Cracking the code on airline partnerships
Airline code-share partnerships can confuse travelers — and fares can vary for the same flight.
Seattle Times travel writer
With more airlines marketing each other's flights as code shares, it's getting harder to figure out who's actually doing the flying. It also makes it a bit harder to find the best price.
Code shares are marketing alliances that allow airlines to sell seats under their own name for flights operated by a partner airline. The airlines share in the revenues and passengers can earn and use their frequent-flier miles on either carrier.
Delta and Air France, for instance, are code-share partners, the reason why it's possible to buy a ticket on Air France for a Seattle-Paris nonstop in May even though Delta is taking over operation of the flight from Air France on March 25.
You wouldn't expect one of the partners to undersell the other on the same flight, but it can and does happen.
I found this while shopping for a May flight on Kayak.com, the meta-search site that scans various airline sites for the best prices, then provides direct links to the airlines for booking.
Air France was selling a Seattle/Zagreb (Croatia) round trip, with a connection through Paris, for $1,214 versus $1,408 on Delta for the same flights, a savings of $194.
Needless to say, I bought the ticket from Air France through a telephone agent who also thoughtfully gave me a seat that would let me see the Eiffel Tower on approach into Paris.
Airlines would rather we go directly to their websites than comparison shop — one reason American Airlines attempted to water down the usefulness of Orbitz by withdrawing its flights from the site last year. (The flights have since been restored.) Don't be fooled. It always pay to shop around, and the meta-search sites such as Kayak and Bing are good places to start.
The price difference I found, by the way, wasn't just a momentary fluke. The airlines continued to sell the flights for different prices for several weeks.
Once you have your ticket and get to the airport, code sharing can be confusing because the partner airlines use different flight numbers for the same flights. The Seattle-Paris leg of my flight, for instance, shows up on my itinerary as Air France 2160 and Delta 615.
Rule of thumb: Check in for your flight with the airline that's operating the flight.
Skipping the scanners
Transportation Security Administration official Nico Melendez confirmed that the TSA is not using the controversial full-body scanners at any of the new PreCheck security lanes set up so far at airports around the United States. Passengers walk through one of the conventional metal detectors instead.
PreCheck isn't available at Sea-Tac yet, but once it is, high-mileage frequent fliers with Alaska Airlines as well as travelers enrolled in traveler programs such as Global Entry and Nexus will be eligible to join special lines.
Most will no longer have to take off their shoes, jackets and belts or remove liquids and laptops from carry-ons.
If skipping the full-body scanners becomes the norm for PreCheck, it would be welcome news at Sea-Tac, where the TSA has installed the type of backscatter X-ray scanners recently banned in Europe due to concerns over low-level radiation emissions.
European airports will instead use millimeter-wave scanners. Some U.S. airports have millimeter-wave scanners, but not Sea-Tac.
Portland-based BootsnAll is a robust online resource for independent travel. Its new "Indie Travel Manifesto" poses some interesting musings on topics such as "Discovery vs. Escape" and "Firsthand Experience over Expert Opinions."
Can't argue with the last one, given the power of user-review sites such as TripAdvisor and Virtual Tourist. Nevertheless, even BootsnAll couldn't resist asking some experts for their thoughts.
Weighing in at the website www.bootsnall.com are guidebook author Rick Steves, travel writer Pico Iyer and Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler.
Have a question or comment on Travel? Contact Carol Pucci: cpucci@
seattletimes.com. On Twitter @carolpucci.
About Travel Wise
Travel Wise is aimed at helping people travel smart, especially independent travelers seeking good value. Drawing on her own experiences and readers', Carol Pucci covers everything from the best resources to how to tap into the local culture. Her column runs each Sunday in the Travel section.