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Fare of the Day: Bellingham to Honolulu

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Friday, October 29, 2010

Bellingham to Honolulu $235 round-trip, incl. all taxes

Available for mid-January travel. Seats are scarce! Found via Orbitz.

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

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Fare of the Day: Austin to Chicago

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Thursday, October 28, 2010

Austin to Chicago $141 round-trip, nonstop, incl. all taxes

Part of the current Southwest sale. Valid for travel Monday through Saturday. Fly from December 1 through December 15 and January 4, 2011 through February 16, 2011. Not available on all dates.

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

Fare of the Day: New York to Tel Aviv

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New York to Tel Aviv $598 round-trip, incl. all taxes

Available for travel on select dates through early December. Depart Tuesdays, return Thursdays (and available some Wednesdays).

This fare requires a little trickery to find. By searching Kayak, results will include a $699 fare through Orbitz. Click on the link they provide to Orbitz and - ta-da! -the fare drops by $100.

Flights connect via Kiev, Ukraine. Stopovers not permitted though -if interested- we've seen some itineraries for this fare do allow for layovers up to 12 hours.

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

How should airlines handle obese passengers? How about wider seats?

By George Hobica Airfarewatchdog.com

Now that the federally-mandated three-hour tarmac delay rule is in place, and hasn't brought down the airline industry, maybe Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood needs to have his Department of Transportation address a far more common aviation crisis: the growing number of people who are too fat to fit into tiny airplane seats and the discomfort they cause their seat mates.

Without a doubt, Marsha St. Clair, a Los Angeles-based retiree, would agree. St. Clair flew recently with her husband and sat next to a woman who was so obese that she "spilled over" into a third of St. Clair's middle seat on a Boeing 757, forcing her to remain in full body contact for the duration of the five-hour flight. "I paid for an entire seat, but only got less than two thirds of it," she says. "Please tell me that there is an FAA regulation regarding this situation."

Well, Marsha, there isn't. But there should be.

Although some airlines have rules addressing such situations, including Southwest, which requires "passengers of size" to purchase a second seat, there's no standardized regulation.

But with figures from the National Center for Health Statistics stating that more than one-third of adults are obese, and that another third are merely "overweight," something needs to be done.

Now I realize that some people will say that obesity is a genetic condition or a handicap, and it may well be, although the fact that the ranks of the obese in the U.S. grow year after year suggests that it's not (DNA doesn't mutate quite that quickly).

But let's for the sake of argument say that obesity is a handicap, something beyond the individual's control.

In that case, it should be treated just like any other physical challenge. What can be done? Well, one solution would be for the D.O.T. and other nations' transportation authorities to mandate that all airlines install extra wide "obesity" seats in their economy class sections. Each plane could have, say, one or two rows with two by two seating instead of the usual three by three configuration. Obese passengers could be pre-assigned these seats, either for the usual economy fare, or perhaps by paying a small premium. These seats wouldn't enjoy any other special services or extra legroom, just extra width.

If no obese passengers are flying on a particular flight, normally sized passengers could upgrade at the last minute to these more comfortable seats, by paying a premium, or get them by luck of the draw if there are no takers. Airlines such as jetBlue already charge more for extra leg room, but I'll bet what a lot of passengers really want is more room for their posteriors.

Barring that solution, or in addition to it, the D.O.T. should require all airlines to publish clear policies stating how they will protect squished and uncomfortable passengers such as St. Clair, who find themselves getting less than what they paid for. It's only fair.

Travelers, how do you think airlines and regulators should account for obese passengers? Leave your comment below, and please keep it civil.

Fare of the Day: Boston to Houston

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Boston to Houston $159 round-trip, incl. all taxes

Available for travel on select dates in November/December, excluding holidays. Requires a 14-day advance purchase.

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

5 amazing frequent flyer bargains not to be missed

By Ramsey Qubein, Airfarewatchdog.com  

 

Tired of shuffling through the fine print of frequent flyer programs when spending your miles? Instead of falling for the airline’s trap of spending double miles to redeem on prime flights, opt for these little known opportunities to cash in miles with the best return on investment.
 
It is commonly recognized that one mile is worth one penny. Spending 25,000 miles on a sub-$250 is not worth it given the additional taxes and fees. These bargain deals help to max out the value of one cent per mile.
 
