Is reserving seats on a flight worth the extra cost?
The Washington Post’s travel section writers and editors recently discussed stories, questions, gripes and more. Here are edited excerpts:
Q: My son and his husband have flights booked from Washington to Paris. They would like to sit together but we’ve heard so much recently about reserved seats not even being honored. In your opinion, is it still worth the extra cost to reserve their seats ahead of time, or do you think they could take their chances and wait? They have been checking back to see how the flights are filling up, but is that sufficient?
A: The airline can move people in reserved seats, per its Contract of Carriage. But mostly likely the crew will shift people around to accommodate families or for other extraordinary circumstances. I fly pretty frequently and have never seen a passenger moved without consent. Usually, the flight attendant will ask people to voluntarily move. If your son and his husband really want to sit together, they should improve their odds and pay for reserved seats. They should also check-in 24 hours before departure and arrive at the boarding gate early. If a flight attendant tries to split them up, they can say that they are nervous fliers and need the other’s support. Andrea Sachs –
Q: I just got back from a wonderful nine days in Ireland. Most of the trip went really well. My partner and I had a great time. I submitted several reviews on TripAdvisor for various attractions, tours and restaurants. Most of those were (like the trip) great reviews.
One or two were more critical – e.g., bad food amongst tasteful decor in one restaurant. I was surprised to get a private note from the restaurant owner taking me to task for my review – which were clearly based on my direct experience. Not sure how he could argue with the experience I went through. Then I noticed a similar trend in some other critical reviews on TripAdvisor – that the owners/proprietors of the hotel, restaurant, tour, etc. were defensive; often blaming the reviewer for a bad experience. Is this typical?
I thought negative reviews were a chance for folks in the hospitality industry to consider ways to improve, to address shortcomings (perceived rightfully or not), or even simply to express regret or remorse of a bad experience. Seeing those makes me wonder if being a part of TripAdvisor’s commenting contributors is valuable – it also makes me wonder about the reliability of those reviews given the rather troubling push back from proprietors of services. What are your thoughts?
A: I have a very good friend who owns several restaurants. She gets upset by bad reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc., when the reviewer never first told the manager that there was an issue. She said they always try to make it right when someone is upset with their meal, service, etc., and appreciate the chance to do so in real time. Perhaps this has something to do with the defensiveness? – Carol Sottili
Q: Do you think it’s worth it to bring your own snorkel gear to Hawaii? We’re going to be in Maui for seven days for our honeymoon and I’m not sure if it’s the kind of place you just snorkel anywhere.
A: Yes, there are plenty of snorkeling opportunities in Maui. Honolua Bay and Slaughterhouse Beach are among the best for diving. If you’re going to spend a lot of time near the water in Maui, you might want to bring your own gear. – Christopher Elliott
Q: We are considering heading to either Savannah, Georgia, or Charleston, South Carolina, for an extended-family Christmas get together. Would you recommend one over the other?
A: I would probably choose Charleston over Savannah. I like the vibe of the city, with its historic homes and great restaurants/bars. – Sottili
Q: I just had a very frustrating trip with Southwest. They cancelled my return flight from Austin 90 minutes before the scheduled departure, and could not get me on another flight until the following day. They claimed the cancellation was caused by weather, but the fact that numerous flights to D.C., by both Southwest and other airlines, departed later that afternoon/evening make me suspect otherwise. I had to book a hotel at my own expense and was greatly inconvenienced, finally arriving home over 24 hours later than expected. My question: do airlines have to provide any kind of documentation/proof when they claim weather as a reason for a cancellation? I’m definitely going to follow up with Southwest, but I’d like to say something other than “you said it was caused by weather but I don’t believe you.”
A: Airlines do not need to prove the delay was caused by weather, unfortunately. And the government takes airlines at their word when they blame the weather for a delay or cancellation. Unfortunately, airlines also don’t have to provide any kind of compensation to passengers when there’s a weather delay. Elliott –