Archive for February, 2018

Airline delays are at an all time low — Or are the airlines just better at managing expectations?

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

flight board

NPR social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, interviews Silke Forbes, associate professor, Tufts University, about a recent research project she led with colleagues to understand how she arrived 30 minutes early on a flight from Cleveland to Washington that she took years earlier, but had taken less time.

“Airlines are arriving earlier relative to their schedules so there are fewer delays and we’re all happy about that, but if you look at how long it actually takes to complete the flight, it’s taking longer than it used to,” said Forbes.

“So, we’re spending more time in the air at the same time we’re being told that we are arriving early.”

Listen to the NPR broadcast here to learn the psychology behind airlines’ move to stretch flight time schedules.

2018 Travel Trends & Tips from Pauline Frommer, Frommer Guidebooks

Every January, die-hard travelers thirsty for the latest tips and tricks for traveling better, smarter and cheaper, rain down upon New York City’s Javits Center to meet and learn from travel industry experts and a host of destination and tour representatives. Pauline Frommer, consumer travel expert and editorial director of the world-renowned Frommer Guidebook Series, is a regular marquee presenter at the show.  ExpertFlyer caught up with Pauline to get a cheat sheet of tips and trends that will affect travelers in 2018.

LISTEN to our podcast with Pauline Frommer, editorial director, Frommer Guidebooks

 

ExpertFlyer:  So, you just came off your annual presentation and attendance at the New York Times travel show, and you shared a lot of fantastic information that our listeners will benefit from. Let’s start with what people in the travel industry are calling the “Trump Slump.” What’s the effect of the “Trump Slump” on consumer travel?

Pauline Frommer: Well, the “Trump Slump,” for those who haven’t heard about it, is the fact that fewer visitors are coming to the United States. Worldwide we’re seeing a 7% increase in travel, it’s been a boom year for travel, less so here in the United States, and so that’s had a couple of effects. On the hotel front what it means is that prices are dropping, and I’ve seen this quite directly. I write “Frommer’s Easy Guide to New York City” every year — It’s my great joy, I get to go out clubbing, I get to try all the new restaurants, and get to visit all the hotels and also track their pricing. Hotels always drop in the months of January and February in New York City, if you ever want to come and visit New York City cheaply, that’s the time to come.

But they’re dropping, even more, this year than they have in the past. In the past, hotels that I saw going for $149 a night, say two years ago or three years ago, are now going for $119 maybe, or $129. It’s really been quite a significant drop. And the more expensive hotels are also seeing a significant drop. In fact, sometimes even more so. A hotel that would have gone for $439, might be $359 this year. So on the hotel front, I think we’re going to see better deals, and that also has to do with the growing ubiquity of Airbnb, HomeAway, and of people using alternative accommodations. But you’ll find that drop in New York City, at the Nation Parks of the west, San Francisco, and all the places that foreign visitors flock to.

ExpertFlyer:  What about airfares? Are they being impacted by the “Trump Slump”?

Pauline Frommer: We’re also seeing the effect of the “Trump Slump” on airfares internationally because, partially, we’re getting fewer visitors flying inbound to the United States. The airlines are having to drop their prices to fill their seats. I talked with a bunch of tour operators, and they told me they lock in their prices in advance, so it’s a pretty good look at what 2018 holds.

They say Asia is seeing airfares down 10%, 2018 over 2017, and they were already down. So 15% less to Asia, 10% to Europe.

ExpertFlyer: You talk about a number of good travel destination options for 2018, but if one were to decide to take advantage of these low-cost airfares, how does that tie in with your best picks? Are there certain European destinations, or Asian destinations that you would recommend right now?

Pauline Frommer: Well, every year we choose the top places to go, in 2018 we chose 18 places, with the help of the Frommer authors, who are all around the world. For those who don’t know how we work, Frommer’s hires local journalists, and we ask them, what’s really special happening in your community that makes this a particularly good year to travel? One of the places is Ireland because there’s a big spotlight on Ireland this year, not only the best place to go in the world, it’s the best place to go in the galaxy, or so the folks from Star Wars think. If you see the latest Star Wars film, half of it is filmed in Ireland. The beauty there is so otherworldly.  So that’s also a wonderfully, inexpensive place to get to from the United States… especially the East Coast. There’s a lot of good, inexpensive direct flights to Ireland, partially because there’s a lot of competition there, that’s the other reason prices are dropping. There’s just more upstart, low-cost airlines going to Europe, with names like XL, that goes to Paris, and Norwegian is going to a bunch of European gateways.

