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ASK JOURNEYS: Code-share problems increasing concern

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Code shares, body scans, and green hotels may have nothing in common, but they do relate to the questions I am responding to this week.

QUESTION: If I am on what is known as a code-share flight and things don't connect as properly as they were supposed to for the subsequent flight, who do I go to for resolution for what occurred?

Can I expect satisfaction from the airline from whom I purchased the ticket, or do I have to go to the airline that seems to have caused the problem?

ANSWER: For those who may not be familiar with the concept, a code-share flight might occur on a flight you purchased from Winnipeg to Toronto on Air Canada and then connected to a code-share flight between the two airlines on United Airlines to another destination.

Because the numbers of times problems occur are not often, it is an issue that has stayed, for the most part, under the radar of negative publicity.

Nevertheless it happens often enough that it is becoming a consumer dilemma.

The reason is because no one wants to take complete responsibility.

In a recent published case in the United States, a couple was forced to spend thousands of dollars to return home from overseas because of an electronic error.

Neither of the airlines involved were willing to reimburse the couple. Nor was the online agency they booked their fares through. In fact some of the conciliatory offers they received, in the range of $100 credits, were nothing short of insulting.

Only when the issue came under the harsh glare of negative publicity did one of the airlines finally agree to reimburse the couple. But code-share issues need to find a more effective ombudsman process to resolve outstanding issues much faster than the year it took in the above case.

Governments around the world have lifted normal anti-competitive rules to allow these code shares, in what was perceived to be a mutual benefit to the consumer and the industry.

Airlines need to ensure better fluidity of complaints in the same way they promise better delivery of service as a result of code sharing.

QUESTION: I have never liked going through the scanning devices at airports because of radiation fears. Going through Chicago recently I noticed that there has been a change in the machines.

What is that all about, and is the new unit better or worse than the old one in terms of what may be entering my body from a radiation standpoint?

ANSWER: Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and New York's John F. Kennedy are the first airports who have removed the former X-ray Body Scanner units and replaced them with new millimeter wave scanners.

While these new scanners deliver less radiation, it is not because of that reason that the old units are being replaced in major airports around the United States.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials still adhere to the conviction that the old units were safe. They in fact are being moved to smaller, less busy airports around the country. Apparently these units were too slow to operate effectively in the huge hub style airports around the country.

I don't pretend to understand the scientific dynamics of any of these machines, but the TSA suggests that the new units rely on technology that is based on low-energy radio waves similar to that emitted from cell phones.

Additionally the complete body imaging many found offensive in the other technology is now replaced with a generic cartoon image of a person's body features.

Some reported start-up problems have been reported in the new machines. The units are so sensitive that occasionally a fold in clothing will set off the alarm system putting the online people into immediate alert status.

It is expected these will be minimized as experience is gained in using the machines. Even though the TSA has stated that the new technology does transmit lower doses of radiation, there still has been a rising tide of opposition to them as word as gotten out about the changeover.

QUESTION: There are numerous hotels that promote themselves as 'green' properties. Is there a body that controls who can be promoted as green?

ANSWER: There are various bodies that promote and certify properties.

While somewhat scattered in North America, the European Ecolabel program is well-recognized across the countries of the union.

Some of the many criteria hotels and resorts must satisfy to be certified to use their distinctive logo are the use of organic cottons in sheets, towels and mattresses exclusively throughout the property.

They must be using renewable energy sources like solar or wind energy as much as possible. It must use non-toxic cleaning and laundry products.

They are obligated to offer recycling bins in the rooms and use energy efficient lighting. There are a number of other criteria that make the Eco-label designation a credible guide for those looking for green places to stay.

In Canada there is a designation called the Green Leaf Awards.

While different in structure, many of the requirements are similar.

Fresh-air exchanges, the use of non disposable dishes and cutlery only, a commitment to waste food composting, and organically inspired foods as a part of their restaurant menus are some of their criteria as well.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com . Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 D6

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