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American AirlinesAmerican Airlines’ parent company, the AMR Corporation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday; this is certainly dismal news for the carrier’s employees and shareholders. But American’s customers may likewise be worried about what lies ahead. Should fliers expect more fees, cuts to mileage programs and other unfavorable changes from the airline in the near future?

A piece published by satirical online newspaper the Onion in 2008 was oddly prescient. The story, American Airlines Now Charging Fees to Non-Passengers, reads: “[American Airlines President Gerard Arpey] said that non-passengers of American Airlines should expect to pay a small fee when making Greyhound bus reservations, choosing to drive to their final destination, or simply being a citizen of the United States with a valid Social Security number. Arpey went on to note that some additional charges would also apply, including a $15 fee for every piece of luggage customers have inside their bedroom closet, and a one-time payment of $40 for any American whose name is Greg.”

In the wake of a gloomy turn of events in the airline industry, it’s refreshing to have a chuckle. But is there an element of truth in this parody?

For now, everything — including ticket prices, extra fees and mileage programs — will pretty much stay the same. According to a statement posted on the airline Web site,”American Airlines and American Eagle are operating normal flight schedules, and our reservations, customer service, AAdvantage program, Admirals Clubs and all other operations are conducting business as usual.”

Every other legacy airline has gone through bankruptcy in the last decade — US Airways, United, Delta, etc. — and lived to tell the tale. Judging by past bankruptcies, we can predict that American will likely be curtailing its route map down the road. Says IndependentTraveler.com contributor Ed Hewitt, “Bankrupt airlines almost always make changes and cutbacks to routes and flight frequency; staying on top of your flight through e-mail notifications will help you get the word more quickly.” It’s a good idea to sign up for e-mail alerts from American if you have an upcoming flight scheduled.

As for fees, we can’t say whether or not American — or other carriers, for that matter — will roll out more petty charges to squeeze some extra revenue out of the pockets of its customers following this latest airline bankruptcy. As always, travelers should keep an eye on ticket terms and conditions when purchasing a flight.

What do you think of American Airlines’ bankruptcy filing? Take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments!

– written by Caroline Costello

CancunEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: If the thought of a roundtrip flight for less than $80 makes you drool, grab some napkins. JetBlue just rolled out a pretty impressive one-day sale featuring fares to destinations in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean starting at $29 each way before taxes and fees. With taxes, the cheapest possible flight you can get is $79.40 for a roundtrip fare from Long Beach to Las Vegas. Plane tickets don’t get much cheaper than that.

This deal offers a wide range of travel dates, too. Depart on any day of the week except Friday or Sunday from December 6 through February 15. If you have a ski trip, Florida beach getaway or Caribbean cruise penciled onto your calendar this winter, don’t overlook this deal. (There are plenty of cheap fares from select U.S. cities to Fort Lauderdale, a major cruise port.)

The Catch: Sorry, Santa. Holiday travel dates are excluded. You can’t take advantage of this offer if you plan to fly between December 16 and January 3.

The Competition: Southwest, Alaska and AirTran are also running fare sales to select destinations in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean right now. What’s the best deal? Ultimately, it all depends on your route. We recommend checking prices for your particular itinerary on all four airline Web sites.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

Airfare SaleThe airlines are clearly hitching a ride on the Cyber Monday bandwagon. Today, several major carriers rolled out masses of discounted tickets in honor of this well-marketed pseudo-holiday. Some of today’s fare offers end at midnight tonight, in true Cyber Monday flash sale fashion. Others will last through the beginning of December, giving travelers some time to take a few breaths and consider their options before punching in their credit card information. Here’s a selection of the best fare sales we’ve spotted so far today.

American Airlines Fares from $54 OW
Out of all the fare sales we’ve seen this morning, this American Airlines offer wins the prize for breadth of destinations. You can find discounted tickets to a great selection of gateways across the globe, from Shanghai to Mazatlan. Fares start at $54 each way plus taxes and fees for travel in January and the beginning of February. This deal expires tonight at 11:59 p.m. Central Time.

Save 10% on Frontier Airlines Fares
This Cyber Monday airfare offer is refreshingly simple. Enter promo code CYBER10 and receive 10 percent off any published fare (departing through March 7) booked on the Frontier Airlines Web site. The catch? You must purchase your tickets by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time tonight in order to snag this deal.

Southwest Airlines Fares from $59 OW
Here’s a fairly typical Southwest Airlines systemwide sale, which the airline normally rolls out on Tuesdays. Fares to U.S. gateways start at $59 each way plus taxes and fees, for travel from December through mid-February. There’s more good news: No need to start desperately crafting an itinerary today. This sale’s on through December 1.

