Archive for March, 2017

Don’t get caught by airlines’ code share ticket price mark-ups

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Understanding esoteric subjects, like code sharing, yield management, and confounding airline pricing schemes could easily become a full-time job for the diligent. With the help of former pilot, air travel and insurance expert, Jonathan Breeze,  we’ve uncovered — and hacked — a troublesome pricing pitfall among the airlines.

WATCH our Video Interview with Jonathan Breeze

Don’t get caught by code sharing ticket price mark-ups

First, let’s define what Code Sharing is. Wikipedia defines a Code Share Agreement as an aviation business arrangement where two or more airlines share the same flight; meaning that each airline publishes and markets the flight under its own airline designator and flight number as part of its published timetable or schedule. This is a common practice among major airlines belonging to major airline alliances, such as Star Alliance, Sky Team and Oneworld.

So, let’s assume for a moment that you are an American Airlines frequent flyer. You need to fly to Lima, Peru. So, as a loyal AA customer, you go straight to their site to see what’s available.

Departing on August 15th and returning on August 23rd, the results yield a lowest fare of $3,025 for a non-refundable seat in Business Class. In this particular example, LAN Airlines (LATAM Airlines Group) is the operator of the flight. American Airlines and LAN have a code share agreement and are both part of the oneworld Airline Alliance. That said, the assumption would be that the price would be the price, right? But if you visit LAN’s website and query the same departure and arrival information for the dates above, as you can see there is quite a BIG difference in price — $1,834 vs. $3,025.

Jonathan advises air travelers to be mindful and wary of this yield management practice. If you see that a flight is being operated by a partner of your preferred airline, do a quick cross-check on their website to be sure you are getting the best possible price — if they are partners in a major airline alliance your ability to accrue points/miles will not be affected.

Flight Schedule Alerts – ExpertFlyer’s Newest Alert

Have you ever had an unexpected schedule change or missed connection because the airline changed the time of your flight without notifying you? If so, then ExpertFlyer’s latest Premium feature is for you.

We are happy to announce our newest alert type – Flight Schedule Alerts. Flight Schedule Alerts will monitor a flight for any schedule or airport changes and notify you if a change is made by the airline.

You can set the sensitivity of the alert to only let you know when the scheduled time of the flight has changed by at least 5, 15, or 30 minutes or 1-2 hours:

Flight Schedule Alerts

Creating a Flight Schedule Alert from the Flight Details page

You can create Flight Schedule Alerts in 3 places:

  • Flight Details results page
  • Flight Timetables results page
  • The Create New Flight Schedule Alert page (linked to from the left side menu)

Now you won’t be caught by surprise by flight number or time changes, while also being able to take advantage of significant airline schedule changes to your flight!  Sign up for the ExpertFlyer Premium Service today to use Flight Schedule Alerts.

Revisiting India with Louise Nicholson

A lot has changed since 2015 when we last caught up with author and India travel expert, Louise Nicholson. We recently interviewed Louise to revisit the wonders of this exotic far east destination. The most notable change is the drastic improvement in the country’s transportation infrastructure and hospitality amenities that have expanded the possibilities in an already expansive country. Read our Q&A and watch our interview with Louise below to learn more.

WATCH our interview with Louise Nicholson

Give us an update on what you’ve been doing? 

I’ve been spreading my wings!  Just done a fabulous new tour through Central India seeing a string of star sites and staying in great hotels that make this a new take for the first time visitor, and without tourist traps of the familiar Delhi-Agra-Jaipur itinerary.  And about to do a new tour to Ladakh in the stunning high Himalayas, seeing painted monasteries and staying lakeside on the Tibetan plateau in pristine mountain beauty – my stunner for July.  Also, working with museum trips, institutions, and lots of private trips for families.

When we talked in 2015, you gave us an overview of your top 5 destinations in India: Mumbai, Rajasthan (Vlarspur, Jodhpur, Nagaur), Tamil Nadu, Ajanta and Ellora and Sikkim. Anything new to report? 

