Tag: baggage fees

scanners 2If you’re one of the few people who view the pat-down at airport security checkpoints as a free massage, then you’re going  to be disappointed to hear that the Department of Homeland Security is making plans to “dramatically reduce” the number of pat-down searches performed at the nation’s airports. The DHS has issued a request for technology companies to come up with a hand-held scanning device that can be used instead of pat-down searches on passengers that set off alarms during full body-scanners. As you may have guessed, the free massage thing really hasn’t caught on – so they’re turning to technology to improve the experience.

To date, the TSA already operates about 700 full-body scanners at 180 airports across the country.  When the scanners detect a hidden object, TSA workers perform a pat-down search.

In a government document, the DHS said it seeks a hand-held device weighing less than 5 pounds that can determine whether a hidden object on a passenger is a weapon or explosive. The device should produce a result in less than 15 seconds

Plan approval and testing could take more than a year, but you should be aware that this type of technology is on the horizon.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • I don’t know about you, but sometimes I stress about my travel.  Will I make my connection?  What will the security line look like?  Do I have to switch concourses?  Well, if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the “tips for avoiding travel stress” recently noted by CNN.  I feel better already having read it.
  • JetBlue today announced a 2-day “The Summer’s-Hoping Sale” that is offering $59 one-way fares on select routes.  (Hope the marketing department didn’t burn the midnight oil when contriving the name of the sale.)  Book by May 30 for travel between June 5 and September 26.
  • For the first time since they began collecting baggage fees in 2008, the nation’s 17 largest airlines made less from the fees than they did the year before, a sign travelers are changing their packing behavior.  But the airlines are countering the consumer chess move.  United, Delta, American, and U.S. Airways are either retrofitting older planes with bigger overhead storage – or purchasing aircraft with bigger bins.  It’s not because the love you.  They just want to start charging you a fee for carry-on luggage as well.

You Like $45 Baggage Fees So Much, You May Get More

baggage

Florida-based Spirit Airlines was roundly criticized in August 2010 when it announced that it was going to be the first – and so far only – airline to charge passengers up to $45 in fees to stow carry-on luggage in overhead compartments.  A pair of federal lawmakers even threatened to impose a tax on all airline revenue generated by such fees, a penalty that has yet to be adopted.

But the Los Angeles Times is reporting that an industry consultant on airline revenue has declared Spirit’s carry-on baggage fee a “major success”.  In the 12-month period after Spirit launched the fee, the airline flew 24.5% more passengers compared with the same period in 2009.  And it’s estimated that the airline will earn $50 million in revenue from carry-on bag fees this year.

No doubt such numbers look enticing to executives at other airlines – and while there’s rampant speculation that baggage fees will rise across the board – msnbc.com reports that there’d be an uproar in Washington, D.C.” if that happened.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Ever wonder what your luggage experiences after you hand it over to the airline?  Delta Airlines was curious too, so they drilled out a bunch of holes in a box, stuffed it full of video cameras, and sent it on a flight from Atlanta to New York after hitting all the record buttons.  Give it a watch.  It’s pretty cool.
  • Here’s an interesting flight safety factoid that will ease your mind:  According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of deaths in airline accidents globally is at the lowest level since 2006, the first year for which the IATA reported data in that category.  Through November, 486 people had died in air crashes, compared with the previous low of 502 in 2008.  By these numbers, you’re far safer 30,000 feet above the ground than you are in your car.
  • And yet another interesting factoid that will make you scratch your head:  According to SplatF, of the 355 million people who have flown on planes equipped with Gogo’s inflight Wi-Fi since 2008, only 15 million sessions have been logged, which means that only 4% of people are going online.  To put that in perspective, that’s about 2 – 10 people on average who pay for online access during each Wi-Fi enabled flight.  So why the low uptake?  Some think it’s the Wi-Fi quality.

And The Top Performing Travel Websites Are…

Speedy Gonzales

Knowing most Yapta users prefer to book their flights direct from an airline website, we thought you’d appreciate knowing which airline sites perform best.  Compuware Gomez, which monitors website performance, conducted an exclusive 15-month study (at the request of USA TODAY) and ultimately determined that  AirTran was the best-performing (or fastest) home page, while Delta, Hawaiian and Frontier were tied for second. Delta’s website was No. 1 for performing transactions, and AirTran’s site, No. 2.

As for hotel sites, Gomez named Marriott the  the top-performing hotel booking site.

