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  #1  
Old November 12th, 2013, 01:32 PM
dewey089 dewey089 is offline
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Default Avoid having Viking do the airfare

We had a fine trip last year in Southern France. The river boat cruise could not have been better.
So we jumped at a sale to go along the Northern Portugal river in mid-December.

We usually drive to Florida from NY for the winter. We decided to drive down, leave our packed van with friends, fly to Lisbon, have three days there and then a week on the cruise. And then come back for our winter in Florida.

Viking booked the air for us.
But they would not tell us the details of that flight until the last minute.

They knew the details two months ago. We got them yesterday, with some begging.

Here is the Itinerary:

Tampa to Dulles Wash DC to Munich to Lisbon.
Quite a round-a-bout way. It is going to be a long trip.

Well, it is a not open for any negotiation, and I guess I understand that, but get this absurdity.

We could leave our van in Washington DC and just take the Washington DC to Munich and Munich to Lisbon legs. We'd come back to DC and finish the drive to Tampa.
Seems reasonable. No real change in anything except we free up a seat for some other passenger from Tampa to Washington and later from Washington to Tampa. For the same money the airline gets to add a customer on those legs on both the flight over and the flight back. Should be win-win for every one.

Nope!

It would cost us $350 each to make that change. $350 to not fly quite so much.

Nuts, huh?

So next time we'll just wander over to Europe on our own and meet the boat. On the boat, Viking is all about the customer, at least that was our one time experience. But booking air they are all about bureaucratic obscurity and absurdity.

And they seem to want us to spread the good word. Well, we will. We talk to a lot of travelers. I even do a bit of freelance travel writing. So, I'll get this out to a few thousand folks. Starting here.

Last edited by dewey089; November 12th, 2013 at 01:36 PM.
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  #2  
Old November 12th, 2013, 02:42 PM
travelfirst travelfirst is offline
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Viking booked our flights twice (to Europe and China) and both flights were great. They also booked our flights for this week and gave us good flights.
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  #3  
Old November 12th, 2013, 03:07 PM
worldspan worldspan is offline
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You are obviously upset about the fee. All airlines to Europe charge a minimum of $300 to change a ticket now plus possible additional fare if the new fare is higher than your old fare.

Bottom line, their fee to you was totally legit.

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  #4  
Old November 12th, 2013, 03:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travelfirst View Post
Viking booked our flights twice (to Europe and China) and both flights were great. They also booked our flights for this week and gave us good flights.
Same with us: always good flights and connections.
Frankly speaking I do not quite understand the complaint above:
1. Multi-city itinerary is almost always more expensive than round-trip. So round-trip TPA-LIS is going to cost less than IAD-LIS, LIS-TPA.
2. If tickets are already booked and paid changing the flights will require extra money.
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  #5  
Old November 12th, 2013, 03:30 PM
jiminyC_fan jiminyC_fan is offline
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Great flights for us as well but we were able to choose our flights ahead of time. If I remember correctly, we paid a surcharge to do that and it worked out great. I compared if I booked myself or used Viking air and Viking saved us BIG TIME.
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  #6  
Old November 12th, 2013, 03:36 PM
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Turtles06 Turtles06 is offline
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Welcome to Cruise Critic. I'm not quite sure exactly what your problem is with Viking, as opposed to with airlines and their absurd change fees and other rules. Are there flights that would have worked better to Lisbon from Florida? Did you pay for Custom Air with Viking so you could talk to a human being and tell them the flights you wanted? If not, a computer will spit out the flights and they will not necessarily be the most convenient for you personally or the ones you personally would have chosen.
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  #7  
Old November 12th, 2013, 04:54 PM
dewey089 dewey089 is offline
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Okay, I'll try again.

We could not pay extra and pick our flight for this particular trip. Custom air was not available. We did that when going to France. This time it was not an option if Viking arranged the air.

One complaint is that Viking does not release the route of the air trip until 3 weeks before the flight. Our AAA travel agent managed to get it a bit earlier, so we could get in our heads how long the flight would take. They have known about it for 60 days. Why is it a secret?
And even if we did not have custom air, it seems just common courtesy for Viking to let us know the itinerary before they book it. Then we have options open. So why book the air with Viking in the first place?

