Tag: Southwest Airlines

Frugal Travelers are Now Booking Holiday Flights

santa-tanning-300x225With summer officially starting next Monday and the mercury rising,  what better time to start thinking about your travel plans for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s?  Airlines have already released flight schedules far beyond New Year’s and frugal travelers know that this an excellent time to get airfare deals for the fall and winter holidays.

For example, Southwest Airlines released schedules from November through Jan. 7 on Tuesday.  Within 3 hours, five of 12 direct and change-of-plane schedules from Chicago to Tampa International Airport on the Sunday after Thanksgiving were sold out.  By Wednesday afternoon, only one flight from Fort Lauderdale to New York’s LaGuardia for the day before Thanksgiving was available at its lowest one-way fare of $221.

While holiday flights are being scooped up quickly, there may be a fare sale or two between now and the holiday season, so keep an eye peeled.  The Miami Herald recently reported that, “airlines typically file their airfare sales on Monday evening, and during the morning hours Tuesday other airlines scramble to match, so at about 3 p.m. ET is when there are the maximum number of cheap domestic flights.”

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • American Airlines recently announced it will offer “Your Choice” services to its customers.  As part of the initial Your Choice offering, American is introducing a “Boarding and Flexibility Package.”  Customers that purchase the Boarding and Flexibility Package get: (1) Group 1 general boarding, (2) a $75 flight change discount, (3) the ability to standby for an earlier flight at no charge,  and (4) special airfare offers.  The “introductory price” for the package ranges from $9 to $19 one way and varies based on the market and routing.
  • A study published in May by IdeaWorks, a consulting firm, showed that, for travel dates from June through October 2010, award seats aboard Continental were available 71.4% of the time, followed by United (68.6%), American (57.9%) and Delta (12.9%).  TIME.com noted that, “Unless you book months, or even a year, in advance, (award) seats on the most traveled routes and times are almost never available.”
  • A Southwest Airlines employee discovered between 40 and 60 human heads during a routine security check.  The worker made the gruesome discovery when he realized the container, bound for a medical research company in Ft. Worth, TX, had not been properly labeled.  Authorities are now investigating the situation.

How to Score an Airline Upgrade

upgradedAn Australian news outlet recently asked a panel of travel experts how to increase your chances of getting a seat upgrade.  Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the tactics they recommended:

  1. Look the part: Ditch the backpack, flip-flops and sweats.  Present yourself neatly and polish up your manners and you may find yourself sipping on champagne in either first or business class.
  2. Travel on busy days: With a sold-out flight, there is more chance of an upgrade if passengers don’t show up, which is more likely to happen on busy days.
  3. Never, ever, ask for an upgrade: Unless you have elite frequent flier status, do not ask for an upgrade.  Apparently, it’s like ordering soup from the Soup Nazi.  It’s rude to ask.  Instead of asking, simply volunteer yourself to be bumped.
  4. Flirt your way to a better seat: If break tactic #3, then you better be charming.  Dropping a “pretty please”, batting the eye-lashes and flirting a bit actually works.
  5. Travel solo: You’re more likely to score an upgrade if you travel alone as it’s more than likely there will be one seat available than two or three.  If you travel solo, it also helps with tactic #4.
  6. Join a frequent flier program: A frequent flier number implies a certain degree of loyalty, and the airlines are more likely to upgrade passengers who are or appear to be their loyalists.
  7. Don’t be an early bird: Airlines allow for no-shows by double-booking some seats, so when everyone turns up to board the flight, the late arrivals are usually bumped up into a higher class.
  8. Smile: Be nice.  Say thank you.  Enough said.
  9. Lie: Airline staff have heard everything under the sun, so be creative and see how far a little lie can take you.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The U.S. DOT has fined Southwest Airlines $200,000 for “bumping” passengers from oversold flights without complying to federal standards. An investigation by the DOT revealed “numerous instances” in which the Dallas budget carrier denied boarding to passengers on overbooked flights without providing a written statement explaining their rights, which can include compensation of up to $800.
  • The seven hotel brands of IHG are offering discounts of up to 50% off on stays across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, French Polynesia and Papua New Guinea on stays between June 1 and Aug. 31.   IHG brands include InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites.  Reservations must be completed by May 13th.  Also, give IHG’s new iPhone app a whirl.  IGH is offering users 1,000 Priority Club Rewards bonus points for all bookings and stays for the rest of April through June 15th made using the iPhone app.

airline fare saleThere are a few airfare sales that are piquing a lot of interest:

JetBlue is celebrating its 10th anniversary by offering one-way fares starting at $29 – or for 5,000 TrueBlue points.  In order to take advantage of this sale, you need to book by April 18th for travel between April 22 – June 16, 2010.

