Seven Questions To Ask Before Your Next Air Travel

December 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or an occasional traveler, the old adage applies: Forewarned is forearmed. With amenities varying widely by carrier, it’s important to ask these seven questions before your next air travel to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal and most amenities.

Is the flight refundable? Most airlines charge you to change your flight, and the only way to avoid this is to book business or first class or book using points or miles. In the event you do need to change your flight, try picking up the phone and calling the airline instead of attempting to navigate its system online. Each carrier also has a Twitter account, which can also help you cut through the red tape and get your situation resolved quickly.

An Air France flight, a nice plane for international air travelWill I earn frequent flyer miles on this flight? Contrary to what you think, not all flights automatically qualify for a carrier’s frequent flyer program. By using Google’s ITA Matrix and wheretocredit.com, you can search for your flight’s booking class, which is what the airline uses to apply credit to its reward programs. Keep in mind that you’ll need to apply to an airline’s rewards program first in order to earn miles.

What’s included? What’s not included? Many used car dealers used the phrase, “no ups, no extras” when quoting a price to a prospective buyer. That meant the list price was the price. Not so in today’s world of budget airlines! If you’re wondering how the ticket price could be so low, investigate what’s not included and you’ll find the rest of your fare. It’s not uncommon to be charged for checking luggage, gaining access to overhead bins, and eating. If you know you’ll need to check a bag, add it on when you purchase your ticket. It will only get more expensive to do so when you check in online, or when you do so at the airport the day of the flight.

How much legroom does a particular seat offer? If this is an important detail for your air travel itinerary, I recommend Legroom for Google Flights Chrome extension, which not only reveals how much room you’ll have between your seat and the next row but also what the flight’s carry-on restrictions and amenities are. Seatguru.com also offers information about seat width and pitch so you can determine how comfortable you will be while en route.

What happens if I’m delayed? A delayed flight is inconvenient, but if you book your flight using a premium credit card, any additional expenses you incur — an overnight at a hotel, meals, and even cash to cover booking a new flight — may be covered by the insurance the card provides to members. If you don’t do air travel regularly and don’t want to carry a credit card with a high annual fee, you can still purchase flight insurance for peace of mind.

Where does my flight originate and where does it land? While this may seem like a strange question, it’s extremely important to know, especially when your air travel takes you through an unfamiliar city. You may think you’re booking your flight through the city’s main airport, but what if you’re wrong? New York and Chicago each boasts two airports, while many foreign cities, such as London, have multiple airports. Not knowing where your flight originates could cost you dearly — you might even miss your flight entirely. Being knowledgeable about the city and your airport is crucial for a smooth experience.

Do I need to print my boarding pass? In this age of technology and mobile apps, you’d think this was a silly question, but some low-cost carriers require a printed boarding pass and may charge you anywhere between $10 – $20 to do so! Having an online version will not get you on the flight, so be sure to print it at home, or know you’re going to be charged for that precious document.

What are some of your air travel questions and preparations? What will make you buy or not buy a particular ticket? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Skeeze (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

Four Tips for Finding Cheaper Flights

December 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re trying to keep your travel budget under, well, budget, there are always ways of finding cheaper flights than the ones you might normally take.

1. Book early. While this may seem like a no-brainer, many people are hesitant to lock in a fare too far ahead of their planned departure. The best prices are typically found when you book 21 days before you want to leave. If you can plan three months out or if you don’t feel like you can commit until 30 days beforehand, choose whichever timeline works for you and stick to it.

If you’re skeptical about this, trust the math. Google Flights and Kayak are two online platforms that have built-in algorithms that use historical data to predict a flight’s price. While not foolproof, it’s more accurate than trusting your brain to remember all the numbers you’re comparing.

