Leap from Coach to Business Without Breaking the Bank
10/8/2012 10:37:02 AM Link
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Now, more than ever, it pays to get out of Coach.
Airlines have long skimped on seating dimensions and we have only been getting wider.
The typical Coach seat width of 16-19” has remained pretty consistent since 2001, when a report found that even then seats weren’t quite wide enough to keep arms and shoulders from spilling into the aisles. Airlines have also started to take away passengers’ leg room and other amenities. Distraught travelers have sought out sites like SeatGuru.com, which offer detailed comparisons of seat dimensions on different airlines.
Economy Class ‘minimalism’ is a strategy to squeeze in more seats and make room for more spacious Business and First Class cabins for elite travelers.
As seats become too narrow for their backsides, many baby boomers who have flown Coach their whole lives are starting to covet the seats up front.
So, how can you make the leap from the Coach Squeeze into the Luxury Lounge in the front of the plane without breaking the bank? It may be easier than you think.
Flexible dates will keep you from getting a stiff neck in Coach.
Airlines sometimes have sales on international flights that offer seats in First, Business, or Premium Economy class for up to 70% off the regular fare. Even with the discount, these seats will cost a lot more than Economy, but if you’re going to brave the 15 hour flight from LA to Sydney, Australia, there’s little choice.
Holiday sales usually offer a wide window to book, but travelers must fly within a short period. Airlines have been offering huge discounts on Business and First Class seats to Europe for travel during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s (when big shot business travelers want to stay home).
Flash sales often boast incredible fares that are valid for longer, but travelers must act quickly to get the deal. Airlines use these promotions to boost sales within a very short time period – sometimes only a few days.
When booking any sale, travelers have to be wary of “blackout dates,” non-refundable tickets, and other arbitrary airline traps and tricks.
Here’s a pro tip: if you see a sale fare on one airline, it probably won’t be long before other airlines follow suit. There’s nothing quite like a good fare war to put Business Class in your price range.
Learn how to put your miles to work.
Studies show that consumers are dutifully stacking frequent flyer miles and points, but they always have trouble cashing in. At least one-third of all points and miles are never redeemed, according to a report published by Colloquy in April 2011.
Free and almost-free seats are not the Loch Ness monster; they are real. Airlines do reserve a certain number of First and Business class seats for purchase with frequent flyer miles. The tricky part is finding an available “reward” seat on the route you want.
Websites like Flyer Talk and First Class Flyer will alert readers to the latest ways to use their points. First Class Flyer sometimes goes a step further (for a fee) and publishes reports that tell travelers the months and airlines that are most likely to yield a free seat on a given route.
Travelers who want free expert advice on how to use points to snag cheaper fares on international flights want to book with a specialized travel agent.
With airlines increasingly forming alliances to boost revenue, customers can often transfer their points between airlines, which makes finding a reward seat less difficult.
And if there’s nothing out there, travelers can always sell American Express points for cash to book tickets. The exchange rate is approximately one penny per point (100,000 points=$1,000), according to Fabrizio Peralta of PlanetAmex.com.
Follow those in the know to get the best discounts.
Don’t have time to sift through promotions on airline websites to find the best deal? Just “like,” follow, subscribe, and let the deals come to you. Travel agencies, like CookTravel.net, will often post the latest deal on Facebook and tweet it to their followers on Twitter.
Leave the searching to someone else (like a travel agent).
Online booking engines look easy, but they don’t show you everything out there. For bargain hunters, “one click” booking can turn into a tedious process of trial and error, entering one combination of dates and cities after another in the hopes of finding the fare they want. A specialized travel agent will do the searching for you and will know when special airline deals are coming up – even if they’re unannounced.
An online search engine will never say, “If you wait a couple of days, and stay over on Saturday night, you will be able to book this for half the price.” Those are the kind of tips that get you to the front of the plane.
Use travel agents who specialize in the type of travel you want.
The best international consolidators are often travel agencies that make deals with airlines and tour operators to get exclusive discounts on the tickets they book most.
So, if you’re looking for the cheapest airfare to Croatia, you’re better off with the local Croatian travel agency than a generic online search engine like Kayak.com. This rule holds up to comparison tests time and again. By the same logic, if you want deep discounts on First and Business Class airfares, your best bet is to pick up the phone and call a travel agency in that niche.
“Premium” Economy seats offer more than just extra legroom.
Major air carriers – Jet Blue, Delta, United, and many others - offer “Premium Economy,” “Economy Plus,” and other options that let you buy a little extra legroom. JetBlue only charges $10 for seats with 38 inches between rows, and even the standard seats are spaced a little further apart than the 34 inches typical on some airlines.
