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Fare of the Day: Philadelphia to Portland OR

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Friday, February 25, 2011

Fly from Philly to Portland for $180 round-trip, including all taxes. The only thing? Some itineraries may include a train segment aboard Amtrak between Philadelphia and Newark, and the flight that follows is nonstop. OR the other option involves a connection in Houston. But how can you say no to a little rail and a nonstop? Seems the way to go considering what a grab-bag of blunders air travel can be these days. This fare is valid for travel 7 days a week, with a 330 day travel period. Tickets require a 14-day advance purchase. No minimum stay.

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

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Fare of the Day: Toronto to Santiago $576 RT

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fly from Toronto to Santiago for $576 round-trip, nonstop, including all taxes. This fare is valid for travel on select dates through May. You'll find similarly low fares available for departures from other Canadian cities. Found via Vayama.com.

Connect for travel onward to Buenos Aires at slightly higher fares. For a complete list, visit our fare pages for Santiago and Buenos Aires.

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

Bring a Book: Five Tales of Terror on the Tarmac

Posted by George Hobica on Thursday, February 24, 2011

By George Hobica

Airfarewatchdog.com

EVER been stuck on an airplane that just won't take off – or worse, you land, and they just can't find you a gate? Last week's episode of '30 Rock' reminded us just how frustrating the experience can be. (You saw it, maybe? The one where Liz Lemon's pilot boyfriend Matt Damon keeps saying it's a half-hour to takeoff, except it's not?) While new rules that went into effect last year ensure that passengers on domestic airlines never have to wait more than three hours, turns out, there's still plenty amount of room for improvement. Here, five epic tales of "terror" on the Tarmac  that'll make whatever hassles you endure on your next flight seem like, well, peanuts. 

NEW YORK IS CLOSED

When Cathay Pacific Airways Flight 888 took off from Vancouver on a late December afternoon last year, the pilots had every reason to believe that it would be able to land without hassle at New York's JFK, even though the airport was still digging out from one of the worst winter storms in recent history. They were correct – the landing was problem free. After that, things went downhill fast. With immigration officials gone for the night – the flight landed much later than usual, after 2:00 in the morning – and gates all booked up with planes that weren't going anywhere, pilots had no choice but to wait. And wait. And wait. For 11 hours. A spokesperson for the airline later apologized, saying they'd have to look into what went wrong. Sounds like a great idea to us.

FAILURE TO LAUNCH

If you wonder just how things could have gotten so screwed up at JFK that a flight might have to wait for nearly half a day to get to its gate, back up the clock 48 hours from the time of the Cathay Pacific debacle and you'll find yourself right in the middle of yet another major-league nightmare: The one suffered by passengers on Virgin Atlantic  Flight 004, which Virgin inexplicably refused to cancel, even as one of the biggest storms in recent memory was bearing down on New York City, and just about every other flight – including others on Virgin's normal schedule – had been tabled. With the airline refusing to reschedule skittish passengers without subjecting them to hefty change fees, many showed up, hoping for the best. They got on the plane alright, but that's as good as it got. After hours onboard, they were released back into the terminal, by now shut off from the world due to the full-scale blizzard raging outside. Start to finish, the whole ordeal lasted more than 30 hours. Yikes!

THE WAIT HEARD AROUND THE WORLD

It was supposed to be a Valentine's Day to remember for passengers jetting out of frigid New York, on down to sunny Aruba. But passengers on that JetBlue flight out of JFK were instead treated to an 11-hour wait on the tarmac – the worst of nearly ten epic delays that day, all on JetBlue aircraft. Even the airline couldn't explain what happened, telling the press there was no excuse for how poorly things were handled. Passengers were left to suffer overflowing toilets and nothing but a minimal supply of junk food, all with the terminal they'd left hours before within plain sight. The infamous day, widely publicized, is credited with pushing Congress closer to passing legislation in 2009 that banned waits of more than three hours.

