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Coming Soon: Pay-to-go toilets on your next flight?!

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Friday, February 27, 2009

As airlines began dreaming up one fee after another last year, our running joke became, "What's next? Coin slots on the toilets?" Apparently, yes, that is what's next. Michael O'Leary, CEO of Irish low cost carrier Ryanair, expressed interest in the idea during an interview with the BBC this morning. Says Mr. O'Leary, "Not everyone uses the toilet on board one of our flights, but those who do could help reduce airfares for all passengers." Given the widespread abuse of carry-on allowances now that checked baggage fees are the norm, we shudder to think what effect a toilet fee might have. 

Anyhoo, just be sure to carry a few extra pounds in your pocket the next time you fly Ryanair, as a "meeting in the ladies room" will set you back a whole £1.

Other ideas being tossed around at Ryanair include scrapping airport check-in in favor of online check-ins only, and providing baggage drops. And beginning this October, the airline will introduce their first carry-on luggage only flights.

So, what do you think? Would you fly an airline with a pay-to-go toilet if it meant lower fares? Or is this the lamest idea you've ever heard? Comment below.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Categories: Airline Industry News


Continental sales to Europe

Posted by George Hobica on Thursday, February 26, 2009

Although we would never presume to predict where airfares are heading (we'll leave that for those with a more adventurous nature), we can tell you that airfares on many routes, both domestic and international, appear to have headed downward.

We recently saw, for example, peak summer travel from four cities (Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, and Houston) to Dublin for the very surprising tax-included price of $430 round-trip. That's for July and August travel on Delta. These fares may actually be available as you read this, and if they are you'll see them listed on our "to Dublin" fares page.

Why are Ohio and Houston to Dublin fares so cheap on Delta? Could it be that Delta isn't pleased that Continental launched a pretty decent sale for summer travel to Europe? Cleveland and Houston are, after all, Continental hubs. Hard to say. The Continental sale is in both economy and BusinessFirst, with fares starting at $325 each way plus tax in economy and $899 each way plus tax in BusinessFirst. For economy fares, purchase by March 11 and travel May 16 to September 12 with a 14 day advance purchase and a Saturday night stay and a maximum 30 day stay. For BusinessFirst fares, travel outbound June 28 to September 4 and complete travel by September 11 with a 60 day advance purchase.

Sample economy class fares with taxes include:

Newark/Amsterdam $960 RT

Newark/Brussels $897 RT

Newark/Dublin $569 RT

Newark/London Heathrow $806 RT

Newark/Oslo $883 RT

Newark/Rome $986 RT

While some folks might still not consider these fares cheap, for nonstop travel during peak summer they're quite a bit lower than they were last year at this time.
But the real deals are for spring travel through May 2. Take a look  at Continental's sale, which others are matching in select markets.  Newark/Paris for example is just $415 RT nonstop flights including tax. Continental isn't saying when this sale will end.


To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Europe/Africa/Middle East Airfares

$40 off with Spirit Airlines discount coupon

Posted by George Hobica on Thursday, February 26, 2009

You always get $10 off roundtrip when you book on Spirit's site (compared to, say, booking on Travelocity or anywhere else, plus you don't pay the booking fee imposed by third party sites, so you save even more). But by entering 50OFF in the promo code box on Spirit's site between now and midnight ET tonight, you'll get an additional $40 off the usual $10 discount.

This offer is valid for travel between Mar 3 and Mar 31.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Airfare Tips

Avoiding lost luggage blues

Posted by George Hobica on Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How can you avoid having your luggage lost and what should you do if it goes go astray?

Here are some tips:
Don't check luggage

The most obvious answer is to not check luggage at all. Pack light. OK, you can't pack light. Read on.

Take nonstops

If you can't pack light enough to fit everything in cabin luggage and you must check luggage, then at least avoid connecting flights whenever possible since each connection ups the chances of a lost bag.

Make sure it's tagged properly

When checking your bags curbside or at a counter make sure the agent or skycap has put the correct destination tag on your bag.