Also worth noting, among the 46 online travel agents included in the study, the fastest average home-page load of any travel website (1.231 seconds) went to…(insert drum-roll here)… Kayak.  It’s nice to know that the engine that’s powering Yapta’s flight search is the fastest on the track.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Airfares from American Airlines are now allowed back on Orbitz as an Illinois court granted Orbitz “injunctive relief” from the airline in their ongoing disagreement over distribution costs.  And if you’re tired of following this on-again, off-again relationship – just use Yapta to search (and track) American flights and forgettaboutit.
  • Close to 35 million Americans traveled over the Memorial Day weekend according to AAA.  That’s about 100,000 travelers more than last year, which suggests a fairly busy summer season ahead.  The Air Transport Association (ATA) predicts that U.S. airlines will carry a total of 206.2 million passengers from June through August – about 3 million more passengers than during the same period last year, an increase of 1.5 percent.  Yep, we’re really feeling the bite of higher fuel and airfare prices, aren’t we?
  • Since Delta began charging fees for checked bags — $25 for the initial piece on domestic flights; $35 for a second — the airline has been offering $2-3 discounts to travelers who prepaid those fees online instead of at the airport.  Not anymore.  Starting yesterday, passengers will now pay the full price regardless of when or where they pay the fee.

AirTran Raises 1st Checked-Bag Fee by $5

73323833

A number of media outlets are reporting that AirTran has raised its fee for a first checked-bag to $20.  The new fee will take effect on Sept. 1 and will apply only to coach-class reservations made on or after Aug. 17th.

AirTran will continue to charge $25 for a second bag, and those in business class and elite frequent fliers can continue to check two bags at no charge.

The popular frequent-flier website WebFlyer.com notes that among low-cost carriers, AirTran’s fee will now match Frontier Airlines’ $20 charge for first-checked-bags.

For an airline-by-airline list of baggage fees, check out this chart from airfarewatchdog.com.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • According to a new study from the University of Madrid, the optimum time to purchase airfares is eight weeks before departure.  (This also gives you ample time to have Yapta track your purchased flights for a refund.)  The research also suggests that cheaper airfares are likely to be purchased in the afternoon rather than in the morning.
  • Earlier today, Evan Konwiser, co-founder of FlightCaster.com, blogged about the three flight search sites and features that he finds most useful – so we figured we’d pass along his recommendations.  (Thanks for making Yapta part of your repertoire, Evan.)
  • A recent FOXNews.com report shined a spotlight on “where the fall travel deals are”.  If you like to vacation in Mexico, The Caribbean, or Hawaii, you’ll want to give this article a read.

suitcase of money

Earlier today, New York Senator, Charles Schumer (D), called on the feds to put a stop to the newly imposed carry-on baggage fees instituted by Spirit Airlines.  In a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Schumer is seeking to reverse a ruling that says carry-on luggage isn’t “reasonably necessary” and thus isn’t subject to federal taxes.  That means the airline can pocket all the cash from the fees without paying any taxes.

If you haven’t heard, Spirit Airlines, a low-cost carrier based in Florida, recently announced it will begin charging passengers as much as $45 for each piece of carry-on luggage.  The price is reduced to $30 if paid in advance online.  Members of its $9 Fare Club will only pay $20 for each carry-on bag.  There is no charge for small carry-on items like purses (and such) that can be stowed underneath the seat.  The carry-on bag fee is effective for reservations made after today for travel on or after August 1st.

Schumer told the New York Daily News that, “Peanuts may not be a necessity, but the ability to carry on a bag is.” He also said that if Geithner wouldn’t stop the fees, he would introduce legislation that would.  Since Spirit Airlines was the first to start charging for a second checked bag in 2005, Schumer is worried (along with the rest of us) that this new fee may inspire other airlines to follow suit.  Schumer wrote in his letter, “When one airline starts charging for a service that was previously standard, other airlines eventually do so too.”

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Bloomberg News is reporting that Delta, American and other U.S. carriers are charging 13 percent more for the peak summer season as rising demand and fewer seats restore industry pricing power.  The average round-trip fare jumped to $471 from $415 a year earlier.  Prices may creep higher in the coming weeks if carriers add surcharges to cover mounting jet-fuel costs.
  • Now that airlines are charging for in-flight food, instead of minimizing cost on “complimentary” food service, they’re experimenting with offering higher quality, better tasting fare.  According to the New York Times, Air Canada has introduced healthy food options, like vegetarian sandwiches and yogurt parfaits, and Alaska Airlines has a new healthy snack pack.  American Airlines is working with Boston Market.  JetBlue is about to start selling food on select long-haul flights.  Some carriers are expected to offer combination meals and other promotions similar to those available at fast-food restaurants.

united us airways mergerAccording to the New York Times, United Airlines and US Airways are reportedly in talks on a potential merger that would create one of the biggest carriers in the world.  No announcement of any deal would be expected for at least several weeks – and talks may still collapse, according to the Times.