Some airlines charge hundreds of dollars more for the extra legroom, but there may be other perks. “Classica Plus” is the Italian version of Premium Economy offered by Alitalia. A Classica Plus ticket comes with priority check-in and boarding, a 20% wider seat, 20% more legroom, a welcome drink and hot towel, among other things. Most importantly, the ticket comes with a free baggage allowance of two 50 pound pieces of luggage – a $200 value on a transatlantic roundtrip flight.
Right now, “Classica Plus” seats on Alitalia are on sale for as little as $1,450 (JFK to Milan roundtrip, all inclusive) to prime destinations all over Italy. File this under “Flash sale” – tickets must be booked by October 8, 2012, but they are valid for travel until March 2013.
The holy grail of finding an inexpensive, truthful price for airline tickets: A Mess
1/19/2012 9:15:57 AM Link
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The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) is heavily criticizing the DOT's possible delay to 2013, stating that "consumers will now regrettably be forced to continue to pay premium prices -- billions of dollars in fees -- for optional services because of the inability to efficiently compare the total cost of air travel (base airfares and fees) on an apples-to-apples basis across multiple airlines ... a national disgrace
"It means another year of confusion, complexity and no meaningful way to compare across airlines and find the best deal."
The outrage is not that the airlines are doing anything illegal, but that all this deceptive advertising has been perfectly legal for years.
Airline executives would all be in jail if they had to adhere to most state laws against false advertising.
Sean Kennedy, a senior White House legislative aide, left the Obama Administration six months ago to become chief lobbyist for Washington's leading airline industry group.
read more from this blog post.
Five Quick Tips to Cut the Cost of Flying
1/17/2012 4:39:43 PM Link
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Waste-not, Pay a lot
Fly one way on a round-trip ticket and throw away the return leg. It is not smiled upon by the airlines, but if you’re traveling one-way last minute, the price of a round trip ticket is sometimes cheaper. For example, we found a fare from JFK to Rome, departing January 31, returning February 7 for a total price of $1,728 one way. A round-trip ticket on the same airline on the same dates was just $812.
Some business class fares are offered at a discount when you buy with just a 14 or 7 day lead time, but if economy is what you’re looking for, think ahead at least one month.
Use tools to compare prices across many carriers. Sites like Travelocity, Orbitz and Expedia actually take your itinerary and compare it against data in their reservation systems. Other sites like Kayak, Bing and Hipmunk are fare aggregators and just allow you to compare tickets side-by-side. Some aggregators have special relationships with certain airlines, making their fares slightly cheaper, but some sites also apply a service fee, so browse with care.
Fake It: Bargain Hunt with an Expensive Carrier
Sometimes you can find an amazing deal at Saks by shopping the sales, and sometimes you can mistakenly over-pay for a piece at a bargain basement. The same applies with airlines. Don’t get stuck overpaying on a discount carrier when you can underpay on an expensive carrier. Use miles, points, upgrades and discount codes whenever possible. For advice on the best combinations and to find a great sale, contact your travel agent.
Help Yourself Before You Help Others
This is what the flight attendants will tell you if the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling. The same applies when you’re searching for your ticket.
In many cases, buying in bulk can get you cheaper prices on food or supplies, research suggests that when booking a group of tickets, airlines will often offer a higher rate if they can’t find the entire group of tickets at the lowest rate. Start by searching for a single ticket, and use it as the baseline comparison for the rest of the tickets you wish to book.
For more information contact: Julie Barsamian 212 201 1827
DOT Response to Petition
1/9/2012 4:39:03 PM Link
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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
Issued by the Department of Transportation
on the 6th day of January, 2012
Petition to delay the effective date of
14 CFR 399.85(c) and 399.87 Docket: DOT-OST-2010-0140
RESPONSE TO PETITION
By this order, we are denying the petition of the Air Transport Association (now Airlines for America), the International Air Transport Association, the Regional Airline Association, the Air Carrier Association of America, and the Association of European Airlines (AEA) (collectively Associations) to delay the effectiveness of 14 CFR 399.85(c) and 399.87 for the reasons discussed below but also announcing that the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings has decided, for a short period of time, to apply its enforcement discretion in monitoring compliance with these provisions.
