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Booking a flight on Southwest?


cjzimmer1
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So I haven't been on a plane in over 20 years, I really know nothing about when/how to determine what is a good price/timeframe to book. 

 

DS is going overseas with a group this summer.  He needs to get a flight to meet the group in San Francisco and then a return trip home afterwards.  There are a few choices to get him there in the correct timeframe but the return trip is pretty slim pickings unless he wants to spend 10 hours at the San Francisco airport or spend several hours layover in the middle of the night somewhere.

 

So right now the best choice based on the return trip seems to Southwest. It sees like you can only book through them correct? I have no idea if the price is a "good" one or not.  We just started looking last night.  Trip is in 11 weeks.  Should I expect to see some price changes or does Southwest just post a price and that's what it is?

 

There is one specific flight we would really like to get him on for the return trip but the cost is higher than we were hoping for so wondering if there is a chance of it coming down in price or to bite the bullet so he gets on the preferred flight.

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I love Southwest.  Yes, you can only book through them.  We fly it all the time TPA-DEN.  It is typically less expensive than other big airlines, though not as cheap as the very low cost carriers (ex. Frontier).  We don't like Frontier and only use them when we have to book quickly.

 

My sister tracks flight costs on a daily basis, and books when it drops (according to her, SW especially will drop for a day or two).

 

I book SW flights, then check once a week to see if the price has dropped.  If it has, I re-book, getting a credit to use later.  There is no fee to rebook.  Probably I should check daily like my sister, but I haven't gone that far yet.

 

I've heard it rumored that 6 weeks out is the best time to book, but I have no idea how accurate that is.

 

Note that if you book through something like Travelocity and have to change your flight, both the airline and Travelocity will charge you a fee.  That makes me book through the airline instead of Travelocity.

 

HTH!

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Prices on Southwest do tend to fluctuate quite a bit and depending on where you are traveling to/from can be more expensive than other airlines.  That being said, I do appreciate that it is an all inclusive cost and they don't nickel and dime you for every little thing (luggage up to 2 suitcases is free, if you need to cancel and rebook there are no additional fees charged unless costs for flight has increased, etc).

 

You will need to book direct with southwest as they are not on any of the other travel sites.

 

I find the costs seem to be cheaper if you have some flexibility on the days when you arrive and depart.  Also I have found that leaving on a thursday and coming back on a Tuesday seems to have better prices.

 

Last tip, I have found that southwest seems to be cheaper when they are NOT announcing a flight sale.   I have gotten some great deals this way ($88  roundtrip from Denver to their hub in Dallas Lovefield).   Can't beat that!

 

Hope that helps!

 

Diane

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Be sure you leave plenty of time to meet up with his group and get to connecting flights both ways. Flights are often late. And look online to find out how long it will take him to get to the international concourse.  I would also want to know what the group plans are if his flight to San Francisco is cancelled or has a long delay.  When tickets are on one reservation you have more recourse than if they are entirely separate. Headache I know.  :grouphug:

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Southwest is great.  In our experience, they have a range of prices, but when the cheaper ones are gone, that's it.  The cheaper ones won't suddenly open up again.  So you're better off reserving it now rather than later.  All checked luggage is free.

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My dh travles a lot for work and gave up on United last year and switched to SouthWest whenever possible. His only complaint with them is the check in seating thing. With United he had status, so he always was bumped to first class and didn't have to worry about what seat he had. With SW, you have to check in the day before as early as possible to try and get into one of the early boarding groups so that you don't end up with a crappy seat. Dh is 6'5, so not getting crammed into a middle seat is a big deal............so make sure they check in for the flight as early as possible!! 

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Be sure you leave plenty of time to meet up with his group and get to connecting flights both ways. Flights are often late. 

 

Coming into SFO, change that to Southwest's flights are nearly ALWAYS late. Every time I fly them I swear I'm never going to do it again because of all the delays. But then I get suckered into again because they'll run a sale fare that makes flying to SoCal cheaper than driving.

 

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Also, if your DS isn't already part of the TSA Pre-Check program, sign him up ASAP. For the past year, the non-Pre-Check lines to get through security have been horrendous.

 

 Even the Pre-Check lines are getting bad now.......

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I love Southwest.  Yes, you can only book through them.  We fly it all the time TPA-DEN.  It is typically less expensive than other big airlines, though not as cheap as the very low cost carriers (ex. Frontier).  We don't like Frontier and only use them when we have to book quickly.