JetBlue Airways is one of your options for cheaper flights.2. Be flexible. Since we’re talking about looking ahead and planning your trip, could you leave on a Monday instead of a Sunday? You might be surprised to learn that doing so could save you money. Also, flying in and out of a different airport than the one closest to you may seem like more of an inconvenience than a perk, but again, do the math. If a group of five needs to get somewhere and you could save $30/ticket by flying out of an alternative airport, that savings could be applied to a hotel night or car rental or meals. When you search for your cheaper flights, leave it up to the computer to find the lowest prices and let it dictate your schedule.

3. If you have more time than money, you could also save by booking a connecting flight instead of choosing to fly nonstop. Flying at times that aren’t peak, such as early morning or later in the evening may also result in savings. These especially work to your advantage if you’re flying to an earlier time zone, say Atlanta to Los Angeles. Atlanta is three hours ahead of LA, so if it’s 8 p.m. in Atlanta, it’s only 5 p.m. in California. You’ll arrive around 10 p.m., adjust to the time difference while you sleep, and wake ready to work the next day.

4. While you’re comparing destinations, compare carriers as well. While Spirit’s no-frills travel experience is well documented, other discount airlines such as JetBlue, Southwest, and other regional airlines could offer a better deal than one of the major carriers. While you’re comparing, don’t just take the price from the airline’s website; use at least one third-party platform, such as Priceline, Google Flights, or Travelocity. Beware, though! Read the fine print to make sure there aren’t hidden fees that would cost you all the savings you’ve worked so hard to find.

Traveling can be expensive, but with some savvy planning and saving, it can be less costly and more enjoyable than you think.

How do you find your cheaper flights? Do you have any special strategies or tricks? Share them with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Eric Salard (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Travel Tip: How Hackers are Targeting Frequent Flier Miles

February 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve worked hard to earn your frequent flier miles, logging all those flights and using your airline credit card whenever you can. And you probably think your miles and points are safe and secure, just waiting for you to redeem them.

Except your miles might be the target of hackers who have figured out how to crack your account, and are plundering it, selling those points for cash or tickets. Now that most airlines no longer send out monthly statements that keep travelers updated on their balances, hackers have begun taking advantage of the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality to do their worst.
Different loyalty cards for hotel stays, car rentals, and frequent flyer miles
But you can protect yourself from these hackers if you just take a few security steps.

First, you need to protect your airline account. Fortunately, most airlines quit using the 4-digit PIN code they had used for years, and replaced it with full password protection. But that doesn’t help you if you’re still using your dog’s name as the password. Pick a complex password that’s hard to remember or even figure out, the more complex, the better.

Rather than try to remember the password or write it down, use a password management app like 1Password or LastPass to keep track of it. Better yet, let the app generate a complex password. You can choose a random scattering of letters, numbers, and special characters, or a string of unrelated words, and store them in the app. Security experts estimate that passwords like this can take centuries to break.
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Avoid Higher Airline Prices for “Open Jaw” Flights

October 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Recently, the country’s three major airlines each implemented a little change to their pricing models that, if you’re not careful, can end up costing you a lot more per flight.

The change, says The New York Times, could make it up to seven times more expensive for those who fly what’s called an “open jaw” route.
british-airways-boeing-747-400-g-civh-departs-london-heathrow-11apr2015
That’s where you fly to a particular destination, but return home from a different one. For example, if you flew to Miami, but flew home from Orlando, that’s an “open jaw,” or multi-city flight.

We don’t want you to be caught unaware, so here are some things we suggest you do before you purchase a multi-city or open jaw ticket.

  • Check into the cost of two one-way tickets. There’s a very good chance the two tickets will cost less than the one open-jaw flight. The example we saw in the Times story showed a $1200 price tag for a Jacksonville, FL to Los Angeles/San Francisco to Jacksonville. But as two separate tickets, it was $400. Read more

Getting the Cheapest Flights Without Sacrificing Comfort

August 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Business travelers often consider the cost of airfare when determining the ROI of their business trips (and if you don’t, you should, especially for entrepreneurs and executives whose travel costs come out of their regular budgets). You can find less expensive flights with just a little planning, but without giving up the comfort and convenience of your usual travel schedule.

