TRAVEL with pat and lew

Archive for the ‘planes’ Category

* CDW … why is this so difficult?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 26, 2008

I had made a car rental reservation, for 8 days in Sicily, with Hertz, some time ago, making sure to exclude collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance. The reason for this is that CDW is provided by Citibank, if I pay for the car rental using my MasterCard, but Citibank’s 100% coverage is invalidated if I also purchase CDW (with a deductible) from the car rental company. So buying CDW from Hertz would mean spending more money for less coverage. I made this mistake once before and I am very careful to avoid it again.

Two days before we left, while I was on the web looking for an address for the Trapani airport to plug into our GPS, I saw an ad for car rentals in Trapani by a booking company called, with which I was previously unaware. I clicked on the ad, found a NYC phone number, booked a car rental in Trapani (with Europecar) for roughly 50% of the Hertz price. I was absolutely clear about no CDW, and was assured that CDW was excluded from my contract.

Argus sent email contract confirmations to me, two times, but I did not receive them. I asked them to send it to Pat; she did not get it either. We are having some sort of email problem, involving blocked emails, and have not been able to determine if it is Comcast or which is the culprit. That is a story for another day.

I looked up the Argus reservation on their web site; it was there, but without any details. I called Argus, and they gave me the Europecar confirmation number, without which Europecar will not release the car. I cancelled the Hertz reservation.

Then, nervous about not having a full written confirmation, I asked Argus to send the confirmation to Pat’s daughter; we simultaneously asked Kerry to forward the email to us. That procedure worked fine.

However, when I read the Argus confirmation, it said CDW included. I called and was given totally incorrect information by two Argus agents, who insisted that I didn’t have CDW even though the contract said I did. There is a second level CDW insurance, which covers the deductible, and they were saying that since I didn’t have the ‘super’ CDW insurance, I had no CDW insurance. I got a number for Europecar HQ in Ireland and called them.

(thank you, Skype, for making all these international calls so inexpensive.)

Europecar immediately confirmed that they did not offer car rentals in Trapani without CDW coverage. I would have to cancel the reservation. But, would I be able to get another car from Hertz, or anybody, without CDW. A call to Hertz international reservations resolved the problem. And, my happy ending was enhanced by the fact that the new Hertz reservation was $300 less than the one I had previously cancelled. The original reservation was for an intermediate car, since no compact was available. This time, I was able to book a compact at the lower price. Also, maybe last-minute reservations, if a car is available, are discounted. Something to keep in mind.

Post script. When I picked up our car from Hertz in Trapani, the contract included CDW, although the price did not. ALWAYS READ THE CONTRACT !!!  After a brief discussion, Hertz corrected the contract to exclude CDW. The car is a Ford Fusion 5 door square back, which I think is not a compact.

As I drive this too-large car, through the narrow, twisting streets of Taormina, with crazy Italian drivers and motor scooters constantly passing me on the right, noticing that most of the other cars have dents large and small, I am very happy I was persistent enough, and fortunate enough, to retain my 100% Citibank CDW coverage.


Posted in ... 2008, planes, problems | 1 Comment »

* let down by Budget Car Rental in Rouen

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 25, 2007

On our way to Normandy, we train and taxi to the Budget location which is not at the station. We resolve to favor, from now on, car rental companies which are at the station. For this and other reasons, we’re beginning to re-think my choice of Budget as our car rental company.

The next hour provides much more reason to do so.

Our car is waiting for us. While doing the paperwork, I repeat that we are declining the collision insurance (covering damages to our rental car) since this coverage is provided by our Citibank MasterCard. I then say, offhandedly, that I understand the liability insurance (covering damage to other property and persons) is automatically included in French car rentals, which I have been told by Budget US when making the reservation.

The local Budget manager says this is not true, and if we want 3rd party liability insurance, it will cost 25 euros per day, 100 euros total for the 4 day rental. I protest, and ask him to call Budget in the US to resolve the question. Instead, he calls a friend of his who speaks better English, and after several interchanges between the friend, the manager, and me, he reluctantly agrees to call Budget’s main French office in Paris.

I explain the issue to the English speaking person, who says she thinks I am correct, but will check with her supervisor to be sure. She leaves me on hold so long I think we’re cut off, and I ask the local manager to call again.

Instead he calls the friend.

As you can imagine, this has taken a long time – we’ve now been waiting for 30 minutes with all these phone calls, and everyone is getting aggravated. Finally, the manager again calls Budget in Paris, and remarkably, I speak to the same woman, who tells me I’m correct, that 3rd party liability insurance is included in all French car rentals without separate charge.

So it’s now clear that the local Budget manager was trying to charge me 100 euros ($140.00) for something he knew, or should have known, I did not need.

OK, now to the car, which upon inspection, is filthy.

All that time on the phone, the manager did not see fit to make sure the car was cleaned. We wait another 15 minutes while the attendant cleans the inside of the car. By then, we say enough and decline the exterior cleaning.

When we return the car four days later, our charge sheet includes the CDW insurance we had specifically and explicitly declined, and some other charges. I’m furious. The desk clerk calls someone (the manager?) and the charges are removed. I get copies of both charge sheets so I can later document my complaint letter to Budget. We also decide to cancel all remaining Budget reservations (Ireland, Italy, Key West, etc, etc, and do business with another car rental company.

Posted in ... 2007, planes, problems | Leave a Comment »

US Air sent our luggage where?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 12, 2007

We’re flying from Key West to Philadelphia, the prime reason being the graduation from grad school of Pat’s son. Of course, the clothes for the ceremony, as well as the weekend of busy events with all six of our children before we leave for France next week for over 5 months, are all in our one suitcase.

We check in and the ticket agent places a luggage tag on the suitcase.

Prompted long ago by something Pat read and told me about, I ask, “Does that tag say Philadelphia?”

“Yes,” answers the agent without looking, as another US Air person grabs the bag and starts to put it on the conveyor belt.

“Don’t take that bag,” I say, loudly enough to attract the attention of everyone in the general area. This irritates him, but I could care less. “Show me the bag,” I add.

He turns it so I can see.

“What does BDL stand for?” I ask, reading the destination on the luggage ticket.

“Hartford, Connecticut.”

I turn, furious, to the ticket agent. “Did I ask you what the ticket said? Did you say Philadelphia?”

She changes the ticket (she had switched luggage tags with the agent standing next to her) but never apologizes. When she’s done, I insist on seeing the suitcase again.

The point is not that she made a mistake. Mistakes happen.

The point is that travelers must check every single time to avoid the impact of losing your bags, for a few hours, a few days, or forever.

Do the airline personnel get irritated when you do that? Sure. Do I care? Not one whit.

Posted in ... 2007, planes, problems | Leave a Comment »

packing for 5 months abroad

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 22, 2007

What can possibly be interesting about packing?

Well, consider that we’re going to be away for five months, and need to think through everything we’ll need, while balancing our needs against ever-changing airline luggage restrictions.

We’ve received many different answers from American Airlines to the same questions about luggage. We finally decide who and what to believe and write down the particulars in case someone else decides differently when we actually check in.

We have scales, in pounds in Key West and kilos in Collioure. Put something in, take something out. Will the airline’s scale give the same result as ours?

We’re trying to anticipate the weather in all of the places we’ll be, including Australia in what will be spring for them in October. Our plan is to leave much of what we take this year in Collioure so we won’t have to take it again next year.


Posted in ... 2006, planes, trains & automobiles | Leave a Comment »