Q I recently had a death in the family and had to leave immediately. I was told by US Airways that it had seats on the flight I needed and that it had a bereavement fare for less than half of the regular fare. Then I was informed it had no bereavement seats available on that flight. Is this standard procedure?
A The same thing happened to me recently, but on Northwest. I needed to fly my mother from Michigan to attend a funeral; Northwest told me that while the bereavement fare was several hundred dollars less than the going rate, none of those seats was available. Makes you wonder: How many bereaved people can be on a flight? But that's not how it works.
With traditional airline pricing, a certain number of tickets are sold at various price levels for each flight. Bereavement tickets, generally discounted by about 50 percent off the highest walk-up fare, are not in their own separate fare category. US Airways spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said bereavement fares are placed in "one of the higher fare buckets," which is among the last to sell before a flight is sold out. "For a bereavement fare to be sold out is highly unusual," she said. Northwest spokeswoman Mary Stanik said its policies are similar: "When a high number of seats on a flight have been sold, these discounted booking classes may not be available for purchase."
Bereavement fares are most likely to sell out in markets served by one traditional carrier using smaller planes. In larger markets with lots of competition, it often doesn't make sense to purchase a bereavement ticket because it's cheaper to buy a last-minute walk-up fare.
The U.S. Senate recently approved language in the intelligence bill that would require airlines to offer the lowest available fare to people attending family funerals. The bill is now before a House-Senate conference committee. Pending the outcome of that legislation, bereavement fares, like all other airfares, currently are not regulated. Airlines choose to provide them, and some airlines, especially discounters, don't offer them at all.
We're looking for relatively affordable beach lodging, hopefully permitting a small dog, that would allow us to visit both the Orioles and the Expos spring training camps without spending a lot of time in transit. Any ideas?
The Expos conduct spring training at Space Coast Stadium near Melbourne, Fla. The Orioles train about 150 miles down the coast at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.
You could stay between the two cities and split the difference, but that still means lots of driving time. Instead, why not buy tickets for an Orioles-Expos game? The teams, which play in the Grapefruit League, met four times in March, playing twice in each stadium, and it's expected they will do the same in 2005. The official schedules will not be released until early January. Stay closer to the team you prefer and plan your vacation around a date when the teams meet.
Near Space Coast Stadium, you could stay in Melbourne Beach. A modest oceanfront motel room that accepts pets can be rented for less than $500 a week. Choices include Ocean Pines Motel (321-728-7019, www.oceanpinesmotel.com) and Surfcaster Motel (321-723-1967, www.surfcastermotel.com). If you'd prefer something more upscale, rent a condo or house. For example, at the vacation rental Web site www.vrbo.com, a two-bedroom with a pool that accepts pets and is about a block off the beach rents for $900 a week.
We will be in Amsterdam over the holidays with our children, 4 and 6. What are things to do there with kids?
Amsterdam has several museums and attractions that appeal to young children and are open in winter. Choices include:
* Nemo Science & Technology Center (www.e-nemo.nl), a science museum adjacent to the Amsterdam Central Station. Kids can blow a bubble big enough to stand in and build a house out of foam and bamboo.
* Artis Zoo (011-31-20-523-3400, www.artis.nl), founded in 1838. The zoo, in the city center, has more than 700 species of animals and is home to a planetarium, a zoological museum and an aquarium.
* Ridammerhoeve Farm (011-31-20-645-5034, www.amsterdamsebos.amsterdam.nl), a goat farm in Amsterdam Bos, a 200-acre woodland park. Children can feed, brush and milk the goats. Lambs, hens, calves and pot-bellied pigs are also part of the mix.
For more choices: Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions, 212-370-7360, www.holland.com/us.
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