WE'RE WITH STUPID

What's worse than being stranded on a nice big air-conditioned Airbus? Spending the night waiting to be released from one of those little puddle-jumpers. You know the ones – can't even stand up straight, one tiny toilet in the back even Kate Moss might struggle to navigate. Passengers who signed up for what should have been an easy-peasy Houston to Minneapolis shuttle flight back in 2009 were instead subjected to a night on the tarmac in Rochester, Minnesota, with limited food and drink and an overflowing toilet – all with empty gates at the small, regional airport at the ready, all within plain sight. What went wrong? The airline, ExpressJet, blamed it on the lack of facilities available at the airport; it later was revealed that the airline simply bungled the situation. For its general stupidity, ExpressJet was eventually fined $100,000 by the Department of Transportation.

LONGEST. FLIGHT. EVER.

It was only supposed to take about five hours for Virgin America Flight 404 to get from Los Angeles to New York City, but passengers were instead subjected to a 16-hour ordeal, which involved a seven hour stint on the ground at an airport in Upstate New York. Diverted to Newburgh's Stewart Airport due to high winds in JFK, not only were passengers not allowed to leave the plane, they were forced to endure high-strung cabin crew, who, according to newspaper reports, took to rationing out Pringles – four chips per customer. Salvation eventually arrived, in the form of a JetBlue employee, who boarded the plane and announced – to wild applause – that the airline would be providing bus service for the hour-long ride to New York City.

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

Fare of the Day: Chicago to Los Angeles $159 RT

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fly from Chicago to Los Angeles for $159 round-trip, including all taxes, with Virgin America. We found this fare by using the 30% off promo offered in Virgin America's current Soho Invasion contest. How do you get the promo code? Enter your email address along with five friends to receive the full 30% off promo code, or only enter your own email for a 15% off promo code. In addition to the discount, you're automatically registered to win a weekend getaway to New York, so there's that too! 

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

Buying Miles: Is it ever worth it?

Posted by Ramsey Qubein on Wednesday, February 23, 2011

By Ramsey Qubein 

Airfarewatchdog.com

Airline loyalty programs provide a host of perks for frequent flyers, but is it ever worth forking over money for miles without flying? Most domestic airlines offer a purchase miles program, but the costs can be pretty steep. Some airlines allow you to top up your account in conjunction with a paid flight, but those miles can be even more expensive. So when is it ever worth it to pay outright for miles?

Selling loyalty miles is a huge money maker for airlines since it is essentially costing them nothing to give you miles. While they do cost the airline a small amount (since they are now a liability on its balance sheet until you redeem them), it is a great way for them to build ancillary revenue. Ahh, there’s that famous term that is so prevalent in today’s airline industry. Yet, this may be a wise move on your part. Let’s examine.

Typically, it is advised to value each mile at two cents when redeeming them for award travel. Obviously, the value of a mile skyrockets when using it for international Business or First Class seats instead of an expensive domestic Economy seat. But, everyone’s needs are different. Be sure to think about your intention of using miles before ever purchasing mileage as that would be an expensive venture.

Buying miles to spend on mileage tickets that are not the traditional “saver” priced awards is another major no-no. This is the airline’s way to rid you of your valuable miles while improving their balance sheet’s bottom line in a jiffy. When it’s comes to paying 50,000 miles or $2,000 for a last-minute Economy Class ticket, well that may be a different story. But, most of the time, the double-priced mileage tickets are a very poor value.

The price for purchasing mileage varies, but is usually 2.5 cents to 3 cents per mile plus tax and service fees. But, that outlay can be worth it when you are close to having enough miles for an award that you need. If you need just a few to reach the next award level, then go for it. It is often advised to spend your miles as fast as you wisely can since airlines are constantly adjusting their mileage charts (almost always in one direction…up!). Each year, awards become more expensive. As more miles are issued, it is only a matter of inflation. Hence, mileage prices must go up.

Airfarewatchdog.com advises taking  advantage of bonus offers and sales when mileage programs offer them. Here are a few good deals at the moment.

US Airways is offering a 75%-100% bonus on purchased miles through 3/31/11. This is a tremendous bonus for those looking for overseas premium class awards. Remember US Airways is famous for offering off-peak awards to Europe and Hawaii (January and February each year) and to South America and Hawaii (in March or May plus October each year) for as little as 35,000 miles in Economy and 60,000 in First/Business. That’s quite the bargain putting a business class ticket at less than $900 if buying all the miles! Less, if you already have some in your account.

