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Does it make sense to use cruise line air programs for the foreseeable future?


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With cruise calendars in flux and trips being cancelled, does "cruise air" offer more protection in terms of refunds if a particular cruise gets cancelled?  I know airlines aren't likely to give your money back if your cruise trip gets cancelled and your flight is still going.   What happens if you book your airfare via the cruise line's program?  I have never used cruise air and I don't know the policies.  

 

I guess my other option would be to simply wait for the last minute buying my ticket from the airline and take potentially more price risk.

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My suggestion....look at the current refund policies for your potential carriers.  See what their various timetables are - for purchase, travel and cancellation.  Most are allowing for a free cancellation for any reason by the passenger, though with the proviso that you don't get cash back but rather a full value credit.  However, that is not a blanket situation, so you had best research the specifics and compare it with your situation.  Also, be sure to see what the current "expiration" date is for those policies -- I don't envision them continuing in perpetuity,

 

If you think that you would use those credits down the road, I'd say to go ahead and book with the airline.  Minimal downside, IMO.  OTOH, if you are a once a year flyer, then there's less utility in having credits lying around.

 

As for cruiseline air, again you will want to research the specifics for your cruiseline.  No blanket policies there, and much depends again on time frames and payment structures.

 

Wish I could give more solid advice, but this is a situation that has been in flux for the last 9 months - airlines and other travel providers have had multiple policies that then get revised and updated as situations warrant.  Pro Tip:  If you do buy any travel product, be sure to print out the terms and conditions for refunds that are in place at the time you purchase.  (And/or also save the webpage to your computer for backup).  If the policies become more liberal, you can take advantage of that - I've had credits extended several times.  But if they become more restrictive, you have the backing of what was in force at the time of purchase, which might prove useful in a dispute.

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We always have booked directly with the airline before. That being said, we don't fly often enough to ensure we would use the credits if our cruise in July is cancelled. I booked our air through Carnival. The price was the same cost as the airline, I picked my seats and can upgrade later if I decide to, I don't have to pay for the tickets right now and if the cruise cancels I will get my money back (not airline credits). I really like the added flexibility in these times of uncertainty.

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4 hours ago, tytanbri said:

... I don't have to pay for the tickets right now and if the cruise cancels I will get my money back (not airline credits). I really like the added flexibility in these times of uncertainty.

 

That is exactly what I was wondering.  I agree, being able to get your money back is a big deal.

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12 hours ago, SelectSys said:

That is exactly what I was wondering.  I agree, being able to get your money back is a big deal.

 

All the more reason to be sure to read the specific T&C for any refunds for YOUR cruise on YOUR timetable.  Many of these cancel and refund provisions have limited time windows, so for everyone, please be sure that they fit your schedule. Don't assume anything.

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Cruise air, with some lines, makes lots of sense but one does need to check on the current policies vis-a-vis payments and cancellations.  I will give you a great example.  We had planned on an April 2020 cruise where we flew into Tokyo and home from Vancouver.  We booked our Air through HAL and purchased business class on excellent airlines for less then half the price if we had booked on our own.  Since it was flexair there was no payment required until 45 days before the cruise.  HAL cancelled the cruise about 45 days prior to our flights and immediately (3 business days) refunded all of our money for both cruise and air.  No mess, no hassles, no silly vouchers.  Just the cash.  We had 3 other cruises (Europe and Asia) this year (Princess) and we had booked all our business class flights through the cruise line.  When the cruises were cancelled we had zero obligation for the airfare.  

 

If you book on your own in these uncertain times you are truly on your own if your trip gets cancelled.  Airlines are constantly changing their policies, but will seldom offer refunds...although it is sometimes possible to get a voucher.  But vouchers are generally only good for a year and only on that particular airline.  

 

Hank

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21 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

If you book on your own in these uncertain times you are truly on your own if your trip gets cancelled.  Airlines are constantly changing their policies, but will seldom offer refunds...although it is sometimes possible to get a voucher.  But vouchers are generally only good for a year and only on that particular airline. 