It used to be you could only get to Europe inexpensively from maybe New York, sometimes Boston, maybe Philadelphia. Now, these upstart airlines are going into secondary cities, to mid-size cities, and doing some really great international flight deals from places like Kansas City or Nashville. So don’t assume that you have to fly to one of the major hubs anymore. It may soon be cheaper, this summer soon, from your hometown.

ExpertFlyer: Talk a little bit about tours.

Pauline Frommer: What’s happening right now with tours, to me is interesting, is it’s finally easier to find them. It’s no big secret that if you go to Expedia, if you go to Priceline, if you go to Travelocity, you’re not going to see multi-day tours listed. And when I say multi-day, I mean tours were you’re traveling with a group of five, four, six, 10 days, and all the hotels are included, maybe some meals, all the sightseeing.

Now there are marketplaces for that type of travel. The two best ones are Stride Travel and Tour Radar. The nice thing about them is, say you want to go to Italy, you put in Italy, you put in the month that you want to travel, and up pops 60 different tours, and they’re so different.

The nice thing about these sites is you not only see Globus, and Tauck, and Intrepid, and the really big multi-national companies. We’re also going to find tiny Italian companies, or if you’re going to Africa, tiny African companies that are doing say safaris. And their prices are usually extremely reasonable, much more reasonable than the folks who have more layers of bureaucracy between them and the destination. So this is the first time you’re able to see the vast array of different types of tours that are out there.

ExpertFlyer:  Talk about some real practical measures. Everybody wants to get the best deal and there’s been a little bit of talk, I think just recently, concerning airline fees, and fares, and the transparency or lack there of. How does a consumer really effectively compare apples to apples?

Pauline Frommer: It’s difficult. It’s very difficult. There are websites that now show the fees in their interface. So for example, you go to CheapOair, as of just I think two weeks ago, they added the fees to your first slide. So when you first go to the site, you can see, okay this flight is $40 less expensive, but I’m going to have to pay to choose a seat, I’m going to have to pay to bring along luggage in the cabin with me, I’m going to pay even more to book that luggage. So CheapOair is good for that, but it doesn’t cover Delta, and it doesn’t cover SouthWest, very few of the sites cover SouthWest, so that’s not unusual. So you do want to keep those extra fees in mind. And unfortunately, just in the last six months, it used to be this was a domestic fee only, now we’re seeing it for international travel, it’s called HBO fares, hand baggage only. So be careful because on a domestic flight, usually, the difference between a basic economy fare, and those are the fares you have all these extra fees on. Usually the difference between that and a regular ticket is $25. How much does it cost you to check a bag? $25 dollars. It’s a bit of a shell game. So you just have to be careful and search in the right place.

At Frommers.com we did a study, we hired a wonderful author named Reed Bramlett, he just spent weeks doing searches, poor guy. And he found that two websites were whopping the others, mundo.com and bystander.net. In the vast majority of cases, they found the lowest rates more often for direct flights, but they just seemed to work better than their more well-known compatriots.

ExpertFlyer: People always want to know the best day of the week to book, and it seems to change, what is it this year?

Pauline Frommer: This year it’s Sunday. I’m not looking into a crystal ball as I say that. There is an organization called The Airline Reporting Corporation, they act as the middleman between airlines and travel agencies, whether that be bricks-and-mortar travel agencies, or Expedia, or Travelocity or the like. And they, every year, do a study of all the fare transactions they do, and that numbers about 30 million fare transactions, it’s billions of dollars they’re looking at. And they look for patterns, and they found that when you book on a Sunday you save about 18% off booking during the week. And the worst day to travel is Friday, prices are highest on Friday. When I say book, I don’t mean fly, I mean this is the day you put down the money. It’s statistical, so it’s not always going to be that much, but yeah, it is a lot of the times. So I personally try and do it on Sunday’s. Why is it? They don’t give a reason, but I think it might have to do with the fact that corporate travel agents don’t work on the weekends, and they know that business travelers aren’t booking, but that’s just my guess.

ExpertFlyer:  Any last nuggets of advice or little gems you want to share with the audience before we let you go?

