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Ask Peter: When to Book a Flight, Checking Bags & Avoiding Fees

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Airlines made $32 billion in the last year from auxiliary fees, so sure seems like it’s in the industry’s best interest to make flying as  complex as possible. Luckily, Peter flew over 400,000 miles a year and knows a few tricks of the trade. From change fees to baggage fees to airfares, find out how to book your travel for the best rate and the least aggravation in this week’s Ask Peter column.

Have a Travel question? Ask Peter. Call 1-888-88-PETER (1-888-887-3837), email him at peter@petergreenberg.com, tweet questions to @petersgreenberg (use #askPeter), or post questions on his Facebook page.

Joyce in Palo Alto asked: I was looking for flights from San Francisco to Kona, I found a flight from Seattle to Kona with a stop in San Francisco. The Seattle flight is $200 less than if I was just about to purchase the first leg of the flight and just take it from San Francisco. Is it OK for me to purchase the ticket from Seattle and just fly the last leg from San Francisco.

Peter replied: Unfortunately, no. You’re describing a hidden city ticket. The airline will be alerted by its computer system that you never did the outbound initial leg of the flight. If you miss that leg, it will cancel the rest of your trip…including return flights home.

Instead, my advice is to look at different routing. For example, Los Angeles to Hawaii is a popular route so the point to point ticket is expensive. In many cases, it might be cheaper to look at flights from Los Angeles to hubs like Las Vegas then to Hawaii. Of course, you don’t want to fly to Seattle since you live in San Francisco. Instead, look at San Francisco, Las Vegas, Kona. You’ll be surprised that it might actually be cheaper.

For more information on connecting flight, check out Peter’s Tip on Missed connections.

John in Los Angeles asked. I’ve heard checking your weapon gives your bag priority is this true?

Peter said: Who are you, John, and where did you come from? Here’s the thing, you are actually right. First of all you have to declare the weapon. Second you have to fill out a form. Third the airline tags it differently which means they put it in a different compartment of the plane and may actually come off first.

Before you rush out to join the NRA, there are other ways to get priority for checked bags. The airlines don’t even want you to know about…excess evaluation. If you ask for excess evaluation, you can insure your bag for a lot of money. For $20 you can insure your bag for about $2000. After you insure you bag, it receives a special tags that signals special treatment for the baggage handlers. Then, when you land, there is a very good chance that your bag won’t be in the carousel but will be delivered to you by an agent. You’ll then sign a form releasing it.

Of course, my philosophy is that there are only two kinds of bags: carry on and lost. When flying domestically, I send my bags 3 days in advanced FedEx ground. I actually get my bags and I save about two hours of my life. After I send the bag, I track the bag and then I give the concierge the way bill number to make sure it’s in my room on arrival. How cool is that! And John, do me a favor and leave the gun at home.

In case the worst happens, find out Your Rights with Lost Luggage.

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