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Airline Passenger Bill of Rights and Bumping – What You Should Know

January 14, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Delta,Travel Tips | 0 comments

airline passenger bill of rights

While Congressional action on “airline passenger bill of rights” legislation seems to have stalled, don’t worry – Ray LaHood, the activist Secretary of the Dept. of Transportation is looking out for you - tweaking the rules to make them more passenger-friendly.

A prime example: Last year’s “3-Hour” rule which penalizes airlines for waiting on the tarmac longer than three hours.

LaHood also wants to raise the compensation for “involuntary bumping”; you know about bumping right? I talked about it in my guide to airline passenger rights that I wrote a few months back.

Bumping was also the topic of my interview on WTXF News today - especially a new system Delta is trying which involves passengers bidding for the least amount of compensation they’d accept for getting bumped.

Delta’s bidding system has plusses and minuses for passengers, and mostly plusses for Delta, as far as I can see. 

  • Delta saves money – if passengers agree to accept less than the airline is willing to pay
  • Delta could improve its on-time record – if bidding proves quicker than the old system

Passengers could also benefit from more on-time departures; however, they may ultimately get less compensation.

Know Your Rights: Delta’s new bidding system involves people willing to be “voluntarily” bumped. If someone is booted from a flight who didn’t volunteer – and Delta can’t get that passenger on another flight within the hour – that passenger is entitled to receive as much as $800 in compensation; plus the passenger can request that compensation be in cash, not vouchers.

American’s Dispute with Orbitz, Expedia: “Like an NFL Lockout”

January 10, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Airline News | 0 comments

American dispute orbitz expedia

As I see it, the online travel agencies’ decision to pull the carrier’s fares from their sites is more like an NFL lockout than a negotiating ploy.

And that’s what I said on a conference call Friday morning (1-7-11) with analysts from the St. Louis-based financial services firm Stifel Nicolaus, describing the dispute between American Airlines and Orbitz and Expedia (lately joined by global airfare distributor Sabre).

I also said this is one of the craziest situations I’ve ever seen. In fact, if you had told me even just a month ago that we’d ever see Orbitz and Expedia arm-in-arm, I would have laughed out loud. But, that’s what’s happened. Let me dig a little deeper into this story.        

At the heart of the dispute, I think, are two things: money and control.

American Airlines presumably thinks it’s paying too much in fees to these giants of the online travel agency industry (OTAs) for displaying the carrier’s fares, and American would like consumers to go to the AA website; this would allow the airline to avoid the fees it pays to OTAs, plus it would allow American to invite consumers to sample a broader range of its fee-based services such as early boarding and front-of-the-cabin seating which would help the airline generate more revenue.

However, for an aggregator like Expedia, for example, displaying the full panoply of fee options by all airlines and comparing them would be a nightmare.

Meanwhile, there are two points I’d like to make right now, just so there is no confusion – especially for all you airfare shoppers out there:

  1. FareCompare has American Airlines prices. FareCompare.com will continue to provide shopper with prices for American Airlines and other carriers, even though two of our fine partners, Orbitz and Expedia do not (at the moment, anyway).
  2. FareCompare takes no sides in this dispute. Actually, we do take one side: we are always on the side of the consumer. Helping people make the best airfare shopping decision possible is what FareCompare is all about.

So what does this all mean for airfare shoppers?

To some extent, this dispute means it will be harder for passengers to comparison shop. Anytime shoppers lose an outlet (or two or three) they have fewer ways to directly compare airfare prices, so, they lose out. Worst case scenario would be a return to the bad old days (remember phoning one airline after another, in an attempt to find the best price to your destination?); and who knows, perhaps this will mean a shift in the balance of power for the next decade.

However, I suspect this will all shake out by the third quarter of this year. We shall see.

In the meantime, will American tickets purchased on Orbitz or Expedia be honored? Absolutely. However, changes to tickets purchased on Orbitz must be made through AA reservations, while changes to tickets made on Expedia must be handled thru Expedia customer support.

