Airfare & Airline News

I don't have the resources to cover lots of airline news, but I'll try to post some of the most important or super-interesting items here.

Hipmunk in the house

September 2012.  You know, I started this site 12 years ago.  I was new at making informational websites and I didn't factor in how much things would change, requiring me to always make updates to this site.  Ugh.

Over the years as new search engines have appeared and built the better mousetrap, I've moved them to the #1 position in my recommendations.  But sometimes they don't last (Qixo comes to mind), or they sit still feature-wise (like Orbitz) and other sites leapfrog them.

So now there's a new kid of the block, Hipmunk.  What's so special about it?  Its list of flights is so compact and efficient it's just a joy to behold.  You can view (and easily comprehend) lots of flight info without scrolling.  It's the better mousetrap, for sure.  And for that reason, it's all the rage.

But it's not all smiles and cupcakes.  Once you want to search for flexible dates, the output is no longer quite as pretty.  And your options for searching for flexible dates pale compared to the other search engines in the first place:  You get only + OR - x number of days, rather than + AND - minus like you do with the other engines.  And that +/- is good for up to only two days, not three like the other engines.  There's a convoluted way to get a more flexible search, but it's, well, convoluted.

So for now, use Hipmunk if you need specific dates, and Kayak if your dates are flexible.  Though that'll probably change at some point...

Delta warned about rodent droppings

April 2011.  As if we needed more reasons to not fly, the FDA recently gave a warning to Delta Airlines after finding rat droppings "too numerous to count" in the food prep area of a Delta plane.  Yuck.  (more from CNN)

United and Continental merge

September 2010.  United and Continental are becoming one.  Has a Zen Buddhist ring to it, doesn't it?  They're keeping the United name, but using the Continental logo.  Unfortunately, I think the merger is bad news, for a few reasons.  Remember how when the feds bailed out big businesses, the excuse was that the businesses were "too big to fail"?  Well, if that's the case, then why did the government allow two big airlines to join together and become even bigger?!  Another problem is that United is the crappiest U.S. airline ever, so what does this mean now that United and Continental are merging?  If we were optimistic we'd think that some of Continental's real customer support would rub off on United, but I'm guessing it's going to be the other way around, and the part that was formerly Continental will now soon start to suck.  Finally, decreased competition in the airline industry means that Unitinental has even less incentive to provide decent customer service.  In the past, customers who were fed up with United switched to Continental.  But now where are they going to go?

Airlines lengthening flight schedules to make flights appear on time

February 2010.  The Wall Street Journal reports that airlines are adding time to flight schedules, in an effort to make more flights appear to be on time.  The flights are taking the same amount of time, but now more simply appear to be on time since the flight schedule is longer than it was before.

Airlines now losing $60 per passenger!

May 2008. BusinessWeek has a good article explaining how soaring energy costs are crushing the airlines.  The shocker: Airlines are now losing $60 for every roundtrip passenger they fly.

Some airlines will either go out of business or merge with existing airlines. The airlines who remain will likely get a another federal bailout—which is rather ridiculous.  Why should taxpayer money be going to for-profit businesses?  This is a rather curious kind of welfare.  I say, if the businesses can't remain profitable, let them fail.

A bailout would be a temporary band-aid anyway.  The price of oil may never coming down again, so without drastic changes from the airlines, they'd need a monumental bailout every year.

Fortunately, airlines have started making these changes.  They've eliminated huge numbers of unprofitable (unpopular) flights, they've raised prices, and they've started charging for things that were once free—like checked baggage and even pillows.  But they're going to have to do a lot more of these things in the post-Peak Oil world.  They'll have to cut even more routes and make prices even higher.  This will make air travel unaffordable for many, but that's what we expect when oil is no longer abundant and cheap.  There's no way around that.

Expect bus and rail travel to grow massively now as the airlines shrink.

Travel Tips

from The Wizard of Odds

1. Choose the Emergency Exit Row. Unless you're with a child ask for the emergency row aisle. You'll get about a foot extra leg room. (Children aren't allowed to sit in emergency aisles.) On a separate page with list exit rows and other seats with extra legroom for a couple of airlines:

2.    Try to get bumped. When a flight is overbooked the airline will ask for a volunteer to get off the plane and catch the next one. The airline offers compensation, such as a travel voucher or free roundtrip within the U.S., plus overnight accommodations if the flight is the next day. If you're not in a hurry, volunteer to be bumped if they ask.

3.   Bring your own headphones. Some flights allow you to listen to a variety of music stations, but charge $4 for headphone rental. Bring your own headphones and save your money.  Some airlines will require an adapter which I think you could get at Radio Shack.

4.  Be careful about starting a conversation with the person next to you. They might bore you for hours and you'll have nowhere to go.

5.  Hold a lemon to avoid motion sickness.

6.  Good airports: Vegas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh.  Bad airports:  Newark, JFK.


My other sites: How to Buy a HouseSaving ElectricityBattery GuideHow to Not Get Hit By Cars (for bicyclists) • Easy Vegas

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