Booking Flights Could Be Easier

Thursday I wrote about some changes that really need to be made to the way pricing is displayed on hotel websites. In that case, American Airlines was used as the standard for how to display pricing in a transparent way so that customers know exactly what they are buying up front.

Today I think it is worth noting another pricing trend that other airlines could really use that American Airlines has been doing. Have you priced a flight lately with American Airlines? If you price flights with them as much as I do, you really get behind their method of flight pricing. Searching other companies shows that American does really ruin you for an older less transparent flight cost structure.

The way American prices there flights on the website is to show the full price for a round trip right up front, so when I booked my flight to Beijing, I knew right from the starting search what the full price was, all be it the lowest price available for that route. So once I select my flight, the price will not change when I select my return flight, unless I choose a different routing, then the website shows the pricing additional cost on the return leg.

Other airlines, like Alaska Airlines booked by outbound and inbound legs. So when I planned my flight to Hawaii they showed the outbound price, then when you search for your return leg it shows the price for that leg. Only when you select both do you get the full price. This really comes across as a mistake to me. When searching many dates, many legs and routes this is a hastle. Booking in this way means that you have to go through the entire booking process in order to see the true full price. With American, you can do a search and get an idea really quickly what the price range will be without having to choose your return leg.

Maybe this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things but I have personally found the American Airlines method of booking to easier to understand and faster. When you search the flight inventory as much as I do, this can be a significant time savings.

What about you dear reader? What is your preference?

Beijing, I'm On My Way

Well sometimes a great airfare props up and you have to take advantage of it while you can. In the past week or some I’ve been toying with the idea of attempting to hit Executive Platinum status. Increasing to the top tier status comes with the added perk of systemwide upgrades. Systemwide upgrades allow you to book a flight in economy class and bump up to business class. So, you get a fairly inexpensive paid fare, and you get to sit in business class… not to mention you still get miles for the original fare you paid for. Really great way to grab miles on a long haul for a low price, without having to actually sit in economy.

Executive Platinum is a big leap though, and looking at my flight plan for the year, I was coming within 30,000 miles… but that is still quite a bit of flying. Planning ahead to attempt to hit 100,000 EQM, I need to take advantage of low fares when they become available. Take a long haul in economy in the anticipation that future flights will be able to make use of long haul systemwide upgrades.

Looking through some tips and prices online yesterday, one popped up that had been available, and was still up for purchase. Fly out of Chicago (ORD) to Beijing, China. Total cost of the flight - $538! Less than $200 to stage myself to ORD for PHL, and we’ve got a good trip set up for a low price. Flying ORD to PEK alone will rack up 13,000 miles. There were some options to fly through DFW, which would have netted more miles, but would have cost 2 extra days in layovers in Dallas. Still have to work within the constraints of my day job, so that was out of the question. So instead I take one day off, fly halfway around the world, get one day in Beijing, and fly back… on a 787 none the less.

This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but planning and flying these is fun… Now I just have about 15,000 mile gap to close to Executive Platinum status… that is in the range of possibility for me, and now I’m really bullish on hitting it

Watch Where You Fly That Drone

Current technology allows us to do many amazing things. Taking a trip around the world is easily done and many people complete them every day. Navigation to almost anywhere is capable with the device in your pocket. Four blades drones fly high for fun, photography and more… but sometimes people can misuse technology, or not think about what the ramifications of their actions are.

Drones have become abundant as technology to operate them has become easily found in everyone’s pockets. Prices have fallen to fairly affordable levels for these little aircraft, and more can be found flying around every day. Nothing is inherently wrong with a drone, or operating one. Flying aircraft, even model planes, has long been a hobby for many people. Problems start to creep in when people use them in unsafe ways.

Unsafe use of a drone isn’t just something that can impact a single person who may have been struck by a drone. Many videos exist online of a wedding temporarily derailed when a photographer trying to use a drone loses control and hits the new couple. While these situation may be humorous, or cause a minor problem in an event, when these come to the airport, things get a bit more serious.

There does seem to be a growing trend of flying drones around airports. American Airlines pilots crossed paths with one in Miami only a few days ago. By no means an isolated incident, a TV show focusing on Emirates operations, spent an episode showing how shutting down an airport to track down a drone and either disable it can be time consuming and back up the landing schedule for aircraft.

While on the whole, these incidents are done by very few people. It does bear the question, why fly a drone around passenger aircraft? That is an excellent question, and one I’m not totally sure I know how to answer. Possibly enthusiasts watching airplanes want a closer view. Maybe these are just drone pilots who live in the area and didn’t know how close they were to a flight path.

No matter how you look at it, while this is a growing trend, it isn’t currently a regular thing that happens daily at single airports.

The best solution here is likely to educate the public, and ban them around airports. This will not cause everyone to stop, but will likely reduce the problem immensely. Just keep in mind that if you own a drone, even if you love airplanes, don’t fly them around airports. Each plane has hundreds of passengers on board and damaging an aircraft in the middle of a landing or takeoff is a major safety hazard.

Let The Snow Flow

As many of you are most likely aware of at this point, much of the East Coast is in the middle of a "blizzard." With the snow often comes travel delays, cancellations and interrupted plans. Due to the storm's predicted severity, many airlines preemptively cancelled flights and interrupted plans for many passengers. 

Almost all of the airlines are significantly impacted by this storm. American Airlines has hubs in JFK, Philadelphia and Charlotte. Delta has hubs in JFK and Atlanta. United has a hub in Newark. All of this means not only massive delays for those flying out from those cities, it also means huge delays and headaches for anyone connecting through these cities including a majority of international travel to Europe, Middle East and more. Living in Philadelphia, I can say that we are certainly raking in the snow at the moment, 8.8 inches where I live as of 6am this morning.

With all of the craziness that comes with air travel for most people, the last thing anyone wants is to re-book their trip. Most of the airlines have ways of making changes due to weather, without paying the normal fee. 

Here's where to go to make changes to your flights.

Those are the major carriers in the United States, other carriers have similar policies and can be re-booked, fees removed, even refunds in some cases. Look to your carriers website for more information if you don't know what your options are in these cases.