Travel letters: Be persistent in dealing with airlines
Be persistentwith the airlines
I read with great interest the On the Spot column of March 25 [“Speak Up, Be Proactive,” by Catharine Hamm]. I had the same experience with United. Initially, United refused to provide me with a refund. I wrote to United’s president, chief financial officer and chief counsel and, most important, to the Department of Transportation.
Within 24 hours of my complaint to the DOT, I received a call from United offering me a full refund.
Why United initially refused my request for a refund when its contract of carriage calls for a refund because of the increased flight time is a mystery to me. But it proves again the moral of the story: Be proactive.
I had a similar problem with United when it changed the itinerary (booked some months before) from nonstop to a connecting flight with a change in planes. I then chose another nonstop at a later time, but United wanted to charge me a $75 fee to change the flight plus additional fees because the nonstop now cost more. It took some doing, but United relented and now we have our nonstop at the price I originally paid without additional fees or penalties.
It’s not just in Cuzco
I enjoyed Christopher Reynolds’ article on Cuzco, Peru [“Move Over, Machu Picchu,” March 18]. I’ve been there four times and think it is charming and fascinating.
I was surprised, however, that he made a point of mentioning the scrutiny shopkeepers give American dollars and the issue of not putting toilet paper in the toilet as if these were particularly Peruvian concerns.
Having traveled a fair amount throughout Mesoamerica and Asia, I know the concern with accepting worn or torn U.S. currency is pretty much universal outside the industrialized West. The “no toilet paper in the toilet” requirement is also found in parts of Mexico and Central America.
Groovy VW bus travel
“Smiles to Go in a VW Bus,” by Kari Howard [March 18], brought back memories. In 1963, we bought a Volkswagen bus and did lots of camping in the United States. In January 1965, with his a year of sabbatical for my teacher husband, we embarked with Michael, our 4-year-old son, on a journey across the country, put the VW on a ship and began 11 months of Europe.
We probably stayed at only six hotels in the whole year. Mostly, we stayed at campgrounds, which were unlike any we’d ever seen at home. In Paris, London and Lisbon, the campgrounds were large and had shops, banks, laundries and showers. Those in the countryside could also be pretty small, but we befriended many families whom we met in other campgrounds in other countries.
We returned home on a Dutch ship that dropped us in Montreal on Michael’s fifth birthday, and I discovered I was pregnant. All four of us still travel all over the world, and although none of us goes camping anymore, we think a VW is one of the best ways to travel.
From Gate 44, help!
I have found purgatory. It turns out that it’s a temporary terminal at LAX called Gate 44.
I arrived at what seemed as though it could be the gate and found a door and a woman yelling for boarding passes. “Do they have restaurants there?” I asked the yelling woman, who told me to get on the bus, which I did. It delivered me to this God-forsaken terminal.
The temporary structure is a couple of modular trailers. No hot food, just rows of robo-vendors. The rebooking center is a bank of telephones. The sounds and fumes of jets accelerating out of the main terminal fill this drab cavity.
A couple of panel TVs mounted from a lonely pole hanging from the ceiling blare business news headlines, uttered by a balding man with a picture perched on his left shoulder like a parrot. Captioning is on, as is the sound. A man glances around furtively as he takes sips from his Dr Pepper. A spy, perhaps, though I think in the main terminal, spies do martinis.
A man is kneeling close to the wall to use his phone while it’s plugged in. Probably trying to get his prayer through, but in purgatory, there is no signal, and power outlets are annoyingly far from the seats.
This note is my warning back to you in the main terminal. Stay away from Gate 44C. And, if you get this note, could you please send us a restaurant?
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