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OnTheJourney

Viking air question

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Posted (edited)

I've been looking at options for an air itinerary for the January Chairman's inaugural cruise. Viking has offered us complimentary economy air (PHL to FCO), but I'd like to upgrade. Through the premium air desk, I'm being quoted a business class rate of $3,898.50 pp. and am also told that if I decide to cancel or not go on the trip, all is refunded except $350 pp. I'm finding - through my own research - air costs of only $2740 pp out of EWR - significantly cheaper. I was also told that changing the already scheduled economy itinerary from departing out of PHL to EWR incurs a "deviation" fee that can range from $100-300 pp. There are also date changes involved from what they assigned me so I imagine that might be an additional fee, or else might be included as part of the deviation (?)  I have no experience whatsoever with Viking air so have no idea how quickly these charges add up. If I book my own air, I know what I have. 

 

With uncertainties of travel being what they are, I'm just not sure how to proceed. I learned today that Nationwide has policies designed primarily for cruises whereby CFAR (cancel for any reason) is allowed without the usual stipulation of having to purchase insurance within a specified number of days after initial payment. I had no idea such a thing existed. Of course, like many CFAR clauses, the policy only refunds 75%. Thoughts on which option might be best? I like to have my own control over airline flights and seating and so hardly ever purchase air through a travel company.

 

The total refunded amount of air purchased on my own - in the event that the cruise goes as scheduled but I decide not to go) would be $4110 (75% out of the total $5481), thereby forfeiting $1371. Not being sure of the exact costs associated with changing Viking's assigned economy air schedule, I guesstimate that out of the total $7797 I'd pay (and that's before any deviation charges for changing dates and airports), I'd get back roughly $7097 - forfeiting in the neighborhood of $700. From a simply dollars and cents standpoint, it looks like a no-brainer to go with Viking, being that if THEY change or cancel the cruise, I have no penalties or change fees, but there's still the fact that I'm paying about $2300 more for their business class. And, with the insurance policy in place, I feel reasonably comfortable with also having my own air. The Viking air agent seemed to suggest that changing the departure airport to EWR would not result in a significant change in cost. I got the idea that the $3898 is sort of a basic fee for the upgrade. IF, however, Viking's price to go out of EWR would roughly equal what I'm seeing on the airline's website, etc. and be lower than what I'm being quoted (I mean, it should be, right?), it then truly becomes a no-brainer to go with Viking. If I buy air through Viking, I can take that amount off the total I have figured in for non-refundable costs that I'm going to buy trip insurance for. I usually do that on my own as well rather than going through the cruise line. 

 

Hope all that makes some sense. Any suggestions??  Problem is there are TOO many variables associated with all of this - the biggest one being: will the cruise go as scheduled, and...if so...will we even plan on going?  The biggest advantage for the Viking air option is that any changes they make to the schedule are covered relative to what I spend on air. Advantage for booking my own air is that I don't incur any additional 'deviation' or other misc. charges plus it's considerably cheaper - unless Viking could match what I'm seeing once they look into the different departure airport. I got the distinct impression that she would not proceed further with any quotations, etc. unless I first agreed to book it through them. 

 

Thanks (sorry for being long in the explanation!)

Edited by OnTheJourney

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Isn’t planning during a pandemic fun?  LOL

 

Not sure I have the mental fortitude to completely understand the various variables you have laid out to give you any advice.  I was prepared to share with you the two different air fees Viking had last time we used them, but based on what’s shown on this page https://www.vikingcruises.com/oceans/my-trip/air-services/index.html

it appears they have consolidated what was one fee to be able to request particular flights and a second fee to deviate either dates or airports into a single fee. If so, this is probably good news. 
 

We don’t like flying in the day of a cruise and like being able to have a say in our flights, so we paid $50 for what was called (as I recall) Custom Air. This allowed us to be sure we were flying on American where we were able to upgrade ourselves using points.  We paid another $100 to be able to deviate and fly into San Juan the day before our embarkation and out of Rome 10 days after embarking in Barcelona. Since the air was “free” we felt like the $150 per person was a good value to allow us to spend another $300 pp (Plus 25k points) to fly business.  Like you, the cost from Viking to go from “free air” to business was more than what we could just buy business directly from the airline. 
 