 

My sister tracks flight costs on a daily basis, and books when it drops (according to her, SW especially will drop for a day or two).

 

I book SW flights, then check once a week to see if the price has dropped.  If it has, I re-book, getting a credit to use later.  There is no fee to rebook.  Probably I should check daily like my sister, but I haven't gone that far yet.

 

I've heard it rumored that 6 weeks out is the best time to book, but I have no idea how accurate that is.

 

Note that if you book through something like Travelocity and have to change your flight, both the airline and Travelocity will charge you a fee.  That makes me book through the airline instead of Travelocity.

 

HTH!

 We looked at Frontier but it was actually a few dollars more than this Southwest flight and it didn't even include the luggage fees.

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Be sure you leave plenty of time to meet up with his group and get to connecting flights both ways. Flights are often late. And look online to find out how long it will take him to get to the international concourse.  I would also want to know what the group plans are if his flight to San Francisco is cancelled or has a long delay.  When tickets are on one reservation you have more recourse than if they are entirely separate. Headache I know.  :grouphug:

My understanding on the group policy is that if you aren't there when they leave, you are on your own to get to the final destination (including any additional flight fees).

 

Coming into SFO, change that to Southwest's flights are nearly ALWAYS late. Every time I fly them I swear I'm never going to do it again because of all the delays. But then I get suckered into again because they'll run a sale fare that makes flying to SoCal cheaper than driving.

 

 

They recommend getting to SFO at least 4-5 hours before the groups leaves.  His flight out would be scheduled to arrive a little over 6 hours before the group leaves.  Hoping that is sufficient.

 

 

My biggest worry is the coming home.  They said to allow at least 3-4 hours after the scheduled arrival time to leave SFO.  This flight would be 3 hours and 20 minutes.  I'm worried that will be too tight since he is coming in on an international flight that is over 12 hours long (I'm assuming a longer flight has more opportunity to be late but not sure if that is true or not).  I assume he will have to go through customs, find his luggage and then recheck in?  I don't know maybe that's not how it works but he will have to change carriers and I assume neither will know about his additional travel plans so I'm guessing he has to deal with the luggage himself.

 

Anyways, if he doesn't make that flight, his options are spending the entire night in SFO and getting home late afternoon the next day or leaving SFO close to midnight, have a layover for an hour or so at 2-3 in the morning and then arriving home mid morning.  Neither of those sounds like a great choice for an inexperienced traveller coming off of 15 hours of flying time. But there is just not many flights coming east in the early evening.

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Prices on Southwest do tend to fluctuate quite a bit and depending on where you are traveling to/from can be more expensive than other airlines.  That being said, I do appreciate that it is an all inclusive cost and they don't nickel and dime you for every little thing (luggage up to 2 suitcases is free, if you need to cancel and rebook there are no additional fees charged unless costs for flight has increased, etc).

 

You will need to book direct with southwest as they are not on any of the other travel sites.

 

I find the costs seem to be cheaper if you have some flexibility on the days when you arrive and depart.  Also I have found that leaving on a thursday and coming back on a Tuesday seems to have better prices.

 

Last tip, I have found that southwest seems to be cheaper when they are NOT announcing a flight sale.   I have gotten some great deals this way ($88  roundtrip from Denver to their hub in Dallas Lovefield).   Can't beat that!

 

Hope that helps!

 

Diane

I will keep watching for a bit.  His flight out is on Thursday but coming back will be Monday evening.  Although if he misses that flight it will be Tuesday morning before he can get out of SFO.  

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My dh travles a lot for work and gave up on United last year and switched to SouthWest whenever possible. His only complaint with them is the check in seating thing. With United he had status, so he always was bumped to first class and didn't have to worry about what seat he had. With SW, you have to check in the day before as early as possible to try and get into one of the early boarding groups so that you don't end up with a crappy seat. Dh is 6'5, so not getting crammed into a middle seat is a big deal............so make sure they check in for the flight as early as possible!! 

Good to know about checking in early.  DS is 6'2 so will totally have the leg room problem but at least he is really skinny so if he gets stuck in a middle seat he shouldn't be too squashed.

 

He won't be able to check in early coming home because he will be on a plane for 15 of the 18 hours prior to leaving SFO.  But I guess he will just have to suck it up because there isn't much that can be done about that. 