Ship your luggage ahead

Another strategy is to ship your luggage 4 or 5 days ahead of your arrival to your final destination (assuming you're not going from place to place). Especially if you have heavy or oversized bags that would otherwise incur a hefty airline baggage fee this might actually end up costing less. Other advantages: the shipping company lugs the luggage, not you; and UPS and FedEx have a better record at getting packages where they're going than the airlines do. Plus, should something go wrong, at least you'll get your shipping charges refunded and an apology and shipping companies have much better tracking capabilities than the airlines do. Costs are surprisingly low. Shipping a 52 pound bag from Phoenix to New York via FedEx Ground using 5 day service costs about $68, including insurance of up to $2000 ($5000 in insurance would just be $20 more); the same bag on US Airways: $15 for the first bag fee, plus $65 because it's over 50 lbs for a total of $80. Shipping an oversized suitcase (over 62 total linear inches) of the same weight costs the same  via FedEx but and extra $100 on USAir (that's $360 round trip!). See our baggage fee chart.

You can also bring your suitcase to the US Post Office (you don't even need a box for it; in fact, you don't even need a suitcase if you're staying in one place when you arrive--just put your clothes and other possessions in a box and save on shipping costs).
Addresses on the inside too

Do remember to put your home and "away" addresses both inside and outside the suitcase. Those flimsy address tags the airlines hand out for free fall off easily.
What protection can you buy?
You're already covered for up to $3300 per trip on domestic flights thanks to new DOT regulations, but beware: the airlines will try to depreciate the value of your suitcase and its contents (if you claim $2500 of value they might only pay $1500), and will not cover a range of "valuable" items such as electronics, cash, and jewelry unless you buy excess valuation (see below). So never check these things unless you're sure you're covered.

Keep all receipts

Also, whenever you buy something, be sure to keep the receipts, because the airlines will ask for them to assign a value to your loss. No receipts and you may be out of luck.
Excess valuation

Most airlines sell excess valuation insurance, which you can buy when you check yours bags. See chart.

Travel Insurance

Most travel insurance also covers lost or damaged luggage, but there are limits and exclusions, and you should always read the fine print to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Homeowner's insurance a last resort

Yes, your homeowner's insurance may cover lost luggage, but beware: your insurer may up your premium or cancel your policy. (I once merely inquired about filing a claim, and Allstate refused to renew my policy, even though I never filed the claim!).
What to do if your luggage is lost?

File a claim with the airline's baggage office  immediately, before leaving the airport. Gather receipts (you did save them, right?) and hope for the best.


To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Airline Industry News

Midwest Offers Weekend Fares with a Twist

Posted by George Hobica on Thursday, February 19, 2009

As far as we can recollect, Midwest has not in the past advertised their weekend deals. They have had them in the past, but not posted on their Web site (indeed, other airlines, such as Northwest, frequently have weekend deals that they don't post online, often matching United and American, which typically do list all their deals on their sites). Anyway, this week Midwest is indeed listing a bunch of weekend fares for travel this weekend or next. And what's especially cool is that you can leave on a Thursday or Friday and return on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, whereas most weekend fares require leaving on a Saturday and returning the following Monday or Tuesday.  Purchase by February 23 or until seats are sold out.

See deals from Kansas City

to Kansas City

From Milwaukee

to Milwuakee

From Omaha

to Omaha


To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Airfare Tips

Airfares Went Down 4% in Q4 2008

Posted by George Hobica on Thursday, February 19, 2009

As consumers and travel journalists, we're always a bit puzzled when airfare pundits send out releases announcing that the airlines reduced or increased "airfares" (they never say exactly how they measure or define an airfare) up by $20 or down by $10, or that there were this many or that many attempted fare increases last year. Call us crazy, but as near as we can make out, what really matters is what airfares actually sold for rather than what the airlines were asking for seats--in other words, published fares versus actual sales. So we found it interesting in Expedia's fourth quarter 2008 financial results (PDF) that the company's revenue per air ticket sold decreased four percent in the quarter compared to 2007's fourth quarter. To us, that's a more accurate picture of what airfares did late last year since it includes all types of fares. Anything else is irrelevant if you're looking for airfare statistics. Of course what really matters is how much you paid for your flight(s), not what the average is.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Airline Industry News

Southwest Coming to Boston

Posted by George Hobica on Thursday, February 19, 2009

According to this article in the Boston Globe, Southwest airlines is planning to add The Hub as its 67th destination sometime this spring, with "between 8 and 12 departures" to a couple of destinations. Airfarewatchdog guesses that these will be Baltimore, where the airline operates a mini-hub, and perhaps Chicago Midway, but Southwest isn't saying for now.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Airline Industry News

Stroke? Sorry, United will charge you to re-bank your frequent flyer miles. And get well soon.

