’t actually be selling you an airline ticket directly; it’ll simply be providing the access to buy one. Still, this all sounds like a huge win for consumers who are tired of crawling three different airline search engines to get a somewhat comprehensive look at their options, and we personally can’t wait for this marriage to officially bear fruit.

[Source: Google]

Roller Girl busted for stealing 525 tickets from United Airlines

Mercedes Stafford, the president of the Cincinnati Roller Girls pleaded guilty yesterday to illegally obtaining more than 500 airline tickets.

Stafford, who is known as “Sadistic Sadie” in her roller team works as a ticketing agent for United Airlines at Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport and figured out a way to issue herself free tickets.

Her system involved printing tickets normally issued to passengers involved in canceled or delayed flights, but her greed eventually caught up with her when she was caught.

The tickets ended up costing United Airlines up to one million Dollars – and Stafford admitted she sold them for more than $50,000 to friends, family members and fellow Roller Girl team members.

If convicted, she could end up in jail for 20 years, but since she agreed to make restitution to the airline, she may get a more lenient sentence. If she does go to jail, she should do just fine – Sadistic Sadie is the current holder of the “most feared” award in her team.

(Photo from avstop.com).