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Delta Calls Audible, Adds Flights to Big D for Steelers Fans

January 24, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Delta | 0 comments

Good news for Steelers fans: Delta is adding 3 nonstop flights between Pittsburgh and Dallas/Fort Worth for the weekend of Super Bowl XLV.

That’s right, Steelers fans: Delta is calling an audible just for you! A press release from Pittsburgh International notes “Delta does not normally operate nonstop flights on the Pittsburgh-Dallas/Fort Worth route.”

But for the big game, “we’re proud to be flying some of football’s greatest fans on Delta to cheer on the Steelers in the Super Bowl,” says Wayne Aaron, Delta Vice President — Marketing Programs and Distribution Strategy.

Read more about Delta’s special schedule in this USA Today article.

DFW to the Land Down Under — Non-Stop

January 19, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Destinations,Uncategorized | 0 comments

Good news for Dallas travelers who want to visit the “land down under” — Australia just got a little closer. Well not exactly closer…but it’ll be easier to get there!

Starting in May, DFW will have a 16 1/2 hour non-stop to Sydney aboard a 747 on Qantas Airways — the national airline for Australia.

Australia has something for everyone, like beautiful beaches, the famously rugged Outback,  and the style and sophistication of Sydney — Australia’s largest city.

And for those who REALLY want a great look at all that Sydney has to offer, I encourage you to take part in the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart!

Traveling to Australia is by no means cheap – fares can be in the ballpark of $1500 roundtrip – but I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any deals, so keep coming back to visit my blog and FareCompare.com.

G’day for now — and happy travels!

Btw: For those of you in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, I’ll be on the WFAA TV news - channel 8 – at 5pm tonight to discuss Australia travel. Be sure to tune in!

Back to Back Domestic Airfare Hikes

January 17, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Airline News | 0 comments

Back to back airfare hikes

UPDATE #2 (1-18-11 2:25pm CST): At lunch time today Southwest jumped in matching the cheaper of the two initiated hikes (see initial rundown below) across the bulk of their route system.

The Southwest matching was was about 75% of the level of the hike in the first week of the year underscoring that competitive pressure still prevents complete system wide increase attempts.

Additionally Alaska Airlines also matched along with US Airways adding more matching routes – virtually assuring the success of this hike making it the 4th in a little over a month.

Because this hike was initiated by two airlines simultaneously with different amounts, airlines have matched portions of both hikes in order to maintain a competitive equilibrium.

I don’t recall seeing Southwest, even in the height of runaway oil prices in 2008 match or initiate domestic airfare hikes in two successive weeks — or for that matter successive months.

UPDATE #1 (1-17-11 10:42pm CST): 

Continental and US Airways matched the United Airlines version of the hike ($4 to $10 roundtrip), while American matched both United and Delta ($10 to $20 roundtrip).  Southwest matched Delta in a relatively small number of markets.

Tonight’s domestic airfare feed is not all bad news for price conscious consumers as Frontier launched a big sale along with typical Monday evening sale activity from Southwest – it isn’t unusual to see sales with limited number of seats amidst domestic airfare increases.

EARLIER: At 1pm EST today the FareCompare proprietary airfare processing system detected significant domestic airfare hike activity simultaneously from both Delta and United Airlines on over 40,000 city pairs representing the bulk of their respective route systems.

Delta raised domestic ticket prices by up to $20 roundtrip ($10 each-way) and United by up to $10 roundtrip ($5 each-way).

The Delta hike is laddered – based on distance with $5 hikes each-way for trips less than 1,500 miles and $10 for longer trips.

The United hike is also mileage based into 3 groupings: $2 each-way for trips less than 500 miles, $3 each-way between 500 – 1,500 miles and $5 each-way for trips more than 1,500 miles.

Usually one airline leads out on a domestic hike with others deciding to match in the following 36 hours; in this case either United or Delta will have to modify their hike to bring them in line with one another ($10 or $20 roundtrip) as airlines still live by the recessionary competitive rule of never being $1 more or less than their competiton.

The next domestic airfare distribution is at 8pm EST and we are likely to see significant matching activity by legacy airlines; oddly, Continental did not file a hike along with its newly merged partner at 1pm.

While we have seen this pace of weekly domestic hike activity in 2007 and 2008, we have never seen Southwest match legacy-initiated hikes in back-to-back weeks.

OPEC revised its 2011 demand forecast earlier today which, along with the economy, has airline management’s full attention.

This domestic airfare hike attempt represents the 2nd in 2011 and the 4th since mid December of last year.

We will continue to update as significant events occur.

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.

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

Cheap Flight Tips in the Fee Era: Rick Seaney on ABC’s Nightline

December 4, 2010 | Posted in: ABC Column,Airline News,Multimedia,Tips and Tricks | 0 comments

Did you catch my appearance on ABC’s Nightline last night?

I provided the analysis for Ryan Owens’ report, “Breakin’ the Bank to Fly” (also featured: Steven Slater, the one-time angry, fed-up flight attendant).

As I noted, in general airline fees target “unloyal” families of four (non-miles program members), but see for yourself in this very entertaining video – then check out my tips to avoid airline fees, below:

However, you can still avoid the worst of the fees by following these simple tips:

Five Ways to Avoid Airline Fees for Cheaper Flights

1. Check a Bag: Use a carryon and avoid the roundtrip bag fees of up to $50 per bag

2. Fly a Free Bag Airline: Both JetBlue and Southwest will give you free checked-bags and the FareCompare Domestic Airline Fee Chart will show you what others charge

3. Don’t Book until Trip Dates are Firm: This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many try to change flight dates after purchase only to learn about the $150 “change fee”

4. Bring Your Own Food and Entertainment: There are no more free meals in coach, plus a lot of airlines charge for snacks and WiFi; brown bag it, and don’t forget your book (or Kindle or iPad)

5. Fly Nonstops: If you’re stuck in a middle seat because you didn’t pay the “seat selection” fee, it’s a lot easier to endure cramped conditions on one flight instead of two

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