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Also, if your DS isn't already part of the TSA Pre-Check program, sign him up ASAP. For the past year, the non-Pre-Check lines to get through security have been horrendous.

 

I have no idea what this so I will definitely check into this.  Ds doesn't have much travel experience and flying makes him very nervous so anything we can do to make it less stressful will help.  Thanks for the tip!

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There is a program similar to TSA Pre-Check but for international. Global Entry something. We didn't do it because it is per-person (TSA Pre-Check is only 13+ so only my oldest needs it) and we hardly ever fly international. But if you're worried about getting through customs in time to make a tight connection, it'd probably be worth it.

Edited by Crimson Wife
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We too fly almost exclusively on SW.  Never had any problems and they're fun to boot. You don't get assigned seating ahead of time -- you are assigned a place in line when you check in (which can be done online up to 24 hours in advance) and then you board in that order, choosing your seats when you are on the plane. 

 

I didn't follow all the details of the thread, but we visited San Francisco a little more than a year ago and flew into Oakland because it was less expensive. Then we uber'd into the city, which was cheaper than the transit train for four of us. 

 

Oh, and I was going to mention that SW just had two back-to-back sales ending April 6 (I booked RT flights from Seattle to Phoenix for $108 each!), so it might be a little bit before they do one again, but at the same time, they do seem to do them a lot. 

Edited by milovany
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Good to know about checking in early.  DS is 6'2 so will totally have the leg room problem but at least he is really skinny so if he gets stuck in a middle seat he shouldn't be too squashed.

 

He won't be able to check in early coming home because he will be on a plane for 15 of the 18 hours prior to leaving SFO.  But I guess he will just have to suck it up because there isn't much that can be done about that. 

 

IMO it's totally worth the extra $15 to get Early Bird boarding. Then it doesn't matter when you check in, you will get an "A" boarding pass so you can choose a good seat and know there will be overhead space for your carry-on bag. At the very least I would get it for the return flight, so he's not stuck as one of the very last passengers to board the plane, taking whatever seat is left that no one else wants.

 

Personally, I would be nervous about a 3 hr layover on the return trip after such a long flight, especially since the international and US portions of the flight are on unrelated carriers. It can take a long time to get through passport control, get your bags, get through customs, get from the international terminal to the domestic terminal, and then he will have to check in to his Southwest flight and get his luggage retagged, and go through security all over again. If the arriving flight is very late, that may be cutting it too tight.

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I have no idea what this so I will definitely check into this.  Ds doesn't have much travel experience and flying makes him very nervous so anything we can do to make it less stressful will help.  Thanks for the tip!

 

I would go ahead and do Global Entry if you're going to do this, as Global Entry provides access to the Precheck lines and has the additional bonus of getting you through passport control much faster (you use a kiosk instead of waiting in line to be processed by a person). It only costs a little more ($100 for Global Entry, $85 for Precheck) and both are good for 5 years. You do need to make an appointment to be seen in person, and that can take quite a while depending on the city, so I'd look into it sooner rather than later.

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IMO it's totally worth the extra $15 to get Early Bird boarding.

I was going to mention the $15 for Early Bird boarding.  I'm too cheap to use it.  ;) I'm not 100% sure it's guaranteed either.  It would be good to have a conversation with a SW rep to verify.  I like the "thrill" of checking in exactly 24hrs in advance.  Note that anyone with ds's reservation number can check him in 24hrs in advance.  It doesn't have to be him.  We do that all the time.

 

Edited by Sue in St Pete
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I would strongly suggest seeing if you can get his domestic travel arranged through the same carrier as the international ticket, with the domestic portion included in the entire itinerary.  It would make flying out simpler--checked bags would be checked to final destination.  It would also make return easier.  Checked bags would be checked to final destination--he would still have to claim them and go through customs when he reaches the US, but then he would be able to just drop off the bags close to the customs area because they are already checked through.   He will also get more assistance from the airline if for some reason the first flight is late due to bad weather, mechanical problems, or any other issue. 

 

As far as check-in, if you have his info and he will be mid-air on another flight when the check-in time frame begins, you could check in for him.  