Combining United, the third-largest US carrier, with No. 6 US Airways would create one of the world’s largest airlines, with an extensive route network. United has hubs in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, and at Washington Dulles International Airport, while US Airways has hubs in Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Charlotte, N.C.

This isn’t the first time the two airlines have considered merging.  In 2000, Chicago-based United and US Airways announced a $4.3 billion deal, only to withdraw.  And in 2008, the two carriers held talks again on a merger before abandoning the effort, less than two months after Delta Air Lines Inc. agreed to acquire Northwest Airlines Corp., making it the world’s biggest airline.  The previous talks between United and US Airways were held up because of the complexity of putting together the various union contracts covering each airlines’ employees, as well as sorting out which union would represent workers and how to account for their seniority.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Low-cost carrier, Spirit Airlines announced Tuesday that it will charge passengers as much as $45 for each piece of carry-on luggage.  This move goes beyond the baggage fees that other airlines that have instituted on checked luggage.  According to Spirit’s new policy, carry-ons that fit in the overhead bin will cost fliers $45 ($30 if paid online).  Fare club members pay $20 for each carry-on bag.  There is no charge for carry-on items that fit under the seat.  The carry-on bag fee is in effect for reservations made after Monday for travel on or after Aug. 1st.  Will this move prompt other airlines to do the same?  Only time will tell.
  • iPad owners will get a small reprieve when going through airport security.  According an AP report, the TSA said that iPads generally do not need to be removed from carry-on luggage when going through X-ray screening.  Since the iPad is much smaller and thinner than laptops, it’s easier to see on the scanner.  Also, the organization said that iPad users generally would not be carrying multiple bulky accessories, such as hard drives and chargers, which might otherwise obstruct a clear view of the device as it passes through X-ray equipment.
  • This last news item is right out of the film, “Weekend at Bernies”:  Two women were arrested in the UK for allegedly trying to smuggle a dead man on an EasyJet flight from Liverpool to Berlin.   The women apparently brought the man to the airport in a taxi and then tried to check him in on the flight.  The man was seated in a wheelchair and had sunglasses on.  The women claim they thought he was sleeping.  However airport staff soon noticed that something was seriously wrong and alerted security.

Coming to America? Better Have ESTA Approval

ESTA logoAn American ESTA is now mandatory for all US-bound air passengers, with travelers now required to complete the online form before departure.  All travellers to the US now must have an American ESTA.

The American ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization, gives travelers prior approval for entry to the US and replaces the green I-94 card that passengers previously filled in on the flight.

It applies to all 35 countries with the US “visa waiver” status including: the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and Ireland.

The ESTA was first introduced a year ago, but as of today it is mandatory for all travellers visiting for 90 days or less and should be applied for at least 72 hours in advance. The ESTA is necessary whether you plan to travel to America for business or personal reasons.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • American Airlines has raised it’s baggage fee to $25 for the first bag and $35 for a second bag – following similar moves by Delta, United, Continental, and US Airways in recent days.  Exempted from the charge are first-class and frequent flyers and military personnel.
  • Looking for cheap Spring Break airfare?  Well, AirTran has launched a 3-day airfare sale for travel to destinations such as Florida, Aruba, Cancun, Montego Bay, Nassau and San Juan through March 10, 2010.  Fares are being advertised as low as $39 each way from select cities.  Also, check out a similar sale from Southwest Airlines that ends Thursday.
  • A blog called TheSpiritedWoman.com recently published an interesting list of the best travel websites that “keep us informed and enable us to be as prepared for our trips as possible.”  We’re thrilled to see Yapta make the short list – but you may also be interested in some of the others, like Trifter.com

Airlines Raise Fuel Surcharges on Flights to Europe

airplane fuelDelta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines and Continental Airlines have all raised fuel surcharges on travel to Europe by $20 per round-trip – and have added conditions that could cause travelers to pay higher fares.  ABC News reports that, “surcharges to Paris, Frankfurt and most cities on the Continent were raised to $280 per round-trip and to $242 for London.”

And what about the “added conditions”?  Well, some airlines that previously required only a seven-day advance purchase for the lowest coach fares are now requiring a 14-day advance purchase.

With heightened security, steeper fuel surcharges, and tighter booking windows, international travel just keeps gets better and better every day.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Yesterday we noted that Delta had hiked its baggage fees.  What we failed to mention was that Continental Airlines had also hiked their baggage fees – matching Delta.  And as if the parade wasn’t long enough, today we learned that United Airlines has also raised its baggage fee – matching Delta & Continental.  United boosted the charge for the first piece of checked luggage 53 percent to $23.  A second bag will cost $32, up from $25.  The prices apply to online check-ins only, with airport transactions $2 more for the first bag and $3 more for the second.
  • According to the annual Travel Trends survey conducted by the Travel Leaders Franchise Group, Orlando, Fla. is now the top tourist destination in the United States.  Vegas had been the country’s No. 1 tourist destination for the past seven years, but the report released this week found that tourists who were surveyed late last year preferred the family-oriented attractions in Orlando.  After Orlando and Las Vegas, an Alaskan cruise; New York City; Maui and Honolulu, Hawaii; Chicago; Phoenix; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles rounded out the top 10.