Sorry to run on, basically my info appears to be out of date so now I’m just subscribing to see what others have to say. 

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OnTheJourney, I think you have hit the nail on the head, there are just TOO many variables/unknowns, especially at this point in time. We too have a cruise scheduled for January and are trying to delay the purchase of our flights until September in hopes that the picture will be clearer. Fortunately, we embark in Ft. Lauderdale and disembark in San Francisco so we are only looking as domestic flights costing a few hundred dollars and not the thousands for international business class. Right now I don't see how you are going to be able to book business class and avoid some personal financial exposure. Worst case scenario for us is if the ship sails but we choose not to go because there is no available vaccine or effective treatment.

Good luck and please keep us posted on how things work out.  

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Hi Everyone! We purchased,  thru Viking, air deviation ($100 pp) to go early and stay longer and purchased Viking Air ($50pp) to have flexibility in dates, times, routes, airlines.  We also upgraded to Business. I was told the cost was offset by the complimentary Economy class but I have no way to verify that. The Viking agent told us this was all 100% refundable if we change or cancel before being ticketed (60-90 days out). So, we figure that gives us till October to wait and see. We chose this option because we had a May vacation cancelled and all we got was travel vouchers from the Airline, we don’t want that again, 

right now we are booked LAX thru JFK to Rome. 

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Posted (edited)

PT....I was not told this. I specifically asked if the economy air package had a dollar "value" assigned to it that would be used to defray a portion of the upgraded cost, and she seemed to indicate not. It was very difficult to understand the agent. Sounded like she was talking through some sort of speaker phone or else a reverb chamber. I called her twice and wasn't certain of what she was telling me both times. IF there is some allowance of the economy class towards the upgraded business, then, yeah, I'll go for that. So now, quite frankly, I'm a bit confused??  

 

I emailed the Viking agent that I've been dealing with for all these bookings to see if he can find out more about this. I hate to call the air desk again since it'll be the same woman - I just can't fully understand what she's saying. It makes no sense to me that the free economy air is worth nothing if you choose to upgrade. I looked up the specific flights we were assigned to find out what they cost - am seeing around $2000 roundtrip (two flights for us - nonstop). So if that could come off the approx. $7k they're telling me the upgraded B-class would cost, it presents a much more attractive offer. 

Edited by OnTheJourney

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2 hours ago, Clay Clayton said:

Isn’t planning during a pandemic fun?  LOL

 

 

 

Sorry to run on, basically my info appears to be out of date so now I’m just subscribing to see what others have to say. 

 

Love your initial question....indeed! I told my wife this is like standing back and simply throwing darts at a wall. Your info is all helpful. What I find most interesting is this line:  Date or city deviations and stopover fees are typically between $100 and $300 additional.

 

That matches what she told me. I just like to keep things as simple as possible and so start getting a bit put off when I hear about additional change fees, etc. I DO know I'm not using the economy program they assigned me, as much as it's truly a magnanimous gesture on Viking's part. 

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FWIW, we haven’t seen the “free” air used to offset the cost of business air. From other reports on this board (there are several posts on this subject) sometimes business air through Viking saves money and sometimes it doesn’t.  For us, it has never been cheaper than what we can buy on our own. So it all just depends. 
 

Based on what we calculated Viking paid for economy air (based on the points we received in our frequent flyer accounts) they get a really (REALLY) good deal on econ air. $38pp one way from MIA to RDU last March. Rate on AA’s website was $78. Under $300 roundtrip for RDU to San Juan and Rome back to RDU.  When we priced that ticket it was close to $1000. And $245 from Hong Kong to Seattle one way vs. $800 direct from Cathay Pacific. So even if they do apply an allowance it doesn’t help much. 

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, OnTheJourney said:

I DO know I'm not using the economy program they assigned me, as much as it's truly a magnanimous gesture on Viking's part. 

Again FWIW, we decided to try econ (for the first time in long haul in 10 years) on our 12 hour Hong Kong to Seattle flight since it was “Free”. We spent $189 pp to book ourselves into exit row seats and purchased some self inflating seat cushions for $15 from Amazon.  Turned out not to be nearly as miserable as we feared.  Part of that was because we didn’t want to sleep as our flight left at 11 pm and arrived at 9 pm so we wanted to go straight to bed and sleep. The other part was because it was “free”!

