Travel is great – only problem is, you usually have to fly to get anywhere good. And that can be a drag. Here are 10 tips that can make that trip easier, more comfortable and just all around better, from Cook- American Express Travel in New York.
- Complain, and ye shall receive. If you don’t like something about your flight (food, delays, lumpy seats, rude attendants, lost baggage), be sure to speak up – airlines tend to buy grouchy passengers off with frequent-flier miles.
- Pay less, get more. It sounds crazy but it’s true: First-class seats are available at coach prices, especially for last-minute international travel, if you use a travel agency. Lots of the bigger agents have deals with airlines where you can buy a full-price coach fare and be upgraded to business class. And domestically, agents can book coach tickets under codes (such as Y, Q or Z), which give ticketholders automatic upgrades to first class.
- Better food? Don’t bet on it. All those ads for tasty gourmet meals don’t give you the fine print: Most are available only on specific flights. For example, Delta offers Todd English sandwiches but only on flights between New York and Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and San Francisco. Brace yourself for pretzels.
- You can still be comfy in coach. Here’s a trick: Buy three seats together in coach for two people. It’s still significantly cheaper than buying two seats in business class, and you’ll have room to relax.
- Upgrade at the gate. Most airlines offer upgrades to first class for $500 at the ticket counter in the terminal. Sure, that’s a lot of dough, but it’s a LOT cheaper than if you’d booked first class to begin with.
- Holidays: Bad time to fly, great time to book. Most airlines launch short sales over the holidays, with discounts up to 20 percent less than usual.
- Web sites don’t always have the best deals. Kayak.com and Expedia are great, but airlines don’t necessarily offer all their discounts to the sites directly; instead, they offer net fares and consolidator tickets to large corporate travel agencies to ensure they fill empty seats without devaluing their inventory. So it can pay to talk to a travel agent; they have access to net and consolidator fares that the discount sites do not, especially for international business and first-class seats.
- Buy a package deal. Even if you don’t use them all, sometimes booking a hotel, cruise and airfare together can be cheaper than airfare alone. Watch for specials and take advantage.
- Buy round-trip, even if you’re going one way. Airlines charge a premium for one-way tickets. Just go round-trip and don’t use the return flight. If a Supreme Court Justice can do it, so can you; Antonin Scalia took a one-way trip on Dick Cheney’s private jet for a hunting trip, then booked a $218 round-trip flight home instead of the nearly $700 one-way return flight.
- Rule 240. It sounds like something from “X-Files,” but really it’s simple: If the airline can’t get you where you’re going on time, the airline MUST put you on a competitor’s flight if it will get you there faster. The airlines won’t always (in fact, will rarely) tell you this up front, so be sure you remind them when you’re delayed. (The exception is if the delay is beyond the airline’s control, such as with a storm.) Check out aviation.com for more information.
—Tribune news reports
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