Track Ticket Prices and New Airline Fees to Get the Best Deal

January 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The best way to keep track of ticket prices and airline fees? Check the travel sites every day, sometimes more than once, keep a spreadsheet of the results, and buy your tickets when you see the price hit its lowest.

Actually, that’s the worst way to do it. It wastes time and you can’t always be sure you’re finding the lowest fees. Plus, it’s difficult to keep track of alternate routes.

English: Photo of a mobile boarding pass (a 2D...

Photo of a mobile boarding pass on top of a paper boarding pass for a KLM flight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A September blog post on Peter Greenberg’s travel blog discussed two great sites for tracking ticket prices and fees. These are the best ways to track your fees, because you can use it to find the average and lowest ticket prices for your chosen destination, as well as find the cheapest time of year to fly.

Hopper.com will do all of that, plus give you information on alternate places to fly to and from. That feature is pretty standard these days, but Hopper’s detailed breakdown isn’t. It’s the best place to find out if you’re really getting a deal on a ticket and to give you a heads up on what you can reasonably expect to pay. It even lists the lowest recent price, just to make you jealous.

There’s also AirfareWatchdog.com, which has several useful sections, including a large list of airline fees, listed by carrier. For example, you can see how much it costs to bring a pet into the cabin, or reserve tickets by phone instead of online. Watch out for new fees, such as a $5 fee for printing out your boarding pass at the airport. Instead, use your home printer or the airline’s smartphone app instead.

How do you keep track of ticket prices and fees? Do you use any special tools, or do you have the spreadsheet technique down pat? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

6 Ways Air Travel Will Change in 2014

February 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ve likely already noticed the airline industry has been making some big changes over the last few years, and 2014 will be no different. In fact, many new trends and test projects we reported on in the previous year are set to become mainstream in the upcoming year. While many of these new changes will be for the better, some may leave passengers feeling, well, a little uncomfortable.

1. Airports will become more efficient

Boeing 727-223 of American Airlines at Chicago...

Boeing 727-223 of American Airlines at Chicago O’Hare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Travelers can now look forward to a quicker check-in process at airports thanks to the DIY bag tag trend. As we reported last year, airlines have been testing out self-tag options in various high-traffic airports, and with great results. American Airlines has reported that the new system has sped up check-in times by 55%, and Iberia has experienced similar results. Additionally, thanks to the growing popularity of programs such as the TSA PreCheck program, airport security lines are moving a bit faster. The TSA is now looking to expand the program to over 100 airports in the upcoming year.

2. Discount airlines fly across the pond

If you’ve ever turned green with envy at the sight of low-cost fares in Europe, you’re in luck. A few new transatlantic carriers (such as Iceland’s Wow) have entered the scene. Thanks to their fuel efficient jets, we may soon be able to cross the pond at a more affordable rate.

3. Taxes and fees will go up

Before you get too excited about cheaper transatlantic fares, hold your horses. If you thought fees couldn’t get any worse, you were wrong. They’re expected to go even higher in the upcoming year. However, these fees may be ones that you’re actually willing to pay for. In addition to more fees, taxes will also go up in 2014. Thankfully, it’s not too bad: the security fee for a round trip flight will be raised from $5 to $11.20 — a difference of, well, the cost of a bottle of water at the airport.

4. Seats will get smaller

If this isn’t motivation to revisit that New Year’s resolution to lose weight, I don’t know what is. Boeing is now manufacturing 17″ seats. Let’s hope you like your seat neighbors, because you’ll be getting pretty cozy.

5. You’ll stay connected

Not only will you be closer to your seat mates than ever before, but you may also get the opportunity to eavesdrop on all of their conversations. The FCC is looking to allow air passengers to make cell phone calls in-flight, much to the chagrin of most travelers. Sadly, you may never be able to use that “sorry I didn’t answer that email, I was on a flight.” excuse ever again. More airlines will be adding in-flight WIFI and even power outlets.

6. Private jets will go mainstream

Now that seats are getting smaller and planes may be getting noisier, you may be wishing you had access to a private jet. Surprise, you do. Companies such as JumpSeat are now offering innovative new jet sharing programs to the masses.