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Be sure you leave plenty of time to meet up with his group and get to connecting flights both ways. Flights are often late. And look online to find out how long it will take him to get to the international concourse.  I would also want to know what the group plans are if his flight to San Francisco is cancelled or has a long delay.  When tickets are on one reservation you have more recourse than if they are entirely separate. Headache I know.  :grouphug:

 

+1  When there are separate tickets, for 2 different airlines, or even conceivably on the same airline,  if something goes wrong, it is the problem for the passenger to resolve, at the expense of the passenger. In this case, it would be worse, because there are probably no Interline ticketing agreements between Southwest and the other airline. If one could get the international airline to issue the complete ticket, that would help, if the passenger misconnected, baggage was lost, etc.  It also might save some $ due to taxes and service charges. Doing things separately sometimes saves money, if everything goes perfectly, but can lead to bad issues that the passenger will need to resolve and pay for without the help of the airline(s) involved.. 

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I would strongly suggest seeing if you can get his domestic travel arranged through the same carrier as the international ticket, with the domestic portion included in the entire itinerary.  It would make flying out simpler--checked bags would be checked to final destination.  It would also make return easier.  Checked bags would be checked to final destination--he would still have to claim them and go through customs when he reaches the US, but then he would be able to just drop off the bags close to the customs area because they are already checked through.   He will also get more assistance from the airline if for some reason the first flight is late due to bad weather, mechanical problems, or any other issue. 

 

 

 

+1  When there are separate tickets, for 2 different airlines, or even conceivably on the same airline,  if something goes wrong, it is the problem for the passenger to resolve, at the expense of the passenger. In this case, it would be worse, because there are probably no Interline ticketing agreements between Southwest and the other airline. If one could get the international airline to issue the complete ticket, that would help, if the passenger misconnected, baggage was lost, etc.  It also might save some $ due to taxes and service charges. Doing things separately sometimes saves money, if everything goes perfectly, but can lead to bad issues that the passenger will need to resolve and pay for without the help of the airline(s) involved.. 

 

The international flight is on Air New Zealand leaving from SFO.  The group booked those tickets.  It's each members responsibility to get to SFO and meet the group there before boarding the international flight together (and a way home from SFO when they get home).  So is it even possible to add onto the itinerary for one individual when it was a group of tickets purchased?  If so how would that work?  I know Air New Zealand doesn't fly anywhere near my midwestern city.  

Edited by cjzimmer1
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I was going to mention the $15 for Early Bird boarding.  I'm too cheap to use it.  ;) I'm not 100% sure it's guaranteed either.  It would be good to have a conversation with a SW rep to verify.  I like the "thrill" of checking in exactly 24hrs in advance.  Note that anyone with ds's reservation number can check him in 24hrs in advance.  It doesn't have to be him.  We do that all the time.

 

 

 

 

 

As far as check-in, if you have his info and he will be mid-air on another flight when the check-in time frame begins, you could check in for him.  

 

Thank you both for this.  I assumed he would have to check himself in.  I will definitely plan to do this since he will be in the air a good chunk of the time during the 24 hours window.

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The international flight is on Air New Zealand leaving from SFO.  The group booked those tickets.  It's each members responsibility to get to SFO and meet the group there before boarding the international flight together (and a way home from SFO when they get home).  So is it even possible to add onto the itinerary for one individual when it was a group of tickets purchased?  If so how would that work?  I know Air New Zealand doesn't fly anywhere near my midwestern city.  

Do you know if a travel agent booked the tickets for the group?

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My understanding on the group policy is that if you aren't there when they leave, you are on your own to get to the final destination (including any additional flight fees).

 

 

They recommend getting to SFO at least 4-5 hours before the groups leaves.  His flight out would be scheduled to arrive a little over 6 hours before the group leaves.  Hoping that is sufficient.

 

 

My biggest worry is the coming home.  They said to allow at least 3-4 hours after the scheduled arrival time to leave SFO.  This flight would be 3 hours and 20 minutes.  I'm worried that will be too tight since he is coming in on an international flight that is over 12 hours long (I'm assuming a longer flight has more opportunity to be late but not sure if that is true or not).  I assume he will have to go through customs, find his luggage and then recheck in?  I don't know maybe that's not how it works but he will have to change carriers and I assume neither will know about his additional travel plans so I'm guessing he has to deal with the luggage himself.

 

Anyways, if he doesn't make that flight, his options are spending the entire night in SFO and getting home late afternoon the next day or leaving SFO close to midnight, have a layover for an hour or so at 2-3 in the morning and then arriving home mid morning.  Neither of those sounds like a great choice for an inexperienced traveller coming off of 15 hours of flying time. But there is just not many flights coming east in the early evening.

