Q: I just used 50,000 frequent flier miles to book a flight in business class from Hong Kong to San Francisco. Never having flown business before, what type of services can I expect? Online, I saw that there is an upper section, and a lower cabin section, both with business class seats. Can you tell me which would be best, and which section is safest and easier to exit, in case of mishaps (I always look for my escape route when I get on board)?
A: You're probably flying on a 747 in that case, and I'd opt for the upper deck, since there's less foot traffic and it's generally quieter and more "private." Don't worry, there are emergency escape slides from the upper deck and it's probably much easier to exit from the upper deck in the unlikely event of an emergency, since there are fewer passengers. It depends on the airline, but business class seats these days generally recline to a fully-flat, horizontal position, allowing for a more comfortable snooze, and you'll find a wider choice of meal options and more attentive service. But the main draw is a more comfortable seat. Asian-based airlines such as Singapore and Cathay Pacific generally offer a better experience than United, Delta, and Continental.
Q: I'm using up my frequent flier miles as fast as I can because they're getting impossible to use, plus they keep on adding fees and increasing the miles required for a "free" ticket. So I'm going to get rid of my airline credit cards and switch to "cash back" card. Which one do you recommend?
A: We like the Blue Cash Card from American Express, which gives you unlimited 5 percent cash back on purchases made at gas stations, grocery stores, and drug stores and 1.25 percent on everything else, once your spending reaches $6500.
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Q: Why do the airlines charge twice as much to fly one-way on international fares than they charge for a round-trip on the same route? What happens if we buy a round-trip ticket and simply toss the return ticket or cancel the return flight "due to sudden changes in our travel plans"? Will the airline sock us with the difference between round-trip and one-way?
A: To answer the first question: Because they can? It's probably because business travelers tend to use one-way fares more often than leisure travelers, and the airlines figure that business people can afford to pay more. It's unlikely that anything will happen if you don't use your return flight, but don't buy it through a travel agency, since the airline might indeed go after the agency for the fare difference. However, they won't hunt down an individual traveler who bought the fare on the airline's website.