Thank you for your articles about visa problems ["Trapped Abroad, Alone," by Mary Forgione, Oct. 9; "No Quick Fix for Visa Woe," by Camille Cusumano, Oct. 9]. About 10 years ago, I took my parents and daughter to Russia. My parents are originally from Finland, and we all have dual citizenship.
We were visiting my parents' birthplace, the Aland Islands, so Russia was close. I obtained the visas on Aland, and they were to expire the day we left Moscow by train to Helsinki.
Before we crossed the border into Finland, we were thrown off the train in the middle of the night because the visas had expired at midnight, a few hours before. We had no rubles left, only euros. Then another couple was thrown off for the same reason. They sold us rubles and put us on a bus to St. Petersburg. We checked into a hotel at $1,000 a night because it had someone who spoke English and could help us.
The Finnish Embassy was helpful, but we were told we had to wait for the OK to leave. I was terrified at being stuck in Russia. My dad told me to stop worrying; he had lived through World War II, which was much more terrifying.
The ordeal cost us at least $2,000 and that was 10 years ago. I don't plan to return to Russia any time soon.
More on code sharing
I truly appreciated Catharine Hamm's article "Confused by Code Sharing? Don't Be" [On the Spot, Oct. 2].
My husband and I recently encountered a code-share dilemma when we booked on United Airlines, but the carrier was Air Canada. Luckily, United sent us an email informing us that we should check in at the Air Canada counter at LAX. We were traveling to Vancouver, Canada, to connect with a cruise and chose this flight as it was perfect for our travel needs … or so we thought.
We exclusively use the United Mileage Plus Chase Visa and have achieved preferred status with United. This offers us seat selection, free upgraded seats, priority boarding and no charge for the first bag per person. In choosing this flight, booking through United, and using this Mileage Plus Visa, we assumed that the same perks would apply.
Air Canada offered none of these. If we wanted seat selection, it was $25 per person, no upgrades, no priority boarding, and we were required to pay $25 per person for our first checked bag. We allowed Air Canada to pick our seats (which were at the back of the airplane) and paid a total of $50 to check our two bags.
Because both airlines are Star Alliance partners and the purchase was made through United, we assumed the rules would be the same. Not. This is important for travelers to be aware of when code sharing occurs. There are hidden liabilities and fees.
A service to flier
As the grieving partner of a recently deceased certified hearing dog, I was dismayed by letters concerning the story about service/therapy animals flying on airplanes ["Plane Sense About Pets," Oct. 2].
My partner and I traveled extensively during our near seven years together. Most people didn't even know she was on board, as she'd sit on my lap or at my feet the entire trip (as many as five hours in the air and the two-hour wait to board after security).
There is a major difference between true service animals and therapy dogs. Both serve a purpose, but service animals are trained to a higher level of competency. A good part of their service is also dependent on the composure of their partner.