About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« Travel Continues. . . | Main | Health Care Reform - Really? »

July 29, 2009

Return From Travel: A Note About

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Posted by Derek

I've now returned from a family vacation, so regular blogging is set to resume. Before it does, though, I have a brief public service announcement for readers who are looking for airfare deals: beware of I went with them this time because they beat what I could find on Kayak, but TANSTAAFL, or even necessarily a cheaper one.

Even when you've paid for your tickets and picked out your seats two months before, even after Cheaptickets sends you an e-mail with your reservation info, one that lists all your seat numbers and says "Your Seats Are Confirmed", don't just go and assume that those are, you know, your confirmed seat numbers. They aren't. You and your family can easily end up scattered throughout the plane - we sure did, at least until a helpful person from United was able to rearrange things.

Turns out the Cheaptickets people "forward your seat preferences" to the airlines, who then are free to do what they like with these suggestions. The whole seating-map thing is just a sort of gedankenversuch, not meant to have any real-world application. So keep that in mind.

Comments (13) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blog Housekeeping


1. Hap on July 29, 2009 12:10 PM writes...

Well, at least they didn't treat the flight information in the same manner. "Well, we asked the airline to put you on flight XXX, but they didn't have any seats, so instead they scheduled you on flight YYY to Monrovia two hours later. Please make sure you bring a flak jacket, a passport, lots of cadeaux for the friendly Liberian customs agents, and don't bring anything you can't afford to leave behind. Have a nice day."

Maybe they're advertising seat positions in the same way supplement makers advertise the "effects" of their products?

Permalink to Comment

2. NYSpursFan on July 29, 2009 12:48 PM writes...

Had a similar problem a year ago. I use Kayak or other search engines to find flights, but then I buy direct from the airline. It sometimes costs a little more, but the risk of this happening is much lower. Welcome back!

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3. Jan on July 29, 2009 1:04 PM writes...

And don't even thinking about changing your flight. I tried it two month in advance and was refered to the airline. They were saying that cheap tickets is responsible, called cheap again and they sent me back to the chance to change the reservation. The only way for me was buying another ticket, just some 1300$ more.

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4. Hap on July 29, 2009 2:04 PM writes...

Let's all say it together now.

"Wave bye-bye to the drug spammer. Please forget to write."

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5. Jairo Nunes on July 29, 2009 2:50 PM writes...

I have had an awful experience with cheaptickets in a recent trip to Hawaii with my family. Even though all my family member names with their correct ages were entered during booking in the cheaptickets website, the hotel would not let us stay in the room booked when we got there because they claimed we exceeded the number of people allowed by fire regulations. Bottom line: Luckily the hotel had a bigger room available but the difference in price was ugly! I contacted cheaptickets several times about the issue and they never responded to it. I don't think they have a phone number for customers; all contacts must be done via email, which can easily be neglected on purpose. So, cheaptickets for my family trips will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!

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6. MiddleO'Nowhere on July 29, 2009 2:54 PM writes...

You lucked out. A few months ago, my spouse and a co-worker booked a round-trip flight through The flight times were specifically chosen, so they could meet up with someone at their destination to show them around. After they booked the flight, they received an email informing them that the flight had changed, and they would now be getting in 6 hours later than planned and they would have a massive layover in one of the cities. This was likely the airlines fault, although, CheapTickets might have been unable to book the original flight and failed to inform them immediately. When it came time to take the trip, it turns out that the airline still thought they were on the earlier flight! Somewhere, there was a lack of communication between CheapTickets and the airline. Thankfully, there was space on the next flight, but they could have been stuck at the layover airport.

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7. JP on July 29, 2009 4:40 PM writes...

Who buys tickets from those sites? Just go direct to the airlines - you rarely pay any more to book directly and don't have to worry about fiascos like this.

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8. D.J. on July 29, 2009 5:06 PM writes...

I've gone through Expedia, and there, while we do get reserved seats and then lose them, it's the airline's fault: they end up changing the plane being used, or the specific flight doesn't have enough people so everyone gets moved to a different one instead.

At least, that's what Expedia says, so....

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9. fng on July 29, 2009 6:10 PM writes...

i've found that a follow-up call directly to the airlines is required after booking airline tickets through one of these front-end brokers if you want to confirm seating.

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10. chalker on July 29, 2009 6:39 PM writes...

I recommend Expedia for accommodation. I've used them a couple of times for trips from Australia to the US for ACS meetings and such. No problems and no surprises.

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11. memory foam on July 29, 2009 10:20 PM writes...

This info is kind of eye-opening for me. I have not yet had problems like this, although I use sites like the above fairly often. Kayak may have better performance, since many frequent travelers recommend it highly. Best advice sounds like someone said above ... use the sites to find the best fare airline but buy from the airline.

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12. psi*psi on July 30, 2009 1:27 AM writes...

Orbitz has always treated me well--I've never had a problem getting my requested seats (except with that one airline that wanted me to pay for them, which wasn't the site's fault), and I've gotten better deals there than on the airline sites.

Permalink to Comment

13. Anonymous on July 30, 2009 8:45 AM writes...

The clue is in the name. You get what you pay for

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