Delta Increases Baggage Fees

baggageToday Delta Air Lines boosted its baggage fees for domestic travel to $23 for the first checked bag and $32 for the second one, up from $15 and $25, respectively.  Of course, that’s if you pay in advance online.  If you check your bags at the airport (which I’m assuming most people do), Delta is going to sting you for $25 on the first bag and $35 for the second one.

This fee hike shouldn’t come as any surprise for frequent Delta customers as it’s clearly the most aggressive carrier in it’s fee-collection activities.   A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reveals that Delta’s ancillary revenue efforts – which brought in $447.5 million in Q3 2009 – has no rival.  American Airlines was a distant second with $261.2 million for the quarter.  Plus, when you take into account that Delta and its subsidiary, Northwest Airlines report their numbers separately, then the combined ancillary revenue is a whopping $670.8 million.

So, how can you avoid these fees?  Well, here’s some tips:

1. Pack light so that everything fits in a single carry-on suitcase.  Check out websites like OneBag.com for suggested packing lists that can help you cut down on your luggage.

2. Ship excess clothes ahead of time.  A large priority mail flat-rate package will hold two-thirds of what a carry-on does for about $14.50.

3. Fly JetBlue or Southwest – which don’t charge for the first checked bag.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • USAToday business travel columnist, David Grossman has noted that, “2010 may prove to be a less turbulent and more benign year for air travelers.”  Wondering why?  Well, to find out, read the eight factors that are likely to affect air travel this year for business travelers.
  • Late last week, a three-year-old boy took a frightening and unusual journey at Copenhagen Airport, travelling through the entire baggage belt system before being rescued.  The boy and his mother were checking in for a flight when the boy hopped onto an unattended baggage belt at the check-in area.  His mother was distracted while looking for her travel documents, and neither she nor airline staff noticed the boy’s departure down the baggage belt.  The boy travelled right through the system, including the baggage x-ray machine, which directed him to an area for bags to be handled manually because he had no baggage identification tag.  At this point, an airport worker heard his cries and rescued him from the machinery.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board said today it is investigating Sunday’s emergency landing of a United Airlines flight at Newark Liberty International Airport after a landing gear malfunction.  One early discovery thus far: The radio system used by the gound rescue team crashed just when it was needed most.  But by the time rescue teams were in place, their radios went dead, apparently because of utility work nearby.

The Last Airfare Sales of 2009

airfare saleHere’s a quick look at some of the last airfare sales of 2009:

  • Virgin America is conducting one more sale before the end of the year. One-way fares start as low as $39 from Los Angeles to San Francisco or $59 to Seattle.  Act quickly; it’s a 48-hour sale.  You can grab seats through Feb. 28 with only one-day advance purchase.
  • Southwest Airlines also kicked-off a winter airfare sale with flights as low as $59 each way to / from cities across the U.S.  Purchase your airline ticket by 11:59 pm PT Jan. 4, 2010 for travel from Jan. 12 to March 9, 2010.  These airfare deals are good for travel on all days of the week.
  • Continental Airlines has made fares as low as $178 round-trip to destinations within the United States.  Round-trip fares to European destinations are starting at $486 round-trip, and fares to Latin America are starting at $227.
  • American Airlines has launched “The Great American New Year Sale” offering deep discounts on flights from London Heathrow and Manchester to a number of major U.S. cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orlando and Las Vegas.  Bookings must be made by 26 January 2010 in order to take advantage of the sale prices.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, which fly about half of all passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, said they will waive baggage fees for items checked as baggage that the passenger otherwise would have taken aboard as carry-on baggage from Mexico or Canada.  The only items allowed on board will be “small purses, cameras, coats, items needed for infants, laptop computers, diplomatic or consular bags, crutches, canes, walkers, containers carrying life sustaining items, medication or medical devices, musical instruments, or a special needs item.  Passengers with non-exempt carry-on items will be denied access through the checkpoint.”
  • With the new air travel restrictions – including no bathroom visits or lap items during the last hour of flight – flying with children just became a whole lot more difficult.  The New York Times blog, Motherlode, asked: “So, what is a parent to do? …Any thoughts on how to keep youngsters calm and entertained whitough your usual tools?”  Readers didn’t seem to have many suggestions – but they had a lot of strong opinions.