 

NOTE: INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE

 

The Eastbound flight from Asia will be faster than the Westbound flight, because of the Prevailing Winds, so yes, if they are late, they can possibly make up some time during the Eastbound Trans Pacific flight. However, the Prevailing Winds have already been programmed into the Scheduled flight time, but if you are lucky...   If his Domestic flight to his final destination is on the same ticket as his international segment, after clearing U.S. Customs in SFO they will probably (hopefully) recheck his luggage for him.to his final destination If not, he will need to take it with him to the other airline, which (probably) will be in a different terminal building in SFO.  If his Domestic flight is on Southwest, I don't know if they Interline baggage... I would allow for delays in U.S. Immigration and U.S. Customs, for a variety of possible reasons. If he is lucky they will not have a bunch of arriving flights   that arrive at the same moment... Passengers should always go through Security and go to their gate, ASAP, for safety reasons.  3 hours and 20 minutes sounds like the absolute minimum connecting time there, for an arriving International passenger.  Based on that, 4 to 6 hours would be much safer and allow some wiggle room.   Here's what I would try to do:  Fly on an airline that has many flights on the route you are using.  If he misses the flight he is ticketed for, get to the ticket counter of that airline, ASAP, explain what happened to him, and ask to be accommodated on the next flight with seats available. If he is on a through ticket, he is more likely to be helped (at the expense of the airline) than if he is on 2 separate tickets.   Sometimes an airline with only 1 or 2 flights a day on a route can give wonderful service, but if something goes wrong, one can be delayed for a LONG time. I would avoid airlines with only 1 or 2 flights a day on a Domestic U.S. flight, whenever possible.

 

(Example: In Colombia, I think COPA Colombia has 2 flights a day, from our airport (Cali) to Bogota. If something went wrong, and a passenger was on a very low cost, highly restrictive ticket, I doubt they (or any other airline, in any country) would endorse the ticket to another airline. Their "Contract of Carriage" probably explains that.  So, when we fly from Cali to Bogota, we go on Avianca, which has the most flights, or on LAN Colombia. If something would go really wrong and they cancelled our flight, there is a much better chance of our being sent on our way, sooner, with Avianca or LAN Colombia, than on COPA Colombia simply because of the number of flights they operate on that route).

 

 INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE

 

This is a true story about an error involving the International Date Line. When I was young and worked for a U.S. Flag Airline in Dallas, we had a number (5 or 7?) of aircraft that ran charters for the U.S. Military. Normally trans Pacific flights.  I had worked in the Scheduling Department and was, after that working with a woman whose name is Sarah. The only reason I remember her name is because of what happened...  She wanted to go to San Francisco. At that time, we did not have Scheduled flights to San Francisco.  I got the information about the Ferry flights between Dallas and Travis AFB in CA, which is just east of the Bay Area, for her.  They brought the aircraft in every 750 flight hours, for major maintenance.  Well, Sarah went from Dallas to Travis AFB without any issue. I had given her the phone number to call for our airline, at Travis AFB, to let them know she would be on the return Ferry flight to Dallas and suggested that she call them, that day, so they could add her to the list of passengers (Ferry flights are restricted to employees and their families).  Well, when she called them, they told her there had been a mistake, involving the International Date Line, and that aircraft had gone to Dallas the day before...  I don't remember how much she had to pay, to get back to Dallas on another airline. Hopefully the other airline was kind and gave her a 50% interline discount.   BE VERY VERY CAREFUL, REGARDING THE INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE WHEN THE RESERVATIONS ARE MADE!

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My understanding on the group policy is that if you aren't there when they leave, you are on your own to get to the final destination (including any additional flight fees).

 

 

They recommend getting to SFO at least 4-5 hours before the groups leaves.  His flight out would be scheduled to arrive a little over 6 hours before the group leaves.  Hoping that is sufficient.

 

 

<snip>

 

OP:  I thought about this thread on the way home from the supermarket.    IMO YOU REALLY NEED TO CONTACT WHOEVER IS HANDLING THE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS.  If possible you should have them issue one ticket, based on a through fare, from your origin airport within the USA to the destination airport overseas. If there is no published through fare for the combination of those 2 cities (origin and destination) then I would *strongly* suggest to you that you have them include the Domestic trip (to/from SFO) on the same ticket as his International flights.  That will (probably?) eliminate Southwest, but I am not sure about that.  