AirTran Airways Fares from $59 OW
This AirTran offer mimics the Southwest sale in so many ways: same travel dates, same blackout dates, same expiration dates. (It figures. Southwest acquired AirTran in spring 2011, and the two carriers will soon merge into a single operator.) But there’s one big difference between the two sales. Unlike Southwest, AirTran is offering discounted tickets to international destinations as well as domestic locales, including gateways in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Alaska Airlines Fares from $40 OW
Alaska Airlines advises its customers, “Hurry, sale ends December 5, 2011″ — but really, you don’t need to rush. In comparison to many of the Cyber Monday travel deals floating around on the Internet today, this offer features a pretty reasonable expiration date a week from today. Book by that December 5 deadline and you can snap up fares to destinations in the U.S., Mexico and Canada for as little as $40 each way plus taxes and fees. Travel is valid from December through March.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

 BedandBreakfast.com Gift CardEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: We know the holiday season is in full swing when BedandBreakfast.com rolls out its annual Black Friday gift card sale. (We also know the holidays are here when the giant penguin wearing a Santa hat appears near our office door.) Through the end of the month, BedandBreakfast.com is offering a free $75 gift card with any gift card purchase of $250 or more.

Purchase five $50 gift cards to hand out to your friends and keep the $75 bonus for yourself. Or, of course, you can gift that extra card as well — but where’s the fun in that?

The Catch: BedandBreakfast.com lists more than 11,000 properties, but these gift cards aren’t valid at all of them. The cards can only be used to book stays at B&B’s and hotels that accept online reservations through the booking site — about 4,000 properties around the world. Look for the blue “book now” button next to a property listing; if that button’s there, you can pay for your stay with a gift card.

The Competition: Costco.com is currently selling $100 BedandBreakfast.com gift cards for just $74.99 each. Which is the better deal? Ultimately, you’re saving 25 percent if you go with Costco.com and 23 percent if you pay $250 for $325 worth of gift cards with BedandBreakfast.com.

But when it comes to gift giving, we think the BedandBreakfast.com Black Friday sale comes out on top. With this sale, you can get gift cards in varying amounts ($25, $50, $100, $125, etc.) instead of just $100 increments. Plus, BedandBreakfast.com lets you pick from eight different gift card styles, and it even offers a customizable photo gift card that you can personalize with your own uploaded picture.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Holiday Travel Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

Woodley Park Guest HouseHere’s the answer to last week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel quizzes by subscribing to our blog.

We have a winner! The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is $245 per night. Nancy James, who was the first person to give the correct answer, has won an IndependentTraveler.com neck pillow.

The room pictured was Room 121 at Woodley Park Guest House in Washington D.C. This newly renovated inn features 13 rooms decorated with antique furnishings. There are no T.V.’s in any of the rooms, but guests shouldn’t have a problem finding something to do nearby — the guest house sits within walking distance of the National Zoo, Rock Creek Park and the Washington National Cathedral. Read more about traveling to Washington D.C. in Washington D.C. Essentials.


– written by Caroline Costello

Every Friday, we’ll feature a photo of an unidentified hotel here, on our blog, and we want you to guess how much it costs to stay there. Leave your guess in the comments below and you could win a prize. Get the answer in your inbox by subscribing to our blog.

What’s the price of a night in the heart of the District? Enter your guess in the comments, and be sure to include a valid e-mail address so we can contact you in case you win. The first person to guess closest to the price of the room without going over wins an IndependentTraveler.com travel neck pillow. Here’s the room:



Here are three hints to help you win:

-This hotel is located near the National Zoo.

-This room has a queen-size bed and a private bathroom with a stand-up shower. There’s no T.V. in the room.

-Wi-Fi and a mostly organic breakfast are included in the rates.

We’re looking for the maximum nightly price for two people as listed on the property’s Web site, excluding holidays, coupon codes or package rates. Enter your answer by Sunday night, November 20, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time to win. We’ll contact the winner and reveal the answer on Monday.

– written by Caroline Costello

farm turkeysIn merely a week’s time, families across the U.S. will gather together to dine on turkeys, Tofurkeys, pies and potatoes. It all sounds fantastic — unless you’re the one washing the dishes and stuffing bread cubes into the back end of a bird. Although November 24 is fast approaching, you still have a chance to flee your kitchen and embark on a refreshing holiday weekend getaway, sans scary electric carving knife. Here are five fantastic Thanksgiving hotel deals to lure you away from that stove.

1. Pie and Booze in San Francisco
San Francisco’s Hotel Palomar is topping off your Thanksgiving stay with a freshly baked pie and a bottle of — what else — Wild Turkey bourbon. The downtown boutique hotel, which offers free Wi-Fi and is pet-friendly, is pairing these celebratory perks with deluxe accommodations in its “Pie + Family + Booze = Splendid Holiday” package, available through the end of December. Prices start at $299 per night.

2. Save Up to 58% on Thanksgiving Hotel Stays
Hotels.com is offering up to 58 percent off hotel stays in dozens of destinations around the world — including the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Canada and locales across the U.S. We recently featured this offer as the Travel Deal of the Week on our blog, and for good reason. This wide-ranging hotel sale covers so many properties, it’s worth a look no matter where you’re heading for the holidays.

