Choice Air: Helpful Information

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#1
Boca Raton, FL
18,843 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
Hi Everyone !

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Troy Martin, Director of Travel Services for Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. Troy shared with me what his team has been working on, with their guest air programs for Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean. He said that if the opportunity came up to share what we discussed, that he would be glad to get the word out - and would also be happy to answer any follow up questions. Here's what I learned:


Background

In 2009 Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International rolled out a new air program called ChoiceAir, that was a major departure from the traditional cruise air programs. The drivers behind the new program were to improve customer experience and to adopt a model more consistent with today's more internet savvy consumers - and airlines. ChoiceAir was designed for travelers who make their purchases online at airline and consumer travel websites. It gives them visibility to all of the airlines' schedules and fares that are published, as well as some private negotiated fares on those same flights. The Cruise lines' guests are able to select their flights, study the fare rules, request special services, receive frequent flyer credit, and assign their seats. While this seems fairly basic for a travel website, prior to 2009... none of this was available when purchasing through a cruise line. Choice Air is currently offered in the US and Canada, though the company is evaluating opportunities for all of its international offices as well. In addition to booking ChoiceAir through your travel agent, you can go on the site and book your own. Two of the key value propositions are that the fares are very competitive, and the company provides their Assured Arrival Service. Since both of these offerings have been the topic of several Cruise Critic threads, Troy shared his insights on what is entailed.

Competitive Fares

RCCL offers nearly all of the same fares offered on consumer and airline websites - typically referred to as published fares, and some web fares. As is typical on the various websites, occasionally you will find a lower fare on one that is not available on the other. This is usually due to timing and airline inventory fluctuations, but for the most part you will see parity. On many routes, you will also find some special RCCL rates that have been negotiated with the airlines. These rates are especially good when shopping closer in, traveling internationally - and even more-so on open jaw (Fly into one city and out of a different city) or one way trips, when many published fares are more expensive. So while there may be some anomalies, you will typically find the same published fares - or better - on ChoiceAir. A frequent topic on Cruise Critic is the value and challenges with Consolidator tickets/fares. Those are not available through ChoiceAir. All ChoiceAir fares carry the standard airline rules, and even the contracted ones are similar. The travelers have all of the airline and RCCL services available to them, and are subject to the airlines rules and restrictions. Troy specifically emphasized that RCCL does not use consolidator-type fares.

ChoiceAir: Assured Arrival

RCCL is very interested in ensuring you get to your Cruise, and takes advantage of knowing your travel arrangements to monitor your flights, intervening when possible to avert delays due to airline schedule changes, delays, and cancellations. When they are unable to act pre-emptively, they will continue to work with the traveler and airline to find an alternate route - even on another airline - at no additional cost to the guest. This service includes getting the guest to the original embarkation port, or the next available port whenever it is practical. They cover the modified airline ticket, hotels en route (when necessary) and ground transfers. At times, there is controversy over whether this is a guarantee. The truth is... it's not a guarantee. If there are massive flight cancellations for many days due to natural disasters, or if there are simply no commercial seats available that will enable them to re-route, they clearly will not be able to make it happen. If there are government regulations (Jones Act) that preclude the guest from joining in another port (Most often an issue for Alaska, Hawaii, and New England/Canada sailings), they will not be able to help. However, in the vast majority of the situations when flights are delayed or canceled due to weather and mechanicals, the company has been able to get the guest to the ship to enjoy most or all of their Cruise vacation. This is not insurance or a guarantee, but an additional service provided exclusively for guests who book air with them. The benefit to the customer is they have a point of contact if things go wrong, they do not have to spend any money up-front, or file a claim to take advantage of the service.

Who owns ChoiceAir ?

There is a misconception that ChoiceAir is either a 3rd party website or fulfillment agency. This is not the case. It is a department within RCCL using RCCL technology, and the types of reservations systems used by travel agencies, airlines, and consumer sites around the world.

