Why Today We Are In the Golden Age of Flying

Many harken back to the period of about 1945 to 1975 as the “Golden Age of Flying.” I say, “au contraire” – today (right now) things are much better for fliers. Here are ten reasons why:

1. It’s way faster. In the 1940s, an average intercontinental flight had at least a 12 layovers in airpots that offered little more than a snack bar. Now, you can fly from Los Angeles all the way to Sydney, Australia non stop.

2. You won’t smell like an ashtray when you land. Airplane cabins used to be smokier than the air in a casino until lighting up on planes was finally banned in 1980.

3. Flying is actually cheaper. According to the Department of Transportation airfares are about as low as they’ve ever been (excluding 2009) when adjusted for inflation. Airlines for America reports the inflation-adjusted fares fell from about $442 in 1979 (which is when airlines deregulated) to about $275 in 2014 — a nearly 38% drop.

4. You can find airfares on your own. It takes less than a minute to check the costs of dozens of airlines for any given city pair and dates. You can go to kayak.com on your computer and check every airline but Southwest. So, by checking two websites (southwest.com and kayak.com) you’ll find the cost for every airline in the world. Imagine trying to book a flight even just 20 years ago when there was no internet — you had to call the airline or physically visit its office. And comparison shopping could only be done by a travel agent, who would have to look through each airline’s printed schedule. A travel agent is still your best bet for complicated international travel.

5. Today’s airports are far more enjoyable places to spend layovers. Many airports now have shopping malls. Or, with your computer you can visit facebook, play games or watch movies.

6. You can travel in comfortable clothes. Many people lament the loss of being required to dress up (like you were going to church) but I, for one, can’t imagine wearing a suit and tie on a transcontinental flight. If you aren’t old enough to remember, there was a time when you had to fly in formal attire, but you can now wear pretty much whatever you want on a plane.

7. You are far less likely to lose your luggage. Thanks to improved technology, the number of mishandled bags fell 61%, from 18.88 bags per thousand passengers in 2007 to 7.3 bags per thousand passengers in 2014 according to the International Air Transport Association. That’s less than a 1% chance you’ll lose your bag. But if you’re paranoid, there are now plenty of gadgets that will help you track your luggage in case the airline does screw up.

8. Luggage has gotten smarter. One of those gadgets helping protect your bag is, your bag itself. There’s been a rise in the production of smart luggage. You can now get a bag that weighs itself, tracks itself and will even charge your cell phone.

9. You don’t even need to check a bag. Lot’s of people now fly with only a carry-on. And, you can also just wear a jacket that is a bag. Travel jackets have in excess of 30 pockets. The only problem is finding the right pocket where you’ve put something. Or use an app, like DUFL, that will deliver your pressed clothes to your hotel before you even arrive.

10. There are lots of ways to entertain yourself on a plane. Fliers in the 1950s were stuck with almost no way to keep busy. Not long ago airlines showed only one movie. Now, if you’re flying international, you have dozens to choose from. And, yes, there’s Wi-Fi. Nearly all airlines now provide some form of in-flight internet. Some airlines are even starting to provide fliers with free Wi-Fi.

Added bonuses you can get: Boarding passes sent to your phone, luggage tags you can print at home and security lines bypasses by signing up for memberships with Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck.

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ALASKA AIRLINES MAKES A MOVE ON SALT LAKE

It’s almost like an Alaska blitzkrieg!

Alaska Airlines has apparently decided to move into Salt Lake City International Airport in a big way.  Meanwhile, their invasion is on the heals of Southwest Airlines downgrading its presence in a significant way.  All destinations from SLC have had service drastically reduced, or in some cases eliminated by Southwest.  To get to Boise on one of their fair airplanes, for example, you have to go through Denver, Las Vegas or Oakland.  It’s also interesting to note that Alaska is now touting itself as “the low fare leader,” a moniker that once belonged to Southwest.  Get information about those low fares from any Columbus Travel Agent, where you can find “the best deals on the planet.”

