Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Traveling with Pets

Recently we started planning a long trip to visit family and we want to take our Shiba Inu with us. He's too big for cabin travel (27 pounds) and most certainly will not fit under the seat. Folks with a dog under 20 pounds have some GREAT options. Petfinder.com did a fantastic job summarizing these and the top 5 pet friendly airlines for the 2009 year.

I called Continental since fuzzbutt isn't going to fit under any seat, any where. They have a 24 hour desk and the lady I spoke with told me the pets are in cargo, but in an area separate from the luggage. This area has the same temperature and air-pressure as the main passenger cabin. It is kept dark, but no one is down there with the pets during travel. Pet are loaded last onto the plane and taken off first by dedicated staff (not the regular luggage handlers). In talking to friends, I joked that I might almost prefer to travel in the "pet cabin" versus the main cabin (dark and quiet)!

Rates aren't cheap - but we are booking our fuzzbutt and will see how it goes. Stay tuned!

For those who live in some key cities (Chicago, NYC, DC, etc), check out Pet Airways. They ONLY fly pets and seem to have a first class service. Be warned though: they do not land in most of the major airports in those areas. For example, in LA they do not fly in/out of LAX but rather "Hawthorne". No idea. . .

Thursday, October 8, 2009

All About Airlines - Part I


Budget airline. Need I say more? Ok then – I will! My flights were re-scheduled at least half a dozen times in the weeks before my actual vacation. I originally choose AirTran because on a flight from SFO to MCO, they connected through Atlanta, resulting in shorter travel time. By the time it was all down, I was connecting through Milwaukee, my travel time had increased by hours, and I was arriving in MCO much later than I had planned.

They charge for any checked bags. Unless you upgrade to business class. Which brings me to my next rant: I paid for a business class upgrade and when I arrived at the airport, I was told my seat was “broken”. It didn’t have a life vest (which is so clearly needed on a flight across LAND) but OK – I don’t know the FAA regulations. What was I provided instead? A bulkhead seat in coach – not too bad. Except it wasn’t a bulkhead seat. It was a seat right behind a business class seat which could still recline. However, I was not able to put up my armrest. I suppose that make it a “bulkhead”?

My final nits here: no headsets (they were out of stock), no TV, seats are average (at best) and no food or drinks available for purchase. If you upgrade, you get free booze and extra potato chips. That’s it.

What do they do right? Their staff are super nice. I really hate trashing them because they have such nice staff. And their unaccompanied minor fees are lower than most airlines. They do have in-flight wi-fi access that works pretty well.

Virgin America:

I totally heart Virgin America. Nice planes, nice staff, free games, some free TV and movies, headsets. The seats are decent with probably average legroom. The fact that I can order cocktails and food on the screen in front of me and swipe me credit card makes me very, very happy. Flights are cheap, upgrades are available (and reasonable) and your first check bag is free. The staff are friendly and when there have been challenges, they have responded well and handled things in a professional and courteous manner. Their unaccompanied minors fees are high ($75 per child, per direction) but they really go out of their way to help make this a good experience for the kids and the grown-ups.

And they fly to Vegas. Mmm. . . Vegas.

Oooohh. . .they just added a main cabin “select” class with more legroom and free drinks and beverages and dedicated overhead space. Now I’m even more in love!


What happened to this airline? They use to have cheap, direct flights to great places and from coast-to-coast. DirectTV in the flights, decent seats (leather or pleather, not icky cloth seats that are stinky) and nice staff. Now I can never find direct flights and their prices are 2-3 times more than other airlines.Totally sux!


I absolutely hate United. Unfortunately for me, they fly where I travel with the fewest stops and shortest travel time. When traveling coast-to-coast, they often connect through Denver which reduces the travel time. They also have good flights to Asia from the West Coast and they have OK flights to Europe. Their prices are usually comparable to other crappy airlines and they have lots of flights going. However, they crush all that with horrible planes (old, outdated CRT tube TVs? Really?) audio ports rarely ever work, seats are horrid, staff are surly (on a good day) and customer service is total shit. And let’s not forget the baggage fees for any checked luggage.

If you have status with the airline, much of this changes. Free upgrades to Economy Plus, first checked bag is free and their customer service starts to resemble something like customer service - but it is still not stellar by any stretch of the imagination.