ChoiceAir is a great option for "Do-it-Yourselfers"

Troy mentioned that many travel agencies are happy to book ChoiceAir for their customers, and that it is also a great option for people who prefer to "do their own air..." With ChoiceAir, you can shop other sites for pricing and, when ChoiceAir provides comparable or better value, you should feel very comfortable that you will get even more service thana consolidator, consumer site, or even the airline themselves.


I hope you find Troy's information helpful. If you have questions, please post on this thread, and I will forward your questions to Troy for his response. Please do not ask questions pertaining to your specific booking. Please be patient, as questions will be answered when time permits. Thank you !
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#2
shasta, ca
1,642 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
Hi Azamara Cruise Followers,

I’m so fortunate to be working with Host Andy on Cruise Critic. He does a remarkable job managing the Azamara forum and is passionate about our brand. Because I’m in California and he’s located in South Florida, we’re fortunate that he’s been able to make “field trips” to Azamara’s headquarters at the Royal Caribbean campus in Miami to gather in-depth information. You’ve seen his thread following his meeting with our itinerary planner.

Now, following his meeting with Troy Martin, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd’s Director of Air/Sea & Travel Services his thread - “Choice Air: Helpful Information”- I’m sure we’ll all have a better understanding of this exclusive and unique way to involve yourself in managing your flight arrangements.

I know that I did.

Thanks Andy, for going above and beyond!

Regards,

Bill Leiber
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Azamara Club Cruises
(*CBO is an authorized and compensated representative of ACC)
#3
Rancho Mirage, CA
754 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Thanks, Andy, this is extremely informative. As I've posted several times, I booked through ChoiceAir at a small discount to what was offered on the carrier directly. When I decided to do a B2B, they were very helpful in changing the return to a different city and date (ere were costs involved, but also would have been if I'd booked direct). The carrier later changed my flight and I was immediately contacted by Choice Air who rebooked me at no cost.

So far, I'm very pleased, and now also know about Assured Arrival!
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#4
1,960 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
I used choice air to book flights from the US to Barcelona and then from FLL back to my home airport, as I was doing a Med on Celebrity followed by a TA bacck to FLL. Choice Air gave me the best flights at the best cost, so I am very pleased. I recognize that everyone's situation is different, but I would always investigate Choice Air in the future. Your mileage may vary.
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Jim
#5
Florida
346 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
How do you access Choice Air? I was unable to find a link from your ..... web site. There isn't even a search function.
#6
4,944 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
I hope the next step is assistance with booking frequent flyer awards. Wouldn't that be something!!!!
I too appreciate the clarifications. As far as I can tell nothing has changed but it is an option to consider especially when going TATL or TPAC.
#7
19,916 Posts
Joined Dec 2006
Originally posted by alcpa1
I hope the next step is assistance with booking frequent flyer awards. Wouldn't that be something!!!!
I too appreciate the clarifications. As far as I can tell nothing has changed but it is an option to consider especially when going TATL or TPAC.
FFmile awards Azamara/RCCL is selling Cruise Air.
#8
Edinburgh
11,417 Posts
Joined Aug 2004
Originally posted by Jade13
FFmile awards Azamara/RCCL is selling Cruise Air.
Agree but would it not be good to be able to make an FF booking through the system ie that the system links through the airlines site for this sort of booking