3rd Domestic Airfare Hike in the Past Month

January 9, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Airline News | 0 comments

american hikes airfare while other airlines add peak travel day surcharges

UPDATE: This evening (1-9-11), Delta Air Lines joined in matching the airfare hike.

The third domestic airfare hike in the past month and the first of 2011 has been initiated by U.S. airlines. Domestic airfares have been increased between $4 and $10 roundtrip ($2 and $5 one-way) based on flight distance.

Here’s how it all came down: the FareCompare proprietary airfare tracking software detected a relatively minor amount of airfare hike activity in northern and midwestern cities this past week which normally wouldn’t have been a significant event – until late Friday evening, when Southwest Airlines (which rarely initiates an airfare hike) jumped in across most of their routes.

By late Saturday, almost all U.S. airlines except Delta matched the increase, including American, United/Continental, US Airways and Frontier (and we expect Delta to match late Sunday).

We haven’t seen this pace of domestic airfare hikes since 2007. That’s when fuel prices began to jump dramatically in last quarter and airlines began to institute fuel surcharges; domestic fuel surcharges were removed in November of 2008 as oil prices began to dip from a peak that summer.

These recent hikes effect the typically slower travel period of January and February as most airline tickets are sold within 30 days of departure.

While fuel prices have been hovering near recent highs, it appears these are hikes are more likely related to continued domestic capacity discipline along with strengthening demand.

In case you were wondering, there is no reason to believe these recent 2010/2011 airfare hikes are in any way related to the new ticket distribution issues between online travel agencies, GDS and legacy carriers during the same time period.

We have also seen over the past few months a renewal of domestic peak travel surcharges between $10 and $30 roundtrip for 2011 travel. In the past few years, peak travel surcharges have been a popular way for domestic airlines to raise ticket prices on selective high volume time periods around holidays and summer travel in 2009.

We will update this information as necessary.

Dallas CEO Magazine – Rick Seaney and the Origins of FareCompare

January 6, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News | 0 comments

Rick Seaney and the origins of FareCompare.com

If you’re not in Texas, you might be unfamiliar with D CEO Magazine (heck, you might not be familiar with it if you are in Texas), but you’ll find a story inside the current January/February issue feature yours truly – and that picture at left is from the article.

I mention it because it provides a quick glimpse into the origins of FareCompare, which Graeme Wallace and I founded back in 2006, after we did some work for Hotels.com.

Here’s a couple of paragraphs from D CEO Magazine, for you online airfare history buffs out there (and I’m one of them):

“Rick Seaney knows first-hand the technological hurdles that have been overcome to make online travel possible. In 2002, XXI Technologies, a company led by Seaney, a former oil and gas technologist, and his business partner, Graeme Wallace, was hired by Dallas-based Hotels.com to figure out how to quickly calculate flight fare information for online visitors.”

“The challenge was that each day there were 160 million new airline prices to sort through. That’s right: 16 plus seven zeros. It took 14 months, but Seaney and Wallace were able to find a solution.”

The full article has all kinds of interesting insights into the future of the online travel industry – and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this on Facebook

TV News: Rick Seaney on Finding Spring Break Deals and American Airlines Dispute

January 6, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Airline News,Multimedia,Travel Tips | 0 comments

Rick Seaney on American Airlines Dispute Spring Break Deals

I appeared on the WFAA program Good Morning Texas today, part of a regular segment called “Rick’s Seaney’s Travel Advice” and as usual I had a lot to say and plenty of tips to dispense.

Take a look at the travel advice video for yourself; I start off by talking about the American Airlines dispute with Orbitz and Expedia, and wind up with some advice for anyone interested in Spring Break travel.

And please see my three important tips for purchasing Spring Break airfare, just below the video. As always, I want you to get the best deals – and if you have any other tips – share them on Facebook.

Spring Break Travel Tips

  1. Start shopping now, by looking at ticket prices on FareCompare
  2. Consider possible destinations and sign up for airfare alerts now
  3. Buy your tickets no later than mid-February

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