If I book directly with an airline, I know where I am going when I book the flight, and I'd have been able to offer this creative alternative before the no change trip was booked.

So, we did not know the flight options before being ticketed. I'm suggesting folks may not want to put themselves in that position.

Once I found out that from Tampa we were flying to Washington, my simple, common sense solution was simply to not be on the first leg of the journey, the leg from Tampa to Washington. We could drive that leg later after the cruise. It costs no one anything. So, maybe that is where the absurdity of the airlines thinking takes over.

We are not allowed to miss the first leg of the journey, all other flight schedules remaining the same. Seems very silly.

So, perhaps you folks are right that it is an airlines issue rather than a Viking issue. However, before booking again I'll want to know where the plane is going. So I won't be doing the booking with Viking when custom air is unavailable.

We will not rebook this particular flight. The airlines will not get any more money. We'll drive the full distance to Tampa and fly in and out of there. It will cost us four more hours of our time in the air. It will cost the airline money to fly us Tampa to Washington, Washington to Tampa when after collecting the same price from us, they could sell that leg of the journey to someone else.

I can understand fees when they amount to rescheduling. Here they just amount to not using what we pay for. I is like suggesting to the waiter that we don't need all four rolls at lunch, but just two.

Id Est: No , you did not understand what I was talking about. And clearly direct flights are not always the cheapest, because looking for the cheapest, Viking did not book us direct from Tampa to Lisbon, but gave us a very roundabout flight through Washington and then Germany to Lisbon. Tampa to Lisbon would have been a treat.
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  #8  
Old November 12th, 2013, 06:04 PM
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id est id est is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dewey089 View Post
Okay, I'll try again.

We could not pay extra and pick our flight for this particular trip. Custom air was not available. We did that when going to France. This time it was not an option if Viking arranged the air.
I thought custom air is always available if you require it at least 2-3 months in advance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dewey089 View Post
One complaint is that Viking does not release the route of the air trip until 3 weeks before the flight. Our AAA travel agent managed to get it a bit earlier, so we could get in our heads how long the flight would take. They have known about it for 60 days. Why is it a secret?
Not a secret. They do release it about 60 days in advance. Could be your TA just forgot to email it to you in time?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dewey089 View Post
And even if we did not have custom air, it seems just common courtesy for Viking to let us know the itinerary before they book it. Then we have options open. So why book the air with Viking in the first place?

If I book directly with an airline, I know where I am going when I book the flight, and I'd have been able to offer this creative alternative before the no change trip was booked.

So, we did not know the flight options before being ticketed. I'm suggesting folks may not want to put themselves in that position.
We did know that on all our Viking cruises. Actually custom air was also offered to us but we declined since the flight schedule was excellent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dewey089 View Post
Id Est: No , you did not understand what I was talking about. And clearly direct flights are not always the cheapest, because looking for the cheapest, Viking did not book us direct from Tampa to Lisbon, but gave us a very roundabout flight through Washington and then Germany to Lisbon. Tampa to Lisbon would have been a treat.
Unfortunately cheapest flights almost always have many legs.
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2012 -- Viking Primadonna 'Passage to Eastern Europe'
2013 -- Viking Odin 'Tulips & Windmills'
2013 -- Viking Lomonosov 'Footsteps of the Cossacks'
2013 -- Viking Spirit 'Paris & the Heart of Normandy'
2014 -- Viking Schumann 'Elegant Elbe'
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  #9  
Old November 12th, 2013, 06:12 PM
CantanaLobo CantanaLobo is offline
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"So why book the air with Viking in the first place? "

Cruise air routing roulette is not an issue specific to Viking. See http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=530322.

As one wag put it: "Time, patience and money to spare... fly cruise air!"

As for the fees, the airlines love to charge people that change their minds. Either beforehand with a fully refundable/no change fee ticket (check out Y-class fares sometime ) or after ticketing via the change fees. They'll also charge you to standby for an earlier flight on day of departure if you happen to get to the airport early (unless you have status). I'm surprised they don't charge you to change your seat assignments.

