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$10 Domestic Airfare Hike Sticks and Another Business Class Hike Attempt

February 22, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

$10 Airfare Hike and Business Class Hike

Friday’s $10 roundtrip airfare hike attempt initiated by Southwest Airlines (the fourth broad-based domestic hike this year) was quickly matched over the weekend by all domestic airlines.

It also appears that legacy airlines are adamant about raising the domestic price point for business travelers who buy tickets at the last minute or squeeze into the last seats on oversold flights.

Yesterday afternoon (Monday, February 12), American Airlines initiated a hike of $20 to $60 roundtrip on “walk-up” fares – again, the kind of fares last minute business travelers buy with a same-day advance price that can approach $1000 roundtrip. Later that evening, it was matched by United/Continental, and today Delta and US Airways joined in. Note that this is on the heels of last week’s similar airfare hike attempt, that ultimately collapsed.

Interestingly, the pace of recent domestic airfare hikes almost exactly mirrors those which occurred in the same time period of late 2007 and early 2008 – when oil prices leapt into the mid $90’s per barrel. The big difference today, however, is that airline baggage fees and widespread peak travel surcharges hadn’t been a staple in the total amount travelers shelled out for air travel.

We will update with any significant changes if and when they occur.

Your Summer Airfare Just Got More Expensive

February 16, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

US Airways Airfare Sale Europe

Here’s the latest, and it’s not happy news: On Monday, the FareCompare proprietary airfare processing system noted significant increases in domestic airline ticket prices for both business and leisure passengers.

Business travelers are accustomed to paying a hefty premium for the “luxury” of booking travel at the last minute (inside 14 days of departure) on schedule-friendly nonstop flights while leaving the cheaper seats for leisure travelers who can book earlier.

Monday, Delta initiated a domestic business airfare hike – effective immediately – of between $40 and $120 roundtrip that was widely matched by other legacy airlines in the ensuing 24 hours. This hike on walkup and last minute departures follows on the heels of a similar hike last week on business travelers who typically pay more than $800 round-trip for their tickets.

More importantly for cost-conscious leisure travelers, Monday airlines also began putting “travel date” fences on their cheapest airfare so that discounted seats could only be purchased through mid June, thereby bumping the cheapest summer ticket base prices by as much as $250 roundtrip (see the examples below for New York departures):

On top of these “base” domestic price increases for summer departures, airlines also continue to file “peak travel” surcharges for summer departure dates of between $20 and $60 roundtrip – with the higher amounts on the busiest departure days of the week.

The question for consumers is whether prices will come down in the following months as airlines begin to more actively manage summer inventory – or, on the flip side, might airfare prices get worse?

We are nearing the historical sweet spot for summer travelers looking to score a deal on domestic tickets who shop in earnest about 3-and-a-half months before departure – the time frame when airlines tend to start offering up some cheaper seats in order gauge demand in comparison to their historical booking models.

It is likely that early bird shoppers will be shell-shocked when getting quotes for summer travel so waiting may be their only option. One thing that is always helpful is to sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts and if prices on the trips you’re interested come down, we’ll let you know in real time.

Meanwhile, with volatility of jet fuel prices and the reticence of airlines to increase capacity coupled with firming demand, it is not hard to imagine a summer of some the highest airline ticket prices in years.

We’ll keep you updated.

Thanks, Kevin Smith. For tackling a touchy airline topic.

February 9, 2011 | Posted in: Passengers,Southwest | 0 comments

Kevin Smith Loses Weight

Kevin Smith has lost 65 pounds.

You remember Kevin Smith; he’s the Hollywood writer/director who was ousted from a Southwest flight last year because he was deemed too large for his seat – even though (as Smith pointed out), he was seated with armrests down and seatbelt buckled as per airline policy.

So Smith did what anyone would do if they were unhappy and wanted everyone to know about it; he tweeted. To all his followers – all 1.6 million of them.

Recently, Smith told CNN’s Joy Behar that he’s lost a lot of weight. That’s quite an achievement. But I’d rather applaud him – and thank him – for something else:

Kevin, in his own unique way, brought a very touchy subject to light last year; one that the airlines still don’t want to touch with a 30 foot pole* and he did so even though that meant subjecting himself to a barrage of “too-fat-to-fly” stories. Unfortunately, since then, the airlines haven’t provided much clarity on the issue of “passengers of size” – a favorite airline euphemism. So, there’s little incentive for those who really do need two seats, to purchase them; they know the airlines will accommodate them if there’s an empty seat.

Of course, these days, there’s no guarantee of an extra empty seat on any plane. As Kevin Smith found out last year.

*My editor asked Southwest to comment; if we hear anything, we’ll let you know.

Photo of Kevin Smith from CNN.com

Airline Fees + Internet = Disaster (Now and Then)

February 8, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Passengers | 0 comments

Airline Fees Internet Disaster

You may have heard me talk about how we’re in the midst of a new “Airline Fee Generation” – with fees for all kinds of services we used to get for nothing (and please see our Domestic Airline Fee Chart is this is new to you).

Anyway, dozens of Belgian students apparently weren’t up to date on all the fees imposed by Dublin-based airline Ryanair, and got blindsided at the airport (they were asked to pay an additional $47 for oversized and/or overweight carryon bags). When they raised a stink about it – some called it a “mutiny” – they were dumped from the flight.

I can guess what happened; while governments have tried (sometimes successfully) to legislate full disclosure on fees, let’s face it – internet users are notorious for not reading the fine print.