1.      American and United offer one-way Flex awards as low as 12,500 miles. One-way tickets are often more expensive than a roundtrip. Remember that American awards booked under 21 days in advance incur a $50 surcharge while those less than a week incur $100. Elite tier members of AAdvantage are spared the fees. United, however, no longer has a last-minute booking surcharge. For example, a one-way ticket on Oct. 29 between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Des Moines costs $380 nonstop on American. Booking a one-way award for 12,500 miles plus the $50 fee highlights the mega savings of this offer.  http://www.aa.com/i18n/urls/flexawards.jsp
 
2.      Until recently, US Airways recognized Russia to be in Asia rather than Europe allowing travel between Moscow to Shanghai (for example) in Business Class for only 30,000 miles. First Class, only 40,000 miles. This loophole has been adjusted, but new anomalies in their country designations have emerged. For example, US Airways considers Thailand to be in North Asia while other airlines consider it South Asia making it available for cheaper redemptions. US Airways also charges the least to the South Pacific. A Business Class ticket is only 110,000 miles where as United and Delta charge 150,000 miles. For example, a Business Class ticket between New York and Sydney in mid-November goes for between $7,000 and $18,000. US Airways’ 110,000 mile price is an amazing deal. (See how you can buy miles on USAir and get one free for each one purchased, through Nov 15, 2010).
 
3.      Bopping around the South Pacific? US Airways offers roundtrip awards within this region for only 25,000 miles in Economy Class. Not enticing enough? Consider that a trip between Perth or Melbourne and Fiji or the Cook Islands can cost almost $1,000 in the back of the bus. For Business Class, US Airways charges only 30,000 miles to redeem on partner Air New Zealand. American has a similar roundtrip deal with domestic travel on oneworld partner Qantas for 10,000 miles in Economy and 17,500 miles in Business Class. Air New Zealand charges $3,000 for a mid-November Business Class seat between Perth and Auckland. Qantas charges $3,500 for the same route.
 
4.      Intra-Hawaiian island hopping is easy thanks to 10,000 mile roundtrip flights redeemed through United or US Airways. These are on partner Hawaiian Airlines and can spell huge value when sale fares are not on offer. A mid-November reservation between Hilo and Kahului, Maui can cost between $200-300. United does not charge a last-minute award booking fee adding to the value of this offer.
 
5.      African cities are often expensive to travel between and the reliable airline choices can be limited. Continental offers a 25,000 mile Economy Class redemption award between any African city via Star Alliance partner South African Airways’ Johannesburg hub. Frequent African continent travelers will immediately recognize the savings potential as a Nairobi-Luanda ticket in mid-November costs between $800 and $1,500 in Economy Class. Open jaw awards are permitted and recommended to boost the value!

Especially Low Sale from Southwest Sale

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lower than their usual weekly sale, Southwest's Halloween Sale is good for travel every day of the week except Sundays, from December 1 through December 15, and from January 4 through February 16.

Tickets must be booked by 11:59pm PT, October 28. Fares include:

Hartford to Cleveland $120 round-trip

Birmingham to Austin $120 round-trip

Cleveland to Boston $120 round-trip

Dallas to Baltimore $180 round-trip

Ft Lauderdale to Birmingham $120 round-trip

Chicago to Albuquerque $120 round-trip

Philadelphia to Manchester $60 round-trip

Providence to Norfolk $60 round-trip

San Diego to Phoenix $60 round-trip

Tampa to Philadelphia $120 round-trip

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

Your guide to getting to and from Seattle-Tacoma International

By George Hobica, Airfarewatchdog.com      Keep this ground transportation guide handy if you ever think you'll be flying into or out of Seattle's airport.

As every savvy traveler knows, a low airfare is only the beginning. The real work? That starts when you touch down in your destination, where costs can easily run away from you. And it starts right at the airport. If you're not careful, you can easily spend as much getting into town as you did on the flight that brought you there. (Been to New York lately, where JetBlue and others offer $39 fares and your taxi ride to/from JFK will cost you around $65 with tip and tolls?)

That's why we're taking a break from telling you about low fares to talk to you about…ta da… ground transportation. (We can tell – you're totally excited right now.) Seriously, though, you will be, when we show you how cheaply you can get things done. This week, we're analyzing the situation in Seattle, so grab an umbrella and let's get to it. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
A dark era of not-so-splendid isolation for Sea-Tac finally came to an end last winter, when Sound Transit finally completed the first line of Seattle's new Link light rail system. This means that you can hop off your flight and on a sleek little train; within a half hour or so, you'll be strolling into your downtown hotel. Total cost? A mere $2.50; buy your tickets from the machine before your board (cash, Visa or MasterCard cheerfully accepted). Downtown, the light rail shares its subterranean stations with many of the city's bus lines, operated by Metro Transit. If your destination is not central, you can often transfer without having to set foot outside, making things super easy. (Speaking of easy, if you didn't already know, bus service within downtown is free between 6am and 7pm.)