  • United Airlines is the First to Fly with New, Fuel-Efficient Split Scimitar Winglets (sacbee.com)
  • The hidden fees with low cost airlines (wcpo.com)
  • Airlines promise a return to civility — for a fee, of course (wfaa.com)
  • Airline fees continue to take off (wvec.com)

Airlines Promise to Return Civility, But It’ll Cost You

January 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Once again, airlines are charging their customers new fees in an effort to boost revenue. If you’re getting ready to roll your eyes, not so fast – once you hear some of the perks that accompany these optional fees, you may be more than willing to fork over the extra dough.

It’s no secret that airlines make the majority of their revenue from the extra fees they charge, namely, baggage fees, in-flight meals, cancellation fees, and the like. While we’re all guilty of griping about airline fees (and no one likes paying them), many consumers don’t realize that thanks to the high cost of oil, these additional fees help keep fare prices from skyrocketing – up to 15% higher, according to some experts. In fact, such fees bring in more than $15 billion a year and are one of the reasons many airlines are profitable.

Julie Watching Ponyo on Plane

Photo credit: camknows

Unfortunately, revenue from such fees is dropping. According to recent figures released by the government, 2013’s Q2 revenue from bag fees fell seven percent compared to the same period last year. In other words, airlines are now scrambling to find new sources of revenue, and this means more fees.

Thankfully, airlines have learned a lesson from their last few fee changes. Instead of opting to charge customers more for things that used to be free, they’re using this as an opportunity to find new ways to improve their customers’ travel experience by offering VIP worthy perks and services in exchange for a small fee. While some of these upgrades have been around for a while (think access to private lounges or a seat with extra legroom on your flight), some of these new upgrades are designed to make travelers’ lives easier.

For example, we’ve all had those times when we need to get work done on our flight, but can barely fit a large, unwieldy laptop on the tray table. To remedy this issue, some airlines are now offering in-flight iPad rentals. You’ve probably also had those moments where you find yourself wishing you’d sprung for the extra leg room upgrade – now, many airlines are offering in-flight upgrades. And, our personal favorite, some carriers are even offering luggage delivery service.

As airlines begin to focus more on customer experience, particularly through the use of technology, we expect that we’ll see more perks come available in the future. According to John F. Thomas of aviation and travel consulting company L.E.K. Consulting, “We’ve moved from takeaways to enhancements. It’s all about personalizing the travel experience.”

Would you pay extra for VIP-worthy add-ons? If so, what type of perks would you like to see airlines offer? Share with us in the comments section or via our Facebook page.

How to Avoid These 5 Gotcha Travel Fees

November 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s no secret that it’s becoming more and more expensive to travel. If you think that airlines are the only ones tacking on additional fees, think again. Thankfully, most of these fees are avoidable. Whether you’re flying, renting a car or staying in a hotel, there are a slew of hidden fees that everyone should be aware of when traveling. After reading USA Today’s article on gotcha fees, we pulled a few of our favorites, add weigh in with our own experiences.

1. Telephone booking fees

Do you prefer to book your flights through a telephone customer service agent? If so, you may be surprised to learn that you’ve been paying extra for this privilege. At $25 per telephone booking through several major airlines, it might cost you more to book a flight than it would to call Ms. Cleo’s psychic hotline.

To avoid this fee, use the same tool you’re using to read this blog post: your computer or your tablet. Visit the airline’s website to purchase your ticket. If you need assistance, you can still call and speak to an agent without incurring a charge, as long as you book your ticket online.

2. Hotel parking fees

Visiting a big city and planning on bringing (or renting) a car? Expect to pay big bucks for hotel parking. Parking in most big cities is already quite expensive, and hotels typically charge even more than the norm. If you must bring a car, do your research. There are plenty of websites you can use to find the cheapest nightly parking rate in the area you’re staying. If you’re renting a car, consider picking up your rental only when you need it, or renting it for the day and returning it at night. Other services like Uber ride sharing service, a taxi, or even public transportation like San Francisco’s BART or Boston’s T are much less expensive and sometimes faster.

3. Car rental insurance

English: Car rental counters of New Chitose Ai...