 

 

Incorrect. 

 

First off, you are almost 100% certain to get either a cash or credit voucher for your ticket.  Not "sometimes possible".  Much has changed in terms of cancellation policies over the past year.  Elimination of cancellation fees is one big change, and there are others.

 

Though a credit/voucher would only be good on tickets purchased through that airline, you miss that one can often also purchase code-shares with those vouchers.  In addition, the one-year limitation is not universal.  Delta, for one, is making many credits good into 2022.  Southwest is giving extensions to their credits.  Alaska gave the option to turn wallet funds with AS into frequent flyer miles -- they offered an amazing exchange rate, and I wished I had wallet funds at AS to use that way.

 

 

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42 minutes ago, FlyerTalker said:

 

 

Incorrect. 

 

First off, you are almost 100% certain to get either a cash or credit voucher for your ticket.  Not "sometimes possible".  Much has changed in terms of cancellation policies over the past year.  Elimination of cancellation fees is one big change, and there are others.

 

Though a credit/voucher would only be good on tickets purchased through that airline, you miss that one can often also purchase code-shares with those vouchers.  In addition, the one-year limitation is not universal.  Delta, for one, is making many credits good into 2022.  Southwest is giving extensions to their credits.  Alaska gave the option to turn wallet funds with AS into frequent flyer miles -- they offered an amazing exchange rate, and I wished I had wallet funds at AS to use that way.

 

 

We actually took advantage of the Southwest's generous policy.  But the continuation of generous airline policies (beyond the next few months) is far from assured.  Personally I do not like dealing with vouchers since that assumes one can use then entire amount within the allowed time frames.  Over the years we have lost our share of money because vouchers did not fit our travel plans.  It is much easier to simply get a full refund through cruise/air deals (when allowed).  

 

We lucked out with a couple of European air reservations we had made direct with the airlines.  Our Flybe flights were cancelled when that UK outfit went bankrupt.  We were easily able to get our money back through a credit card charge-back.  Then our Czech Air Flight from Paris to Prague was cancelled by Czech Air and they did not have another flight.  So we demanded a refund under EU consumer policies.  Czech Air acknowledged they had to refund our money but said it would take at least 6 months!  Again, our credit card company gave us a charge back once they had talked to Czech Air and also were stymied by the strange (and apparently illegal) policy.

 

Guess I am sore of a travel consumer activist and remain skeptical of airline voucher programs.   And now, with many airlines facing the possibility of bankruptcy vouchers have even less value.  In the case of bankruptcy you will generally not be able to recover the value of outstanding vouchers through credit cards or any other source.  You can certainly file a claim through the bankruptcy process and wait forever to get your money along with your lost miles :(.

 

Hank 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Hlitner said:

with many airlines facing the possibility of bankruptcy vouchers have even less value. 

 

First, a bit of a semantic clarification.  When I talk of bankruptcy here, it means a structured reorganization under the supervision of the courts.  When there is no reorganization plan, I will say dissolution.

 

I have little concern over a bankruptcy of any of the USA majors -- AA, DL, UA, WN, B6 and AS.  Even in past bankruptcies, value of customer credits, including FF miles, have carried over to the new entity intact.  The maintenance of those values is regarded as being very important to the viability of the new corporation in retaining the trust of the flying public.  I would be a bit more concerned with a Chapter 11 reorg of Spirit, Frontier, Sun Country,  and Allegiant. 

 

If you are talking a Chapter 7 dissolution (or foreign equivalent), then yes - vouchers would be worthless.  But I do not see that for any of the majors, and is unlikely for the other four I mentioned.  Overseas, we have a very different situation.  A number of carriers have shut down completely and gone out of business.  Others have gone into reorganization, including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, LATAM, Alitalia, South African and Avianca.  Not sure how many of those would be cruise-related carriers.  Others on the brink of outright collapse and possible liquidation are Azul, Thai, AeroMexico and AirAsia.