SHUTTLES
This is a big cruise port, so there's frequent express bus service downtown from the airport, operated by Gray Line of Seattle. All of its downtown stops are at popular hotels; the cost is $15 one-way, or $25 round-trip; you can book online in advance. You do not need to be a guest of one of the hotels listed to utilize this service, you just need to know which stop is closest to your destination. To catch the bus, which operates twice-hourly all day long, head to the third level of the terminal-adjacent parking garage. For more scheduled shuttle bus service throughout the region, look here.

TAXI
The county regulates taxi access to the airport as well as fares, guaranteeing few surprises when you choose to go this route into town, except for maybe the total cost, which will be around $40. Service is provided by STITA Taxi; for trips back to the airport, you can reserve in advance both online or over the phone at (206) 246-9999.

CAR RENTAL
If you're renting a car, it's worth considering whether or not you've got somewhere cheap – or free, better yet – to park it in your destination. Valet parking, often mandatory at downtown hotels, can run you upwards of $30 per night. Beyond downtown, Seattle's not known for its spaciousness, though it is known for its undying devotion to the enforcement of local parking regulations. That said, there are plenty of places in the region where a car is a necessity; at Sea-Tac you have both convenience (major agencies have both their counters and their cars right onsite) and affordability (with a short shuttle ride, you can often save money on your rental.) To find the lowest car rental rates in Seattle, visit our buddies over at Autoslash.  

BROWSER (AND FRIENDS) SAY:
We love Seattle; what we don't love is the traffic and the parking hassles. That's why you'll find us riding the light rail into town. From the downtown stops, you can easily walk to hotels that fit any budget. Once situated, you might be surprised to discover just how much of the city you can cover on foot, from Pike Place Market on over to cool, less-touristed areas like First Hill and Belltown.  To go further afield, we're big fans of Zipcar (http://www.zipcar.com/). Being satisfied members back home in New York, we already know that Seattle-ites are big on car sharing, and that there are cars located all over the downtown area. With rates starting at just $6.30 an hour, including gas, tolls and tax, we've got mobility, but without the cost. Care to argue that? Didn't think so.

Learn more about Seattle-Tacoma International at http://www.portseattle.org/seatac/; see what's up in Seattle at http://www.visitseattle.org

And check out Airfarewatchdog.com for fares to and from Seattle.

Fare of the Day: Philadelphia to San Diego

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, October 25, 2010

Philadelphia to San Diego $185 round-trip, incl. all taxes

And this fare is bookable for holiday travel!

Valid 7 days a week, with a 330-day travel period, though seats are scarce. Requires a 7-day advance purchase.

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

Airlines reduce miles needed for award travel

Three airlines have effectively reduced the number of miles needed to obtain award travel this season.

First we learned that VirginAtlantic was offering 20% bonus miles when converted from Amex points in October, effectively a 20% reduction in the miles needed for flying in all classes of service.

Although not quite the same thing, US Airways now gives a bonus mile for each mile purchased through Nov 15 2010. So, for less than $1400, one can buy enough miles to fly in business class virtually anywhere US Airways or its SkyTeam alliance Star Alliance partners fly.

And now, the Air France/KLM airline has halved the number of miles needed for travel on dozens of routes.

Of course, with half of France on strike (sacre bleu! retire at 62! why, we'll be luckly to retire at 82!) you may want to avoid Air France altogther, but assuming that the French worker realizes that 30 or so years of doing nothing might get a bit boring, these are indeed great offers.

You can fly to Europe from various U.S. cities for half the normal number of miles required in the FlyingBlue (i.e., AirFrance/KLM) frequent flyer program. For example, you'd need just 50,000 miles to fly roundtrip from Dallas to Europe in business class on KLM, and a mere 25,000 miles in economy!

On Air France, it's just 57,000 miles to fly from Los Angeles to Europe in biz class, or 28,750 in econ. You can't fly to Peoria some days for that few miles.

Mileage reductions are also on offer from Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Montreal, Calgary, and Detroit, and also from Europe to many destinations. There are various date restrictions and book by dates for each route.

So if you have miles in FlyingBlue, you're in luck. If you don't, you still may be in luck, since you can transfer points in the American Express Membership Rewards program or Starwood Starpoints into your FlyingBlue account.

In addition to the French airport and fuel workers propensity to strike at a moment's notice, there's also the issue of award seat availability. A 50% discount on required miles is of little use if there are no seats available, and we can't guarantee that your preferred dates of travel will be offered.

More info here.

Not a member yet of FlyingBlue? Sign up here.

--George Hobica, Airfarewatchdog.com

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