Here’s a great deal for bonus Delta SkyMiles. If you are a member of American Express Membership Rewards, transfer your miles to Delta between now and 5/31/11 and receive a 50% bonus. This offer is valid for those who have never transferred miles to Delta before, but this can be a great way to top off your Delta account without having to spend anything other than the taxes that AMEX charges to complete the transfer. If you insist on buying more Delta miles, do so before 3/31/11 to get a 50% bonus on your purchase.

Continental Airlines and United Airlines are ready to capture your cash by offering bonus miles for sale upon check in for your flight. These offers are almost always a bad idea as they are far more expensive than they should be. Resist the urge as you could be paying more than four cents a mile for them.

Try to avoid the temptation of glossy advertisements selling miles. It’s always cheaper to earn them with flying or other transactions. But when promotions abound, be sure to weigh the value of what you are redeeming for; sometimes, it is cheaper to buy the miles and redeem them right away.

Fare of the Day: Los Angeles, CA to St. Thomas, USVI $364RT

Posted by Ricky Radka on Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fare of the Day: Los Angeles, CA (LAX) to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands (STT) $364 RT, including all taxes on American Airlines.

 

Travel on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturdays during a 330-day travel period, 7-day advance purchase. Two night minimum stay is required. We noticed that many Saturday dates had already been sold out, so you will need to be flexible with your arrangements. Found via AA.com and Travelocity.

To learn more, visit Ricky Radka's profile on Google+

Categories: Airfare Tips

The Art of the Elite Status Match

Posted by Ramsey Qubein on Tuesday, February 22, 2011

 

By Ramsey Qubein 

Airfarewatchdog.com

Thinking of switching your preferred carrier, but don’t want to miss out on the upgrades and elite frequent flyer mile bonuses you earned this past year? Well, then the airline status match is your new best friend. Airlines are in the business of competing for your business. Frequent flyer programs truly build loyalty with their elite frequent flyer members who will often pay more to fly with their preferred carrier in hopes for a first class upgrade, bag fee waivers, and elite bonus miles.

As a result, airlines want to steal elite members from each other. They typically offer status matches to certain tiers within their program. What is required is usually a copy of one’s current elite credentials and account activity. Some airlines are more lenient than others especially when a traveler is paying higher, more lucrative fares. Others offer challenges requiring new members to show they will be loyal by flying a certain amount within a specified time period to maintain a status level for the whole year. Be aware that some airlines limit the number of challenges available per member within a certain period of time so be sure to ask as it varies frequently.

As the end of February nears (typically the time when elite status with most airlines expires although United/Continental now have a January 31 deadline), think about your upcoming travel this year. Will your current carrier be the best for you? Or have you been considering a switch to another carrier? Here's the low-down on the five legacy airlines and how they handle elite status matches.

American Airlines

AA does not offer an outright status match opting instead to challenge new members to fly a certain amount within a period of time. These are offered on a case-by-case basis. The airline offers the challenge for all but their top tiers although these are sometimes granted an exception based on the types of fares paid and number of trips taken. To ask about a challenge from your current carrier, call 1-800-882-8880. There are fees involved with American (big surprise). At press time, the cost is $120 for a Gold challenge (lowest elite tier) and $200 for a Platinum challenge (middle elite tier). The gist of the challenge is that one must fly 5,000 miles within three months or 10,000 miles within three months to earn Gold and Platinum status respectively. Challenges must begin on the 1st or 16th of the month. Typically, American does not offer elite status during the trial period meaning no upgrades for new American flyers until they complete the challenge successfully.

Continental Airlines

CO has been aggressive about targeting new flyers. After the airline switched from SkyTeam to Star Alliance, it offered status to all SkyTeam’s Delta elites with ease. These days, the merger with United may change things, but at press time challenges are being granted on a case-by-case basis by emailing onepass@coair.com. They typically require mileage earning of 10,000 for Silver status, 17,500 for Gold status, and 35,000 miles for Platinum status within 90 days. Qualification on segments is also available at a level of 15 segments, 22 segments, or 40 segments respectively. Status is granted immediately for the trial period allowing participants to experience the benefits immediately. Plus, no fees to participate! More information here. If you have participated in an elite challenge within the past five years, you are ineligible for this offer.