 

So, in summary, I would personally have little worry about the value of a credit voucher with any of the current "Big Six".  I would have a bit of concern (under 20% of the time) for other USA carriers.  I would also have little worry for airlines with either significant USA carrier investment (see DL and AA partners for examples), who are part of the major airline groups, such as IAG, or who have significant government backing, such as the Chinese majors, Cathay, Singapore, Emirates or Etihad.

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For Flyertalker I am going to post a tale of humorous woe.  About 4 years ago DW and I were in Asia where we were taking a long cruise from Singapore to Vancouver.  We had booked a terrific Bus Class deal through HAL that used Air China from JFK to Singapore and AA (First Class) from Vancouver to MDT.  The Air China flight was beyond terrific and a great start to a 5 week trip.  But while on the trip DW seriously injured her leg in Vietnam, had subsequent treatment on our ship, and outpatient surgery in Osaka, Japan.  At that point the doctors told us to medically evacuate her back to the USA.  Our insurance arranged for Delta flights (Bus Class) from Narita and all turned out well.  But here is where the fun starts for Flyertalker :).

 

A few weeks later the cruise line suggested I contact AA about some kind of refund or voucher because we had never used the Vancouver to MDT (valued at about $1100 for the two tickets).  Since the tickets had been booked via HAL they were ticketed under a special code for contracted air.  AA was very nice, e-mailed me the forms to get a refund (for medical reasons) which I submitted.  AA quickly granted us air credit vouchers for the full amount (about $550 each).  But because the booking had been through HAL, American said we had to go through HAL to ever use the vouchers.  We went back and forth between HAL, AA and ourselves for several weeks and everyone was a bit confused as to the rules!  In the end, HAL offered us a generous OBD if we would simply forget the entire matter :).  While technically we could have used the vouchers only on a future cruise/air booking through HAL, nobody (HAL or AA) could figure out the process.  Essentially we had vouchers (which we could see on our AA Frequent Flyer accounts) but they could not be used.  AA gave us a special phone number and told us they could handle an AA booking and the voucher offsets but folks at that number also could not figure out how to do it because of the special coding used for contracted rates with the cruise lines.  At the time I thought it was all amusing and we were made whole (thanks to HAL).  What further complicated the entire thing was that we had insurance (through our credit card) that should have covered the unused air.  But the insurance adjuster (a third party company) refused to do anything because the airline issued a voucher (that could not be used).

 

I just post this for your amusement as we were very pleased by how we were treated by HAL, AA and even the insurance adjuster.   The situation fell through the cracks of multiple rules and policies and was simply a mess.  Bottom line is the experts that put together all the policies cannot possibly think of everything and stuff happens.  We are now seeing this with all the COVID related travel problems.  I do think it is a time for folks to put on their sense of humor hats....but I also understand that tempers and patience are in short supply.

 

Hank

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53 minutes ago, Mary229 said:

Unless Southwest is available then I would use the cruise line’s air service.  I have had two flights to cancel with Southwest this year and the refunds have been very quick. 

I agree that Southwest's customer service is amazing.  We had booked WN air to Florida for a December cruise.  When the cruise was cancelled we decided to go to FL for a short vacation and went to change our WN reservations for both day and airports.  When we realized we could save money we called their customer service and they quickly change our reservations, maintained our Early Bird Status, and put our savings into our account which have an extended time (nearly 2 years) to be used.  Hard to beat.  

 

Hank

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  • 2 weeks later...

It depends on the cruise line.  I have herd horror stories about NCL flights but I love RCL and Celebrity Air2sea.  I had flights booked on two different cruises with Celebrity and got refunded as soon as the cruise was canceled.  The other nice thing about Air2sea is you can book your flights and if the price goes down you can get the lower price up to your final cruise payment.  I am sure lots of other cruise lines are like this but you need to do your research on the line you are cruising.