On April 25, 2011, the Department of Transportation (Department or DOT) published a final rule in the Federal Register titled “Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections,” containing many new requirements to improve the air travel environment for consumers. See 76 Fed. Reg. 23110 (April 25, 2011). It expanded upon the improved passenger rights included in a DOT rule published on December 30, 2009. See 74 Fed. Reg. 68983 (December 30, 2009). As published, the effective date of the April 2011 rule was August 23, 2011, except for the full fare advertising amendments which were scheduled to be effective on October 24, 2011. On July 28, 2011, at the request of U.S. carrier associations, foreign carrier associations and a travel agent association, the Department extended the effective date of certain provisions of the rule. Specifically, the Department extended the effective date from August 23, 2011, to January 24, 2012, of the requirements pertaining to disclosure of certain baggage fees, post-purchase price increases, notification of flight status changes, and holding a reservation without payment for twenty-four hours. The Department also extended the effective date from October 24, 2011, to January 24, 2012, of the requirements pertaining to full fare advertising. The full fare advertising requirements were further extended until January 26, 2012, based on a petition from American Airlines. See 76 Fed. Reg. 78145 (December 16, 2011) and 76 Fed. Reg. 82115 (December 30, 2011).
Since the Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections final rule was published in the Federal Register on April 25, 2011, the Department has been working collaboratively with the regulated entities to assist them in complying with the various requirements in this rule. For example, on July 7 and 8 and again on July 21 and 22, the Department held two all-day public forums to explain the requirements in the final rule and to answer questions. In addition, on August 19, 2011, the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office issued a guidance document titled “Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Enforcement of the Second Final Rule on Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections.” This guidance document was amended on September 6, 2011, and again on October 19, 2011 and will be amended again during the week beginning January 9, 2012, to include more answers to frequently asked questions. See Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, DOT, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Enforcement of the Second Final Rule on Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections (Aug. 19, 2011, revised Sept. 6, 2011 and Oct. 19, 2011) at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/rules/rules.htm. Staff members in the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office have also participated in numerous meetings and teleconferences to provide further guidance to assist industry stakeholders in their compliance efforts.
On November 28, 2011, the Associations other than AEA filed a petition urging the Department to postpone for an additional year the implementation of certain of the new rules on bag fees. More specifically, the request involves two provisions of the April 2011 final rule to enhance airline passenger protections: (1) a requirement in 14 CFR 399.85(c) for carriers to include bag allowance and fee information for a carry-on bag and the first and second checked bag in text form on e-ticket confirmations, and (2) a requirement in 14 CFR 399.87 that the same baggage allowances and fees that apply at the beginning of a passenger’s itinerary apply throughout the entire itinerary if the journey originates or ends in the U.S.  The petition included sworn affidavits and statements from representatives of 11 U.S. and foreign air carriers and a technology supplier that works on carrier baggage information systems explaining the technical challenges and the difficulties they face in meeting the current deadline of January 24, 2011, for complying with sections 399.85(c) and 399.87.
On November 29, 2011, the Airline Tariff Publishing Company (ATPCO) filed an answer supporting the petition and asking the Department to create a taskforce comprised of ATPCO, DOT, the airlines and airline technology systems in order to help determine the most efficient method for the airline industry to implement the new DOT requirements. On December 7, 2011, AEA also filed a request that the effective date for sections 399.87 and 399.85(c) be delayed for one year. On December 20, 2011, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) sent the Department a letter supporting the request of the Associations for an extension of the effective dates of the new rules on bag fees and asking that the Department include ASTA and others from the distribution and consumer side of the issue in any task force it creates to work on implementation of the new bag rules.
Reasons for the Petition
In support of their petition for a one-year delay of the effective date of section 399.87, the Associations cite five principal reasons. First, the Associations point to a lack of a centralized database for bag fees and allowances. They explain that there is no industry standard today for carriers to tell one another which baggage rule to apply, so there will be “lots of work to do” to reach a consensus on how to resolve that issue. Second, the Associations cite the lack of internal IT systems and procedures that interact with baggage rule databases. Although they acknowledge that ATPCO is on track to have a baggage rule database ready by January 24, 2012, the airlines state that they will still need time to determine how best to access the information in that database or others, automate their communications with each other, transmit and incorporate the data into their check-in systems at websites, kiosks and ticket counters, test the connectivity, and train employees on the new rules and procedures. Third, the Associations state that existing systems are unable to accommodate downstream application of baggage rules or fees. They provide as an example the inability of their current check-in systems to store and access information on any flight segments that took place earlier in time, which they state is necessary in order to identify the first carrier in an itinerary and to be able to apply that airline’s baggage policy. Fourth, the Associations contend that there is a need for stakeholders (airlines, airline vendors and other groups providing baggage rule information) to adjust compliance plans and efforts as the Department continues to clarify specific details of the new baggage rules. Fifth, the Associations state their belief that there will be an increased likelihood of consumer harm if the extension is not granted because carriers would be “forced to adopt error-prone makeshift procedures that would substantially delay passenger check-in, create long lines at airports and substantially reduce the availability of automated self-service check-in, including the fast growing popular remote check-in systems.”