Since the merger with Airtran Southwest has actually been focusing on the Southeastern United States, along with Mexico and the Caribbean.  They have reduced flights from Salt Lake City significantly.  For example, they now have only three nonstops a day from SLC to Los Angeles, and their other flights to LAX stop in Las Vegas or involve a change of planes in Oakland, Phoenix or even Denver.

The real inside story :

Behind the big push from Alaska Airlines into Salt Lake City is a story involving Delta Airlines.

Alaska’s home base is Seattle, and Delta (with its Northwest merger) has decided to make Seattle a major hub with a focus on travel to Asia.  They have also instigated a huge push for corporate travel, offering big discounts and perks for using Delta or one of its travel partners, and punishing those corporations with fewer perks and Skymiles and higher prices if  that company uses other airlines.  The complicating factor is that Alaska and Delta still have a codeshare agreement, but regardless, Alaska apparently wants to retaliate for the Delta move to take over Seattle.  The latest edition of the their website (www.alaskaair.com) says “Alaska Airlines is pleased to announce that we’re bringing even more flights and low fares to Salt Lake City.  Explore More with new nonstop service . . .” etc.

What is the great air fare story?

Alaska began service between Salt Lake and Seattle with two nonstops in each direction on  April 4, 2013, but it adds a third this June.  Next month, they will also have two nonstops daily to and from Portland, San Diego and Las Vegas, plus once a day nonstops to and from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and Boise.

The round trip prices for those flights are the lowest we have seen in several years:  Los Angeles and San Francisco $158; San Diego, San Jose and Portland $178; Boise $130; Las Vegas $138.  And, if you want, they will give you one-way tickets for exactly half of those fares.  Fantastic!

But wait, there’s more:

To add to the thrill of getting these low fares, this has pushed other air carriers into also lowering fares to those destinations.  In the case of Delta, which has service to five airports in the Los Angeles area (LAX, Long Beach, Burbank, Ontario and John Wayne in Orange County), round trip tickets to all but SNA (John Wayne) are under $200.  You can get fares to Long Beach for $150.  Unbelievable!

In addition, these low prices to the West Coast have opened up places like Hawaii and Alaska to savings.  Round trip fares from Salt Lake City to Honolulu on Alaska Airlines are down to $658 – $96 less than on Delta Airlines.  And, by the way, $658 is only $10 more than the roundtrip fare from Los Angeles.  Meanwhile, Delta’s rountrip tickets to Anchorage are available for as low as $420 in September; during the summer, $900, but on Jet Blue Airlines or Alaska, $634.  Superb!

If you want to book one of these great air fares, you can do it by going to the airline company’s website or kayak.com, which is an aggregator.

For anything more complicated, such as a ticket to an international destination, I would suggest using an experienced travel agent you can actually talk to, like at Columbus Travel (800-373-3328).  Good agents can check airfares through many different connecting airports, as well as employ more than one airline where connections are involved.  And Columbus Travel Agents are experienced and well qualified to help.

Viva la competencia!

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Salt Lake City travel agencies: Best airlines

courtesy of: underconsideration.com

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 637 million people flew on airplanes during 2011. With so many people flying on hundreds of different airlines daily, how does one choose? As the most trusted of the Salt Lake City travel agencies, Columbus Travel has put together a list of the best airlines to help customers decide when traveling.

 

The premier Salt Lake City travel agency unites you with United Airlines

This airline has been serving travelers since 1926. Just last November, Continental Airlines and United merged to make one respectable company. United employs more than 85,000 employees and has 700 mainline aircraft. They offer nearly 5,656 flights a day to 376 airports on six continents. During 2011, United carried more traffic than any other airline with 142 million passengers on 2 million flights. Columbus Travel, as the top of the Salt Lake City travel agencies, have no concerns when sending our customers on flights with this trusted airline.