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Cruise air is the way to go for expensive international flights, especially if you are using foreign airlines.  The problem booking your own air is that it is rare for an airline to refund your money and vouchers come with all kinds of restrictions.  A great example is we had a HAL Noordam cruise booked for April that embarked from Yokohama and ended in Vancouver.  Two Business Class tickets cost thousands of dollars (about half what they cost if you buy them on your own) and we booked the air through HALs air program.  Although we had confirmed reservations, seat assignments, and chose our flights we had not paid any money (not due until 45 days prior to the cruise).  On Friday HAL cancelled the cruise.  The air is automatically cancelled and we did not spend a penny.  No fuss, no mess and the cruise air deal saved us thousands of dollars over booking any other way.

 

With domestic it is a little different because we do not see savings with cruise air.  We often book our own Southwest flights (the cruise air programs do not use Southwest) because there is no penalty for cancelling with Southwest and their credit is good for at least a year.   Compared to most airlines the Southwest credits are easy to use.

 

Hank

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On 11/22/2020 at 12:06 PM, Traveling Mike said:

It depends on the cruise line.  I have herd horror stories about NCL flights but I love RCL and Celebrity Air2sea.  I had flights booked on two different cruises with Celebrity and got refunded as soon as the cruise was canceled.  The other nice thing about Air2sea is you can book your flights and if the price goes down you can get the lower price up to your final cruise payment.  I am sure lots of other cruise lines are like this but you need to do your research on the line you are cruising.

Not always true. We booked PE seats through Celebrity cruise air using Cathay Pacific rt ORD  to Hong Kong. Subsuquently CP dropped our fares by $800 but when we contacted X they said they could only reduce our fare by $380 due to their contract. Thus we lost $420 using X cruise air. 

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Since we have cruised all over the world on 14 different cruise lines we have a slightly different take on the air/cruise issue.  There is no one rule fits all with air.  Folks need to carefully look at all their options for any given cruise.  What is a great deal on one cruise may not be on a different date or with different emarkation/disembarkation ports.  We are currently looking at Oceania's air offering for a future cruise from Miami to Lima, Peru.  "O's" air from Lima back to the States prices out very similar to deals we can get on our own, especially when you consider that O charges $175 per person extra if you want to customize air.  And "O" seems to have awful deals for those of us who prefer business class.

 

Also consider that Princess, HAL, Seabourn and Cunard actually use the same contractor to handle their air arrangements/reservations.  But each cruise line has their own pricing so we have found that Princess and HAL are usually have better Bus Class deals then Seabourn (have never used it for Cunard).  RCI, Celebrity and Azamara also have ties when it comes to air deals but you need to evaluate each specific cruise.  There are also varying strategies depending on the cruise line.  With HAL and Princess it makes sense to book the air (with the cruise line) as early as possible using their Flex option.  You do not need to lay out any money and can later cancel or modify the air right up until final payment and often until 45 days prior to the cruise.  "O" on the other hand involves a slightly different strategy when it comes to choosing departure airports and payments.  But even with "O" many folks will book their air option (which does not cost any additional money at deposit time) and very possibly cancel at the last minute when they can often find much better deals on their own.

 

I am posting this to make the point that folks should not get hung up on one particular booking habit...but rather consider all options on all cruises.  Also be very careful on cruise line transfers and hotel packages which are often awful deals.  Cruise lines often charge about double the going rate for hotels and their hotel choices are often not in the best locations.  Even when doing cruise air you should consider doing your own transfers and hotels.

 

Hank

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On 11/26/2020 at 11:05 AM, Hlitner said:

 

On 11/26/2020 at 11:05 AM, Hlitner said:

 

 

I am posting this to make the point that folks should not get hung up on one particular booking habit...but rather consider all options on all cruises.  Also be very careful on cruise line transfers and hotel packages which are often awful deals.  Cruise lines often charge about double the going rate for hotels and their hotel choices are often not in the best locations.  Even when doing cruise air you should consider doing your own transfers and hotels.

 

Hank

Hank: I totally agree with you about saving money & finding better located hotels on your own vs  cruise line packages. While we've taken about 25 cruises , the only time i recall taking the cruise lines package was on a Danube river cruise. We took the 3 day precruise package for hotel  & transfers from Prague to Nurenburg since we didn't want to do transfers on our own.