As for their request for a one-year delay of the effective date of section 399.85(c), the Associations assert that current carrier e-ticket automated processes that could be used to disclose baggage rules and fees to passengers do not have access to other carriers’ baggage rules and fees. They state that any system that is built to receive and reconcile baggage rule and fee information for section 399.87 will be used to communicate with e-ticket and website ticket purchasing engines to meet the baggage notice requirements of section 399.85(c), so the present inability to comply with section 399.87 will make it impossible to comply with section 399.85(c).
We are denying the petitions to delay the effectiveness of sections 399.85(c) and 399.87. Carriers have known of the requirements since April 2011 and have already received a five-month extension. Consumers will continue to be confused about their baggage fees until the carriers comply with these new bag rules.
In any event, airlines should be able to comply with both sections 399.85(c) and 399.87 where all of the flights on a passenger’s itinerary are operated by a single carrier with no code-share or interlining, or with domestic code sharing between a mainline carrier and its regional partners. The vast majority of passengers fly on these types of itineraries. There is no reason for airlines not to provide consumers accurate information about baggage allowances and fees and to apply the same allowance and fee throughout a passenger’s itinerary when it is one carrier that is marketing and operating the flight or the flight only involves domestic code-share service on a regional partner.
The next biggest group of passengers has itineraries with code-share flights that involve international code-share service (e.g. Delta with Air France) or domestic code-share service between mainline carriers (e.g., United Airlines with US Airways). Here as well there is little reason not to apply a single baggage allowance/fee policy and to communicate that policy to consumers. Airlines have known for many years of the Department’s code-share policies that require a marketing carrier’s contract of carriage to apply to a passenger’s air transportation and the need to include accurate baggage information concerning such flights in their tariffs and contracts of carriage
As for interline itineraries, we recognize that it is more difficult to disclose baggage fees and ensure that the same baggage allowances and fees that apply at the beginning of a passenger’s itinerary apply throughout the entire itinerary on flights that are on a single ticket but are sold pursuant to interline agreements among the carriers listed on the ticket. This is particularly problematic when a passenger is flying on an interline ticket and the airlines listed on the ticket do not all have a direct relationship with one another. However, a mandate to apply a particular baggage rule to the entire journey of a passenger whose ultimate ticketed origin or destination is a point in the U.S. is not entirely new to carriers. For many years, the Department has required and continues to require carriers to use the piece-related baggage system instead of weight-based baggage system over the entire itinerary shown on a passenger’s ticket, including an interline ticket.
For these reasons, the Department is denying the Associations’ request to delay the effectiveness of 14 CFR 399.85(c) and 399.87 but announcing that its Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, which has the discretion to determine in which cases to pursue enforcement action against airlines with respect to air travel consumer protection, has decided not to strictly enforce sections 399.85(c) and 399.87 with respect to certain interline and code-share itineraries. More specifically, the Assistant General Counsel has decided not to enforce sections 399.85(c) and 399.87 for a six-month period with respect to interline itineraries or with respect to code-share itineraries involving international flights, or domestic flights of different mainline carriers, if certain conditions are met. First, carriers will be expected at a minimum to disclose on e-ticket confirmations that additional airline fees for baggage may apply and provide a link from the e-ticket confirmation to the code-share or interline partner websites where the passenger can follow a link and find the baggage allowance and fee information. Second, carriers will be expected to reimburse upon request any passenger that was not charged the same baggage fees throughout his/her itinerary if that resulted in the passenger being overcharged.
Also, while the Department is not creating a task force to discuss the most efficient method the airline industry can use to implement the Department’s new bag rules, the Department will continue to work collaboratively with the regulated entities to assist them in complying with these requirements, including attending industry meetings to answer questions or provide further clarifications as needed.
ACCORDINGLY, we are denying the petitions to postpone the effectiveness of 14 CFR 399.85(c) and 399.87 but also announcing to regulated entities that the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings has decided to apply its enforcement discretion in the manner described above in enforcing those sections. A copy of this order will be served on the petitioners.