 

Read the bolded where I quoted you again.  If he misses the flight from SFO to his destination, at the last minute, he might need to purchase an entirely new ticket, one way, from SFO to his International destination.  At the last minute, that could possibly involve USD$1500 to $2000.  

 

Our family does not schedule tight connections, and I more or less know what I am doing.  I allow extra time, in case a flight is delayed, so hopefully we do not miss our connecting flight.    I allow time for horrors at the ticket counter (we had one of those last April at about 230 A.M.) or in U.S. Immigration (my wife was delayed because of a problem with the fingerprint machine, she always has trouble with fingerprints) after we arrived in Orlando. We were stuck in Customs, approximately one hour, waiting for it to be her turn, so they could "clear the system" and let her join us in U.S. Customs.  

 

If you schedule tight and everything goes perfectly, you won. But in case there is an issue, you will probably lose, I would allow time. A lot of time.  I would personally rather sit in an airport for 6 or 10 hours) and not need to pay USD$1500 or some number close to that, because I missed my groups flight from SFO.

 

Also, if your passenger is inexperienced, especially with International itineraries involving a connection and change of airline, Immigration and Customs,  this is probably not a good trip for you to be looking for the lowest fare available.  

 

6 hours on the origin in SFO will probably be fine, IF he is scheduled from the origin airport where/near you live, on the first flight in the morning, on a nonstop flight to SFO.. On the return, I think I would want 6 hours, minimum, to go through U.S. Immigration and U.S. Customs and get to the other airline. On the return, if he misses the flight to your home city/airport thats not a big deal and it will not involve the possibility of spending 4 figures for a one-way flight to where you live.

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OP:  I thought about this thread on the way home from the supermarket.    IMO YOU REALLY NEED TO CONTACT WHOEVER IS HANDLING THE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS.  If possible you should have them issue one ticket, based on a through fare, from your origin airport within the USA to the destination airport overseas. If there is no published through fare for the combination of those 2 cities (origin and destination) then I would *strongly* suggest to you that you have them include the Domestic trip (to/from SFO) on the same ticket as his International flights.  That will (probably?) eliminate Southwest, but I am not sure about that.  

 

Read the bolded where I quoted you again.  If he misses the flight from SFO to his destination, at the last minute, he might need to purchase an entirely new ticket, one way, from SFO to his International destination.  At the last minute, that could possibly involve USD$1500 to $2000.  

 

Our family does not schedule tight connections, and I more or less know what I am doing.  I allow extra time, in case a flight is delayed, so hopefully we do not miss our connecting flight.    I allow time for horrors at the ticket counter (we had one of those last April at about 230 A.M.) or in U.S. Immigration (my wife was delayed because of a problem with the fingerprint machine, she always has trouble with fingerprints) after we arrived in Orlando. We were stuck in Customs, approximately one hour, waiting for it to be her turn, so they could "clear the system" and let her join us in U.S. Customs.  

 

If you schedule tight and everything goes perfectly, you won. But in case there is an issue, you will probably lose, I would allow time. A lot of time.  I would personally rather sit in an airport for 6 or 10 hours) and not need to pay USD$1500 or some number close to that, because I missed my groups flight from SFO.

 

Also, if your passenger is inexperienced, especially with International itineraries involving a connection and change of airline, Immigration and Customs,  this is probably not a good trip for you to be looking for the lowest fare available.  

 

6 hours on the origin in SFO will probably be fine, IF he is scheduled from the origin airport where/near you live, on the first flight in the morning, on a nonstop flight to SFO.. On the return, I think I would want 6 hours, minimum, to go through U.S. Immigration and U.S. Customs and get to the other airline. On the return, if he misses the flight to your home city/airport thats not a big deal and it will not involve the possibility of spending 4 figures for a one-way flight to where you live.

Thanks for all the advice you have offered so far.  I've been mulling it over as I look at flights.  I haven't contacted the group who is organizing the trip about making a through ticket, but I highly suspect they will decline that.  They are doing hundreds of these trips each summer, I can't imagine they have the time or the resources (it's a non profit group) to handle bookings for every person to the departure city for that trip.  I'm not at all concerned about getting him there in time.  There were plenty of flights going from east to west.  Coming home is the problem so at least if things go awry we only have a domestic ticket to deal with.  

