In the case of the Allegiant Air crew’s decision to boot sisters off an Asheville, NC-bound flight, the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad PR,” may not apply. According to Travel Pulse, two sisters have called out Allegiant Air and are seeking punishment for one of the budget carrier’s flight crews after they were removed from a flight hours before their ill father passed away.
The sisters, Debbie Hartman and Trisha Baker, were traveling from Sanford, FL to Asheville, North Carolina, to visit their father in hospice care on January 1st.
Travel Pulse reports that before the plane left the tarmac, Baker said she received a text message informing her that her fathter had just hours to live. “After getting up from her seat to tell her sister, Baker was told to sit back down by one of the flight attendants.
The situation began to intensify when Hartman began having a panic attack, prompting Baker to confront the crew member.
“(My sister) said (to the flight attendant), ‘You’re being very rude. My father is dying, and I’m comforting her,’ and they said she needed to keep her personal problems off the plane,” Hartman told WKMG.
The sisters said that in a matter of minutes the crew alerted the flight’s captain, who turned back to the gate to allow airport security to remove them from the plane.”
According to Expedia and ARC’s annual Global Air Travel Outlook for 2017, travel hackers may not have to work quite as hard to get air travel deals in 2017. It seems average ticket prices for economy class are dropping all over the world. In fact, they haven’t been this low since 2013. Good news! But wait, there’s more! We’ve gathered tips and anecdotes from veteran travel hackers and experts to give you a definitive 2017 travel hacking cheat sheet.
WATCH our interview with Randi Wolfson of Skyscanner
Use a VPN and clear your cookies!
David Bakke from MoneyCrashers.com says before you start shopping for travel deals you need to outsmart the search engines. “Make sure private browsing is enabled on your computer before shopping for travel deals – or at the very least clear your cookies. Due to airlines’ use of dynamic pricing, websites may show higher prices if you’ve clicked on them before.”
“It’s not widely known that the price of a particular flight may differ when booked from varying locations. One of the ways around this is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that will allow you to check and compare the fares of the same flight by connecting to multiple countries and then book from the location with the cheapest price. This can save you a lot of money,” says Haris Mumtaz of PureVPN.
Airline gold and credit card perks
According to FoxNews Travel writer and GotoTravelGal.com blogger, Lyn Mettler, one of the best travel hacks for 2017 will continue to be the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows one person to fly free with the pass holder for up to two years. “It’s fairly simple to earn the pass, which is achieved after you earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points. To easily earn the pass, you need to sign up for two Southwest credit cards, meet the minimum spend of $2000 through everyday spending that you can pay off within a month and then earn an additional 6000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Once you have 110,000 points, then book a lot of flights without spending a dime on airfare aside from the government required $5.80 per way security fee. My family of four has flown to six destinations within a year for less than $100 per flight using my methods.”
Robert Schrader, a popular travel blogger at LeaveYourDailyHell.com, says credit cards are the key to flying free in 2017, even more so than in 2016. “Now that all major U.S. airlines have finished their race to the bottom—they all use revenue-based mileage earning and have even introduced “basic economy” fares that earn no miles at all—earning free travel via flying is impossible for all but a few travelers.”
“Moreover, with poor airline lounge quality and scant upgrade availability, elite status has little value. Contrast this with generous credit card bonuses, from a recent targeted AMEX Business Platinum offer of 100,000 to 50,000 becoming standard on American Airlines co-branded cards from Citi.”
Reconsider one-way flights. I’ve saved an enormous amount of money by skipping out on round-way tickets. First, airlines make a lot of money with canceled or rescheduled tickets. If you didn’t buy travel insurance, you’re looking at a $200-300 fee. Second, one-way tickets allow you to get better deals. For examples, one time I got a flight from Africa to the US for only $355 (including taxes!). Most tickets within the US cost that amount or more. This is all because I found a quick sale happening that I was able to take advantage of.
Take New or Rarely Used Airlines. Another reason why I found such a great sale was because I took Saudi Airlines. It sounds risky. But often Middle Eastern or Developing Countries have great new airlines, and they try hard to promote them. Through sales and special deals, you get tickets much cheaper than you would be taking Delta or Lufthansa.
Be flexible. Flights can vary by hundreds of dollars even within a 24-hour span. I like websites that let you search one month at a time because then you can see the best deals. For that, Skyscanner is by far my favorite.
Housesitting & Hotel Hacks
The ultimate travel hack to cut out ALL accommodation (and often food) costs is housesitting. According to Tanbay Theune, a professional house/ pet sitter and blogger at www.travellingweasels.com, The perks are hard to dismiss. “Most homeowners treat you like a guest. They pick you up from the airport/train station/ bus stop. They cook you a meal or two and leave you some food in the cupboards. All gladly received when traveling on a budget – and even when you’re not! They also show you the area and the secret spots only the locals know.”
James, another devout house-sitter, and blogger at portugalist.com, acknowledges that getting that first house sit can be difficult as you won’t have any references or experience. “The first two I did were actually in the town I lived at the time (Edinburgh). I did them just for the reference. Then, I applied for ones that I was interested in and managed to get several back-to-backs in France. One was five month’s long so, in the end, I was able to spend nine month’s there.”