American Airlines is conducting a sale on flights to the Caribbean and Latin America.  Flights start at $78 one-way for travel through early June.  The sale ends April 14th, so act now if you want to get these sale prices.

AirTran’s latest fare sale encourages travelers to “book a sweet deal from Point A to Point B.” You can find airfare deals to/from a variety of U.S. cities, as well as specials to international destinations including Aruba, Montego Bay, and Cancun.  Purchase your airline ticket by 11:59 pm ET on April 20 for travel through November 10, 2010.  The lowest sale airfares are good for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.  A 10-day advance purchase is required, and there are blackout dates.

And finally, Southwest Airlines has launched a 72-hour sale.  Flights start at $39 one-way or $78 round-trip, and destinations include Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Orlando, among many others. More than 1,000 routes are on sale, but if you don’t book by Thurs., April 15th, you’ll miss out.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Republic Airways officials announced this morning that Frontier will be the operating brand name for Republic’s Frontier and Midwest carriers. The announcement followed months of speculation about the future of the Frontier and Midwest brands after Indianapolis-based Republic Airways bought the airlines last year. As a concession to Midwest, Republic officials said chocolate chip cookies will be served on all flights, a trademark amenity of Midwest.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Continental Airlines is expected to bid to acquire United Airlines, after reports that United and US Airways were in merger talks.  Continental and United discussed merging in 2008, until Continental walked away.  A combined United-Continental would create the world’s largest airline, ahead of Delta Air Lines, now the largest after acquiring Northwest Airlines in 2008. A combined US Airways-United would be the second-biggest U.S. carrier. Delta and Air France-KLM are larger worldwide.  A United-Continental merger would also face less regulatory scrutiny because the carriers have fewer overlapping city pairs – 9, whereas United and US Airways have 14.

3 Horses

According to recently released data from the U.S. DOT,  Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines carried the most passengers in 2009.  Southwest carried 101 million passengers, followed by American with 85 million and Delta with 67 million.

According to the 2009 year-end data, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport held onto its coveted title of world’s busiest airport.  Chicago’s O’Hare came in second and Los Angeles ranked third in the list of top 10 largest airports.

Also worth noting is the fact that U.S. airlines carried 5.2 percent fewer domestic passengers (618.1 million) in 2009 and 6.3 percent fewer international passengers (85.8 million) than in 2008.

If you’re a travel geek and want to see the complete air travel statistics for 2009, click here.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • US Airways passengers who check in online will now find more than a seat assignment and group number on their boarding passes.  Just in time for the spring-break travel rush, the airline has started including advertisements, weather and other tourist information on the boarding documents.  This leaves United as the last major carrier to hold out from printing the adds on customers’ boarding passes.  Anyone want to fathom a guess as to when United will fall in line?  The person closest to the actual date will get a $10 Starbucks gift card, courtesy of Yapta.
  • If you live in Seattle, this news if for you:  Alaska Airlines announced that it will allow passengers to earn and use its Mileage Plan miles on Seattle’s Kenmore Air and book Kenmore tickets through Alaska.  Mileage Plan members will earn 250 miles for each Kenmore Air flight starting April 15, with Double Miles for Kenmore flights between April 15 and May 31. Members can redeem miles for award travel starting in June, with one roundtrip award ticket on Kenmore Air between Seattle and any Washington destination or Victoria, B.C., for 10,000 miles, or between Seattle and any other Kenmore destination in British Columbia for 15,000 miles.
  • According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry globally is expected to bounce back to its pre-recession traffic levels in two or three months.   I’m hoping this news means that airlines will pull some planes out of the desert and increase capacity.