Edited by Clay Clayton

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Can I ask why you wouldn't use a TA that specializes in Viking to do this? They would be able to help you make your decisions based on dealing with Viking on a regular basis. We have an awesome local agent that cuts through all the red tape and answers all our questions every time. 

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33 minutes ago, DrKoob said:

Can I ask why you wouldn't use a TA that specializes in Viking to do this? 

 

Wait...so you're suggesting that a regular TA might be able to help me more than one of Viking's? With regards to these specific questions relative to air, I'm told they need to be directed to the air department. In my case - and for all those who were on the Sky last March - we were told to use the premier air desk, which is not quite the same as the regular air dept. It is designated for world cruise and other sorts of special invitational cruises. I forget what the other item is that they deal with. I also have a regular agent at our local AAA who we've been using for many years who does most of our cruise and land tour bookings. This cruise is actually in her name but the Viking agent I've been using can also work with it. 

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2 hours ago, Clay Clayton said:

FWIW, we haven’t seen the “free” air used to offset the cost of business air. From other reports on this board (there are several posts on this subject) sometimes business air through Viking saves money and sometimes it doesn’t.  For us, it has never been cheaper than what we can buy on our own. So it all just depends. 
 

Based on what we calculated Viking paid for economy air (based on the points we received in our frequent flyer accounts) they get a really (REALLY) good deal on econ air. $38pp one way from MIA to RDU last March. Rate on AA’s website was $78. Under $300 roundtrip for RDU to San Juan and Rome back to RDU.  When we priced that ticket it was close to $1000. And $245 from Hong Kong to Seattle one way vs. $800 direct from Cathay Pacific. So even if they do apply an allowance it doesn’t help much. 

 

Clay...thanks. I found out a bit more. The Viking agent I work with confirms the $3,898 pp for business + deviation fee of $100 pp + "air plus" fee of $50 pp. Total comes to $8097 - which is starting to sound a bit stratospheric for 2 airplane flights. He said they basically have pre-contracted rates with the airlines and so cannot always match what can be found elsewhere. I asked if he can find out about this "free" air as maybe offsetting the cost of business but haven't heard back. From what you're indicating, it seems somewhat unlikely that they do this. What you're saying is making me lean more in the direction of doing my own.  My bigger concern in all this was whether there was a way to purchase insurance that included CFAR in this rather unique situation where there was no initial payment made. As has already been mentioned, uncertainties abound with all future plans right now. 

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15 minutes ago, OnTheJourney said:

 

Wait...so you're suggesting that a regular TA might be able to help me more than one of Viking's? With regards to these specific questions relative to air, I'm told they need to be directed to the air department. In my case - and for all those who were on the Sky last March - we were told to use the premier air desk, which is not quite the same as the regular air dept. It is designated for world cruise and other sorts of special invitational cruises. I forget what the other item is that they deal with. I also have a regular agent at our local AAA who we've been using for many years who does most of our cruise and land tour bookings. This cruise is actually in her name but the Viking agent I've been using can also work with it. 

I'm thinking that maybe he didn't realize that this was a complimentary cruise due to your fiasco. If he doesn't follow this board consistently he wouldn't realize it. I am a HUGE advocate of my TA, but I'm thinking that he didn't realize these particular circumstances.

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30 minutes ago, OnTheJourney said:

 

Wait...so you're suggesting that a regular TA might be able to help me more than one of Viking's? With regards to these specific questions relative to air, I'm told they need to be directed to the air department. In my case - and for all those who were on the Sky last March - we were told to use the premier air desk, which is not quite the same as the regular air dept. It is designated for world cruise and other sorts of special invitational cruises. I forget what the other item is that they deal with. I also have a regular agent at our local AAA who we've been using for many years who does most of our cruise and land tour bookings. This cruise is actually in her name but the Viking agent I've been using can also work with it. 

 

The difference is that having a local TA, you have someone you know and can trust who you can find when you want them. They can often explain things in a better way face to face than a Viking agent (or anyone else) can over the phone. And why wouldn’t you deal with them? It doesn’t cost you an extra cent. 

