While we are in sports dry season, we’re going to talk some about air travel. Because air travel isn’t like the old subsidized days, its a hard thing to do.
Since BSP is here to help, we’re going to give you a few hints. Maybe you already know them, maybe they are useless, maybe they suck.
– In general, your lowest fares are not going to be on Southwest. Not any more. However, you have to make some considerations like whether you’re going to carry a bag. In all honesty, I’ll book on Southwest if its within $50 round trip, just because of “bags flying free.” If its a long trip and I’m carrying two bags, f-it…I’m flying Southwest no matter what. If the family is going on a trip, its Southwest. Why the allegiance to Southwest? Two reasons: Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program is the best in the business, bar none. I’ve flown two awards round trips with Southwest in the last two years and they have no blackouts. I am also an American AAdvantage member since 1996, but I’ve only done one rewards flight with them…and that was after 9/11 when they were begging people to fly. Their rewards program is awful. They will give you a stateside flight for 25,000 miles, but the availability is non-existent…unless you want to pay 50,000 for the same flights. The second reason we are devoted to Southwest is, they don’t FEE you to death. I hate the word fee more than taxes. I understand taxes are mandatory. Fees, like baggage fees, change fees, food fees are worse than taxes because they make you think you don’t have to pay them. Unless you want to get strapped to the wing, you have to pay fees…and it’s going to get worse.
AirTran is/was superb. It was the airline that kept Southwest honest. After the purchase, Southwest’s fares went up. A lot of routes where AirTran competed against Southwest, they went away. For example, Baltimore – San Antonio was hotly contested between Southwest, AirTran. Today, Southwest is the only carrier that goes nonstop BWI to SAT and vice versa. You pay for that, but then again, you’d pay with any other carrier.
I flew back to San Antonio from Baltimore via the horrible United because American wanted to charge me a change fee of $150 for moving my flight two days! They also told me I had to pay the difference between the two flights. I booked and flew United for $199.
– Kayak.com for air travel. One of the things we like to do is use our Reward points for air travel. Look at Kayak.com for a wide range of pricing. The bad news is, you are very rarely going to get a discount flight. The competition in the airline business is minimal. No one’s going to undercut their competition in this era of high fuel prices.
– Seating: If you have to fly on an airline with assigned seats, you want to take a look at seatexpert.com. There’s some significant things airlines don’t tell you about their seats. Like where you sit when you don’t like lots of traffic; power outlets, etc. One thing about American: They like to charge extra for certain seats, but they don’t really offer anything better. Check out seatexpert.com and don’t fall for it.
– Find out whether the company you work for OR the company your spouse works for has a deal with specific airlines for express check-in, waived baggage fees, expedited security screening and elite mileage programs. That alone can make a higher fare worthwhile.
– Someone told me this but I haven’t had the courage to do it: Wear long jogging pants to the airport. Why? Because you won’t have to do a strip tease at the security line. If your belt is a cord, no hassle.
– Check out FlyerGuide.com, its a website that helps you determine the best value for your Frequent Flyer plans. It also discusses some of the rewards programs undocumented benefits.