AA Flight Attendants & Mechanics May Go on Strike

AA flight attendants strike

Flight attendants for American Airlines have requested federal approval to end contract talks – a step towards the first strike at a major US carrier in five years.  If the National Mediation Board agrees, it would start a 30-day clock ticking.  After that the union might be allowed to strike.  No large US carrier has suffered a strike since 2005, when 4,200 Northwest Airlines mechanics and aircraft cleaners walked off the job.

American’s unions took big pay cuts in 2003 to keep the airline out of bankruptcy.  The flight attendants (and mechanics, who last week also requested to end contract talks) want at least some of that compensation back.  American is offering raises, but the union says the airline wants to keep overall costs flat.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • If you’re flying Southwest Airlines today, you’ve got the luck of the Irish.  Not only is Southwest putting leprechauns on board its flights for St. Patrick’s Day, but it is also serving up complimentary Heineken beers to passengers.
  • JetBlue, through its partnership with Aer Lingus, which serves Ireland’s Dublin and Shannon airports, is offering a sale on summer fares to the Emerald Isle.  The sale ends March 19th, so if you’re feeling the St. Patrick’s Day spirit, you better show JetBlue your green soon.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

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

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.

Your Holiday Travel Checklist

The New York Times has published a “holiday travel checklist” that will help ensure you’re prepared for the worst as you head to the airport.  Here’s the Cliffs Notes:clipboard

1. Map out Plan B. Figure out your next best flight options in case your plane is delayed or canceled.

2. Load up your cellphone with emergency numbers, including the airline reservation line or the number for the frequent flier representative if you are a member.

3. Add the numbers of some major hotel chains, like Starwood or Marriott, with airport locations – just in case you get stuck.

4. Set up a flight alert for yourself and anyone who may need to know your whereabouts – like those who are picking you up at the airport.  Most airlines offer alerts that let passengers know if a gate or flight time has changed via e-mail or text message.

5. Pack smart. If you can limit your luggage to a carry-on, you can avoid the scrum at baggage claim and easily move between flights if your itinerary is wrecked by delays.  If you must check luggage, you can save $5 on baggage fees with most airlines by prepaying online.

6. Know your rights. This is critical during busy travel periods when flights are often overbooked and confusion reigns. Travelers can receive up to $400 if they are involuntarily bumped and rebooked on another flight within 2 hours after their original domestic flight time and within 4 hours for international flights. They are eligible for up to $800 in cash if they are not rerouted by then.

7. Check in ahead of time online.

8. Reserve a parking spot at off-airport lots and avoid the holiday parking crush.

9. Know your airport.  If your flight is delayed, you may end up spending a lot of time there.  Does it have Wi-fi?  And more importantly, where’s the bar?

10. Be polite.  It’s the holidays for crying out loud.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Now that Continental Airlines is part of the Star Alliance, there are more ways than ever for Continental frequent fliers to “earn and burn” miles.  That’s because Continental now has 25 airline partners — up from 10 in the SkyTeam alliance it left in October.  Continental’s OnePass frequent fliers are able to rack up mileage points on all those new partners, as well as cash in mileage points for tickets on them.  Read on…
  • Southwest Airlines today announced that it will add 65 roundtrip flights and eliminate 24 roundtrip flights for a net gain of 41 roundtrip flights.  The schedule reflects seasonal travel patterns. The schedule includes fares and flight information for previously announced service to Southwest’s newest market, Panama City Beach, Fla., starting May 23. It also includes previously announced service of seven daily flights to and from Denver. Southwest has added two additional daily flights to the previously announced service, for a total of nine new flights to and from Denver beginning May 9.
  • The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that airline fees topped $2 billion in the third quarter, up 36% from the same period of 2008.  Baggage fees carried the load.  Delta led the pack in baggage, collecting $129.5 million in the third quarter.  Last year, Delta offered to carry one checked bag for free but charged $50 to check a second bag.  But in November 2008 the airline switched to the same structure as Northwest and others: $15 for the first bag each way, and $25 for the second bag.  Since then, the fees have been raised $5 unless you pre-pay online.

ABC News: “How Fat is Too Fat to Fly?”

Fat flyer

Earlier today, ABC News posed the question: “How Fat is Too Fat to Fly?“  The photo seen here – which is circulating on the Internet – has apparently rekindled this debate.  In the photo, allegedly taken by an American Airlines flight attendant, a very large man is spilling out over his armrest (he actually appears to be sitting on it) and filling half of the aisle.  Not only does it look really uncomfortable for the passenger — and the passenger next to him — but it also seems like a safety hazard.

