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Four fascinating yet lesser known attractions for Spring-Breakers

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

A recent infographic from Reservation Counter, uncovers four unusual, yet little-known US attractions that may offer off-the-beaten-path fun and adventure for families this Spring Break.

Road-trip-Gems-Reservation-Counter-e1489078699457

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.

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.”

Watch out for these common travel scams

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

If you have an impending trip, you may already be scouting the best hotels, applying for travel-friendly credit cards, and researching local culture. But according to Brian Acton, contributor to Credit.com, there might be one set of local customs you aren’t prepping for: travel scams. “Scam artists around the world often try to separate tourists from their money or possessions.”

Acton lays out four common travel scams and tips to help you avoid these cons and traps so you can enjoy your vacation without the headache of being scammed.

taxi scams

  1.  The Taxi Scam

There are a few variations on the taxi scam. In one version, your driver will claim their meter is busted and negotiate a dramatically over-inflated fare. In another, the driver might take you on a long detour to your destination, artificially driving up your fare.

To avoid these scams, you could decline any ride with a “busted meter.” You may also want to bring a map. While you probably can’t memorize all the local roads, you can study the map before and during your trip, gaining a general idea of the area’s layout. If you must, you can negotiate a price before you get in the taxi to help avoid surprises.

  1.  Card Skimmers & Readers

Card skimmers and readers are devices that pull data from credit cards and bank cards used at a register, kiosk or anywhere you swipe your card. Once you’ve scanned the card through an unauthorized device, the skimmer sends thieves your card details, which can then be transferred to a fabricated card.

To help you improve your odds that this won’t happen to you, you may want to avoid giving anyone your card unless they’re about to process a purchase. Try to only use ATMs located inside a legitimate bank. For credit card readers, you can consider using a secure wallet. And, because this one isn’t entirely avoidable, it’s a good idea to always monitor your statements for any suspicious activity.

  1. free wifi“Free” Wi-Fi

Scammers can set up unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots in public places, then wait for people to access the network with their phones, laptops or tablets. If you unknowingly access one of these hotspots, it could leave your account, passwords, and computer vulnerable to thieves, who can then get hold of your personal information, potentially subjecting you to identity theft.

To help you avoid falling victim to this scam, it’s a good idea to avoid using unverified and unsecured Wi-Fi networks. If you’re in a hotel or restaurant, ask which network is the official one. When in doubt, keep using your data plan — it will be less costly than a hacked device. If you do end up a victim of identity theft, you will have to go through the process of disputing fraudulent accounts and getting them removed from your credit reports.

  1.  The Friendship Bracelet & the Gold Ring

The friendship bracelet is a common scam in Europe, particularly in Paris at the steps of the Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre. The scammer will approach tourists warmly, offering a friendship bracelet as a gift. They’ll then tie the bracelet onto the tourists’ wrist. But, according to Laurence Noah, travel writer at Finding the Universe, there’s a catch.

friendship bracelet and gold ring scam“Usually they will say this is a gift, but once they’ve got the bracelet tied, they will start to harass you for money,” Noah said. “Basically, don’t let anyone tie anything to you, and if they do, just refuse to pay or walk away.”

The “found golden ring” is a similar scam. Scammers will “discover” a gold ring and ask if it belongs to you. “Obviously, you’ll say no, at which point they’ll say they think it’s worth quite a lot, and if you take it to a jeweler, they’ll give you a handsome sum for it,” Noah said.

He said the person who found the ring (aka, the scammer) won’t be able to do this themselves for some convenient reason, and so they’ll suggest you just pay them a small sum for the [finders] fee. Of course, that fee will turn out to be far more than the ring is worth.

Travelling can be a great source of adventure and inspiration. But you might want to avoid the kind of wisdom gained by becoming a victim. By staying vigilant and protecting yourself from potential scams, you can increase the chances of an incident-free, pleasurable trip.

Brian Acton is a freelance writer and contributor at Credit.com. Several years ago, as he worked to pay down debt and purchase a home, Brian became interested in personal finance and credit. He has been covering these topics ever since. Brian has a BA in History from Salisbury University and an MBA from UMUC. He lives in Maryland with his wife and two dogs.