My top favorite India destinations do change as places become more accessible thanks to India’s manic road-building and improvements in local accommodation.  So, while Mumbai, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Ajanta/Ellora are still up there, Sikkim’s formerly great hotel in the west has unfortunately plummeted in admin and staff.  I’d replace it with the newly more accessible glories of Central India’s early cities – where you can wander Champaner, Mandu and Chanderi’s stunning medieval buildings in beautiful rural settings with few tourists.  This region has additional options to visit India’s tribal belt villages and markets as well as see sophisticated weavers making exquisite traditional textiles thanks to great NGO leadership – such as Rewa and Women Weave at Maheshwar and LemonTree and Chanderiyaan at Chanderi.

What’s hot in India now?

  1. An increasing number of heritage hotels in off-beat places – for instance, there’s a beautiful mansion on the fringes of Kolkata, a fantastic multi-layered and complex city, so you could do a few city days and then a few in this rural idyll.
  2. Pondicherry.  The revival of the French colonial area began more than two decades ago and continues to be done with great taste thanks to the local conservation body INTACH.  There are now lots of beautiful historic buildings to stay in large and small, such as Palais de Mahe, and lots of stand-alone bars and restaurants, as well as boutiques stocking India’s superb young fashion designers – which I just don’t understand why they are not available globally.  The only downside of Pondicherry is there is no beach of quality, but Indian beaches rarely come up to US east/west coast standards.
  3. Ahmedabad city in the west.  Really buzzy with its old city heritage walks, the Calico museum of textiles, the LD Lalbhai museum of historic art, great Gujarati food found at House of MG’s rooftop restaurant, buildings by Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn.  And a newly opened (Jan 2017) gorgeous historic mansion renovated by Rahol Malhotra and containing the collection of another Lalbhai, Kasturbhai Lalbai, which has both historic and very good contemporary collections, a real treat.

 Anything that we need to me mindful of as we plan a trip to India?

My motto is ‘Less is more’, meaning the fewer places you go the longer you have in each and therefore the more you will get out of your whole trip.  India is not about manically ticking off places from the Taj Mahal to seeing a tiger; it is about getting down on the ground to see the sites, sure, but also to walk old cities, stay in a nature reserve for three days, encounter locals, visit markets, experience the contemporary such as going to the movies or hanging out in a cafe with locals or arranging a spice shopping outing and then a cooking demonstration.

Movies like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel idealize India as a place for expats to set down roots.  What’s your honest take on that consideration?

Well!  As you may imagine many of my friends and clients have asked me to set up my own Marigold Hotel in India!  Seriously, though, India is a very good place to select one place – very carefully – and put down roots for, say, six months or a year.  You would get to know the local people from mango sellers to schoolchildren, you would feel the rhythm of the seasons, share in the festivals, and also be able to contribute your skills and get a lot of fulfillment.  But choose carefully: a city may suit some, a village others.  But it is not a breeze.  India is simultaneously very welcoming and fairly tough.  You would have to be quite self-sufficient emotionally and self-starting in finding something to occupy your days, as Judy Dench and the other actors in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel showed us very clearly!

Business travelers, what’s in your suitcase?

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

If you’re a business traveler, a recent survey from DUFL says you’re packing some fancy duds. Banana Republic was the top pick clothing brand cited by female respondents. For the guys, Brooks Brothers’ threads were their top choice.

DUFL, a premium valet app that allows business travelers to travel luggage-free, surveyed 500 of their users to gain insight into what goes in their luggage. See the infographic for additional stats associated with the survey.