“American, like most other airlines, has a policy for larger passengers.  Roughly speaking, most airlines try to make accommodations for passengers if the person’s body is large enough that it prevents the armrest between the seats from being fully lowered.

American tries not to charge passengers for an extra seat unless there are simply no other options.

If the flight is not full, American tries to seat the passenger in two adjacent seats.  Otherwise, the airline tries to book the person on another flight. If there is no other available flight or the passenger needs to be on that flight for scheduling reasons, the airline will sometimes book and charge the person for two seats.”

We addressed this particular topic back in June, noting that sometime in the future airlines may charge you for a seat based on your weight.  With airlines still wrestling with managing the cost of fuel – and attempting to cut other costs – it makes sense.  If you think about it, passengers are treated more and more like air freight anyway.  The only difference between you and the freight that’s transported on a plane is you get served a drink… sometimes.

What do you think?  If you have an opinion on this matter, sound off here.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has announced that it is introducing sleep rooms. The rooms, which will be operated by Minute Suites, are just 7 feet by 8 feet and are designed for travelers who want to relax, sleep or conduct business in between their flights.  The rooms come equipped with a daybed sofa, pillows, and fresh blankets.  There’s also a desk, phone, office chair and a Wi-Fi connection.  The rooms, which are in Concourse B, cost about $30 for the first hour and $7.50 for each additional 15 minutes.
  • The USA Today’s Hotel Check-In blog notes some current hotel points promotions from Doubletree, Hilton, Omni & Carlson Hotels.  If you’re interested in earning double loyalty points or obtaining hotel credit, check out these promotions before they expire.

  • Budget Travel spotlighted a “quickie deal to the Big Apple” that includes round-trip airfare on Southwest Airlines, 3-nights’ accomodations at the W New York, and hotel taxes, from $468 per person – plus about $35 in airport taxes.

New Jersey Senator, Robert Menendez (D) stood in Terminal B at Newark Liberty International Airport yesterday to announce that he would be re-introducing legislation that would ensure travelers get a clear breakdown of holiday surcharges and all add-on fees, including baggage, meals and pets.

The legislation, which Menendez termed “The Clear Airfares Act”, calls for fees, charges or surcharges to be disclosed in a straightforward transaction before customers have to input their name and credit card information.  Menendez said travelers have to click through peripheral web pages and wade through often confusing text to understand whether or not their airfare includes surcharges or added fees.Menendez

“Trying to navigate through the different components in your airfare is like an airline pilot trying to land a plane in a thunderstorm without electronic instruments or a map,” he said. “It’s technically possible, but it sure isn’t easy.”

Menendez’s bill — which he will introduce this week and hopes to pass next year — would require the transaction to be “straightforward, simple and transparent.”  Under Menendez’s bill, as each passenger selects from a list of options while booking online, a cost will appear for each item — the basic airfare, security tax, a holiday surcharge (if applicable), baggage, meals, pets and so on.

The principle is simple: Passengers should know what they’re paying for when they buy a ticket.  It’s basic consumer protection.  And, like many arriving flights at Newark Airport, it’s long overdue.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Allegiant Air announced today it will move its low-cost service to Orlando International Airport beginning February 8, 2010.  Allegiant Air had provided service from GSP to Orlando via the Orlando-Sanford International Airport.  The low-fare carrier says it will offer the new service with introductory fares at $59.99 each way.
  • British Airways has agreed to pay cancellation penalties and other expenses for about 2,200 consumers who responded to an erroneous offer of $40 fares between the U.S. and India.  The fare, which didn’t include taxes and fees, was posted on British Airways’ Web site at about 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 2 and was removed within minutes.  However, the ad remained on other online travel sites for about two hours.
  • Planes belonging to Southwest Airlines and FedEx  suffered minor damage when they bumped wings while on the ground in Salt Lake City.  A Southwest spokesman said the airline’s jet was beginning to pull back from the gate when it was clipped by a FedEx cargo plane Sunday morning.  No passengers were hurt, and they were put on another plane for the trip to Albuquerque.  The plane was fixed and put back in duty.