Yahoo Travel shared several great ways for saving money on flights, and they apply to business fliers as much as vacation travelers.

Delta Airline A330 airplaneLet’s start with the basics: it’s true what the experts say. The cheapest flights will be found when you book eight weeks out for domestic travel and 24 weeks out for international. However, if you’re impulsive and can leave at the drop of a hat, you can also snatch a cheap flight last-minute if you can be somewhat flexible in your schedule.

If you want to be more scientific in your search for a deal, we suggest downloading a fare alert app that lets you know when the cheapest flight becomes available for the destination of your choice. Another way to get the big picture on flight prices is to investigate the “search by month” option on sites such as Skyscanner and Google Flights. This will take the guesswork out of your purchase.
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Why The Return of $1 Airfares Isn’t Good News

July 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The old adage, “If something’s too good to be true, it probably is,” serves as a general warning to most people. So does “Buyer beware.” Basically, we’re urged to thoroughly investigate a deal that seems impossibly beneficial to our wallets.

US Capitol Building - These sayings could be tested in a whole new way if a bill before Congress becomes law.

In the ongoing saga to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, something Congress must do every few years, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved an attachment to the reauthorization bill that would deregulate a policy the airlines have long opposed and despised. The attachment would essentially give airlines the freedom to not advertise the taxes and fees associated with certain airfares — something they only recently started doing a few years ago.

This would allow them to return to their practice of promoting as “low cost” or “free” tickets that are anything but.
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There Is a Best Time to Purchase an Airline Ticket. Sort Of.

April 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The process of purchasing an airline ticket has become something out of an episode from Survivor — can you outwit, outlast, outplay the airlines and get the price you want? It seems someone is finally seeking to form an alliance.

Mobile boarding pass for KLM. One of a few versions of an airline ticketExpedia and Airlines Reporting Corporation joined forces to conduct an immensely comprehensive data study, analyzing 10 billion flights, to provide you with a detailed strategy for getting the best price on an airline ticket without having to sell your soul at a tribal council.

First, let me tell you when it’s time for you to go: you can actually get the best fare by traveling on the weekend. Business flights are much more expensive than those catering to leisure travelers, so flights that take you to or from your destination over a weekend will be more affordable than those departing during the week. That should help you know when it’s time for you to go.

Here’s the skinny: airlines change their prices multiple times a day. George Hobica of Airfare Watchdog suggests checking, at a minimum, four times a day, every day of the week, as far in advance as you can. Sheesh. Yes, it may take a little work to find the best deal.
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Should Airlines Honor Mistake Fares?

September 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

In a world of cheap fares and automated ticketing systems, there are still times that airlines are prone to “fat finger mistakes.” According to a recent USA Today article, that’s when an employee has accidentally offered a fare at a discounted price because they mis-entered the correct fares or misplaced a decimal.

According to the story, one customer was able to jump on fare from NYC to Abu Dhabi for $227 due to a clerical error. The ticket usually costs about $1,500, but the airline was forced to honor the fare due to regulations. However, those regulations may be changing in the near future.

English: Dublin International Airport, Ireland...

Dublin International Airport, Ireland.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rule was actually created to protect consumers from dishonorable price hikes after they had already purchased tickets. But at this point, the U.S. Department of Transportation believes the rule is being used to scam airlines more than anything else. There have been numerous instances recently of customers finding mistakes and immediately spreading the news on social media so a multitude of other travelers can also take advantage of it.

The hope is that there will still be protection in place for consumers while also beginning to protect businesses that make clerical errors. While there’s something to be said for honoring prices even when they’re the result of a mistake, some of those errors can generate huge losses for a business.

People do make mistakes after all, and we expect others to forgive our human error. Some people may think the airlines are so big, and so unconcerned about passengers’ comfort, that they deserve to get hit where it hurts, but there’s a question of fairness to consider.

For starters, what if the airline did come back and retroactively charge you for a fuel increase because gas prices went up a week before your trip? That wouldn’t be fair or acceptable.

