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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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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