Be that as it may, I'm glad you enjoyed your cruise. You won't make the same gamble with regards to letting the cruise line pick your routing on your next cruise, so that one will be even better.
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  #10  
Old November 12th, 2013, 07:08 PM
PoofCat99 PoofCat99 is online now
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Default Hidden city

Since you are booked Tampa to D.C. to your final destination, skipping the first leg you are doing what is called hidden city ticketing. This is against the terms & conditions of all airlines. If you don't show up for your first flight, all subsequent legs will be cancelled including your return. I don't know if there are nonstops from Tampa to your destination, or if you could have asked when you booked, but most cruise companies seem to use connecting flights as the are usually cheaper.
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  #11  
Old November 12th, 2013, 07:28 PM
dewey089 dewey089 is offline
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Well, thanks for all the comments and clarifications. It will all go well I suppose, if the airlines don't lose our luggage. Five flights in a row they lost them. But never domestically on Southwest.
We have those three days in Lisbon to let the bags catch up to us from Tampa or Washington or Munich.

Once on the boat, I fully expect there will be no issues whatsoever.

When we do another such cruise, I think we'll just find an early way to Europe and wander on our own to the ship. This time we could have had an easy flight from Boston to the Azores, spent some time there, and then gone into Lisbon from there. A better plan.

Nice to find the board. Happy traveling.
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  #12  
Old November 12th, 2013, 07:53 PM
DeeDC DeeDC is offline
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By the time we paid Viking $50 each way for a "specific" airline and then $100 for early/late dates we were better off booking ourselves.

We had been misinformed by our TA or Viking that different dates and specified airline would be $50 each way. We will know next time and we are hoping there will not be a delay getting our refund for the Viking air of $1095 that we paid 3 months ago!
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  #13  
Old November 12th, 2013, 08:09 PM
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Turtles06 Turtles06 is offline
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OP: I hope you'll be able to put this behind you and enjoy your trip.

We were just in Lisbon for part of a day two weeks ago as the last European port on a westbound TA. It's a beautiful and interesting city and I think you'll have a great time.
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USNS Bartlett -- Transpacific (San Diego to Jakarta) (summer 1971)
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  #14  
Old November 12th, 2013, 09:48 PM
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When we booked our upcoming Christmas Market cruise for the week before Christmas, one of the deals offered was $398 RT pp airfare. We usually like the "control" offered in booking our own air, but this offer was too good to pass up and the savings ended up covering our two day extension after the cruise. Before booking we read the fine print and knew in advance that we could not use custom air, nor would we receive airline mileage for the flights. Based upon the fare, neither was a deal breaker for us. We also knew that we would not know our flights until 90 days before departure at the earliest, but since out of our control and Viking transfers included, didn't bother us. Our biggest concern was we'd be routed through JFK. We ended up receiving our flights 90 days prior to our cruise and ended up being the exact same flights we would have chosen ourselves (including a non-stop on the return) for about three times less than it would have cost to book on our own. Needless to say, we are pleased with how it worked out for us.
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Old November 12th, 2013, 11:53 PM
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Cruise Air flights are almost always multi-leg journeys (so I hear) and less desirable than the choices you would make yourself. They are based on the bargain-basement rates the cruise lines get from the airlines, which is why you can't change anything.

That's also why the refund for not taking "free" air is so low -- the price they are paying for your ticket is way below market.
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  #16  
Old November 15th, 2013, 07:16 PM
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Dear dewey089,

We’re sorry to hear of your frustration. It sounds like some of our own policies, as well as the airline’s policies, possibly could have been explained a little better, and for that we apologize. We’d like to speak with you and hope you will contact us at TellUs@vikingcruises.com so we can have a member of our team reach out to you. We understand planning a vacation should be a fun and exciting experience and we hope you will contact us so we can discuss your concerns and get you back on track to looking forward to your trip!

Sincerely,
Viking Cruises



Quote:
Originally Posted by dewey089 View Post
We had a fine trip last year in Southern France. The river boat cruise could not have been better.
So we jumped at a sale to go along the Northern Portugal river in mid-December.

We usually drive to Florida from NY for the winter. We decided to drive down, leave our packed van with friends, fly to Lisbon, have three days there and then a week on the cruise. And then come back for our winter in Florida.

Viking booked the air for us.
But they would not tell us the details of that flight until the last minute.

They knew the details two months ago. We got them yesterday, with some begging.

Here is the Itinerary:

Tampa to Dulles Wash DC to Munich to Lisbon.
Quite a round-a-bout way. It is going to be a long trip.