However, being selfish before that I would like to see the product being made available in the UK, the pricing of flights looked at particularly for business class where the pricings have been plus 30% in my experience and issues of in flight seating resolved. That would really make Azamara a premium brand
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536 days onboard Celebrity and Azamara 2000-2017 and 102 more days booked plus one river cruise
#9
Cornwall, Ontario
5,419 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Hi Andy
Could you please ask if you have to cancel your cruise can you keep your Choice Air booking?
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#10
Florida
256 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Originally posted by Christine Frances
Hi Andy
Could you please ask if you have to cancel your cruise can you keep your Choice Air booking?
I cancelled a cruise this year when Egypt was taken off the itinerary. I had my TA tell Azamara that I was planning to use the ticket anyway. I had no problem at all and dealt directly with the airline to make any changes I needed. Took a land trip instead.
#11
19,916 Posts
Joined Dec 2006
Originally posted by bocatraveler09
I cancelled a cruise this year when Egypt was taken off the itinerary. I had my TA tell Azamara that I was planning to use the ticket anyway. I had no problem at all and dealt directly with the airline to make any changes I needed. Took a land trip instead.
Really? I was just going to ask that question. I was under the impression (actually says it under Choice Air) that if you cancel the trip your air gets cancelled too. I could understand that Azamara/RCCL does not want to be travel agent for an air booking that has nothing to do with their cruises (such as canceling and moving to another cruise line).

They must have worked this out so they released the booking back to the airline. When I called with questions the airline told me all chancges had to be made through Choice Air. The reason this came up was because one of us has air through Choice Air and one does not, and we needed to change both.

Perhaps in your case you made no changes and left the air exactly as is?

I would like to hear directly from Azamara/Choice Air (Andy) that someone can cancel a cruise with a Choice Air booking and even if the air is non-refundable the passenger can gain control over that booking, and move it somewhere that has nothing to do with the cruise.
#12
Boca Raton, FL
18,843 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
Hi Christine Frances & Jade !

FYI, I am in touch with Troy on your questions. I expect a response shortly.
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#13
Boca Raton, FL
18,843 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
Hi Jade & Christine Frances !

Here's Troy's reply :

==================================================

Christine Frances and Jade13 asked if you can keep your ChoiceAir ticket when you cancel your cruise. Our policy has evolved on this. If the guest has a non-refundable ticket, or a published fare with a penalty, we do not cancel it without guidance from the guest that they want to do that. We will re-book flights on their behalf and make any changes they request, while respecting any rules/restrictions imposed by the airline. In some cases, guests have worked directly with the airlines; however, it is not unusual for them to be referred back to us as their "agent" for the air.

If the guest purchased a fare that requires the ticket to be used in conjunction with our cruise, we will cancel the air and refund to the guest, less any penalties due to the airline. The website addresses this in "Frequently Asked Questions" regarding fares. Thanks to the posters comment, we became aware that the previous practice is still on the site as well, under a different question about service fees. We will update this shortly.
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#14
Boca Raton, FL
18,843 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
Originally posted by fla742
How do you access Choice Air? I was unable to find a link from your ..... web site. There isn't even a search function.
Hi Fla742 !

Here's the answer. You can use either of the two links below. If you want to view flights without logging in, use the "quick flight search only" tab.

www.azamaraclubcruises.com/choiceair

www.choiceair.com
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#15
Cornwall, Ontario
5,419 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Thanks Host Andy
I had called Choice Air before about this before and was told that if I had refundable air that they would cxl and credit if requested. If it was non refundable they would let me keep it if I wanted to do a land tour/make changes etc as it was my air booking and it could be done. I was told I was mistaken so I am glad this policy is still in effect. I will definitely look to Choice Air in the future.
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313 days @ sea


Apr 2/19 - 15 nt Connie - Best of India & Sri Lanka
Apr 17/19 - 15 nt Connie - Arabian Sea & Sue\ Canal


I have no "Cruise Control". The darn things just keep booking themselves!
#16
19,916 Posts
Joined Dec 2006
Originally posted by Host Andy
Hi Jade & Christine Frances !

Here's Troy's reply :

==================================================

Christine Frances and Jade13 asked if you can keep your ChoiceAir ticket when you cancel your cruise. Our policy has evolved on this. If the guest has a non-refundable ticket, or a published fare with a penalty, we do not cancel it without guidance from the guest that they want to do that. We will re-book flights on their behalf and make any changes they request, while respecting any rules/restrictions imposed by the airline. In some cases, guests have worked directly with the airlines; however, it is not unusual for them to be referred back to us as their "agent" for the air.