The best Salt Lake City travel agency suggests Southwest

The airline known worldwide for its free baggage policy serves roughly 69 cities and 88 million passengers annually. In order to keep its travelers happy, Southwest has introduced a new airplane model this month. The Boeing 737-800 is one third larger than the fleet they’ve been using, fitting 175 passengers. It’s also more accommodating for passengers with a quieter cabin, more comfortable seating and LED reading and ceiling lighting. Columbus Travel knows our customers will have no issues with Southwest, especially since they had the lowest complaint rate in 2010 with only .27 per 100,000 passengers.

Getting the best care with the best Salt Lake City travel agency and Delta

Delta, the world renowned airline, is our top choice for multiple reasons. One of their major hubs sits at our very own airport, Salt Lake City International, making flights in and out of town easy to schedule. The red, white and blue company also serves more than 160 million passengers a year taking them to 341 destinations in 61 countries on six continents. Their fleet of more than 700 aircraft offers over 13,000 daily flights. It was also named the most admired airline worldwide of 2011 by Fortune Magazine. Another reason we, the most faithful of the Salt Lake City travel agencies, use Delta is because they care about the customer. Delta is currently investing more than $2 billion through 2013 to improve its airport facilities, services and technology to enhance the overall experience for its customers.

With our country’s airlines handling nearly 1,745,205 travelers daily, Columbus Travel, the most used of the Salt Lake City travel agencies, knows which airlines are the best to put our customers on. To book a trip with us and one of these premier airlines stop by our office or call today at 1-800-373-3328.

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TRAVEL SINCE SEPTEMBER 11
With the coming and going of the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States the American news media have noted hundreds of changes wrought on our nation by those attacks.  And, granted, there are many.
 
But, am I the only one who noticed no attacks on September 11, 2011?  And don’t you think a significant date of rememberance such as that would have been a superb time for terrorists to celebrate by creating even more mayhem for us?
 
Kudos to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), who have indeed increased the “hassle factor” at airport check in; and kudos to the redesigned airports that no longer permit crowds of people to send us off at airline boardings; and kudos to the flight attendants who no longer put up with unruly passengers; and kudos to those who have made scores of other changes that made this September 11 safe and secure.  It came and passed without notice, which is just the way we like it.
 
True.  The nation’s overall economy slowed down after those attacks ten years ago; but in the years since, it has shown remarkable resilience.  The growth in the gross domestic product slowed only temporarily, and although “the Dow”  lost almost 700 points when the stock market reopened after the attacks, it gained 5,000 points over the next six years, and reached its highest point ever in October 2007 when it leaped above 14,000. 
 
Passengers on U.S. air carriers were over 56 million in August 2001, then dropped to only 30 million that September.  Some said the airline industry would never recover, but they were back above 56 million passengers by September 2004.  Not bad for a business that some said was doomed.
 
And that’s not all.  There are more hotels than ever, more car rentals, more cruise passengers, more resorts, and particularly more all-inclusive resorts.  And as for getting to travel destinations, people are not only flying, Amtrak business is up, bus travel us on the rise, and auto trips are at an all time high. 
Come to think of it, and this is not based on a scientific study, but I think I’ve noticed more walkers, joggers and bikers on my daily trip up the canyon with my dog.
 
Even with the current economic stagnation, which has nothing to do with terrorist attacks, unless you think loan officers who offer mortgages to people who can’t pay them and bankers who fund such an enterprise qualify as . . . well, never mind.  Anyway, despite the current difficulty in the economy, which isn’t a result of what happened September 11, 2001, travel is up.  The people who have the money to go somewhere for fun are on the move.
 
And the bargains are galore.  You can rent a car for a daily rate that is no more than you would have paid 20 years ago.  You can go on a cruise for much less than 20 years ago, which is unbelievable.  Hotels are offering all sorts of deals, including in many cases a free night if you book three, four or five nights. 
 