Well, it is a not open for any negotiation, and I guess I understand that, but get this absurdity.

We could leave our van in Washington DC and just take the Washington DC to Munich and Munich to Lisbon legs. We'd come back to DC and finish the drive to Tampa.
Seems reasonable. No real change in anything except we free up a seat for some other passenger from Tampa to Washington and later from Washington to Tampa. For the same money the airline gets to add a customer on those legs on both the flight over and the flight back. Should be win-win for every one.

Nope!

It would cost us $350 each to make that change. $350 to not fly quite so much.

Nuts, huh?

So next time we'll just wander over to Europe on our own and meet the boat. On the boat, Viking is all about the customer, at least that was our one time experience. But booking air they are all about bureaucratic obscurity and absurdity.

And they seem to want us to spread the good word. Well, we will. We talk to a lot of travelers. I even do a bit of freelance travel writing. So, I'll get this out to a few thousand folks. Starting here.
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  #17  
Old November 16th, 2013, 08:46 AM
rjscott rjscott is online now
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When we are ready to book our air, our TA gets a Viking Air rep on the phone with me to discuss the air arrangements and the costs of using Custom Air. The Viking reps we have spoken with both times have been very patient and well-informed and answered all my questions to my satisfaction. My TA was on the phone to help facilitate and also to ask any questions I may have forgotten to ask. We did this process for both Viking cruises we have booked airfare for so far, and we'll do it for our 2015 cruise as well. It's not that I'm a slow learner about these things, , but rather that I don't want to assume that nothing has changed since the last time I booked With Viking. It seems to me that so many disappointments could be avoided if there were fewer "assumptions".
Fully armed with information, I did book Viking Custom Air for our first cruise, and was completely satisfied. For our upcoming cruise, we chose to book the air on our own.
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  #18  
Old November 16th, 2013, 09:33 AM
DeeDC DeeDC is offline
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Great idea for a 3way call.
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Old November 16th, 2013, 09:41 AM
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Our recent Viking cruise (booked directly with them) a few weeks ago, using Viking's air arrangements went without a hitch. Normally, I would always do our own flights, using award mileage which is what we did on our first Viking cruise a few years ago. We opted for a special offering of free air and expected and prepared ourselves for the worse with multiple stops before we got to Amsterdam. When I was booking the trip, I asked how the flights were determined and our agent said they try to do their best to get the best routes available. We received our flight info about 60 days out ( which is what we were told from Viking) and were thrilled that we had direct flights to Amsterdam and back from Zurich. We had the choice of 3 east coast airports with that offer, all of which was in a 2-3 hour drive which is what we would have to do anyway from where we live. In reading allot of comments on this thread and others, it seems to me that there is miscommunication through TA's...having said this, I also heard mumblings from other passengers, unhappy with their flight arrangements, I think we just got lucky and our accessibility to some major international airports (even though they are a couple of hours away) helped eliminate some legs in our journey.
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Old November 16th, 2013, 10:57 PM
MisterBill99 MisterBill99 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PoofCat99 View Post
Since you are booked Tampa to D.C. to your final destination, skipping the first leg you are doing what is called hidden city ticketing. This is against the terms & conditions of all airlines. If you don't show up for your first flight, all subsequent legs will be cancelled including your return. I don't know if there are nonstops from Tampa to your destination, or if you could have asked when you booked, but most cruise companies seem to use connecting flights as the are usually cheaper.
Correct. I'm in the NYC area, but the last two times we've flown to Europe, I have found cheaper airfare by flying out of Philly. The first time, the routing was PHL back to JFK and then non-stop to Barcelona. Coming back, our flight from Venice was non-stop to JFK, then a puddle jumper to PHL. For that one, we obviously had to drive to PHL but I took a rental car and when we got back to JFK on the return trip, we just exited to the terminal instead of rechecking our luggage and I had a rental car waiting for me. You can't ski[p the first flight, but you can skip the last one.

The second time we flew from PHL we weren't as lucky, and our connections were thru Detroit, so I had to drive home from PHL.

In any event, I can understand OP being upset about the 2 connecting flights, but blaming Viking for the $350 is completely wrong. And it's entirely possible that flying from DC would have cost more than flying from Tampa.
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Last edited by MisterBill99; November 16th, 2013 at 10:58 PM.
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