Sunday, November 23, 2008

Up in Arms!

Okay, I don't know where to begin with this, so I'll just get straight to the point: I've been trying to book a plane ticket for Emma and me to travel to the U.S. over the past few days, and Friday night I thought I was set after having found a great fare on CheapAir.com -- but no, it was too good to be true! The next day I get an e-mail and a phone call telling me that the flight can't be confirmed at the quoted price on-line because in fact the "class" for an infant has been changed, or something or other, and that in fact Emma's fare will be 210 AMERICAN DOLLARS MORE -- supposedly for fuel charges!!?? In essence, her ticket will cost nearly as much as MINE, and she doesn't even get a seat! She will be sitting on my lap and may very well get a bassinet, IF I'm lucky enough to get a bulkhead seat.

Folks, as you all know, my daughter will only be 5 months old in December, and I decided to travel with her in January, after the New Year, because I figured that by then the fares would be much cheaper than traveling over the holidays. It wasn't absolutely crucial that I be in the U.S. for Christmas this year, as Emma is still really little, and I figured we would celebrate Christmas here with my boyfriend's family, and then just celebrate things a bit later with my family back home. In the future, further down the road, I hope to take Emma back to the U.S. for an actual Christmas, when she's older and can really appreciate the Christmas carols, baking cookies, the atmosphere around the holidays -- the whole shebang, quoi. This is pretty much the ONLY time I'll have to be this flexible about my travel times, too, because I'm not working right now. Once I go back to work it will be much tougher to figure out the best times to travel. And this time around I don't need to fly over on a particular date, so I was open to many different possible options.

Basically I was looking at flying over around January 8th and staying nearly a month at my parents' place. But I am BEYOND SHOCKED by these new supposed fuel charges... Does anybody know anything about this? Have you heard anything about this before? Suppposedly the woman at USAir told my mother (who called for me as well, as she was helping me to try to book the tickets) that this was some sort of new international regulation for infant passengers -- but WTF?!?! I thought the whole benefit of traveling with a child under the age of 2 was that the cost was much lower, and this is because she doesn't even get a seat! She weighs less than 15 pounds for goodness sake! How can they say this is for FUEL charges, both ways? Is this some money-making scam, the way the airlines are trying to make up for their own financial losses? Has anyone encountered this? I know I basically have no recourse, but I just don't understand how these Internet companies can quote certain fares and then 24 hours later call you to tell you that no, in fact your fare is NOT what you thought it was going to be, as the airline you're traveling with has decided to add this extra charge...

With the extra taxes and fuel charges, Emma's fare will be pretty much as much as mine, and once again, she DOESN'T GET A SEAT! I'm trying not to get steamed over this, but it's definitely not working... I just got off the phone with my mother again, and we're both simply flummoxed by this whole situation. And they've got us good, these damn airlines, because we obviously can't do a thing! And here I was thinking that I wanted to be able to travel with my daughter while she was little, like everyone has told me, because it's financially beneficial, in addition to the obvious fact that it will be a nice way for us to spend time with my family back in the U.S. But NOW what are we supposed to do? Just bite the bullet? I have a feeling that we'll simply have to do exactly that, because we basically have no recourse. I'm just stunned that the international airlines can just UP and do something like this, out of the blue, and inform passengers about it in such a roundabout way, instead of doing it up-front.

Anyhoo, sorry for the rant. I usually don't get so up in arms and upset about things, but this is just extremely disappointing and unnerving for me, particularly since we're really trying to watch our pennies these days, with me deciding to take a few more months away from work with Emma at home. The last thing we need is to have to pay for an expensive airfare in JANUARY, pretty much the lowest season and what I would think would be one of the least expensive times of year to travel to the U.S. from France.

OK, I'm off to grumble some more to myself... And drag my butt to bed.

P.S. ~ On a brighter sidenote, Emma was adorable today -- gurgling away like crazy and being just the sweetest thing. She even took a 3-hour nap from noon to 3:00! It's her smile that makes everything else fade away into insignificance.

11 comments:

G in Berlin said...

Check out momondo.com, lessno.com and sidestep.com. I would avoid whoever you used. And yes, they do cahrge all the taxes and fees when you travel with a lap baby. Better yet, we lost a "paper ticket"- which is what they give you for a lap baby and they made us pay a $75 change fee to get it reissued last year! Like someone else could have used taht ticket (with her passport) and sat on my lap!
Good luck finding a better flight.

tammy said...

Good lord. If they're going to make you pay for the seat anyway, the least they could do is give you a seat for her.

Sheesh. That REALLY stinks.

Cherise said...

Would it be better to just buy her a seat afterall?

We've had to pay all taxes for DD each time we've flown transatlantic, which comes to a few hundred US$, but it's generally been less than 1/2 the full price, so worth it and we've been lucky in that most times we've had a spare seat.

btw - you don't know me, but I read your blog from time to time, led here by assorted other expat posters :)

Megan said...

