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Travelocity playing around with a new interface

Posted by George Hobica on Monday, September 29, 2008

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you.

Travelocity is fooling around (some would say screwing around) with their airfare search user interface for flexible date searches. It's currently in beta. On the plus side, it shows fares with all taxes. But now you must choose the length of your trip to see fare results. And it only shows one month at a time.

Some people will love this new feature, others (those of us who just want to see the very lowest fare between two cities, assuming we're totally flexible in our dates, over a 330 day period) will hate it.

Travelocity seems to have anticipated the antipathy of the latter group (us) so there's a link at the bottom right of the calendar that you can click if you don't like this new feature. Also, if you click the "next" arrow box (in brown) at the top right, you'll eventually get to a full 330 day fare result.

This beta version only pops up in some city pair searches for now, but we suspect they'll be rolling it out site-wide eventually.

 

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

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Stay Free All Over London

British Airways is having one of their periodic sales that along with some pretty competitive fares throws in up to 2 free nights at select hotels in London or elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The best deals are available for departures from late October through late March with higher rates for earlier and holiday travel. The terms of this sale allows for a generous 11-month maximum stay as opposed to the more standard 30 days, and also includes decent deals to Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, all on sale through October 3. As always, we save you the trouble of figuring out the taxes and fees and have listed the all-inclusive fares for British Airways' nonstop routes to Heathrow or Gatwick.

If you're planning to make a European trip in October or November, this is an excellent opportunity to also take advantage of the current Ryanair sale that has been extended beyond its original Thursday deadline and may be extended yet again or replaced by another great offer. This would involve a transfer from Heathrow or Gatwick to either Stansted or Luton airports, but at least now you'll get a free night or two in London to make your connection comfortably. Even if you don't make this sale's deadline, you can still take advantage of the many amazing deals available from these two budget hubs to practically anywhere in Europe.

Categories: Europe/Africa/Middle East Airfares

Fly Free All Over Europe

9/26 Update: Although the sale mentioned in this article was extended beyond its original deadline, it has now ended and been replaced by another great sale. Follow the links below to see what's currently on offer, but don't limit yourself to Ryanair. They may be the biggest budget player in Europe, but they're obviously not the only game in town.

Until we launch our British sister site soon, which will update you on great fares for travel within Europe the same way we now keep you posted on unbeatable domestic and international deals, we will occasionally let you know about European offers that are too good to pass up.

Like this latest "almost too good to be true" offer from Ryanair, which has put 2 million seats on "sale" for the next 2 days, available for fall travel to select European destinations. We haven't checked them all, but can at least assure you that in full if reluctant and belated compliance with new European Union "truth even in airfare advertising" rules, these deals really are as good as they sound and entirely free of any nasty tax bite or bitter aftertaste.

Moreover, to many destinations not included in this freebie sale, all-inclusive one-way fares start at just EUR15 from Germany, EUR23 from Ireland and £22 from Great Britain, making this a truly great tax-free deal in any currency, even at these paltry exchange rates.

The prevailing criticism of Ryanair is the old familiar saw that you only get what you pay for, as if there's actually anything wrong with that, but in this case you really are getting something for nothing and who can find fault with that? How exactly Ryanair makes any money in this business doing business like this has mystified Europeans for as long as they've been flying, but they still somehow manage to turn a profit every year, although the airline recently warned that this could be a rare break-even year.

No matter, their loss is your gain and here's a great chance for you to practice what we preach, which is to grab the best fare you can find across the Atlantic and then combine it with an amazing deal like this. The savings can sometimes be sizable, especially if you're going to more out-of-the-way places, which is usually where Ryanair goes anyway, since they prefer to use smaller and cheaper secondary airports.

It is for this reason that Dublin remains our favorite gateway to Europe. Not only is it often the cheapest European destination, but the compact terminal is a convenient one-stop transfer shop and, this being Ryanair's home base, one of the few major airports the airline flies to. Trying to arrange your connection through other cities will often require a trek between different airports and that can be a considerable hassle unless you happen to have reason to visit that particular city.

Keep in mind that Ryanair invented the notorious checked-bag fee and this is one extra they'll surely be happy to charge you. Also beware that even though you are protected by the European Union Air Passenger Rights on all flights departing Europe, which makes a carrier liable for damages even if they cause you to miss your return flight back across the Atlantic, Ryanair is not known to be all that accommodating in this respect, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to make your connection wherever you decide to do it.

Categories: Europe/Africa/Middle East Airfares

Air Canada goes to bat for the consumer

Posted by George Hobica on Friday, September 19, 2008

 Not only did Air Canada announce that they'll be dropping their $25 second bag fee (see story below) but they've also decided to incorporate fuel surcharges in all advertised base fares, and starting October 14, will simplify  excess baggage fees. Passengers will pay a single $75 fee for overweight and/or oversized bags for travel within North America ($100 for other flights).