Delta Air Lines

DL offers immediate status matches based on various factors including current travel with one’s existing airline. To qualify, fax your airline statement with a request to status match to 1-404-773-1945. The airline typically only offers matches to Silver or Gold, the lower two of its four elite tiers. It takes a few weeks to process, but if approved, the status appears immediately and is good for the remainder of the elite year. No fees and no “challenge” requirements making it the easiest of the legacy airlines!

United Airlines

UA offers an elite match program, which is pretty much in line with its new merger partner Continental (UA actually convinced CO to switch to its current policy recently). The airline offers status matches to an equivalent level with one’s current program and requires a certain number of miles to be flown within 90 days to maintain that status. During the challenge period, one gets the status automatically allowing upgrade and elite bonus miles opportunities. Email premiermatch@united.com to qualify, but visit United for more information first. No fees are required to participate, which is nice. In the past, only status for the lower two tiers of the program (Premier and Premier Exec) were available for match. In 2011, one can match up to 1K status, which is their highest tier based on miles flown.

US Airways

US offers a similar trial challenge program to American’s, which requires a fee. It costs $200 to make a run for Silver, $400 for Gold, and $600 for Platinum. The fees for this program are a bit expensive, but worth it for those who have immediate travel needs on US Airways. The requirements in place include a trial period of 90 days flying 7,500 miles or ten segments for Silver; 15,000 miles or 20 segments for Gold; 22,500 miles or 30 segments for Platinum. It is open to anyone even if you don’t have elite status with another carrier, which is a nice perk for new flyers. To participate, call 1-800-428-1775. For more information, visit US Airways. This is one of the easiest, but most expensive elite trial programs out there.

First Class upgrades, bag fee waivers, and bonus miles can be had by all if a little advance study on your travel plans is in order.  All of a sudden, taking to the skies doesn’t seem so bad.

When Flight Attendants Attack! Nine epic tales of cabin crew behaving badly

Posted by George Hobica on Tuesday, February 22, 2011

By George Hobica

Airfarewatchdog.com 

Let's make one thing clear from the start. Here at Airfarewatchdog.com, we love flight attendants. We find that if you're nice to them, they'll be nice to you. True, they're human beings just like everyone else, and sometimes they have a rough day. And let's face it, they do not have an easy job. You think you have it bad as a passenger these days, but think about it – you're sitting in your seat, bummed that you have six more hours of canned air, cramped seating and crummy CBS sitcoms until you get wherever you're going. Now imagine not even having a moment to breathe the fresh air in your destination, before you have to get back on board and do it all over again, with a cabin full of complainers? It's to enough to drive anyone crazy, and sometimes it actually does. When flight attendants turn bad, they often do so in some very remarkable ways. Here are nine cautionary tales from the sky.

MILE HIGH HEIST

When a handful of business class passengers on an Air France flight from Tokyo to Paris noticed their wallets had been lightened to the tune of thousands of dollars mid-flight, their complaint lead to the arrest of a 47-year-old flight attendant, who admitted to 26 counts of inflight theft, but was said to have been responsible for more than 100 other reported instances on Asian routes the airline served. The sticky-fingered stewardess, known only as Lucie R., was found to be in possession of a treasure trove of stolen goods, including pricey Cartier jewelry.

NO ORANGE JUICE FOR YOU!

Next time you upgrade to First Class on American Airlines, you might want to get a read on your cabin attendant's mood before making any special requests. In an incident born to go viral on the internet, one poor passenger on a Sacramento-Dallas run learned the hard way that requesting orange juice with breakfast might just be a federal offense. The simple request is said to have sent the attendant over the edge, leading to bouts of screaming, yelling and intimidation. In the end, the passenger – still OJ-less – was issued a warning for allegedly "threatening, intimidating or interfering with a crewmember." American launched an investigation, but never reported its findings.

COFFEE, TEA, COCAINE?

A 12-year veteran attendant on South African Airways was arrested last week in Sao Paulo for allegedly trying to mule five kilograms of cocaine back to Johannesburg. SAA employees have a somewhat colorful reputation for drug smuggling as a way to pick up some extra cash, or at least trying to – they seem to get caught an awful lot. Another former crew member is currently serving a 7-year sentence for trying to smuggle three kilos of coke out of London; there have been multiple documented instances of SAA cabin crew being caught red handed.