For folks who want to go traditional with their accommodations, Abigail, a travel blogger at Where Abigail Went, says one of the best travel hacks she knows is this: Check if any of your family or friends are full-time employees of hotel chains. Associates’ friends and family are able to enjoy preferred rates.
“Now that Marriott and Starwood have merged, for instance, you can take advantage of the extended Explore Friends program, which entitles you to book an unlimited number of nights per year for leisure travel at any of their hotels across the world, based on availability. You can save up to 50% off rooms this way, which is a fantastic deal.”
Avoid duty and tax fees at the airport
“I recently bought a blender for my mom for her birthday and had to carry it with me all the way from Australia to South Africa. It’s small enough to fit into my luggage, but when I was going through the boarding gates, they charged me tax on the item. I then saw a guy in front of me going through the boarding gates with a couple of gifts. He paid no tax on the items, simply because they were gift-wrapped. So, to avoid paying tax or duty fees on any items, make sure to wrap them in gift wrapping paper and declare them as gifts!” — Gerrard Hattfield, Flight Factory
For flights from Jan 11 onward, American Airlines has made changes to how they code their US Domestic First Class cabin on 2-cabin flights. 3-cabin flights (such as JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO) are not affected by the change.
While still marketed as a “First Class” product, internally the cabin is being treated as a Business class cabin. As such the fare, upgrade, and award classes for 2-cabin US domestic flights have changed for flights departing Jan 11 onward:
Click on image to expand chart
Paid Class Changes
F -> J
A -> I
P -> D Upgrade Class Changes
X -> R (as before, not viewable on ExpertFlyer)
A -> C Award Class Changes
Z -> U
What this means for ExpertFlyer Subscribers
First, you will be searching for a different First Award or Upgrade class for 2-cabin US Domestic flights departing Jan 11. These changes are also noted in the class code descriptions of the Award & Upgrade search.
In addition, if you have a Flight Alert for the First cabin on 2-cabin US Domestic flight departing Jan 11 onward, then your Flight Alert needs to be updated as per the table above. To do so:
Login to your ExpertFlyer account
Go to the View Saved Alerts page
In the Flight Alerts section, delete the existing Flight Alert
Create a new Flight Alert from either the Flight Availability or Award & Upgrade results pages or the Create New Flight Alert page.
Aside from merry-making and reconnecting with friends and family, the holidays often signal crushing expenses, especially for travelers. In a recent Forbes post, Grant Martin offers solid strategies to ease the financial burden for holiday travelers.
“With supply not able to keep up with the increased demand, airlines can raise prices with little ill effect. Compound that with one less legacy carrier [US Airways] in competition and the current atmosphere is ripe for high holiday airfares,” says Richard Kerr, Senior Points and Miles contributor at The Points Guy.
Here are Grant’s five tactics to ensure you’re doing everything possible to minimize your travel costs this holiday season:
1. Book early
2. Monitor the hottest sale fares
3. Use points
4. Use Creative routings
5. Use a low-cost carrier
For the full article and tips on implementing these tactics, click here.
ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway
ExpertFlyer co-founder and president, Christ Lopinto, was recently interviewed by FOX News anchor, Ernie Anastos, on little-known facts and tips that the airlines won’t tell you. Watch the segment and read the Q & A.
Ernie Anastos: Listen, we just heard a lot about what the airlines are doing and so forth. You’ve got to be kind of like your own travel agent these days, don’t you? Really, all the details.
Chris Lopinto: Unfortunately, yes. Our motto is information is empowering, and that’s why we like to give as much as possible. Really, with a little bit of research, you can do quite well these days.
EA: Okay, let’s talk about how you get the best seats, because that’s what a lot of people are concerned about. How do you do that?
CL: Absolutely. Unfortunately nowadays, airlines reserve the best seats for their elite customers or those who are willing to pay for them. However, what they don’t tell you is that within about four or five days before departure, the airlines upgrade their best customers into business or first class. That means that a lot of good seats open up in economy class just waiting for someone to grab them.
EA: What do we do?
CL: What we do is we log into the airline website or whatever website you used to buy the ticket from and check the seat map again to see if you can get a better seat assignment within a few days of departure. By that time more economy seats will be available.
EA: A lot of people are concerned about frequent flyer programs. Is there a real payoff with that?
CL: There can be, but you have to be careful. Think of frequent flyer points as money in a bank account. However, unlike a real bank account, you don’t earn interest and the bank can basically devalue that money at any time.
EA: What do we do?
CL: There’s a term in the industry called, “Burn as you earn,” which means don’t save up a lot of frequent flyer miles thinking you’re going to have some big vacation somewhere down the line. If you have enough to use and you can use them, use them now because frequent flyer miles will never be as valuable tomorrow as they are today.
EA: Any other quick suggestions if you’re traveling alone or with other people? Your family and so forth?
CL: Well, one suggestion is that if you’re trying to buy a trip with multiple people, say a family of four. What the airlines do is, they’ll price the ticket for the amount that is the same for everyone. Let’s say there’s one cheap fair available. What they won’t do is they won’t give you one cheap fair then three of the more expensive fairs. In order to figure that out, you price it twice. One at the quantity you want, say four, and one with just one ticket, and if the price per ticket is different, you know that there’s some cheaper fairs available, but just not four. What you do is, you buy a few of the cheaper and then a few of the more expensive and you get an overall lower cost for your trip.