So in other words, if you have a bag in excess of the number allowed, you won't be socked for extra charges if the bag is overweight or oversized. Most airlines' baggage fees are cumulative: you pay the extra bag fee plus any overweight charges plus any oversized charges, which can really add up. We doubt US airlines will follow suit, but you never know.

 

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

Severe Turbulence Hits Europe

As Europe's two weakest national airlines topple, a cluster of only slightly stronger second-string players totter toward an uncertain future.

The shakedown of Europe's ailing legacy airline industry that has been anxiously anticipated since the European Union deregulated air transportation over 10 years ago has finally reached full force. Stoked by surging--albeit now falling--fuel prices and further fueled by the fallout from global financial turmoil, stock market meltdowns and general political pandemonium, a perfectly awful storm has formed in the skies over Western Europe. The chaotic situation changes almost hourly, but the overall consensus seems to be that once this all blows over only a handful of survivors will be left standing without crutches, as the number of national airlines gets whittled down from a dirty dozen or so to the all-too-familiar Big Three multinational groupings.

Most dramatically, the long-running soap opera of Alitalia's drawn-out downfall seems to have sputtered to a dead end as last-ditch rescue efforts faltered on Friday. This appears to seal the Italian flag-carrier's fate by leaving it no other options but to pack up and fly blind from bankruptcy straight into insolvency. Of course, nothing in Italy is truly over until the famous fat lady sings, and while the Pope prays in earnest but to no apparent avail for the Vatican's official airline which might actually be cursed, as its former chaimain seems to think, Prime Minister Berlusconi may yet engineer an eleventh-hour miracle in the shape of yet another batty bailout. At this point, however, the company is so deeply mired in debt and controversy that not even divine intervention will likely save it from certain death.

Around the same time, a stage across the Adriatic went dark as the final curtain fell on a Greek melodrama starring stodgy state-owned Olympic Airlines. Unlike the tangled webs and tortuous plots of Rome, full of conspiracies, betrayals and a few assassination attempts, this is more a tame tale of benign euthanasia in Athens. An agreement has been put in place to put the airline out of its misery and put a stop to years of wrangling and illegal subsidies. Nevertheless, even after numerous privatization failures, a fairly Olympian optimism still prevails that in the spirit of classical tragicomedy has the airline staging a comeback some time next year after a much-needed makeover, armed with a better script, a respectable repayment plan and a preposterous new name--Pantheon Airways. Airline to the Gods? Yes, the Gods must surely be laughing right now!

Entirely unrelated to the unrelenting gush of orders, threats and fines pouring forth from the hard-nosed, stony-hearted bureaucrats of the European Commission in Brussels, the hometown flyboys at Brussels Airlines have thrown themselves into what may best be described as an arms-length embrace of two reluctant partners as they rushed to sell a sizable stake to Lufthansa. Not the whole caboodle, mind you, not even half, but just 45% for now, as proof of prudent German salesmanship--or brinksmanship--in these tumultuous times.

Brussels Airlines is itself the child of previous failures and mergers, the drastically downsized reincarnation of deregulation's first victim, Belgian's venerable but troubled Sabena, that somehow ended up with Sir Richard Branson of Virgin fame as its new stepfather, thanks to a messy but presumably immaculate conception. Earlier in the decade Swissair made an ill-advised attempt to rescue Sabena from the abyss but was instead dragged down with it and has since been taken over by none other than Lufthansa, somehow bringing everything full circle. Just as Swiss International, or simply Swiss, as it is now called, continues to operate independently under the new ownership, Brussels Airlines is expected to do much the same, proving that even when Lufthansa makes a whole-hearted commitment it's still a rather hands-off arrangement.

Meanwhile, down Vienna way the pending sale of Austrian Airlines is proceeding in a more orderly fashion as befits such solid and stolid Central European merchant traditions. Merely because it's looking to make a good deal and a handsome profit doesn't mean that it's necessarily going to sell itself to the highest bidder. Currently topping the short list of suitors, Russia's S7 Airlines, formerly known as Siberia Airlines and known to few people outside Novosibirsk by any name, have emerged as the dark horse of the dating circuit. It's no secret, though, that Lufthansa is viewed as just the right white knight in shining livery that everyone hopes will ride in at the last moment with a wandering eye and a fat wallet to deliver the Austrians from tough love in a much colder climate.

Circling high above this mating dance like a voracious vulture, Air France seems to have successfully digested KLM Royal Dutch after swallowing it wholesale a couple of years ago and could be getting hungry for another winged tidbit. It actually tried to chow down Alitalia before it realized the old crow was mostly skin and bones and too many feathers, so it will take a lot of little sparrows to fatten up this lovebird for the future. Merging with merging Delta-Northwest to make a really big Franco-American omelette is reportedly Air France's favorite pie--or quiche--in the sky, but so far Congress is not about to crack the ostrich egg and make that wet-lease dream come true.

