The USA Today reports that Southwest Airlines (the airline famous for it’s “bags fly free” campaign) plans to launch an ad campaign attacking the “change fees” charged by its rivals. Change fees are, of course, the fee for changing an existing reservation. Nearly every U.S. airline other than Southwest charges customers a penalty for making a change to most non-refundable tickets. Change fees on domestic flights can range from $75 to $150 at a number of airlines, including American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways.
Here at Yapta, we pay close attention to change fees. You see, most airlines will charge a change fee before crediting you the difference on a booked flight that suddenly becomes available for less. (Yeah, you can actually get an airline credit when that flight you booked drops in price. It’s called the “Guaranteed Airfare” rule. Nearly every major U.S. carrier has it as part of its Contract of Carriage.) Yapta’s airfare refund alerts take these change fees into account so that we’re only alerting our early-booking travelers to net savings.
But here’s where it get’s confusing: Some airlines make a distinction between change fees and “re-booking fees” – adding yet another noodle to the bowl of fee-soup. Take for example, JetBlue, a key rival of Southwest Airlines. They charge you nothing ($0, zilch, nada) to “re-book” your flight at a lower available price – and they’re very good about issuing a credit for the difference. However, they will charge you $100 to “change” or “cancel” your itinerary. (Change meaning a new flight time or destination.) Alaska Airlines will also charge you $100 to “change” a ticket by phone, but nothing to “re-book” the same flight at a lower price. Southwest doesn’t charge a “re-booking fee” either – but their not likely to call out this out for you in their ads.
Here’s some more travel news you can use:
- British Airways has announced a Fall Travel Sale that offers terrific fares on flights from 19 U.S. cities direct to London. Not only are the airfares almost too good to be true – British Airways is also throwing in 2 free nights at a hotel in London. The offer expires Oct. 26th – so if you’ve ever wanted to tour London, now may be your chance.
- Getting a cheap flight out of Boston’s Logan International Airport is pretty common these days. While airfares nationally have risen 19 percent year-over-year, airfares out of Boston have only risen about 5 percent. And get this: Thanksgiving week fares out of Logan are down 11 percent from 2009; nationwide, prices are up 9 percent. So what gives? Low-cost carriers like JetBlue, Southwest, AirTran and Virgin are all competing heavily for this market – and it’s even forcing the legacy carriers (like U.S. Airways) to drop their prices.
- Last Friday (10/15), a pilot for ExpressJet Airlines, was not permitted to pass security at Memphis International Airport because he refused to allow TSA agents to use Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) to scan his body. He had been crossing this particular security point each week for the past four and a half years without incident – and until now, TSA never required to have a scanned image of what was under his clothes. Anyway, the TSA contacted his employer and now his job is at risk.
Do you need to send a child alone on a trip by commercial airline? The Houston Chronicle recently published the following tips for sending your child solo on a flight:
1.) The airlines have procedures that must be followed, and most airlines have similar policies, but you should check with the specific airline you are using.
2.) An unaccompanied minor may range from 5 to 17 years old. There usually is an additional fee. If the child is flying alone, let the airline know when making the reservation.
3.) The TSA will provide an escort pass, which will allow you to take your child right to the gate of the airline. You must stay at the gate until the plane takes off .
4.) A person you designate will be allowed to pick up the child upon arrival. When making the reservation, provide the name, address and phone number of the person who is picking up your child. Be sure that person has a government-issued identification and a current photo ID.
5.) Check the weather before heading out to the airport. The airlines book unaccompanied minors on early flights, in case there are weather-related or other delays.
6.) Before booking a flight, check the airline’s and airport’s websites, or call with any questions
Here’s some more travel news you can use:
- The TSA at Boston’s Logan Airport is using a “new enhanced patdown,’’ for random screenings and on travelers who decline to go through a metal detector or full-body scanner. The Boston Globe describes the patdown as, “palms-forward, over-the-clothing contact.” Any patdown is done by a TSA official of the same sex, and travelers can request that it be done in a separate area, and with an attendant present.
- The Associated Press reports that a baggage-handler at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was arrested yesterday on suspicion that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of items from the luggage of passengers in a case that could include hundreds of victims from around the world. This is just another example of why you should always keep valuables in your carry-on luggage rather than in checked baggage.
- The Associated Press reports that an air passenger transporting a bag of 95 boa constrictor snakes burst open on a luggage conveyor belt at an airport in Malaysia. The passenger, who also had some other types of snakes and a turtle in his luggage, was charged with wildlife smuggling. And you thought the movie “Snakes on a Plane” was based on pure fiction.
If you’re a busy business traveler, you know that exercise and healthy eating while on the road are near impossibilities. Well, if you want to know how it’s done, read this story from today’s Wall Street Journal detailing how fitness expert Jillian Michaels (from the TV show “The Biggest Loser”) maintains her healthy eating and exercise habits while constantly traveling for work.
“Ms. Michaels… packs her own snacks and breakfast foods—or sends them FedEx to the hotel where she’s staying. Before arriving, she asks the hotel to clean out the minibar so she can fill it with her own food, such as dry roasted almonds, Greek yogurt, fruit, carrot sticks, hummus, protein bars and shake mixes. ‘I work 16-hour days when traveling, so fitness can be hard,’ she says. ‘I get meticulous about my diet under these circumstances.’
She also brings along fitness DVDs that she can pop into her computer and easily do in her room. Rather than use her own (’I'm a little weirded out by myself,’ says Ms. Michaels), she prefers hard-core circuit training and cardio-based fitness DVDs.
Ms. Michaels often calls ahead to find hotels with gyms and nearby health-food stores. A gym doesn’t have to be upscale. ‘As long as you push yourself, it doesn’t matter how fancy the equipment is,’ she says. She also asks hotel concierges to find local gyms where she can get day passes and take spinning classes. To stay healthy, she prioritizes sleep and tries to boost her immunity before plane rides with vitamin C.
No matter what kind of restaurant she’s in, Ms. Michaels likes to ask for fish grilled with lemon or garlic sauce on the side and steamed vegetables. When you’re away from home, staying in shape ‘just requires [that] you be a little high-maintenance,’ she says.”
Here’s some more travel news you can use:
- JetBlue said today it will boost its service from Boston Logan by 30 percent by next summer, as bigger carriers pull back and competition from rival Southwest heats up. JetBlue plans to offer up to 78 daily flights from Boston to 33 destinations. That includes two more flights to Chicago and Raleigh Durham, N.C., for a total of three daily flights each. JetBlue will also add flights from Beantown to San Francisco, San Diego, Washington and spots in the Caribbean. JetBlue currently serves more cities out of Boston than any other airline.
- United Airlines, the first carrier to make the Boeing 737 a staple of its fleet 41 years ago, retired the last of those jets yesterday as “Flight 737″ lifted off from Washington Dulles International Airport before dawn Wednesday and touched down at every one of the carrier’s hubs on its way to a giant maintenance base in San Francisco. Mechanics will strip down the plane and prepare it for its final journey to the central California desert, where it will be parked.
- Forbes has partnered with the Travel Channel to produce FORBES LUXE 11, a luxury lifestyle series consisting of 10, hour-long episodes. The series, featuring Forbes content and Forbes on-camera talent, will begin airing on a weekly basis starting Saturday, Nov. 7th @ 10 PM ET. Topics will include: Exclusive hotels, extravagant meals, extreme excursions, luxury steals, icy hot spots, first-class traveler, high seas style and billionaire-owned hotels. Robin Leech would be proud.