 

The only direct flights are on United to an airport 3-4 hours from us (without rush hour traffic) and are only about $100-$150 cheaper than the flight to the airport about 7 minutes from us.  So we've pretty much bounced the direct flight option for multiple reasons including, well, it's United, we'd really rather not have him use them if we can avoid it.

 

I think we will end up on Delta.  It seems the best choice once we allow for a longer layover between flights in SFO.

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IMO it's totally worth the extra $15 to get Early Bird boarding. Then it doesn't matter when you check in, you will get an "A" boarding pass so you can choose a good seat and know there will be overhead space for your carry-on bag. At the very least I would get it for the return flight, so he's not stuck as one of the very last passengers to board the plane, taking whatever seat is left that no one else wants.

 

Personally, I would be nervous about a 3 hr layover on the return trip after such a long flight, especially since the international and US portions of the flight are on unrelated carriers. It can take a long time to get through passport control, get your bags, get through customs, get from the international terminal to the domestic terminal, and then he will have to check in to his Southwest flight and get his luggage retagged, and go through security all over again. If the arriving flight is very late, that may be cutting it too tight.

I think more people must be purchasing the early bird check in these days. I purchased it when both dc were flying alone and they ended up in the B group on the way home. I was annoyed.

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Thanks for all the advice you have offered so far.  I've been mulling it over as I look at flights.  I haven't contacted the group who is organizing the trip about making a through ticket, but I highly suspect they will decline that.  They are doing hundreds of these trips each summer, I can't imagine they have the time or the resources (it's a non profit group) to handle bookings for every person to the departure city for that trip.  I'm not at all concerned about getting him there in time.  There were plenty of flights going from east to west.  Coming home is the problem so at least if things go awry we only have a domestic ticket to deal with.  

 

The only direct flights are on United to an airport 3-4 hours from us (without rush hour traffic) and are only about $100-$150 cheaper than the flight to the airport about 7 minutes from us.  So we've pretty much bounced the direct flight option for multiple reasons including, well, it's United, we'd really rather not have him use them if we can avoid it.

 

I think we will end up on Delta.  It seems the best choice once we allow for a longer layover between flights in SFO.

 

You're welcome.  I would use the airport 7 minutes from where you live.   :hurray:    If the group has a Travel Agency doing this for them and you contact them and they can do this for you, they will make more Commission and your DS will be in better shape, if something goes awry, if the entire trip is on one ticket.  

 

Probably everything will be perfect, but sometimes things go horribly wrong. 

 

The origin flight, from your Home airport to the Final Destination is the critical part of this. If he should miss his flight from SFO to the Final Destination, he will be in deep stuff.  I would even consider sending him the day before and having him stay in a Hotel near SFO with free transportation from the airport to the property and back to the airport, if you are going to do this with separate tickets.     If he gets screwed up on the return trip, that's trivial.

 

We like Delta. I have a good impression of Jet Blue however we have never flown with them because they do not serve our home airport (Cali). Ivanka Trump and her family flew on Jet Blue, so it must be fairly decent and they were in the Coach Cabin.  

 

Probably the best in-flight service I have ever seen on a U.S. Flag airline was on Delta, from Atlanta to Bogota. I was astonished.  The service was every bit as good as it would be on Avianca, the largest Colombian carrier.  That crew (in Coach) worked so very hard, to provide outstanding service to their passengers.

 

So, I would vote for Delta, if the schedules and fares are competitive.  I think you wrote this is 11 weeks off, which is Summer, so I would book it now and think about other things.

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Follow-on to my Post #31:   I like my suggestion, that you consider  him going to SFO, the day before he is scheduled for the Outbound International flight (which I believe is Trans-Pacific).  This would cost some $, but it might possibly save a huge amount of money, if he were to fly to SFO, the same day of his Outbound International flight and missed his flight.  This would be even more important if his Outbound International flight involves a very large group that has Chartered an aircraft, or received a big discount from the airline, because of the size of the group.   He must not miss that Outbound International flight...  We have gone to Bogota the day before, and paid for a Hotel room and meals, to be sure we are there...Sometimes, it is better, for peace of mind, to pay more, and have a better chance of things not getting totally screwed up.