Group travel, which is at an all time high, offers such tremendous rates that sometimes it seems as if it would be less expensive to go on a group tour than to stay at home.  And air fares have just dropped.  Yes, dropped.
 
So, yes, things have changed since that awful day ten years ago, but in almost every case it seems to have been for the better.  Not only are the various entities that serve us more alert, but we are as individuals.  Passengers have become part of the solution, often detecting and reporting suspicious activity, and as a result, preventing bad things from happening.
 
Travel is far bigger than it was.  More places are easily accessible, and we have more means of getting to wherever we want to go, and more accomodations and fun things to do once we get there; but most importantly, it is truly safer than it has ever been.
 
By Don Shafer
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TRAVEL SINCE SEPTEMBER 11
With the coming of the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States the American news media have noted hundreds of changes wrought on our nation by those attacks.  And, granted, there are many; however, it also should be noted that there have not been any similar attacks on American soil since then.
 
Kudos to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), who have indeed increased the “hassle factor” at airport check in; and kudos to the redesigned airports that no longer permit crowds of people to send us off at airline boardings; and kudos to the flight attendants who no longer put up with unruly passengers; and kudos to those who have made scores of other changes that have made flying so much safer than it was ten years ago.
 
Special kudos to all of us passengers, because we have become much more alert.  It so happens that passengers were involved in thwarting two would-be terrorists from creating mayhem.
 
True.  The nation’s overall economy slowed down after those attacks ten years ago; but in the years since, it has shown remarkable resilience.  The growth in the gross domestic product slowed only temporarily, and although “the Dow”  lost almost 700 points when the stock market reopened after the attacks, it gained 5,000 points over the next six years, and reached its highest point ever in October 2007 when it leaped above 14,000. 
 
Passengers on U.S. air carriers were over 56 million in August 2001, then dropped to only 30 million that September.  Some said the airline industry would never recover, but they were back above 56 million passengers by September 2004.  Not bad for a business that some said was doomed.
 
And that’s not all.  There are more hotels than ever, more car rentals, more cruise passengers, more resorts, and particularly more all-inclusive resorts.  And as for getting to travel destinations, people are not only flying, Amtrak business is up, bus travel us on the rise, and auto trips are at an all time high.  Come to think of it, and this is not based on a scientific study, but I think I’ve noticed more walkers, joggers and bikers on my daily trip up the canyon with my dog.
 
Even with the current economic stagnation, which has nothing to do with terrorist attacks, unless you think loan officers who offer mortgages to people who can’t pay them and bankers who fund such an enterprise qualify as . . . well, never mind.  Anyway, despite the current difficulty in the economy, which isn’t a result of what happened September 11, 2001, travel is up.  The people who have the money to go somewhere for fun are on the move.
 
And the bargains are galore.  You can rent a car for a daily rate that is no more than you would have paid 20 years ago.  You can go on a cruise for much less than 20 years ago, which is unbelievable.  Hotels are offering all sorts of deals, including in many cases a free night if you book three, four or five nights.  Group travel, which is at an all time high, offers such tremendous rates that sometimes it seems as if it would be less expensive to go on a group tour than to stay at home.  And air fares have just recently dropped.  Yes, dropped.
 
So, yes, things have changed since that awful day ten years ago, but in almost every case it seems to have been for the better.  Not only are the various entities that serve us more alert, but we are as individuals.  Passengers have become part of the solution, often detecting and reporting suspicious activity, and as a result, preventing bad things from happening.
 
Travel is far bigger than it was.  More places are easily accessible, and we have more means of getting to wherever we want to go, and more accomodations and fun things to do once we get there; but most importantly, it is truly safer than it has ever been.
 
By Don Shafer
 
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Phantom Taxes and Evil Fuel Surcharges by Don Shafer

Have you no shame? Since I direct that question at United States airline companies, the answer, of course, is, “Absolutely not.”

