Don’t Blame the Airlines for Their Policies, Blame the IRS

February 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

After the busy holiday travel season, you may have felt like many of your fellow travelers, that you were bleeding money. But before you blame the airline for gouging you, you may be surprised to learn that Congress and the FAA are the real Scrooges in this Dickensian scenario.

Airline seatsWhen the IRS ruled in 2009 that ticket fares were subject to corporate taxation, but add-on fees weren’t, airlines found their loophole for profitability. As we consumers know, the government can regulate all it wants, but businesses will still find a way to pass the costs created by those policies on to us to achieve the ROI that their shareholders demand.

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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.

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.

Southwest Airlines Begins Enforcing ‘No-Show’ Policy

December 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

When it comes to budget air travel, Southwest Airlines is the go-to option for many savvy travelers. While Southwest’s fares may have risen slightly in the last few years (according to some experts, up to 39% over the last five years) the airline continues to offer an array of complimentary perks that are practically unheard of in a time when airlines seem to be continually looking for new fees to charge their customers.

While many airlines are beginning to charge fees not just for checked baggage, but also for carry on luggage, Southwest Airlines continues to offer free checked bags. In fact, each passenger is allowed to check up to two bags free of charge. The airline also offers smaller perks, such as complimentary snacks in-flight. However, one of the biggest perks Southwest offers is one that many travelers were unaware of: until recently, passengers could no-show for a flight without penalty. Instead, the value of their ticket would simply be applied to their account as a credit for future use, no questions asked.

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 (N626SW) p...

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 (N626SW) pictured before touching down on the runway at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. The aircraft is painted in Southwest’s canyon blue primary livery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, however, Southwest Airlines opted to change its ultra-forgiving policy to one that penalizes travelers that simply no-show for flights. While the airline is becoming a bit more strict, Southwest’s policy still remains extremely forgiving, especially in comparison to other major airlines. While passengers who no-show for their flight will lose the face value of their ticket, not all hope is lost.

Under their new no-show policy, Southwest Airlines will continue to credit the face value of the ticket to a customer’s account as long as they notify the airline of their absence within 10 minutes of the flight’s scheduled departure. Additionally, customers can still make changes to nonrefundable tickets ahead of time without penalty. In contrast, most major airlines charge up to $200 for itinerary changes.

While Southwest’s new policy does tighten the reins a bit, we’re not complaining. After all, giving the airline notice of your cancellation up to ten minutes before the flight leaves a simple trade-off in exchange for the ability to change your itinerary up to the day of travel. Without breaking the bank.