If the guest purchased a fare that requires the ticket to be used in conjunction with our cruise, we will cancel the air and refund to the guest, less any penalties due to the airline. The website addresses this in "Frequently Asked Questions" regarding fares. Thanks to the posters comment, we became aware that the previous practice is still on the site as well, under a different question about service fees. We will update this shortly.
Well, this is a very positive change! I know it was not possible just a few months ago. When did the new policy go into affect?
#17
Toronto, ON
371 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
Hello Host Andy

A question for you.

So I tried booking a flight/cruise with an internet agency the other night, and they told me that all flights booked with choiceair are non refundable, due for payment upfront, not with final booking due date.

I just went onto choice airs website and noticed that there are other options (refundable, and flex option- which is not due until final payment).

Is this information correct though....if I want to book air arrangements with Azamara and I want the non refundable option, I must pay upfront (even though the cruise itself will be only secured with a deposit) and that non refundable flights are not refunded if I decide to cancel the book prior to the final payment date? I know its a silly question, but I just want to know what my options are. Seems kinda silly to me to only secure a cuirse with a deposit, yet have to pay the full fare for the flight upfront, prior to being 100% certain about the cruise. I guess if that is the case, that is why the flex option would be best.
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#18
373 Posts
Joined May 2005
Hi Andy,
It's great to have you respondoing to travelers' questions.

We bought a special with Azamara for the Nov. 6 Athens to Venice cruise which includes our air from Memphis.

My question is: Will the flights be as direct as possible or will we have lots of connections or long hours in airports? Will we have any say in the routing? To my knowledge flights are not being booked with Choice Air.

Thanks,
June
#19
Toronto, ON
371 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
Just booked with Azamara,

Apparently choice air is an option, not a new program which replaces the old one? We booked mainly because we were offered a $1000 discount on flights, but these did not include choice air options. Our booking included classic flight arrangements- 60 day prior to departure ticketing, inflexible options, but guaranteed arrivals, we did get to book a hotel stay for a night prior which will help ensure we are booked and arrive to the San Juan the day before.

Didn't mind this option. As excited as we are to travel on this cruise, we needed the flexibility of cancelling potentially in the next month. The classic option allows us to book with a deposit, and still cancel the whole trip if needed prior to the final payment date. Made sense for us.

On top of it , there is really not much choice for flights from Toronto to SJU or on the way back from Barbados to Toronto.
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Past Cruises:

Adventure of the Seas- 2006- Carribean (East)
Explorer of the Seas- 2007- Carribean (West)
Celebrity Century- 2008- Carribean (east)
Costa Atlantica- 2009- Carribean (east)
Celebrity Summit- 2010- Bermuda
Celebrity Summit 2010- Carribean (South)
Norwegian Sun 2011- Carribean (West)
#20
Grand Island, NY
758 Posts
Joined Dec 2002
Originally posted by rothjer
Just booked with Azamara,

Apparently choice air is an option, not a new program which replaces the old one? We booked mainly because we were offered a $1000 discount on flights, but these did not include choice air options. Our booking included classic flight arrangements- 60 day prior to departure ticketing, inflexible options, but guaranteed arrivals, we did get to book a hotel stay for a night prior which will help ensure we are booked and arrive to the San Juan the day before.

Didn't mind this option. As excited as we are to travel on this cruise, we needed the flexibility of cancelling potentially in the next month. The classic option allows us to book with a deposit, and still cancel the whole trip if needed prior to the final payment date. Made sense for us.

On top of it , there is really not much choice for flights from Toronto to SJU or on the way back from Barbados to Toronto.
The lack of Choice Air must be a restriction on Canadian customers. The air discount is available as Choice Air when I look at the sale from a US based computer. This is just a data point since your air arrangements meet your requirements.

Art