As you have no doubt heard, failure of the U.S. government to reach any kind of agreement involving anything with regard to taxes and budgets resulted in expiration of serveral federal taxes on airline tickets on Friday, July 22nd. A few airlines passed those savings on to consumers for a couple of days, but changed their minds by the following Monday. So, if the air carriers kept on charging those monies, who got the cash? Why, the airline companies, of course. And thank you very much.

Meanwhile, the shell game called “fuel surcharges” continues to make money for the airlines. Make that “evil fuel surcharges.”

Evil fuel surcharges are being added by just about every kind of delivery service these days, but the only airline that includes them in the price of a ticket remains Southwest Airlines. The combination of baggage fees and evil fuel surcharges can be substantial, and Southwest is the only U.S. airline company that doesn’t charge you for either.

And just how bad are the evil fuel surcharges?

Here’s an example. Last spring, I priced a round trip ticket to London from Salt Lake City at the wonderfuly low price of only $470. The evil fuel surcharges were $350, and the taxes, which are typically high going to anywhere in or near Europe, were $220. Yes, the combined fees and taxes were actually a hundred dollars more than the ticket. The grand total, if you checked a couple of suitcases, would have been in excess of $1,200 for a round trip flight. And this started out as a bargain.

So, why don’t most of the airlines just add fuel costs into the price of a ticket?

Because they do not have to pay taxes on surcharges. Those fees are not income, they are part of the cost of doing business.

The same thing goes for all the other fees for which they ding you: the checked baggage fees, the extra cost to book a ticket with an actual human being by phone, the food and drink they sell during your flight, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Now technically, if a profit is made on the evil fuel surcharges, the baggage fees, the booking-your-ticket-with-a-person fee, the aisle (or window, or bulkhead, or exit row) seat fee, the headset charge, the food and beverage that is no long free, and whatever else they will be finding to charge you for, corporate taxes would, of course, have to be paid. This is why companies employ lawyers and tax specialitsts – to find out this stuff.

And the cost-of-doing-business fees added to your ticket price is the reason we can all look for more and more and more added airline fees; because, even as we meditate together on what I am saying, specialists are contemplating new fees. There is already wind of a possible fee for carry-on luggage, but why not a fee for checking your luggage in at the airport, an onboard bathroom break fee, a fee for calling a flight attendant during your trip, a fee for even having a seat, etc., ad infinitum.

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Tricks to Getting the Best Deal on Airfare

A few years ago, a friend told me “the sure fire way to save money on airline tickets is to book on the internet. I’ve saved a ton of money at delta.com,” he exclaimed.

While it is true that you will, indeed, very likely find as low an airfare as has been published for a given airline on their website, many other things need to be considered. Not the least of which is that to really know who is low, you have lots of airline websites you’ll need to go to.

I was recently surfing the web for a trip to San Francisco my wife and I were considering for later this year. Delta had tickets for $457.40, including taxes, round trip; Southwest, $362.80 with the taxes; and actually, Frontier came in at $327 with taxes. But wait, there’s more! What about baggage fees? Check a bag on Delta, $25 each way, which means that $457.40 goes up to $507.40. Frontier charges $20 for the first checked bag, which raises that cost to $367. That makes Southwest the lowest cost, because they don’t charge for checking luggage.

Ah, but then if you tried an alternate airport, which can be done in most larger cities, would you save even more? In Los Angeles, for example, you can not only fly into LAX, but also Long Beach, Burbank, Ontario or John Wayne Airport in Orange County. In the case of San Francisco, the Oakland Airport is actually closer to downtown San Francisco than SFO, and San Jose is not out of the question. And it just so happens I could get round trip tickets on Southwest or Delta for $293.40 into Oakland. Frontier doesn’t fly there. Ah, and Delta has that nasty fee for luggage – $25 each way, raising their price to $343.40.