 

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On 11/26/2020 at 11:16 AM, dabear said:

Not always true. We booked PE seats through Celebrity cruise air using Cathay Pacific rt ORD  to Hong Kong. Subsuquently CP dropped our fares by $800 but when we contacted X they said they could only reduce our fare by $380 due to their contract. Thus we lost $420 using X cruise air. 

Are you not able to drop X Air at anytime without penalty unless you had a non-refundable fare?

 

Have you traveled already and the post is for a prior experience?

 

bon voyage

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We stopped bothering to price cruise line pre or post hotels a long time ago.  Price was typically 2X and location was sometimes poor.  

 

We always price cruise air.  We have done a fair amount of one way international flights.  Even then, we have only found cruise air to be advantageous once either in terms of price or price/routing/airline.  Never once for NA flights. On HAL and on other cruise lines.

 

We are buying anything in advance these days.  Waiting for post covid, waiting for the market to return to a new normal, waiting to understand what the on board environment will be, waiting to see if the port stops are real or if they will be skipped because of not being allowed to dock/enter.

Edited by iancal
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I used cruise line air for the first time to do a b2b with round trip air from the States to Auckland.  Unfortunately the second cruise was canceled while onboard the first cruise due to covid lockdowns.  I can only imagine what it would have cost me to get home if I had booked my own air.  I was having to leave on a different day and from a different airport than my original ticket.  As it was, the evolving rules for international connections caused the flights to have to be rebooked 3 times before I could get home.  Two of those times were when I was already at the airport and couldn't check in due to connecting airports being closed to transit passengers. The cruise line air kept rebooking me and there was never a mention of additional cost.  

 

Maybe a once in a life time event but it sure saved me hassle and money.

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During the lockdown's early days in Asia, airlines were routinely giving free changes to get people moving.  Cruiseline air probably saved you the trouble of doing it yourself, but the changes were pretty easy to get at no cost.

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FlyerTalker...perhaps you could explain this to me.  We have found on multiple occasions a large difference in airline prices depending on where we book.

 

Last winter in Mexico we booked a Cancun-Huatulco Interjet fare a week or so in advance.   The Interjet internet price on that fare was about 40 percent higher than the Expedia price.  Same for same, booked with three or four minutes of checking.    Exact same for two of five domestic fares in Greece booked in the he fall of 2019..  Expedia price (and terms such as baggage allowance were more generous) were 30-40 percent less than the fare on Olympic/Aegean website.  Both booking within a week of flight.  Why would this be...price file issues, DB differences??   As I recall, it was a preliminary skyscanner fare lookup that alerted us to these large deltas and prompted us to double check on those respective web sites.

 

We have also experienced the same for some countries.  It was less expensive, by 25-40 percent, for us to book domestic Turkey flights  by booking on an a Turkish website (that conveniently had an English language option).  Exact same for Aerolineas in Argentina.  In point of fact, the NA 1 800  Aerolineas call centre actually gave us the number of the BA call centre, told us English was not problem, and advised us that we might need two transactions because there was a limit on the size of each Visa transaction that they could process.

Edited by iancal
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On 12/5/2020 at 9:35 AM, iancal said:

The Interjet internet price on that fare was about 40 percent higher than the Expedia price. 

 

While off-topic, are you aware that Interjet is most likely finished?

https://simpleflying.com/for-the-second-time-in-a-month-interjet-stops-flying/

 

Interesting that at the same time their previous competitor Volaris (VLRS) could be the best preforming airline anywhere.   

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No surprise.  In the recent past we have  used a lot of LC airlines that may be relegated to the history books or changed to the point where they are not recognizable. Vueling, etc.  in Europe,  Air Asia, Jetstar, and Scoot in SE Asia.    

 

We are not buying or making any air reservations-on the LC's or the majors.  Still lots of time left before covid is behind us and travel has opened up.  Ont the bright side I have seen a significant uptick in promotional emails from AirAsia over the past few months.

Edited by iancal
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