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Follow-on to my Post #31:   I like my suggestion, that you consider  him going to SFO, the day before he is scheduled for the Outbound International flight (which I believe is Trans-Pacific).  This would cost some $, but it might possibly save a huge amount of money, if he were to fly to SFO, the same day of his Outbound International flight and missed his flight.  This would be even more important if his Outbound International flight involves a very large group that has Chartered an aircraft, or received a big discount from the airline, because of the size of the group.   He must not miss that Outbound International flight...  We have gone to Bogota the day before, and paid for a Hotel room and meals, to be sure we are there...Sometimes, it is better, for peace of mind, to pay more, and have a better chance of things not getting totally screwed up.

 

The problem with an overnight stay of any kind is that DS is 19 and the majority of hotels will not let people under 21 (or perhaps it is 25) reserve/check into a room.  Despite being a legal adult they are not legally able to enter into a contractual financial agreement such as renting a room.  I don't really understand it all but my sister is very knowledgable in this kind of stuff and has at times had to travel 3-4 hours to check her same age boys into a hotel because the hotels will not let them do it themselves because of their age.  

 

So sending him the day before just means he is hanging out in the airport for 24+ hours.  That would do nothing to ease my concern about sending him on this trip.

 

His group is one of the smallest going (I think it's around 15), another group is going to Malawi and that was has close to 50, and then there is another 6-8 international trips plus 6-8  domestic trips.  So while the non-profit handling this is sending hundreds a year, the group to each location isn't that big.  So while they probably do have some kind of group rate, it's not like they chartered an entire plane.  

 

I haven't booked yet, but right now it looks like he will be spending 36+ hours in airports waiting or flying on top of all the jet lag.  He is going to be exhausted and I'm just hoping he doesn't fall asleep in the airport after separating from the group and miss his flights home, but since he can't rent a hotel room we don't have much choice on this.

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Hmmm. Yes I believe the Timeshare we stayed in last April has a minimum age requirement and they also require a credit card at check-in even though the stay is paid for in case of damage or charges to the unit. He should get with the other people in his group in SFO ASAP so they are together in case someone falls asleep. Again the critical thing is that he must not miss his flight from SFO to the international destination.

 

Sent from my SM-G355M using Tapatalk

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I am not sure if there are different laws in California, but my children have rented hotel rooms at that age.  The only time I have seen an issue is when it is a beach-type location at spring break or some other reason why the hotel does not want a group of partying students.  

 

I have booked international travel for between 10 and 25 students before.  Each time there were different rules regarding the group travel (and group travel was often not a discount, we usually could get individual tickets cheaper).  Sometimes, a certain number of people in the group were allowed to alter their departure/arrival airport without any penalty to the group.  Sometime there was a small fee for doing so, in addition to any ticket charges.  Sometimes that still came out less than purchasing two separate tickets.

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I'm coming to this late, but just want to add that if you (or anyone) wants to book with Southwest, feel free to do so.  If you find the price goes down later I'm pretty sure you can book again with canceling the first one (and getting Southwest credit for it).  That credit is good for one year.  If you travel often, it'll get used.  If not, then it's probably not a good choice.

 

Most of the time I've seen Southwest's flights go UP in cost, not down, but sometimes sale prices can get pretty attractive too.

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I believe the issue for young people staying in hotels or renting cars has to do with them having had hotel rooms trashed and rental cars wrecked, way out of proportion to the percentage of customers who are in that age group.  Possibly the OP can check that out, since the departure is as i recall 11 weeks out.   Possibly send a FAX (free) via FaxZero.com or some other web site to a few properties near SFO and explain why this young traveler would like to stay overnight near SFO, ahead of the group departure from SFO on the outbound International segment, which is critical.  

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Have you check to see if there will be anyone else in the group who is in a similar situation?  If you could coordinate flight arrangements with that person, it would give your son someone else to be with.  Also, if the organization arranges this for hundreds of young people, I would suggest contacting them for suggestions of what they have seen work in the past.  Even though they may not make the arrangements for you, they are probably aware of local hotels that will be accommodating should there be a problem with the flights.

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I think more people must be purchasing the early bird check in these days. I purchased it when both dc were flying alone and they ended up in the B group on the way home. I was annoyed.

 

More people are. Its really a hassle saving and you aren't paying for luggage, so just price it into the ticket.  Southwest is worth it even with this.

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