Now, that was reasonably simple to evaluate. But take into consideration some other factors. If your destination is Hawaii, you are going to want to think about the possibility of “breaking the fare.” This trick is particularly useful when planning a trip to any place outside the continental United States. Let’s say you wanted to go to Honolulu this summer. You can fly non-stop on Delta during midweek for just under $1,000. You can fly to Los Angles on Delta for $199, and from LAX to Honolulu for $546. That drops the total price of tickets one-fourth, right off the bat.

Then again, what about “tour operator fares?” Tour operators, like Columbus Travel, often get airline tickets for less than the lowest published price when they bundle them with things like a hotel stay, a rental car, or something else. Now, obviously, tour operators do not have a great demand for travel to Minot, North Dakota or Goatrope, Oklahoma. But were talking about places like Hawaii, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other popular destinations. For such special fares you need to check with a tour operator. In fact your travel agent, whether she or he is an actual tour operator herself/himself, deals with several, and using her/him won’t cost you a dime.

Here’s an example of what can be done with tour operators. The Getaway Guruh told me about a couple who booked a trip to Hawaii with Columbus Travel: round trip air and five nights hotel for $699 appiece. Not bad when you consider that thousand bucks I mentioned earlier for just airfare.

Another thing you can do when planning a vacation is check with your travel agent about cruises, resorts or all-inclusives offering free or discounted airfares when you book a trip with them. Viking River Cruises has often offered discounted airfares, and in fact, Viking’s Danube Waltz Cruise I am personally hosting next April is offering a $400 per person discounted air fare for early booking.And because of all of the bad publicity Mexico has been getting, there are some Cancun resorts that have offered Columbus Travel free air if you just go there. And, by the way, all of the bad stuff that has happened in Mexico took place way far away from Cancun. Hey, there have been some big time problems in Loredo, Texas, but that isn’t going to cause me to move to Canada. Not that there’s anything wrong with Canada.

Here’s my five step check list for finding the best travel deal. First, compare the airline fares, including all fees (and don’t forget the cost of checking your luggage). Second, consider whether there are “alternate airports.” Sometimes it’s better to drive a little, particularly if you are going to rent a car anyway. Third, is the destination far enough away that “breaking the fare” would save money? The best place to break it is almost always a large airport that handles many airlines. Fourth, is this a popular enough destination that I might be able to get a “tour operator fare” or a package that will include everything – air, hotel, car and/or transfers. Fifth, is there something on my travel “bucket list” that might have a discounted, or even free, airfare connected with it?

One final thing: if you plan to go to a resort or hotel, take a cruise, or even just rent a car (separate from any package you might have purchased), get it through your travel agent. Travel agents can virtually always find the best value for less money, and they will go to bat for you if you encounter a problem. Even if you think you can do better on your own, compare what you find with what your travel agent can find. It doesn’t cost anything to compare.

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It seems that the good old days of flying

It seems that the good old days of flying the friendly skies are over. Free upgrades, flexible frequent flier reward programs, and full-service meals have become a thing of the past. As the economy continues to recover from the downturn of the past year, airlines are finding new and more irritating ways to squeeze the consumer for every last dime.
As travelers plan and book airline tickets for their summer vacations, they’ll be inundated with a slew of fees that make air travel not for the faint of heart. If you keep these fees in mind as you plan and book your trip you can avoid any nasty surprises that could affect your bottom line.

The most widely known fee passengers are paying these days is the fee to check luggage. Every major airline now charges between $19 and $35 to check a suitcase. Passengers are limited to the size and weight as well as the number of bags allowed on a flight. Be prepared to pay extra for overweight luggage as well. All airlines with the exception of Southwest Airlines will charge you for each suitcase you check as cargo. A good rule of thumb – if you can pack everything for your trip in a carry on bag, do it! Just be sensitive to the restrictions on toting liquids in your carryon.

