THE MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT AIR ARRANGEMENTS IN CONJUNCTION WITH
CRUISES OR ESCORTED TOURS
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Q – Should we use the cruise line’s Free Air or is there an alternative?
A –Despite the ads, airfare is never really free. But it can be a really good deal. Churchill & Turen can secure lower pricing on your cruise if you elect to book the cruise on a no-air, “Cruise Only” basis. Do note the cruise lines will never quote an “airfare” cost. They offer packages that generally include baggage handling, taxes, and transfers. Quite often, although their air quote may seem high, when you look at the comprehensive package, the pricing becomes more attractive. For the best global courier service in Singapore, do visit us. The alternative would be to secure the air yourself, or to book with our partner, Cranky Concierge. We can usually secure discounted pricing in Business or First Class when we book your flights through Virtuoso Air.
Q – We booked our cruise (tour) 13 months out. When can we start working on the air?
Flight schedules and fares are loaded into airline computer systems for booking at midnight, 330 days prior to departure. Of course, you will be booking a return flight so you may want to wait until 330 days from your return flight. If you are booking through a Cruise Line like Regent or Seabourn, or a tour operator like Tauck Tours or Abercrombie & Kent, you would have to wait until their air contracts are entered in their computer systems. This generally happens about 270 days prior to departure. C&T staff monitor this for you carefully.
Q – Does Churchill & Turen handle airline tickets and advise on air strategies?
We are not a travel agency. Instead of churning out airline tickets like a travel agency, our focus is on planning some of the best vacations on earth. We advise our clients as to the very best strategies for your specific vacation. Our air consultation services are specific to your vacation plans and are always complimentary.
Q – Can we save money by booking our air through Churchill & Turen instead of the cruise line or tour operator?
We are able to secure airline tickets in Business Class and First Class at special contracted rates through Virtuoso Air. Virtuoso Air serves all Virtuoso Members and has the clout of creating close to $1 billion in annual air sales. We can secure specially negotiated air/sea fares for our clients booked on cruises. We also have access to discounted Business Class Fares with virtually all of the world’s Top Twenty carriers. We cannot save our clients’ money on economy air tickets. There are fees involved of approximately $100 per ticket for assistance with ticketing in economy class flights. The fees for Business or First Class tickets are approximately $50 per person.
Q – We will be flying to Europe in Economy and we do not want to use the cruise line’s air. What is our best strategy to save the maximum amount of money and avoid fees?
Your best strategy is to check for the best flights on any of the major online ticketing sites. When you are satisfied with your search results, use the airline’s own site to book with them directly.
Q – Wouldn’t it be easier to just book with Expedia, Travelocity or Priceline?
It is fine to use any of these sources for flight schedule information. But we would strongly advise against purchasing your ticket from an online site. Tickets issued by a third party online site often do not have the same value as tickets issued by a major airline. Should your flight be cancelled, you may have difficulty getting another airline to honor a ticket purchased from an online vender. And good luck getting help from an online site while you are standing in an airport line abroad.
Q – How do the better cruise lines and tour operators such as Tauck or Abercrombie & Kent choose the flights they will assign as part of their air program?
Travel suppliers negotiate contracted rates with specific airline partners. Approximately two months prior to a departure, the names and home cities of all guests who have made final payment are turned over to the airlines that hold the contract on a given date and they assign the flights. The cruise line or tour operator may only be able per their contracts or willing to pay for a certain booking class codes or fare codes of service. While there might be seats on the most desirable flight, that flight may not be assigned if the seats appear in the airline’s system at a price that is higher than the supplier’s contracted rate. The better tour operators like Tauck and A&K will normally assign flights soon after booking. But even the best cruise lines normally wait until after final payment has been made to assign flights. When they do, the seat selection charts are sometimes closed. This is particularly true in the case of economy air.
Q – Is there any way to avoid the wait for flight assignments? We’d like to know our air schedule right away.