Robert S. Rivkin
An electronic version of this document is available at
The April 2011 rule, among other things, requires airlines to provide greater compensation to consumers involuntarily bumped from flights, expands the ban on lengthy tarmac delays, requires that advertised air fares be the full price to be paid by the consumer including all mandated government taxes and fees, establishes minimum standards for the subjects carriers must cover in customer service plans, expands the group of carriers that must respond to consumer complaints, prohibits most post-purchase price increases, requires carriers to provide passengers timely notice of flight status changes such as delays and cancellations, requires carriers to disclose fees for ancillary services (particularly baggage) sold in connection with tickets, and requires airlines to apply the same baggage allowances and fees throughout a passenger’s journey if their ultimate ticketed origin or destination is a U.S. point.
The Associations also asked the Department to provide clarification on a number of issues that could impact carrier implementation plans for sections 399.87 and 399.85(c). These clarifications will be included in the guidance document noted above.
For example, a passenger purchases a ticket for travel on ABC Airlines, connecting to DEF Airlines and then to GHI Airlines. ABC Airlines and GHI Airlines do not have a ticketing agreement with one another but both have a ticketing agreement with DEF Airlines and DEF Airlines issues an interline ticket on its ticket stock for travel on all three airlines.
More Airline Updates
8/26/2011 1:52:17 PM Link
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As hurricane Irene draws closer, more airlines are issuing updates. If you, a family member or friend are/were planning to fly, consult the links below for more information.
Alitalia - has not announced any Travel Notice Exceptions
Cathay Pacific - CX
Delta - Air France - KLM
Qatar -QR - no waivers issued yet
QR is advising to recheck flight on flight status link prior to departure http://www.qatarairways.com/us/en/homepage.html
Lufthansa has not announced any Travel Notice Exceptions
Singapore has not announced any Travel Notice Exceptions
Swiss Air Lines has not announced any Travel Notice Exceptions
United Airlines - UA/CO
Airline Waiver Updates
8/26/2011 10:40:34 AM Link
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The following Airlines are now offering wavers
Joe's UPDATE 8/25/11: Airlines are expanding the scope of their Hurricane Irene wavers,
United Airlines and Continental Airlines: For the following airports, customers may make one fee-free change to their trip. Those with cancelled flights are entitled to a refund. Baltimore, MD (BWI), Boston, MA (BOS), Charleston, SC (CHS), Hartford, CT (BDL), Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR), Newark, NJ (EWR), New York, NY (JFK), New York, NY (LGA), Norfolk, VA (ORF), Philadelphia, PA (PHL), Providence, RI (PVD), Raleigh/Durham, NC (RDU), Richmond, VA (RIC, Washington, D.C. (DCA), Washington, D.C. (IAD), White Plains, NY (HPN)
American Airlines is offering flight changes to passengers traveling through: Baltimore, MD (BWI), Boston, MA (BOS), Hartford, CT (BDL), Newark, NJ (EWR), Norfolk, VA (ORF), New York City, NY - Kennedy (JFK), New York City, NY - La Guardia (LGA), Philadelphia, PA (PHL), Raleigh/Durham, NC (RDU), Richmond, VA (RIC), Washington, DC - Dulles (IAD), Washington, DC - Reagan National (DCA), White Plains, NY (HPN), Wilmington, NC (ILM)
US Airways will waive change fees for travelers to and from the following cities: Hartford/Springfield, CT ; New Haven, CT ; Washington, DC (Reagan) ; Washington, DC (Dulles); Bangor, ME ; Bar Harbor, ME ; Portland, ME ; Presque Isle, ME ; Baltimore, MD ; Salisbury, MD ; Boston, MA ; Martha's Vineyard, MA ; Nantucket, MA ; Manchester, NH ; Newark, NJ ; Albany, NY ; Islip, NY ; New York, NY (JFK) ; New York, NY (Laguardia) ; Newburgh, NY ; White Plains, NY ; Allentown, PA ; Harrisburg, PA ; Philadelphia, PA ; Providence, RI
Delta flights that are cancelled or significantly delayed are entitled to a refund. Otherwise, passengers make make a one-time, fee-free change if booked at one of these airports: Jacksonville, NC (OAJ), New Bern, NC (EWN), Wilmington, NC (ILM), Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR), Baltimore, MD (BWI), New York, NY (JFK, LGA, ISP), Newark, NJ (EWR), Newburgh, NY (SWF), Newport News, VA (PHF), Norfolk, VA (ORF), Philadelphia, PA (PHL), Richmond, VA (RIC), Washington, DC (DCA, IAD), White Plains, NY (HPN)
Airline Contacts To Help You Weather the Weather
8/26/2011 9:18:45 AM Link
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Hurricane Irene is coming to interrupt travel plans for north easterners this weekend. If you planned a flight, consult one of the links below for more updated information on your status.
US AIRWAYS http://www.usairways.com/TravelCenter/Advisories.aspx