Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fees for carry-on baggage pop up

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Over a period of three weeks I used this column to help travellers select the kinds of cruise options that best suited their budgets, lifestyles and destination preferences.

In doing so, I fell behind in responding to other reader inquiries. I now continue to try and catch up with some of the information readers have been waiting to read for quite some time.

QUESTION: With the introduction of ever-increasing charges for checked in baggage by a number of airlines, carry-ons seem to be getting bigger as passengers attempt to save the costs of checking bags.

Is it correct some airlines are now charging for the carry-on pieces that were previously free?

ANSWER: Spirit Airlines was the first to move to that source of new ancillary fees. Now Allegiant Air, the airline more and more Manitobans were flying over the past couple of years, have jumped into the extra fees fray as well.

Unless you can stow your carry-on under your seat, it will now be subject to a $35 U.S. fee, which matches their charge for checked bags. This is hefty if you consider one checked bag and one carry-on will be a $140 fare addition.

Speculation is other airlines around the world will follow. Airline companies look to Ryanair for leadership in their continuing escalation of new and creative charges to fly with them.

Want a boarding pass at the airport? They say, pay for it. Thinking of paying by credit card? Ryanair will add on processing fees. Like the idea of good seat selection? You will find a menu price for that as well.

They have even floated the idea of fee for using washrooms. In many parts of Europe this is not uncommon.

Whatever happened to the concept of low-cost airline?

There still seems to be some sanity left in Canada as our airlines have not gone as far as United States and overseas carriers. Only time and competitive pressures will tell whether they follow. It is still an industry trying to find consistent profitable ground, and until it does consumers should be surprised at nothing.

QUESTION: I have travelled and tried to travel on Allegiant Airlines routes with mixed results. Sometimes the price has been dramatically lower than from Winnipeg, and other times the difference in price is not worth the drive across the border. Why is that if they are supposed to be so much less expensive? Also, are there other connecting points for longer travel?

ANSWER: Allegiant has competed particularly fiercely against Westjet Airlines on the Las Vegas route, where consumers need to really check prices on both on a regular basis to see where the value best lies.

Westjet has used various promotion periods to hold on to its Manitoba customer base. We often hear travellers say the price on Westjet was so attractive that, like you, the gasoline charges, potential border hassles, and extra time were not worth the Allegiant alternative.

On other occasions where several people are travelling together, the savings have been significant.

Allegiant has announced a new route option from Las Vegas to Honolulu non-stop. With a single connection and price differentials on a longer journey, I suspect we may see reasonable pick up with them from here to Hawaii. Maui enthusiasts will not be swayed, with flights going directly into that popular island for Canadians.

QUESTION: I have a significant number of Aeroplan points collected over a long period. I am concerned about losing them. If I call Aeroplan can they tell me which are in danger of being eliminated from my file?

ANSWER: You don't have to call them and go through the on-hold waiting process at all. The information is now online and clearly indicates when your oldest points will expire.

If you are at that juncture, and travel is not on your immediate horizon, you have two other options, one of which may be very attractive because of a program Aeroplan has announced of matching point donations.

The first option, of course, is to use your points for product purchases online or gift certificate purchases with their participating partners.

The other option is to donate the points to one of the eight designated charitable partners they have selected. On specific days, and only on those specific days, Aeroplan will match on a 1 for 1 basis donated points up to 500,000 points per organization.

To donate miles, visit www.aeroplan.com/donate where you can choose to donate to: the Air Canada Foundation, Earth Day Canada, Engineers Without Borders, Médecins Sans Frontières, Schools Without Borders, The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Veterinarians Without Borders and War Child Canada. Each of these eight Canadian organizations is committed to improving lives and enriching communities across Canada and abroad. The challenge is there is only one day for each organization on which you must donate these points. They are listed on the Aeroplan website but are stretched over an eight month period ending around mid-December.

The closest days are for the Air Canada Foundation on May 3 and the Stephen Lewis Foundation on May 14. The other mile matching days for the other charities are not until September.

Send 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 at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca .

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2012 D2

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