The strategy to use is an “Air Deviation”. Cruise lines that offer air programs will, for a fee of $150-$200, allow us to request immediate confirmation of your air. We can, for the same fee, arrange your flights to arrive early or to depart several days after your cruise. But be aware that there are sometimes “upcharges” to do an Air Deviation if service on the preferred flights is not available in the class of service stated in the cruise line’s contract with the airline. In that case, you pay the difference. There is no air deviation fee, however, if you do not accept the flights or the upcharges.
Q – Suppose I plan on arriving in the departure city a few days early. Will I be able to get my air schedule changed?
If you use the cruise line or tour operator’s pre or post hotel program, and utilize their air program, your flights will be assigned to coincide with the appropriate travel dates. There are no fees involved. If you make your own pre/post hotel arrangements, you will be charged the Air Deviation Fee and any upcharges to change your flights from the date your cruise begins or ends.
Q – Why should we pay extra for an Air Deviation request when we are already paying a substantial amount for our cruise?
A – Airlines contract for prices for flights on the day of sailing or the day a tour departs. When you deviate from that schedule, or extend your stay at the end, you are outside their contracted dates and you will need to have us file an Air Deviation request. If you do nothing and just wait for a cruise line to assign the air just a few months prior to departure, non-stop flights may no longer be available within the cruise line’s contracted rate structure. Seats may be extremely limited or held for airport assignment which could mean a middle seat in economy. Cruise lines and tour operators often assign early morning (6:00 am) flights that connect to non-stop flights back to the US. For all these reasons, anyone who leaves their air schedule to chance by refusing to file an Air Deviation request, is simply running the risk of an unsatisfactory air schedule. And we will not be able to get it changed.
Q – Are some tour operators better at providing good air schedules than others?
A – Yes. The best schedules seem to be provided by Crystal Cruises, Silverseas, Tauck Tours, and Abercrombie & Kent.
Q – How do we know if we are getting a good deal on the air?
Our current guidelines are that Business Air is a good value if the cost comes in under $4500 to Europe; $7500 to Asia and $8,000 to the South Pacific. If you are flying to Europe in Economy in the summer or fall we consider any fare below $2,000 to be a good value in the current pricing environment. Part of our service includes truthful advice about the specific strategy we recommend in your specific situation. Your comfort and safety always come first.
Q – We have enough miles to use for this trip. What is the best way to go about using them?
If you are going to purchase a coach ticket and use miles to upgrade to Business or First Class, you should deal directly with the mileage desk at your airline. They will likely offer you more than one option requiring some instant decisions. If, on the other hand, you are going to use your miles to get Business or First Class tickets, we highly recommend that you speak to the leading expert in this field, Gary Leff. He charges fees (approx. $350) but his expertise in this field is well worth it. Gary has been hailed as “The World’s Best Mileage Expert” and he assists many Churchill & Turen guests. Contact him initially at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q – We are going to purchase economy air on our own. When is the best time to get the best fares?
Either way you are gambling because the lowest fare economy tickets come with some significant change fees. But that said, we recommend purchasing your tickets eleven months out, when the better fares have been entered in the computer system or wait until less than 60 days prior to departure when the airline computer systems may automatically be programmed to introduce lower fares on available seats. We recommend booking flights on a Tuesday or Wednesday if you are dealing with the airlines directly.
Q – Suppose we are overseas and something happens or we get to the airport to find out that a flight is cancelled. How do we protect ourselves?
Let us be very specific in our response. We know that just over 90% of the problems our guests encounter in a year of traveling the world will be airline-related. For that reason, we have tried to find the best possible “protection” for our clients. We have teamed up with The Award-Winning “Cranky Concierge” Team. You can reach them at email@example.com or by calling directly at 888-747-1011. This company offers three Flight Monitoring and 24/7 Assistance Plans. As a Churchill & Turen client, you will get a 10% discount on all of these services. For peace of mind when you travel, we highly recommend the basic Flight Monitoring Program which is currently priced at $54-$78 based on the number of airports and flight changes.