3. Newark Airport Thanksgiving Package
If your eve-of-Thanksgiving flight is departing at an hour during which you’d normally be fast asleep, consider staying near the airport. New York-area travelers can avoid those high holiday hotel prices by booking the Thanksgiving Weekend deal at the Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott. Special Thanksgiving rates start at $199 a night.

4. Celebrate Thanksgiving Like a President
This Thanksgiving package in Washington D.C. includes a host of holiday perks, from a four-course Turkey Day dinner for up to eight people to a professionally photographed family portrait taken in your suite. You’ll bunk at the Madison, a luxurious boutique hotel located near National Mall monuments and, of course, down the street from the First Family. Prices start at $799 per night.

5. Give Thanks on the Slopes
Spend a long weekend zooming down the slopes, dining on decadent four-course dinners and toasting the holiday from the comfort of a traditional mountain lodge in Utah. Alta Lodge, set at the base of the Alta Ski Area, is offering a four-night Thanksgiving package that covers meals, lodging and taxes for $900 per person. A special Thanksgiving dinner is also included in the rates.

– written by Caroline Costello

Prague Christmas MarketEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: ‘Tis the season to book an incredibly low-priced flight to Europe. Right now, Lufthansa is selling tickets across the pond for as little as $470 roundtrip; that’s including all taxes and fees, mind you. So the price that’s going to show up on your credit card statement is $470, end of story. A roundtrip flight to Europe for less than $500 is a rare thing indeed.

It’s currently the off-season for travel to Europe, which is why we’re seeing prices this low. But don’t let cold weather stop you. Christmas markets, winter festivals, the northern lights and Alpine skiing are just a few reasons to keep Europe in mind as a winter travel destination.

The Catch: As is usually the case with winter fare sales, there are some blackout dates around the holidays. That $470 ticket we spotted was for a flight from New York to Dublin departing on December 4 and returning on December 12. The same route can cost as much as $1,066 if you travel during the blackout period, which is from December 15 through January 8.

The Competition: Aer Lingus is running a winter Europe fare sale that features flights starting at $249 each way; however, taxes and fees aren’t included in this price. With roughly $200 in taxes added to the cost of your ticket, you can expect to pay more than $700 for your fare.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

money justiceA few weeks ago, we blogged about three planes that were left stranded on the tarmac for more than seven hours in Hartford. So today, admittedly, we felt a pang of satisfaction when we learned that the U.S. Department of Transportation has slapped a major fine on an airline for, lo and behold, leaving passengers stuck on the tarmac.

According to the Associated Press, American Eagle, a regional carrier operated by American Airlines, was fined $900,000 for weather-induced tarmac delays of more than three hours on 15 flights that arrived in Chicago on May 29. This fine includes damages to be paid to the fliers who were inconvenienced. Up to $250,000 of the $900,000 fine can be credited to passengers in the form of refunds, vouchers or awards miles. There were 608 people onboard the stranded flights.

This is the first tarmac-delay fine to be imposed by the Department of Transportation since the federal agency initiated new passenger protection laws in April 2010; those rules state that passengers stuck on the tarmac on a domestic flight for more than three hours must be offered the chance to deplane. Any airlines that fail to comply will face penalties of up to $27,500 per passenger. (To learn more, read Airline Passengers Get New Bill of Rights.)

A government-issued fine for passenger inconvenience is a fresh change for an industry in which petty fees and crummy customer service are de rigueur. But whether or not the $900,000 fine will serve as a warning for the airlines and save future fliers from the torments of epic tarmac delays remains to be seen. In How Will the DOT’s New Airline Passenger Rights Affect You?, Ed Hewitt suggests that some airlines might simply preemptively cancel more flights in order to avoid having to pay steep penalties for multi-hour tarmac delays. Writes Hewitt, “Clearly not everyone is sold on the tarmac delay rules; if cancellations really are higher as a direct result, then the problem is just being moved around, not solved. However, few will argue with the notion that multi-hour strandings with no relief, no recourse and no basic human necessities is a worthwhile trade-off.” And indeed, according to CNN Travel, cancellations are up since the passenger rights regulations took effect.

What’s your take? Did the airline get what it deserved — or should the government do more to protect passengers? Sound off in the comments.


– written by Caroline Costello

Breakfast at Ray's Bucktown B&B ChicagoHere’s the answer to last week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel quizzes by subscribing to our blog.

We have a winner! The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is $179 per night. Dale, whose guess of $179 was right on the money, has won an IndependentTraveler.com neck pillow.

The room pictured was the Da Vinci Room at Ray’s Bucktown B&B in Chicago. This 11-room bed and breakfast is located in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, a lively area filled with art galleries and unique boutiques. The property is only about four miles from downtown Chicago, and free on-site parking is available. Every morning, Ray treats guests to a complimentary home-cooked breakfast of omelets, pancakes and French toast, cooked to order. Read more about traveling to the Windy City in Chicago Essentials.

Check back this Friday for another shot at winning a prize.

– written by Caroline Costello