Far up north, another hastily arranged winter wedding is in the works as Scandinavian Airlines, the struggling semi-privatized, semi-comatose carrier of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and the fourth-largest airline group in Europe that includes ill-fated Spanair among others, tries to cozy up to Lufthansa, these days everyone's Casanova of choice who may itself be getting a bit bogged down in the role of Big Daddy to its booming brood of aviation and travel-related companies, already the size of a small army.

Containing all the makings of modern-day Nordic mythology, this is a complex family drama worthy of the ancient sagas with the three fretful governments, like way too many overprotective parents, weighing the pros and cons of a shotgun marriage for an old maid trying her very best to look like a blushing bride. While management is at great pains to find an even modestly suitable match, other shareholders, including the illustrious Wallenberg dynasty, squabble like jealous in-laws over the dowry, leaving the militant trade unions to stand firmly on the sidelines like a bunch of bitter bridesmaids in tattered dresses just itching to crash the party and ruin the honeymoon. An uninvited guest, much smaller Finnair, has made a cheeky, unwelcome offer to buy the few remaining long-haul routes of the airline that pioneered them, a move that would be akin to stealing the wedding cake before the ceremony and slipping out the backdoor of the church.

Finally, back down where the sun really does shine in happy-go-lucky Spain, Iberia is getting close to tying the knot with British Airways. The idea is to then make another trip to the alter and set up a comfy if controversial ménage-à-trois with American Airlines, pending an application for a marriage license in triplicate and antitrust immunity for a joint-venture operation similar to what rival alliances, Star and SkyTeam, have been quietly granted and merrily doing for years.

In fact, those long-betrothed behemoths have been scrambling to shack up to for so long that the wedding bells are turning more than a little blue and American has impatiently started a good old all-American letter-writing campaign to members of Congress on your behalf, urging them to approve its plans for One World peace and, if at all possible, domination. Noble Sir Richard Branson, Our Virgin Savior always happy to act in your best interest, is once again up in arms and ready to foil the flirtatious plot. With a slush fund of sorts flush from recent dealings, he is dead set against this particularly devious deal and, much like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, determined to stop the union at all costs.

What all this means for travelers is impossible to predict. Alitalia ticketholders should definitely monitor the situation closely and contact the airline for information. Passengers of Olympic Airlines may be a bit more fortunate if the airline continues to operate during reorganization. As for the other candidates mentioned, they will mostly likely muddle through for the foreseeable future, flying their own flags regardless of corporate ownership, but many other carriers are still deemed to be at risk.

Categories: Airline Industry News

Canadian passengers getting all the good stuff lately

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oh, Canada. Look at you go! First, you went and approved a passengers' bill of rights, and now - the very second oil prices start to droop - two of your biggest airlines decide to ditch a few fees. WestJet announced today that they will drop fuel surcharges, which can tack on anywhere from $25 to $45 on one-way fares. The news comes just hours after Air Canada's decision to stop charging passengers a $25 fee for checking a 2nd bag, and to revert back to including fuel surcharges in base fares. Well, gosh, how straightforward of you, Air Canada!

So, ahem, ahem, should we expect to see a stateside reversal of fees anytime soon? Our Magic Eight Ball is telling us "Doubtful."

 

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

Categories: Domestic Canadian Fares

Airtran ups baggage fees

Posted by George Hobica on Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Airtran has increased overweight and oversized baggage fees by $10 per bag each way. They've also upped the second checked bag fee. Alaska Airlines has also increased baggage fees. See our updated baggage fee chart for details.

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

10% off promo code on Alaska

Posted by George Hobica on Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Alaska Airlines is offering 10% off on certain routes if you use promo code EC08608. This offer ends Sept. 21 and is valid for travel in October.

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

United ups second checked bag fee to $50

Posted by George Hobica on Monday, September 15, 2008

United Airlines has doubled its fee for a second checked bag to $50, citing volatile fuel prices.
United says the $50 one-way fee will apply for tickets bought beginning Tuesday for travel beginning November 10 within the U.S. or to or from Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Travelers in first or business classes, "Premier" frequent fliers and active-duty military personnel traveling on orders will be exempt. United estimated the $50 fee would apply to about one out of every seven customers.

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

The Fall of Rome

Here's some good news that just goes to show you can't always believe what you read. The Eternal City is still standing and the great Eurofly sale that was supposed to end last Friday after a 3-day run is still on, which means the $399 net fares (or $474 including all taxes and fees) continue to be available on a very select number of days in September and October to Rome, Naples, and Bologna (but not, alas, Palermo). You won't find a better deal to Italy this fall, so better fall in line quickly to get your ticket while you still can!

Categories: Europe/Africa/Middle East Airfares
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