Plane etiquette 101


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Welcome to the third edition of my all-new, redesigned version of Elliott’s E-Mail. Remember, if you’re signed up for this newsletter, you’ll also be getting the Away is Home adventure newsletter on Thursdays, starting soon.


Have airlines crossed the line?
Last week, United Airlines and US Airways raised their change fee from $150 to $200. Some air travelers feel they crossed a line. But now the ball’s in our court. What, if anything, can passengers do when air carriers take it too far with their fees? Does taking your business elsewhere do any good? Should the government step in? Please send me a note. As always, don’t forget to included your full name, city and daytime occupation. Your response could be used in my story.

Are you following Away is Home yet? You should!
Our family adventure blog is fun and engaging. You can follow Away is Home on Twitter or Facebook, but let me also point you to a few of this week’s favorite stories, including our irreverent dissection of diets on the road (ever heard of In-N-Out?), a visit to one of the best farmers markets in the south, and a sandwich smackdown between two classics. Also, are you coulrophobic? Then you might want to avoid this place.

Let’s talk
The stories you see in this newsletter are just a starting point. I hope you’ll take a minute to leave a comment, whether you agree or disagree with something I’ve written. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google. I’m listening. And of course, I’m also here if you need me.

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Plane Etiquette 101
Flying can feel like torture. The bone-dry cabin air is recycled. Spaces are ridiculously cramped. Passengers don’t always have ready access to food, water, and restrooms. It’s a fight waiting to happen—and happen it does. Read more in my National Geographic Traveler column.

Finding the best possible flight experience
If you fly, chances are you have a story to tell about an uncomfortable airline seat. Vicki Morwitz does. Hers involves a long-haul plane trip, a minuscule economy-class enclosure and a circuitous routing that deposited her at her destination feeling exhausted and irritated. Details are in this week’s Washington Post column.

5 Signs You’re a Smart Customer
How can you tell the difference between a smart consumer and a sucker? Salespeople spend a career studying their customers, trying to understand who makes an easy mark. Read the rest in my weekly column.

Is Your Son a Terrorist?
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You arrive at the airport to fly home from your family vacation, and something goes wrong — terribly wrong — at the TSA screening area. It happened to Susan Bruce recently when she flew from Phoenix to Dallas with her husband, teenage son and daughter. Find out more in my Huffington Post column.

When’s a Deal Not a Deal?
When Daniel Weisleder tried to board his return flight from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Houston with his wife and 10-month-old son recently, a United Airlines ticket agent delivered some bad news: He’d have to pay another $166 to fly home with the baby. “Someone made a mistake,” the agent said. That might be an understatement. Read more on LinkedIn.

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No name change on a dead passenger’s ticket?
After Robin Johnson’s husband is killed in a tragic accident, she tries to salvage his United Airlines ticket credit. But the carrier says it can’t change the name on a ticket – it’s against the rules. Is there any hope for her? Here are the details.

The rate error story that got away — in a big way
Anyone who reads this site probably knows my position on rate errors, which is to say I think it’s wrong to take advantage of someone else’s mistake, even if it’s made by a big travel company. But this case threw me for a loop.

Is this the worst week for air travelers since 9/11?
From bankruptcies to terrorist attacks, air travelers have seen it all in the last decade or so. But I can’t think of a week that’s been jam-packed with so much bad news for airline passengers since 2001. Maybe you can, but stick with me for a moment while I review the list. It’s a long one.

Help! My Pottery Barn slipcovers have faded
Ricki Le Vine’s slipcovers, purchased three years ago at the Pottery Barn, are fading. Why won’t the company stand behind its product? Now what?

Her “personal cruise consultant” dropped the ball — should I pick it up?
One of the cardinal rules of my consumer advocacy practice is to never get between a travel agent and a cruise passenger. Agents, and especially cruise specialists, tend to react defensively, take my interest in the problem personally, and the result is almost never a happy ending. But what should I do with this case?

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Thank you so much for your feedback on this newsletter redesign. It’s very much appreciated, and I’ve incorporated all of your thoughts and suggestions into the latest versions. I want to make sure this is the best newsletter it can be, so please keep those ideas coming!

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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