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, DrKoob said:

 

The difference is that having a local TA, you have someone you know and can trust who you can find when you want them. They can often explain things in a better way face to face than a Viking agent (or anyone else) can over the phone. And why wouldn’t you deal with them? It doesn’t cost you an extra cent. 

A local TA certainly has far more experience dealing with the Viking Air Travel Desk than I do.  The local agent could also potentially represent far more bookings to that desk than I as an individual would and derives some leverage as a result.  The trick is to find and use a travel agent you can trust.  There are on line articles that suggest what you should look for and how to look for a travel agent.  Our agent has done very well by us.  Another consideration is that it has been reported that Viking has brought in new people to deal with the extra loading on their resources.  Your Viking agent may be one of these 'temps' and not aware of some of the things more experienced Viking and local travel agents know.

 

We did very well on a business class fare with Viking Air on our first cruise with them.  That cruise was cancelled and we took a voucher which included the original air fare.  We booked another cruise with voucher.  Because we had business class air fares in the voucher, we got locked into using Viking Air again.  When the bottom dropped out of the air travel market, air fares took a dive but Viking is locked into their contract fares and cannot follow the market.  Catch 22.

Edited by dwlmg

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Posted (edited)
32 minutes ago, dwlmg said:

 The trick is to find and use a travel agent you can trust. 

 

As mentioned, I have one - same person I've used for years, but she's been swamped the past few months with so many different issues. She's great, but deals with many different travel companies and concerns, etc. The Viking guy I've been using (solely for Viking-related issues) would appear to be in a better position to answer Viking-related questions. He's been great as well. I don't even use my regular TA for insurance and virtually never for booking any sort of airfare. I've always done my own for the most part. 

Edited by OnTheJourney

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Posted (edited)
55 minutes ago, DrKoob said:

 

. And why wouldn’t you deal with them? 

 

I do...frequently, but I guarantee you that she'd not have the answers to my most recent questions. It entails another step in the process. I email my TA, she contacts (who knows) at Viking. After a few days Viking gets back to her, then after a few more days my TA gets back to me. For some of these specific questions that are solely Viking-related, why not bypass that extra step?  I think a few of you may be getting the idea that I'm simply calling Viking and speaking to whomever answers the phone. That's not it. I've been working with the same Viking agent for the past year. I've been extremely impressed. With some potential cruises we're looking at to possibly use the vouchers we got from the Sky trip, he was able to quickly give me detailed scenarios that included various flight options, all the costs involved, etc. Viking's printouts in this regard are terrific. There's no way my regular TA could have as easily generated those - or at least not in such a timely fashion. If I'm booking a RCCL, Celebrity, Tauck, or Collette trip, then I do all of those through my local agent. Hope that answers any additional questions. 

Edited by OnTheJourney

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, stretchcruz said:

I'm thinking that maybe he didn't realize that this was a complimentary cruise due to your fiasco. 

 

Who? The Viking agent? Or the air department agent I spoke with? They are both fully aware of my questions as pertaining to the complimentary cruise. Get this one - When I booked the Iberian Explorer (through the same Viking agent), a bit later someone at Viking arbitrarily used (a portion) of the compensation (voucher) money we got from the March Sky situation to satisfy the costs of the Iberian trip. I was not happy since it didn't even use a third of the available amount. The Viking agent was able to look into this and while maybe not able to find out exactly how or why it happened, he was able to reverse it and reinstate the full amount of the vouchers. My local TA also is fully aware of the complimentary cruise but I'm betting she would have had a more difficult time of it trying to resolve that particular issue. 

Edited by OnTheJourney

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We're in the same boat trying to decide between Viking Air and on our own for May 2021 Homelands.  Viking for an upgrade to Comfort Plus (not business, but a little better than economy) is 2,398 a person.  Economy is 1,300 plus 100 air plus.  Delta has good flights, with good layovers for 1099.  They are offering no cancel or change fees until June 30, which falls within out 310 window.  If we cancel, we can use the voucher in a year and I know we will travel in the future.  Seems like a no brainer from a cost perspective, but I'm still nervous.  (Also, the change/cancel fees would add up to 1,000 for both if they did charge us, so we still would be ahead of the game.)

