Be it a business trip or an annual summer holiday, it pays to know how to avoid costly surprises. Take this quiz to learn how to save while travelling.
What are my options if my flight is overbooked?
A) I can't do anything but wait to be accommodated on the next flight.
B) I can choose to be bumped off in exchange for benefits.
The correct answer is B. All airlines confess to flight overbooking by 15-20% to hedge against no-shows. But did you know that as per the civil aviation requirement issued last year, airlines must first call for volunteers to surrender their seats in exchange for benefits, instead of forcibly denying boarding to passengers? According to K. Gohain, director general of civil aviation (DGCA), "These must include either a full refund of the ticket or a choice between alternative transport and re-routing to the final destination at the earliest convenience." In addition, the passenger has to be provided refreshments while waiting for the next flight and hotel accommodation, if needed.
If you are denied boarding, the airline has to pay a compensation of Rs 5,000 for flights of 1,500 km or less, Rs 8,000 for journeys between 1,501 km and 3,500 km and Rs 12,000 for outbound journeys of more than 3,500 km. However, if the passenger is delayed by fewer than two, three or four hours, respectively, the compensation may be halved. Note that these compensations are applicable only if you show up at the check-in counter by the time specified in the airline's citizen charter, typically 45-60 minutes before the scheduled departure.
The insurance sold by domestic airlines to protect baggage is...
A) A waste of money.
B) A required expense for peace of mind.
The correct answer is A. No matter how hard the airlines try to sell it, including presenting it as the preselected option for Web bookings, the truth is that the Montreal Convention covers irritants like baggage loss and flight delays. For instance, an airline's liability for lost or damaged baggage is roughly Rs 75,220 per passenger. Yet, the citizen's charter listed in almost all the domestic airlines' sites claims that the liability is limited to Rs 200-800 per kg. This means that you can be shortchanged by Rs 40,000-67,000, assuming you are carrying 40 kg of baggage.
Similarly, flight delays of over five hours need to be compensated. According to the DGCA, the airline should also offer to refund the passenger's ticket with a free flight back to his initial point of departure, where relevant.
The maximum baggage allowance on domestic flights...
A) Varies greatly between airlines.
B) Is the same for all airlines.
The right answer is A. If you have a lot of baggage, consider flying Indian or Paramount, as they allow 30 kg per passenger in the economy class compared with 20-25 kg in other airlines. Frequent flier members get up to 10 kg extra allowance. This is the best way to evade the expensive excess baggage fee that airlines charge, which is generally around Rs 70-100 per kg of extra weight.
A prepaid travel card is better than a credit card because...
A) It guards against forex fluctuations, thus saving money.
B) There are no transaction charges as is the case with credit cards.
The correct answer is A. Many people erroneously believe that a prepaid travel card is far cheaper than a credit card because of the latter's high ATM usage fee, foreign currency transaction fee and the like. But travel cards are not without their transaction charges, be it the $1-3 reloading fee, $1.5-2 ATM usage fee or a 50 cent-$1 fee each time you check your balance at the ATM, etc. For this reason, if you are not planning on a shopping frenzy, your regular credit card will suffice easily.
Where travel cards score is in the fact that you can stock up on foreign currency when the exchange rates are favourable as you get the conversion rate of the day that you load the card, while a credit card considers the forex rate on the day you make purchases. So if the rupee depreciates by the time you travel, you don't lose out.
A good way to guard against hidden hotel fees is to...
A) Opt for an all-inclusive package.
B) Examine the bill on checking out.
The right answer is B. In an allinclusive deal, hotels can sneak in many miscellaneous charges as 'service fees'. Take the so-called resort fee, which often covers amenities that one might expect to get for free, like Wi-Fi, a bottle of regular mineral water stocked next to the obviously-not-free Evian, and so on. The hotel won't go out of its way to inform you about the services that are included in the resort fee, unless asked outright, so don't be surprised if you are handed a bill while checking out. Be sure to ask exactly what is included in your package before you get tempted.
If you are holidaying abroad, remember that most hotels have sensors in minibars. So if you pick up a bar of chocolate or a snack just to check out the brand, the hotel registers it as consumed. If you don't run a careful eye over the bill at the time of checking out, you are likely to pay for what your eyes feasted on.
In a B&B vs serviced flat choice, the main consideration is...
A) The savings potential.
B) The perks included in the tariff.
The correct answer is B because the savings potential ranges from 10-20% compared with hotels in both cases. The differentiating factor usually boils down to whether meals and daily housekeeping are included in the tariff, if there is access to a pool and fitness centre or if the room is Wi-Fi-enabled. The aim is to get more for as less as possible. For the record, serviced apartments are more popular near business districts and B&Bs in residential areas.
Hot Deals: Interesting packages to look out for
Ginger Hotels, Haridwar
Cost: Rs 2,999 per couple; Contact: 1800–209–3333
The chain of budget hotels from The Indian Hotels Company is offering a twonight package, which includes breakfast and taxes. Don't be misled by the word 'budget'—each room is air conditioned, equipped with a 20-inch LCD TV and more. A similar deal is offered at Ginger hotels in Puducherry, Nashik, Mysore, Thiruvananthapuram and Bhubaneswar. The offer is valid till 30 June 2009.
Chevron The Camp, Corbett, Uttaranchal
Cost: Rs 7,555 per couple; Contact: 0-8262-660660
How about escaping the summer heat in the lush forests of Corbett? This 10-cottage niche resort is offering a two-night package, including all meals. Note that an 8% tax is applicable on the quoted rate. Children below five years old won't be charged, provided an extra bed is not requested. The offer is valid till 5 July.