“Because of the unique nature of our business – storing, inventorying and shipping clothes, shoes, toiletries, sports gear, etc., we have access to anonymized data related to their travel habits,” says Bill Rinehart, DUFL Founder, Chairman, and CEO. “This data allows us to tailor our business to accommodate the needs of our customers and to do what we set out to do from the beginning – adding convenience and eliminating stress for folks who spend the better part of their time on the road.”
DUFL anatomy of a business traveler

Travel insurance is sexy when it helps you beat the airlines

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

You’ve heard the phrase, “Go Big or Go Home”? Well, Jonathan Breeze, CEO of Aardvark Compare, has his own motto, “Go Non-Refundable and Travel Insure!”. Don’t start yawning because you think this post is about insurance.  Once you wrap your head around Jonathan’s awesome travel hack, you’re going to perk right up.

Did you know that a large majority of companies insist that their employees book Refundable Airline tickets? In doing so, they believe they are enjoying increased flexibility in the event of cancellation or rebooking. Sure, that’s all well and good, but they are paying through the teeth for that allowance — typically three times more than they should be.

According to Breeze, there is a little-known travel hack that will beat the airlines at their own game. “The airlines are robbing us blind with their 3x pricing on refundable tickets. That is the basic math. The seat price for a Refundable flight, particularly when booked far in advance, is typically 3 or 4 times as much as a Non-Refundable flight. You will hear of these Non-Refundable tickets being called ‘Throwaway Tickets’ because if you don’t fly, you may as well throw them away.

The best way to think about Non-Refundable tickets is ‘Inexpensive, yet Insurable’. Not as sexy, I grant you, but certainly, much, much cheaper, most of the time, ” says Breeze.

Simplistically, a Refundable Seat can cost 300% of the price of a Non-Refundable Seat bundled with inexpensive insurance.

So, if one buys a Refundable Round Trip Economy Ticket, say from DFW to LAX in August for a week (6 months from now), American wants $2,100 for a Main Cabin Fully Flexible Seat. It’s in the Main Cabin, but it’s more expensive than a First Class seat.

aarvark compare

So, you bypass this option to seek a more traditional Main Cabin (Economy) seat. And now, this looks like a bargain, after you managed to avoid the $2,100 fully flex seat.

Breeze points out that American wants $1,150 for a Main Cabin Flexible Seat. So, it is flexible, just not ‘fully’ flexible. Travelers may change their flights, not lose all of their money, but they will need to pay for the effort to make the flight change — a $200 change fee.

aarvark compare

According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Top 25 US Airlines rake in $3Bn a year in Reservation Change Fees. And $4Bn a year in Baggage Fees.

“If businesses didn’t hate the airlines before, they probably hate them now,” says Breeze.

“But, let’s go beat them at their own game…

Just before I hit the ‘Buy’ button, I, unlike almost every traveler, decide to get creative. Why not buy a Non-Refundable seat, and wrap it up with some ‘Cancel For Any Reason’ Travel Insurance from a Marketplace, similar to what we do at AardvarkCompare.com.

aarvark4

American wants $400 for the Non-Refundable Main Cabin Seat. Add the Insurance, it will cost around $50 — And you’re bulletproof! You have secured coverage for Cancellation (Sickness, Death, Incapacitation etc) – 100% Refund; Cancellation for Work Reason – 100% Refund; and Cancellation for any other Reason – 75% Refund.”

So, for $450 a customer booking that DFW – LAX return has nearly the same level of coverage as the person paying $1,150 for the exact same seat — A $700 savings.

Breeze emphasizes that the person in the $1,150 seat still has to pay $200 every time they make a change. Whereas the person in the $450 seat just needs to throw the ticket away and use their insurance if a flight needs to be canceled.

“However, I haven’t explored why these price discrepancies exist. Normally there is no such thing as a free lunch.

It’s pretty simple – Travel Insurance is based on risk, and the probability of claim.

Whereas flight prices are based on pricing models that try to wring as much money out of a passenger as possible.

And if a company likes to fly some of the Execs in First Class, the numbers become even more staggering. Recently we ran a study that showed a $16,600 saving on a First Class ticket, using this exact same methodology.”