English: Car rental counters of New Chitose Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Renting a car? The insurance the car rental agent insists you need can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of your rental. If you already have car insurance, you may not even need this insurance. Call your insurance company to find out if your existing policy covers rentals. Additionally, some credit cards (such as American Express) offers low-cost car rental insurance. Do your research before you book a rental car and avoid the need for this redundant insurance.

4. Resort fees

Surprise. The hotel you’re staying at may not resemble a resort in the traditional sense of the word, but they may still be charging you a resort fee, especially if you’re in a tourist town. These fees generally run about $25 per night, which add up if you staying long enough. The best way to avoid this fee is to simply ask the hotel if there are any additional fees before you book, and negotiate your way out of them. If you wait until checkout, you’re too late.

5. Early check-in fee

If you arrive at your hotel too early, it may cost you. Many hotels charge an early check-in fee for travelers who arrive before the official check-in time, which is usually around 1pm. If you arrive earlier in the day, be sure to ask about any hidden check-in fees before going through the check-in process. Don’t want to sit around the lobby for hours? Most hotels will store your bags for free until your room is ready (don’t forget to tip the bellman though).

What’s the craziest hidden fee you’ve run into when traveling? Share with your fellow travelers in the comments section.

Six Strategies to Avoid Airline Fees

July 18, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

If you feel like you’re paying more airline fees this year than you did in 2012, you’re not crazy! Recently, TravelNerd discovered that airlines in the United States have changed 52 fees since last year.

In other words – if you’re not careful, you can end up paying an arm and a leg to get from Point A to Point B. Thankfully, there are things you can do to avoid many of these fees in order to keep the cost of travel down.

Here are our top tips for avoiding airline fees:

1. Use an airline credit card

If you’re OK with flying one airline fairly frequently, you may want to sign up for an airline credit card. Many airlines offer perks (such as one free checked bag) when you book with their credit card.

2. Don’t book until your plans are set in stone

departing LAX

departing LAX (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most airlines charge a fee for changing the date or time of your flight. In some cases, this fee can be more than the cost of the flight itself! Avoid those fees by booking only when you have a solid plan in place. If that isn’t an option, American Airlines now offers customers a bit of flexibility with their “Choice Essential” tickets.

3. Book directly with the airline…

While third-party booking sites are a great way to find the cheapest flight, you may want to complete your booking through the airline itself. Why? Many third-party sites don’t allow you to pay for baggage ahead of time, and unfortunately, may airlines charge more for baggage at the gate.

4. … but book online, not over the phone

When booking a flight directly through the airline, you may want to book online as opposed to over the phone. Many airlines charge a booking fee for reservations made over the phone, but don’t do that for online reservations.

5. Bring your own food

Plan ahead by packing a few snacks to bring on flight, as many airlines charge inflated rates for in-flight snacks and meals. Just remember, no liquids or semi-liquids, like yogurt.

6. Print your boarding pass at home

Several airlines now charge a fee for printing your boarding pass at the gate. In order to avoid this fee, come prepared and print your boarding pass at home. Or use the airline’s smartphone app so you don’t even have to print the pass.

Finally, the best way to avoid airline fees is to be an informed traveler and do your research before booking. Before you book what appears to be the cheapest flight option, check out the airline’s website and crunch some numbers. You may be surprised to find out that the “budget” option isn’t necessarily the cheapest in the long run.

Changing Airline Fees Show No Signs of Slowing

April 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Let’s say you’re about to take a week-long vacation. You want a direct flight, which is available but only for an extra fee. You’ll need to check a bag, so there’s another airline fee. And if you want a window seat, you guessed it, another fee. According to a study done by TravelNerd, a San Francisco tech company that is developing an online airline fee comparison tool, airline fees changed drastically in 2012. The study found over 50 changes in fees related to everything from baggage, to blankets, to unaccompanied minors and more.

A positive note of the study is that most of the fees only increased incrementally, about $5-10. But the moral of the story is that airline fees are unavoidable. And unfortunately, they’re likely only going to get worse. The Huffington Post found that in the first half of 2012, airlines collected more than $1.2 billion in baggage fees alone. The reason behind escalating fees is that without them, many airlines would struggle to remain profitable. So, they’re not going to go away.