HE REALLY HATES REGINA

Most people who get crummy assignments from their boss just get mad; 19-year-old Eder Rojas, a flight attendant with Compass Airlines, got even. Rojas, angered at having to work the not-so-glamorous route of Minneapolis to Regina, Saskatchewan, was charged with setting fire to the plane in mid-air, forcing an emergency landing in Fargo, North Dakota. All 72 passengers and four crew members on board were safe. The same could not be said for Rojas' job.

THE TOO-FRIENDLY SKIES

You want your flight attendant to be nice to you, but a sixteen-year-old boy alleged to authorities that flight attendant Jaime Samia, 57, went the extra mile and then some on a 2009 United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Chicago; Samia was charged with misdemeanor battery and ordered to appear in court on charges that he spent the flight giving hand rubs and making inappropriate remarks to the young boy, who reportedly asked Samia to stop, but to no avail. Someone needs a refresher on the whole good touch / bad touch front, sounds like.

TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT!

America couldn't really make up its mind about former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, who quit his job in spectacular fashion last year, telling a cabin full of passengers to shove it, grabbing some booze and pulling the emergency slide on a plane that had just landed from Pittsburgh. Hailed as a working man's hero by many and chastised as a mentally imbalanced creep by others, Slater – who at one point even asked for his job back -- became comic fodder for TV writers and was tipped by many journalists as one of the biggest newsmakers in 2010. Only one problem: Slater's spectacular tale of retaliation against a passenger that had assaulted him was later called into question; he was later ordered to seek treatment as well as pay restitution to the airline.

DOORS ARE ARMED, AND SO IS YOUR FLIGHT ATTENDANT

Next time you ask for a glass of water, do so nicely, at least if your flight attendant happens to be Kimberly Chase, a former Great Lakes Airlines employee who, in 2009, was caught reporting to work on a flight out of Denver with not one, but two handguns on her person. One of them? Fully loaded. Chase isn't the first to show up for work armed to the teeth; last June, Delta attendant Amber Robillard wound up in jail after showing up to work an Indianapolis-Atlanta flight packing heat in her purse. Watch out!

POKED AND PRODDED

Australian carrier Jetstar had to issue an apology to a 15-year-old girl back in 2009 for the behavior of one of its flight attendants, who chatted her up as she waited to use the lavatory mid-flight, then tracked the girl down on Facebook after he caught a glimpse of her full name on her boarding pass, sending creepy messages calling her "mature for her age" and asking for her phone number and more details about where she lived, so the two might become "friends." Luckily, the girl's mother stepped in and put a stop to the whole thing, after the girl's would-be suitor started getting hostile.

TERROR IN THE AIR

When American Airlines fired Rodney Lorenzo for throwing a coffee pot at a fellow attendant in anger while on the job, Lorenzo waged a one-man campaign against the Dallas-based flyer, threatening to reveal airline safety secrets to Islamic terror groups. Two anonymous letters traced to Lorenzo warned that corporate safety and security information had been disseminated to 25 Muslim organizations worldwide. Lorenzo warned: "Karma will soon bite back and your aircraft will begin to fall from the sky like dead birds." Brought up on federal charges, Lorenzo was later released on $50,000 bail.

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

Fare of the Day: Pittsburgh to San Diego $173

Posted by Ricky Radka on Monday, February 21, 2011

Fare of the Day: Pittsburgh, PA (PIT) to San Diego, CA (SAN) $173 RT, including all taxes on Continental.

 

Travel any day of the week if available but dates are scarce, so you will need to be flexible to get this price. 21-day advance purchase restriction, 330-day travel period, no minimum stay. There are lots of good fares to the west coast flying out of Pittsburgh, check them out on our PIT fare page.

To learn more, visit Ricky Radka's profile on Google+

Categories: Airfare Tips

Fare of the Day: New Orleans to Toronto $204 RT

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Friday, February 18, 2011

With promo codes from both Air Canada and Porter, today is a good day for Canadian fares. And WestJet has some pretty snazzy deals on offer too, such as today's fare of the day: New Orleans to Toronto for $204 round-trip, nonstop, including all taxes. Found via CheapAir.com. You'll have better luck finding this fare for travel on select dates in April/May.

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

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