More and more airlines are now charging you to book your air tickets over the phone. This can be extremely frustrating for passengers who are not computer and internet savvy. It also seems that the airlines are making it increasingly more difficult to make those bookings over the phone. First you wait on hold for hours to speak with someone and then you are charged a convenience fee to make the booking. Let’s drive that dagger in a little deeper why don’t we?

Are you hungry? Do you think you’ll want to eat something on your long cross-country flight? Well you better pack a lunch! Complimentary meals are no longer the norm. Now, if you dare to eat a meal offered by the airlines you’ll pay for it. Expect to pay $3 for a plain bagel or $5 for a sandwich. Think you’ll want a snack? Bring your own M&M’s. A bag of the peanut candies will cost $2! Now don’t worry, most airlines are still serving their complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and peanuts on all flights so you won’t die of starvation before you reach your destination.

If you want to choose the seat for your flight ahead of time, more legroom, or an upgrade in coach many airlines are beginning to charge for these items as well. Expect to pay upwards of $20 per seat each way for this luxury.

Have you accumulated thousands of frequent flier miles that you’d like to redeem for a free ticket or two? Well, unless you are a special member, those tickets are no longer “free” depending on when you book your award flight. Expect to be charged anywhere from $75 or more to book a ticket less than 21 days before travel. Keep in mind that you will be required to pay a few small government fees no matter what.

A few of the airlines are now charging for a pillow or blanket if you happen to get cold or want to take a nap while flying. Fees can range from a few dollars to $10 depending on the airline. Now keep in mind that on JetBlue, you receive a “state-of-the-art, high-quality pillow and blanket take home kit” that is yours to keep when your flight is done. Is it worth the extra cost? I guess that depends who you’re asking.

Other fees you can expect to pay are standby fees, airline and airport fees, taxes and re-ticketing fees. Airlines are coming up with new means of nickel and diming consumers, it seems, everyday. My advice – watch out!

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What Are the Airlines Thinking!

This has been a topic of travelers over the past few months. While trying to combat high fuel prices the airlines seem to be isolating their customers with extra fees, cutbacks and reduction of service. Most airlines only allow you to check one bag at no charge, some are charging for all baggage and some now are charging for almost everything. US Airways recently announced that they are going to start charging for drinks. This is absurd!

The airlines are doing it all wrong! In a recent JD Power survey of travelers 80% were more concerned about service than the price of the ticket. We all want the best price possible but not at the cost of expensive and poor service. Most of us realize the high cost of fuel is a significant issue in all aspects of our lives. We don’t like to feel like we are being “nickeled and dimed” like the airlines are currently doing. Airlines should get rid of all these extra fees and charge an appropriate fee for their services.

Here is the problem. With the exception of Southwest and most times Jet blue no airline has its own identity. We basically have one airline model that many airlines use (Delta, American, United etc.) What one airline does all others do. The airline industry is a monopoly. All airlines have the same fares, the same rules, when one changes something the others make the same changes. Airlines need to get their own identity. It has worked for Southwest and Jet Blue.

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Do High Fuel Prices Equal Lower Travel Costs?

What? That doesn’t make sense. But in some cases with today’s higher fuel prices there will be some good travel bargains available. In fact, you can get some vacations for 5-15% less this year than you could last year. To find them you need to start thinking differently towards travel.

How should I think differently towards travel? The first thing is forget about the cost of airfare. In today’s economy and the rising cost of fuel you are going to pay more and in some cases much more for your airline ticket. But to look at things differently you need to look at all the costs not just airfare. In all my years as a travel professional I am surprised at how many people base the go or no go decision on the cost of their air tickets. To me this is a completely backwards way of looking at the cost of a vacation. Air costs might keep rising – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get a good deal for your vacation.