Delta Airlines ticket counter @ Bradley airport

Delta Airlines ticket counter @ Bradley airport (Photo credit: That Hartford Guy)

According to a Reuters article, airlines may start offering pre-bundled packages that make airline fees easier to swallow. These bundled plans could offer combinations of services slightly discounted from the a la carte purchase price.

The idea here is that airlines would sell more additional services if they are pre-bundled in attractive combinations than they would if travelers had to choose from a laundry list of add-ons. But at this point, the only way to avoid airline fees is to accept whatever seat you’re assigned and to travel with only a carry-on bag. Otherwise, you have to bite the bullet and take whatever fees are tacked on to your ticket price.

Air Travelers Say Low Ticket Prices Trump Wifi

April 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A decade ago, the average traveler wouldn’t even dream of having access to wifi as a standard in-flight amenity. And let’s be honest — the first time we were able to log onto the internet from 30,000 feet above the earth was pretty exciting! However, now that the novelty of being able to update your Facebook page from the sky has tapered off, are the majority of travelers willing to pay a bit extra for this feature?

According to a December article on Mashable.com, the answer is no. In fact, according to a Qualtrics survey, only about 25% of the 1,100 consumers surveyed stated that in-flight amenities such as snacks, beverages, in-flight entertainment – and yes, wifi — are important to their overall travel experience. So what is important to travelers? The answer isn’t too surprising.

English: New interior on Delta Air Lines' Boeing

English: New interior on Delta Air Lines’ Boeing 737-800 fleet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Low ticket prices.

According to the article, Qualtrics CMO Dani Wanderer, said, “If airlines are really listening to their customers, cost is what matters most. Airlines can spare the bells and whistles of other perks, and bring the savings right to their customers.”

In fact, the same Qualtrics study found that for roughly 55% of consumers, lower fares aren’t just important — they are actually the single most important factor they consider when booking air travel. Taking into account the wide array of fees that many airlines are now charging, consumers are becoming even more price conscious than ever before.

So much so, that more and more consumers are using websites that aggregate flights from major airlines in order to shop the best deal, consumers are less likely to buy based on brand name and more likely to simply go with the best price.

While there is still a core group of travelers that enjoy added in-flight amenities — particularly on long flights — it appears that the majority of consumers value budget over added perks like wifi. We’d love to hear from you – are you willing to pay a bit extra per ticket for in-flight wifi, or is overall ticket price the most important factor?

Extra Airline Fees are the New Normal

April 4, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

If you’ve noticed yourself paying extra fees when booking a flight, you’re not alone. Nowadays, travelers can expect to pay extra for everything from luggage and seat choice to in-flight snacks and – yes – even your carry on bag. According to a Chron.com article, a recent study found a total of 52 fee changes in 2012 alone — most of which were related to baggage. For example, many airports lowered the weight limit and size of both carry-on and checked bags in order to bring in extra revenue.

So why the sudden increase in fees? According to Alicia Jao of TravelNerd, government data shows that the revenue airlines brought in from baggage fees actually plateaued from 2010 through 2012, leaving airlines in a financial lurch and struggling to compensate for that lost revenue. These new fees have definitely given airlines the revenue boost they so desperately needed — in fact, overall revenue went up 11% between 2011 and 2012.

Delta Airlines ticket counter @ Bradley airport

Delta Airlines ticket counter @ Bradley airport (Photo credit: That Hartford Guy)

Many travelers ask if there is any way to avoid these new fees. The truth is, the actual airline ticket prices will always be low, so if you’re looking to save money, your best bet is to travel light and go with the bare minimum of amenities.

If you’ll only be out of town for a few days, consider packing all of your clothing into a carry-on bag. Thankfully, most major airlines have decided to not charge for carry-on luggage, so be sure to do your research and book with an airline that still offers complimentary carry-ons.

Another way to save a few dollars is to stick with your default seat assignment, as seat changes or upgrades can cost upwards of $25 each way. Finally, if you typically purchase in-flight snacks, you may want to consider packing your own – this simple move can save $10 or more per person.

Airline fees are not going to go away. They’re how the airlines are making money these days. When you’re budgeting and booking travel, don’t just go by the ticket price alone. Always assume there are fees involved, and then look for ways to avoid getting dinged.