Posted by George Hobica on Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Get a load of this. This is why people hate airlines:

"I have  a close friend who is 76 years old.  He used his United Frequent Flyer Miles to book two tickets to Ft. Lauderdale within 21 days of the flight.  United charged him $75.00 each to book.  No problem there...Then, just two days before the flight, he had a stroke and was rushed to the Hospital.  He spent 10 days in the hospital and another 10 days in ReHab.  Prior to the flight, His wife called United to cancel the flight and asked that the points be placed back into his Bank.  His Doctor faxed a letter to the airline as per instructions by the agent that cancelled the flight for her.   United charged them an additional $150.00 per ticket (on the credit card they held from the original $150.00 booking fee)  for placing the points back into his bank.  They are now out $450.00.   In talking with United, They claim that they do not have someone's health as an excuse for cancelling and that is why they charged the extra $150.00 per ticket.  This is an older couple who live on a fixed income.  The $300.00 charge under these circumstances is excessive and unreasonable.   Can you help?"

Disgusting. They're your friend's miles, what gives United the right to charge a whole $150 to re-bank them? And does it actually cost them $75 to issue a reward ticket? It's done on line these days, probably without human intervention.

Yes, I can help. Not by calling my friends at United, because I have none. However, I can sort of help by advising you to switch your loyalty to Southwest. Southwest doesn't charge for last minute frequent flyer tickets, because as soon as you earn enough points, they send you a an award, which you can keep until you're ready to use it.  (Fly 8 round trips, of any price or length, within a 24 month period and you'll get a free reward ticket.) You can also get credits toward free travel by renting cars, using a Southwest Visa credit card, staying in hotels, and so on.

Once you receive an award ticket, it's transferrable to anyone, without a fee. And if you book a trip using your award, and have to change your plans, does Southwest charge a fee? No, they do not. You can use the award for up to a year from the date of issue. But if the award "lapses" (i.e., goes out of date past the one year) you have up to another full year to pay a modest $50 fee to extend the validity for an additonal year. Which means, in effect, that after paying the fee, awards can be valid for up to three years. Pretty neat, eh? Read the rules for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Airline Industry News

Allegiant Air adding Los Angeles

Posted by George Hobica on Wednesday, February 18, 2009

  1. As we noted previously, while other airlines are shrinking, Allegiant is moving in the opposite direction.

Here's a run down of the new routes. Introductory low fares begin as low as $39* each way.

  1. Bellingham, Wash. (Vancouver, B.C. area) - begins May 2 with fares as low as $78* each way
  2. Billings, Mont. - begins May 22 with fares as low as $69* each way
  3. Des Moines, Iowa - begins May 24 with fares as low as $99* each way
  4. Fargo, N.D. - begins May 23 with fares as low as $99* each way
  5. Grand Junction, Colo. - begins May 1 with fares as low as $59* each way
  6. McAllen, Texas - begins May 24 with fares as low as $99* each way
  7. Medford, Ore. - begins May 1 with fares as low as $69* each way
  8. Missoula, Mont. - begins May 2 with fares as low as $79* each way
  9. Monterey, Calif. - begins May 3 with fares as low as $39* each way
  10. Sioux Falls, S.D. - begins May 23 with fares as low as $99* each way
  11. Springfield, Mo. - begins May 3 with fares as low as $99* each way
  12. Wichita, Kan. - begins May 23 with fares as low as $99* each way

*Must be purchased by March 11 for travel through September 30. Not available on every flight at this fare.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Airline Industry News

Membership has its benefits!

Posted by Alisa B on Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If you're a member of Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club (their frequent flyer program), chances are you've recently received an e-mail from them with a 25% off promo -  not on Virgin Atlantic, but on Virgin America.   Virgin America is celebrating the launch of its new Boston service and cleverly is taking advantage of their "growing relationship," as they call it, with Virgin Atlantic.  (This, of course, is what the legacy carriers who lobbied against Virgin America's start-up in the first place feared).  The promo is for Flying Club members  (though it is transferable and good for a one time use only) and provides a unique code which the user must enter  when booking any Virgin America domestic flight for travel before April 1, 2009 (good for Main Cabin reservations only.)  Virgin America's new Boston routes include Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orange County, San Franciso, San Diego and Seattle and start at fares of $119 each way plus taxes/fees.  Restrictions apply and reservations must be made on Virgin America's website only.

No Flying Club miles will be earned for flights taken under this promotion but it's not a long shot to guess that in the future this might be the case.   If you didn't get an e-mail from Virgin Atlantic, it's time to make friends with someone who did!  Membership does have its benefits!

Categories: Domestic US Fares, Airline Industry News
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