Pauline Frommer:  Sure. Well one last tricky thing you can do on airfares is, they’re really, really trying to get foreign travelers to fly into the US. And so, nowadays, if you go to the foreign version of the website for the airline you’re booking, and search on that, you often will get a lower price. So if you maybe found a really good airfare on say Norwegian Airlines, go to the Norwegian site. It’s gonna be hard to translate, you’re going to have to keep two screens open perhaps, looking at the US site and the Norwegian site. But you can save a lot of money by booking it as if you are a Norwegian. Now the savings will be wiped out if your credit card adds in a big fee, so do check what your credit card will do, but if they don’t, sometimes this is a simple, easy, legal way to do it.

 

ExpertFlyer’s Air Travel Trend Summary for 2018

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Here at ExpertFlyer not only are we privileged with insider knowledge of important airline industry information that affects how consumers travel by air, we also have great friends in the field who graciously share their valuable expertise with us. For 2018, we want to share some of the important trends that our president, Chris Lopinto, has highlighted for the year.

first class

Airline Cabin Classes

  • Expect an increase in “luxury amenities” for Business & First Class seats, especially on international long-haul routes and some domestic flights.
  • On the other end of the scale, more “Economy Minus” fares, and the restrictive rules that go along with them on domestic rules will also increase. And, of course, the continuing devaluing of frequent flier miles and programs, even for top-tier elites (This is happening where the basic economy fares are being applied to more flights and routes).
  • A new trend in airline cabins is the “densification” of economy classes across the board. This is the process of creating additional rows and in some cases more seats per row on larger planes, much to our discomfort.

service

General Airline Service

  • Airlines will continue the pricing model of “pay for what you want.”
  • Airlines will provide more routes to smaller cities (Iceland Air, a European Low-Cost Carrier is adding new flights to smaller US cities and others should be expected to follow).
  • Travelers can expect that upgrades will be more readily available for purchase rather than an elite “perk” for their most loyal customers.
  • Expansion of business models (such as Airbnb getting into the “travel business,”) which allows companies to engage with clients for a longer period of time.

mobile tech for travel

Technology

  • Continue emphasis on mobile tech and app usage for end to end ease when booking and managing flights.
  • Onboard tech enhancements will continue for airline differentiation and on-board airline entertainment such as TV monitors on headrests will give way to closed-circuit apps to access and enjoy entertainment content from personal mobile devices
  • The increased use of VR technology by travel agents and hotels will become more prominent to give customers a “preview” of what they can expect from specific destinations.

 

4 tips to build your bleisure travel muscles

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the rubber meets the runway

bleisure travel

Taking the blah out of business travel is easy when you combine a little leisure “me time” on your trip. Just ask any seasoned road warrior and they’ll wax poetic about the bennies associated with “bleisure” travel. Nerdwallet.com recently offered some nifty tips for mixing business with pleasure that are worth taking note of:

4 tips for bleisure travel

If you plan to blend your business and leisure travel, here’s how to make it a win for you and your company.

GET TO KNOW GOOGLE FLIGHTS

Yuan says Google Flights “allows you to find all the cities, and the fares, near your destination. It’s a great way to tag on other travel.”

He recalls one of his most memorable bleisure trips. “I had several meetings in Jakarta, and I thought, ‘Where can I go for the weekend before?’” Through Google Flights, he found that he could fly from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Bali for less than $100. “If I’m flying for 24 hours to get to Jakarta from the United States, I want to go ahead of time. So I spent the weekend in Bali, and it was also the weekend of my birthday.”

GET TSA PRECHECK OR GLOBAL ENTRY

For frequent travelers, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry is essential for expediting the security check. You don’t need to remove your shoes or belt, and you can keep your 3.4-ounce liquids in your bag and your computer safely in its case. TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years and Global Entry is $100 for five years. (Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck.)

Several popular travel rewards credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ and The Platinum Card® from American Express, reimburse cardholders for these fees.

REACH ELITE STATUS IN AN AIRLINE’S LOYALTY PROGRAM

“If you don’t have status on an airline, get that first,” Yuan says. Elite status in a frequent flyer program gives you airport lounge access, priority boarding, complimentary upgrades and more. When you’re on long-haul flights or visiting multiple cities, these luxuries can make travel a  better experience.

WATCH YOUR EXPENSE REPORT

Keeping your personal expenses separate from your business expenses is a no-brainer.

“We’ve found that many employees will have two separate credit cards — one for business expenses and one for personal expenses — which makes it easier for reporting purposes,” Bandourian wrote.

Again, make sure you review your company’s rules and guidelines regarding travel first.

For more tips and advice on the best travel reward credit cards and earning more points, read our post with travel reward and credit card expert, Jason Steele.