When I was trying to buy two plane tickets for us to go to the US for Christmas, I am sure the companies were doing a bait and switch- you search their website, they come up with a reasonable fare, you get excited and click on it to confirm, then it says "Sorry, this flight has no more seats available". After doing this about 50 times on different sites, you just give up and go for one about 100 euros more.

The Bold Soul said...

Just to say that I don't use those web sites that promise lower fares; I've found that booking directly through the airline (I usually go Continental) I get better fares. It certainly worked that way for me and Georges to fly to NJ for Christmas this year.

misschris said...

I think the prices are almost like buying a full price ticket so it's no longer even worthwhile to think you're saving money buy having a lap baby. We traveled last year with our new baby FOUR times back and forth internationally (husband's job paid--a crazy time) and it steadily got more expensive each time to like where you said we started thinking we should have just booked a seat for her. We also noticed that it was harder and harder to get the bulkhead bassinette seat unless you were really prudent. You have to call ahead during the specific time they ask (not too early but not too late--like 15 days before but not 48 hours before--something odd) and you really have to be sure to ask again at check in that you have the seat. Be extra careful because twice they gave our seat to another family and we had to hold her on our lap the whole trip, eek. This was Air France btw and they're normally really good with kids and families so just be careful. Sorry I don't want to put you off. Our two other trips were fabulous and the staff was really nice and helpful!

I know how important it is to see family with a new baby. That's really frustrating that they're doing this to you. I hope you find something more reasonable.

amerigirl said...

I bought my ticket with Air France leaving before Xmas and returning New Years day. I'm paying about 700 Euros for my ticket and another 100/150 Euros for my son to sit on my lap.

Maybe you should buy the extra seat and bring your car seat. Might give you more time to rest anyway. Getting the bassinet can be a gamble.

Nicole said...

I've done about 3 transatlantic flights a year with Ella since she has born (plus all the european travel) and can assure you that this is nothing new. The only discount you get is on the actual ticket price. All taxes and surcharges apply- no matter what the airline or website. Its true that you only save about 50 dollars in the end, between the price of a child ticket and the price of a lap baby PLUS lap babies don't have a luggage allowance. I think I've bought a seat for Ella for every flight since she was 6 months old because it is just so inconvenient otherwise. Especially since you will be travelling home with Christmas presents for the baby (plus all the baby gear that you end up splurging on because it is soooo much cheaper in the US) you might as well buy her a child seat. The extra baggage charges are so high now, and the check-in agents are so strict, that you are almost sure to travel cheaper with her on a child ticket.
Besides, you will need to save your ire for when they lose your stroller or refuse to bring it to the gate or give you the bait and switch for the basinet seats...

Mrs C said...

Have you paid yet? If not, I would try going through a reputable airline rather than a charter. Hell. Who knows. Your charter might go bust and then you are really dans la caca!

Also, with online airline carriers (the search engines anyway), I've heard it said that they memorise your IP address and keep raising the prices each time you come back because they know that their clients check prices first before buying. Thus inducing panic and a free for all.

Charming.

Anonymous said...

On an international airline ticket, you pay 10% (usually) of the full adult fare and the full adult taxes. For us (US->France), it came out to be that the lap baby was 1/2 the full price ticket. I feel that the first ticket we bought, it was more like 1/3.

If you travel within the US, then you actually don't pay anything and don't even have to have a ticket if I remember correctly.

On the consolidator's websites, I don't know how they do things, but I know it sucks to get an infant ticket from them. If it is almost the same price, then I would just buy the baby a full adult fare and then you get e-tickets for both of you instead of the stupid paper ticket.

I have had good luck with onetravel.com buying an infant ticket+adults, in case you are still shopping around for tickets.

afoos said...

We've been traveling with small babies since Gab was born. He's first year, we traveled 3 times overseas and Louise has gone 3 times as well under the age of two. We've never paid over 95 euros for their tickets (under two) and Louise was a month away from turning two last summer and we still only paid 95 euros for her ticket (which isn't really a ticket but taxes).

We've also always gotten an extra luggage allowance of 10 kilos for the babies plus a stroller that you can take on the plane plus a car seat that you check in (when you are traveling with a baby, they don't usually fuss about a few extra items that you slip on the luggage belt) and they've always been great about giving us the bulkhead area when we call and reserve a good month ahead.

The only thing I can think of is that the rules have changed between last summer and now and that the tickets are indeed more expensive for babies now. I can understand your frustration, this makes me frustrated too, as we would love to have traveled with Alice 'for free' during her first two years and now this means we'll have to buy 3 tickets, one for each child.

Maybe look on the websites directly- we've always traveled AirFrance and find that their fares are fairly decent (we also leave from Belgium every time- long story, but it's a lot cheaper). Good luck!