We think it’s fair if airlines may want to give customers a little something when such an error arises, such as a few frequent flyer miles or some kind of upgrade. But if an airline mistakenly gives a heavy discount on a fare, they shouldn’t be forced to honor it when doing so will harm their own interests.

How do you feel about it? Share your opinion in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Why Airline Ticket Prices Vary So Widely

November 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The ticket you bought for your next flight could cost twice as much, or half as much, as the person sitting next to you. It’s a rule of flying that buying a ticket at the last minute means you’ll pay more than someone who bought when prices were at their lowest. If you have to book a ticket because of a family emergency or a last minute trip, you reluctantly pay a premium.

But did you know that ticket prices on an hour long economy flight can vary by as much as $1,400? This rather startling price difference was revealed by Hopper, a travel research website. A recent report they put out states that ticket prices for economy seats between LAX and Vegas — a 60 minute flight — ranged from $200 to $1,600.

DragonAir Economy SeatsThat’s quite a price difference and $1,600 is a lot to pay for such a short flight. The person who paid $1,600 must have been desperate, or quite the high roller.

So how do you avoid being the person who paid the most for their seat?

Part of it is a matter of luck: prices for the same flight vary day to day and even hour to hour. Your best bet on scoring at the lower end of the scale is to buy ahead of time, of course.

You can also check out Hopper’s website, which gives you a good idea of the range of prices for a particular destination and what the best deal is likely to be. If you see something within your acceptable range, be sure to snap it up right away. That price may be gone in 60 minutes.

If you enter the airports you’re flying between, you’ll also get a detailed breakdown of varying flight costs, the best time to buy tickets, and the most popular days to travel to a particular destination. They also provide info on what carriers make the trip, with a percentile breakdown. Plus there’s a list of alternate airports you can travel through to get close to the same spot.

If you want to avoid getting stung by high ticket prices, plan ahead, and use the tools to do some comparison shopping. Whether it’s Hopper or any of the other travel sites online, it’s a matter of good planning and plain luck.

Photo credit: Luke Lai (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Here’s Why Plane Ticket Prices Change Every Day

July 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

These days, air travel seems pricier than ever (and that the amenities less amenable than ever). Would you believe, though, that when you adjust for inflation, airfares have actually fallen by about 50 percent in the past 30 years? It’s true, according to a chart-filled article in The Atlantic.

English: Airline Ticket Receipt of Southwest A...

English: Airline Ticket Receipt of Southwest Airlines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s no consolation to the average passenger, though. Paying hundreds of dollars just to get from Point A to Point B — often with nary a free bag of peanuts to soothe them — leaves many travelers with a bad taste in their mouths.

But perhaps even more frustrating than the high price of air travel is the constant change in exactly how high they’ll be. That’s because there are many factors, some not even remotely related to the airlines themselves, that determine what your airfare will be. And some of those factors change by the day.

Here’s a look at three of those factors, drawn from a Fox News article on the “9 Surprising Factors That Influence The Price Of Your Airline Ticket.”

  • The Price Of Oil: Gas prices ruin everything, from the cost of your daily trip to the office to the price tag on your plane ticket. Fuel has been airlines’ No. 1 operating expense since 2011, and so airlines keep adding fuel surcharges to the price.
  • The Timing Of Your Flight: Convenience is costly. So is flying when everyone else wants to fly. That’s why it can be extra pricey to fly on major holidays, spring break and even dates like the Super Bowl. The least-expensive days to fly: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and sometimes Saturdays.
  • The Government: Yes, there really is a Sept. 11 Security Fee. It’s rising to $11.20 per round-trip flight later this year, and that’s on top of the taxes and other fees airlines tack on to the price of your ticket to pay the government.
  • Strike A Bargain: Looking for your best bet on ticket prices? Several websites, including Fare Detective, Kayak and even the search engine Bing now offer historical fare comparisons that will let you know when it’s “safe” to buy.

What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten on a plane ticket? What’s the most you’ve ever paid? Share your booking tales with us in the comments section.

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