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Comfort, on Delta at least, is quite a bit better than economy. Supposedly the equivalent of domestic first class. Delta is also retiring it's fleet of 777's in favor of the Airbus 350, a further improvement. Viking air includes transfers which must factor in regarding total cost to at least some degree.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, princesspat1 said:

  Seems like a no brainer from a cost perspective, but I'm still nervous. 

 

I know exactly what you're experiencing. This is just so weird for all of us. I'll get all excited while planning aspects of these future trips, then suddenly get a very dispirited feeling - a sense of powerlessness since the variables in all this just exponentiate the more you dwell on it. For now I'll keep an eye on the flight costs and maybe jump in at some point if I see the number of available seats start to decline. I'd probably be ok with premium economy also but don't like that there do not seem to be any non-stop options, plus the return flight times are not near as good with having a connection. Also, with a potentially continued virus situation, probably the less time with connections and exposure to airport terminals, the better. 

Edited by OnTheJourney

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6 hours ago, duquephart said:

Comfort, on Delta at least, is quite a bit better than economy. Supposedly the equivalent of domestic first class. 

I think you may have gotten Delta Comfort+ confused with Delta Premium Select. While better than economy, Comfort+ basically just adds legroom whereas Premium Select has fewer seats across the plane and is closer to domestic first class. Here is a link to a chart that compares Delta’s classes: https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/onboard-experience/delta-comfort-plus.html


 

Below are a picture of Premium Select and screenshots from SeatGuru of Delta’s A330 neo.  The A350s don’t appear to have Comfort+ seating. Other Delta planes have Comfort+ but don’t have a Premium Select. And unfortunately with the current state of flying, I suspect it will be hard to know what equipment they will be flying months from now as they move equipment around to maximize efficiency. 
 

FE8BFC18-64A6-4420-A94D-08B60D89A98A.jpeg

CD5C6F0F-FA19-4FA8-992A-80733EE8CAAC.png

FEA96D48-8896-417B-8BF2-A28CB8E21821.png

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10 minutes ago, Clay Clayton said:

I think you may have gotten Delta Comfort+ confused with Delta Premium Select. While better than economy, Comfort+ basically just adds legroom whereas Premium Select has fewer seats across the plane and is closer to domestic first class. Here is a link to a chart that compares Delta’s classes: https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/onboard-experience/delta-comfort-plus.html


 

Below are a picture of Premium Select and screenshots from SeatGuru of Delta’s A330 neo.  The A350s don’t appear to have Comfort+ seating. Other Delta planes have Comfort+ but don’t have a Premium Select. And unfortunately with the current state of flying, I suspect it will be hard to know what equipment they will be flying months from now as they move equipment around to maximize efficiency. 
 

FE8BFC18-64A6-4420-A94D-08B60D89A98A.jpeg

CD5C6F0F-FA19-4FA8-992A-80733EE8CAAC.png

FEA96D48-8896-417B-8BF2-A28CB8E21821.png

 

Yes, that's what I meant ---- the one that's the equivalent of domestic first class. Comfort+ is a sour joke. I believe premium select is the mid level that Viking offers.

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For those of us that are 6’-7”, Comfort+ is not a joke.  It makes a real difference for my knees on short flights. 

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Posted (edited)

Clay....WOW....I feel for you in those instances (increasingly so) when space is at a premium. The pattern seems to have been to keep adding more rows wherever possible to accommodate additional passengers. I'm under 6' and don't like it when the person in front of me tilts the seat back, so can understand your search for the seating class with the most leg room! My concern right now is having the greatest amount of room between passengers (plus my having sort of promised myself that I would not do regular economy anymore for long haul). 

Edited by OnTheJourney

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We had made the same promise after a 14 hour miserable flight from Santiago to Toronto in 2010.  But, when it was “free” we figured it out. The exit row had unlimited leg room and we were on the two side.  Turned out no one bought two seats in the center row so Mike moved there so he hd 1.5 seats and I had 2. Legroom, space and our self inflating seat cushions made it comfortable. We had initially submitted a bid for Premium Economy (Cathay only lets you bid one class up) but it looked like we were going to end up in middle seats AND it was going to cost at least $1000. After boarding and see how claustrophobic the PE cabin appeared we were glad we pulled the bid. 

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