Think about the total package. For years travel agents have been selling package deals. This has always been the best way to get a good vacation deal. In fact, over the past two years we have even seen the big online travel sellers go to package pricing (something travel agents have been doing for many years). Why? Because airlines always want to sell tickets for the highest price, but they realize that they will have some unsold seats. They sell those unsold seats to travel agents and tour operators at a highly discounted rate provided they don’t disclose the actual cost of the ticket. For instance with Southwest Airlines Vacations you save about $10-$30 per air ticket buying the air with the package instead of the air ticket from Southwest Airlines. This price even beats the internet only rates posted on their website. When you package these seats with the highly discounted hotel rates it all ads up to a great vacation price.

Think about the total package part 2. The airlines are coping with higher fuel costs in two ways. One, they are raising the fees and fares and two, they are reducing capacity. In some estimates airlines will reduce their fall schedules by 8-18%. How can these two factors help you get a better price on your vacation? As I’ve often said travel is the most perishable of all products. Once the cruise ship leaves or the calendar is turned to the next day there is no chance of selling that empty seat, cabin, or room. You will get better overall travel prices because the companies that need to sell their perishable rooms or cabins need to try and fill them. Because of the bad press of all the extra fees and higher fuel prices many people have opted not to travel because they don’t realize there are some real deals out there in the overall price picture. Because there are (or will be soon) fewer seats to get vacationers to destinations, cruise lines and hotels also will need to reduce their prices to attract travelers.

This seems to make sense but does it really translate into good travel bargains? The answer is YES!!!! Let’s look at a few examples. I have gone back in our records and compared what our customers paid in 2007 to some of the deals available now. Again, remember you need to forget about the cost of the airfare. Here are some examples (Note 2007 prices include all taxes and 2008 prices include estimated taxes and fees. Airfare is from Salt Lake City):

Example 1

Alaska Cruise – Princess north/south bound cruise:
August 2007 airfare cost $625.15
August 2007 inside cabin cost $873.20
Total cost for 2007 cruise is $1498.35 per person.

August 2008 – Princess is currently selling a package including air for $997 plus about $130 in taxes and fees. (Note they are hiding the cost of airfare in the total package cost).

This is a savings of about $370 per person compared to last year.

Example 2

Peak season (January) 7- night Caribbean cruises (note this compares 2008 to 2009 rates):
2008 Airfare to Miami $397.74
2008 inside cabin on Carnival $834.15

Total cost for a 2008 seven-night Caribbean Cruise is 1231.89

2009 Airfare to Miami $565.80
2009 Inside Cabin on Carnival $587.20

Total cost for a 2008 seven-night Caribbean Cruise is 1153.89

That is savings of almost $80 per person despite the huge increase of airfare.

Example 3

Fall Mexican Riviera 7- night cruise – 2007 Princess compared to 2008 NCL
2007 airfare cost $202.73
2007 inside cabin cost $650.78

Total 2007 cost $853.51 per person

2008 airfare cost $243.20
2008 inside cabin cost $525.80

Total 2008 cost $769.00 per person

Total savings of about $85 per person

Here again are a few tips to help you save on your next vacation:

1 – Forget about the higher cost of air travel. It’s probably going to keep going higher but on the other end (hotels and cruises) you’ll find some of the best deals ever making the total cost lower than in years past.

2 – Think about packaging. You will almost always get a better deal than buying your trip components separately.

3 – Rely on a travel professional or travel agent. We get bombarded with package, cruise and hotel deals every day. We can usually quickly guide you to a great travel bargain.

4 – Be flexible with your dates. There will be great bargains but not on every date. Cruise lines and hotels will discount the dates they need to fill the most.

5 – Don’t always think that you have to shorten your trip and stay closer to home to keep within your budget. For instance in June you can get a 7-night all-inclusive vacation to Cancun for about the same cost as a 5 night trip to Southern California.

6 – Make a list of everywhere you want to travel. Don’t plan on going in order. Once a destination on your list goes on sale, book it. Different destinations are on sale somewhere every day.

Bottom line is you can and will find some great travel bargains by not thinking solely about the airfare and the extra fees being added. And remember to use a travel professional to help you get the most for your travel dollar.

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