Archive for August, 2012
Over the last two decades, there’s been a revolution in the way we assess childhood behavior. In the good old days because the pharmaceutical industry began inventing new drugs to treat all these new diseases and disorders, we had well-behaved children and those we were forced to tolerate. Now the medical profession has invented Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and now prescribes several varieties of pill to control it, we have a cultural dilemma. In the good old day, parents would give their “naughty” children a gentle blow to the head or some other sensitive part of the body and, repeated as necessary, this tended to produce a sullen silence. Today, we’re not supposed to use corporal punishment, at least in public. Instead we administer pills and sit back quietly hoping they will soon take effect and give everyone’s eardrums a rest.
The problem with traveling comes down to two factors. Children are more likely to make a fuss when they are bored and, let’s face it, sitting for hours waiting for a flight or on a plane once it has taken off, can test the patience of even the best of children. Then there’s the problem of tiredness. Some children react by going to sleep – something to be encouraged. Others lose their tempers, shouting and throwing anything to hand.
A recent survey found slightly more than a third of passengers on cheap flights were so deeply frustrated by the failure of the parents around them to control their children, they agreed they would pay more to travel child free. It was worth a few extra dollars to have peace. Scale that up to business and first class and opinions were equally divided on whether children should be excluded. So what do you think? Should airlines offering cheap flights change the options so you can pay a little extra to travel without children? Or is this something the long haul legacy airlines should introduce? How many times have to sat with a child kicking the back of your seat, or pushing the seat in front down into your lap? Would it not be better to deal only with thoughtful and sensitive adults?
The Europeans are in the same position as the Americans when it comes to the rules on compensation when flights are cancelled or passengers are refused boarding. As from 2004, there have been a unified set of rules to ensure that everyone gets the same treatment no matter which country they are flying in or to – for the record, comparable rules apply to train services and other forms of public transport although the substance of the rules varies, e.g. the detail of rights on trains are not the same as those applying to maritime and river transport. This article only addresses the rights available to citizens of an EU Member State. Even if an American is a passenger on a European flight in Europe, none of these rights apply. The only remedies come under international treaties. However, Americans in Europe do get an indirect benefit.
The first and most obvious consumer right is to receive comprehensive information in a timely manner. If a problem arises hours before boarding is due, airlines should notify passengers by sms, Facebook or some other means to minimize inconvenience and avoid travel to the airport. Once you have arrived and presented yourself for boarding within the time limit, you’re entitled to compensation if the plane is overbooked and you cannot get a seat, even if you have cheap air tickets. The current practice is as follows. The airline first calls for volunteers who are prepared to give up their seats for an agreed amount of compensation. If no one volunteers, you must be offered a full refund or re-routing to your destination at the earliest possible time. For these purposes, a full refund includes the cost of flying you home if the purpose of your journey is now frustrated, e.g. you were flying to attend a friend’s wedding and you will miss it. If you choose a refund or re-routing, compensation must also be paid. This is up to 600 Euro depending on the distance you were due to fly. If your seat is upgraded, you cannot be asked to pay a higher ticket price. If you agree to accept a downgrade, the airline must refund the difference in seat price even if you had cheap air tickets.
There are many different deals out there when it comes to renting a car. It is easy to get scammed or get stuck with a rental package that doesn’t meet your needs. Below are some tips for things to look for to make sure you are getting a good deal.
1. Look for a company that has a discount program. Some let you sign up for their own discount rewards program and others will give you discounts if you use a certain type of credit card.
2. Look for a company that does not pressure you into using their insurance. Your insurance likely already covers you and your rental car, and the added insurance is unnecessary. Some companies will refuse to rent to you if you do not purchase their insurance.
3. If possible, rent your vehicle from a company outside of the airport. Car rental taxes can be upwards of 45% higher at an airport. Take a taxi or shuttle away from the airport to save some money.
4. Comparison shop and look out for special offers. Many companies will offer discounts during the slow season or other times of the year. Taking advantage of these offers can save you some cash.
5. In order to make sure you aren’t getting scammed, it is best to rent through an established chain of car rental companies. Hertz or Budget are two well-known examples with good reputations.
6. You should rent your car from a company that allows you to fill up the gas tank off-site. Car rental companies will charge you a surcharge for filling up with them, so getting gas elsewhere will often save you money.
7. If you have time in advance, consider shopping online. This allows you to comparison shop easily, and reserve your car ahead of time. Sometimes you can combine this with a hotel stay or flight to get a discount on a packaged deal.
8. Make sure your rental fits your needs. If you are driving one place to another, you need a company that will allow you to drop off your vehicle at a different spot. If you are staying in town, the same location will probably be fine for drop-offs.
9. Try to find a company that offers free unlimited mileage, and make sure it applies to the places you will be driving. Some places offer it, but only for local travel. Check into these questions before booking.