Hey, we’re all guilty of this from time to time; for instance, how many times have you gone to iTunes and clicked “accept” without reading up on their new policies? I thought so.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: know before you go.

Ask Rick Seaney…What? Tell Me.

February 7, 2011 | Posted in: Ask Rick,Tips and Tricks | 0 comments

Welcome to Dallas Bad Weather Flights

I do a fair number of media appearances; so many, that some might accuse me of being an air hog, but the reason I do these broadcast and print interviews is because I genuinely enjoy sharing my knowledge.

Plus, after all these years, I still get a kick out of it any time I can save someone a little of their hard-earned cash (and I love it when I can save someone a lot of money).

So, I chat with reporters around the country. This week, for example, I’ll talk airfare via Skype with some of the folks at WKYC which is the NBC TV affiliate in Cleveland. They want to know, among other things, when is the best time to shop for airfare (short answer: Tuesday at 3pm Eastern). Which got me wondering:

What are the questions you’d like to ask me? What airfare tips and tricks are you most interested in? Tell me on Facebook; I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Welcome to Dallas – Now Put on Your Mittens

February 4, 2011 | Posted in: Travel Tips,Weather | 0 comments

Welcome to Dallas Bad Weather Flights

Coming in for the Super Bowl? You’ll need the patience of Job this weekend in Dallas.

The airports have been struggling and the terrain is treacherous. We’ve had dozens of street closures and even some rolling blackouts this week as cold, sleet and finally snow have all conspired to temporarily turn the Big D into the Big Chill.

The following is from Southwest’s website; conditions at Love Field (DAL) in Dallas as of noon today (2-4-11):

“Given the lingering winter weather conditions, there is the possibility that our Friday afternoon and evening flights to/from DAL could be disrupted (delayed, diverted, and/or cancelled).”

If you’re coming in for the big game, or traveling to any of the many cities affected by the severe winter weather – especially in the southern states – check with your airline for the latest on bad weather delays and cancelations. And dress warmly while you’re here; temperatures are going to be in the mid-40′s on game day, or so we hear.

And bear all this in mind if you’ll be attending next year’s Super Bowl – in Indianapolis.   

Spirit Lowers Checked-Bag Weight Allowance – Pack Light or Pay More

February 3, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

Spirit Airlines Lowers Checked=

There are two distinct parts to today’s “airline fee era”: brand new fees, and making the fees we already pay more onerous. This post falls into the latter category – and, no surprise, really – it involves Spirit Airlines.

Yes, once again, Spirit is leading the way to higher baggage fees. You already know they’re the first (and so far only) domestic airline to charge for a carryon bag.

Now, a new wrinkle.

As of this week, the Florida-based discount carrier has lowered the weight allowance for checked-bags; down from the 50 pounds most airlines allow you, to just 40 pounds. Go over that limit by a single pound and you will pay.

Here’s the breakdown according to Spirit’s website (and in fairness, the airline charges slightly lower fees if you pay to join its $9 Club): 

  • Regular first checked-bag fee: $28 one-way
  • Overweight baggage fee (41 – 50 pounds): $25 each-way
  • Total roundtrip cost for one slightly overweight checked-bag on Spirit: $106

Compare the cost of that same bag on JetBlue or Southwest: $0.

Maybe you don’t care. Maybe your Spirit flight is cheap enough so the additional cost doesn’t matter. However, this is something you should know before you head to the airport, and I think you’ll find this FareCompare article called Airline Baggage Fees: Know the Different Fees for Different Bags extremely helpful.

One more thing: overweight fees can vary. For example, one of my employees saw her daughter off to Prague last summer on Delta, and was mildly upset when she noticed her daughter’s suitcase weighed a hefty 55 pounds – but that was nothing compared to her reaction when she was asked to fork over $150 in overweight fees!

As they say, it pays to know before you go. Or you could pay – dearly.

American Airlines Launches New Hike, Plus United/Continental Add Fuel Surcharges

February 1, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News | 0 comments

Third Airfare Hike of 2011 Plus New Surcharges

UPDATE 1: Wednesday February 2, 2011 3:50pm CST

In a flurry of activity over the past 18 hours, several airlines have matched the American-initiated domestic airfare hike of $4 to $10 roundtrip, including Continental, Delta, United, US Airways, JetBlue, Alaska, AirTran, Air Canada and WestJet. Only Southwest and Frontier are still sitting on the sidelines.

United/Continental – as part of their matching of the American hike – did drop their $6 roundtrip fuel surcharge – in what appears to be related to the domestic airlines’ motto of “never be a dollar more or less than your competitor unless you have a scheduling advantage”  – fostered by consumers’ inclination to comparison shop.

ORIGINAL POST: Tuesday February 1, 2011 3:00pm CST

What a day it’s been; in the last 24 hours, the FareCompare proprietary airfare analysis engine detected significant fare and fuel surcharge hike activity, and when I say “significant”, I mean from several domestic U.S. airlines.

Background: This activity coincided with Brent crude prices hitting a two year high of $100/barrel  

What happened: Late yesterday evening (Jan,. 31), some of the airlines raised their prices in two different ways: 

  • American initiated an airfare hike between $4 and $10 roundtrip on the bulk of their domestic route system 
  • United/Continental cautiously added a fuel surcharge of $6 roundtrip to a significant number of routes, being careful to tiptoe around the routes of low cost airlines and the cheapest of sale fares.

Some of the other airlines have joined in, while Southwest, AirTran and Frontier are just watching – for the moment, anyway.

See more about this in my detailed analysis, “Third Airfare Hike of 2011 Begins – Plus, Fuel Surcharges Resurface“.

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