Study Finds Airline Fees Changed More Than 50 Times Last Year
If you've bought a plane ticket any time recently, you know all about the fees. How much is it to check a bag? Get more legroom? It all gets a little confusing. Thankfully the number crunchers over at TravelNerd did a full analysis and the findings were fascinating (hat tip to Travel Weekly for reporting on this).
TravelNerd's study found that airlines made 52 changes to their fees in 2012, breaking down to 28 baggage fees, 19 service fees, and five in-flight fees. Low-cost carriers Spirit and Allegiant were responsible for 18 of the changes (including Spirit's crazy $100 carry-on fee). The surprising thing was that only 36 of the fee changes were increases, and most were in the $5 to $10 range. One big decrease came from United, which significantly lowered their fees for overweight bags (from $200 to $100 for bags weighing 51 to 70 pounds and from $400 to $200 for bags weighing 71 to 100 pounds). Moral of the story, if you have a lot of baggage, fly United.
If you are just as confused by all these fees as we are, check out TraveNerd's airline fees comparison and search tool. You can select which services you will think you'll need (checking bags, bringing a pet, etc) and the site tells you what those fees are from different airlines. You can also select a specific airline at the beginning and get a breakdown of the fees you can expect. It doesn't take away the annoyance of paying $60 to check two bags, but at least there will be no surprises when you get to the airport.
Delta and Starwood Combine Forces
With so much competition, airlines and hotels have had to get creative to keep customers coming back. So it makes sense that an airline and a hotel group would band together to foster loyalty to both. Starting March 1, Starwood Preferred Guest elite and Delta SkyMiles Medallion members will get Crossover Rewards, which means both miles and points when you book flights or hotel rooms. More specifically, Delta Medallion members earn one mile per dollar when staying at a Starwood hotel, plus the Starpoints. They will also get perks like priority check-in, late checkout, and that all-important free internet access. And Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum members who fly Delta get a free checked bag and priority check-in and boarding, plus one Starpoint per dollar spent on top of the usual miles. To join the program, register your accounts through either Delta SkyMiles or Starwood Preferred Guest. What do you think of these programs? Would they keep you loyal, or do you always go with the lowest price, no matter what?
Study Ranks Best and Worst Airports in the U.S.
Nonstop flights are always the best option, but sometimes you can't avoid making a stop along the way. So which are the best airports for connections? Travel Leaders Group asked hundreds of travel agents which airports they use-and avoid-for their clients, and here's what they had to say. More than 40 percent of the responding agents chose Atlanta as the hub they prefer, with Charlotte and Dallas/Ft. Worth coming in second and third. Atlanta wasn't every agent's favorite airport, though. It also ranked third on the list of least-favorite airports, behind Chicago's O'Hare and New York's JFK. But if you do get stuck in Atlanta, take solace in the fact that the airport came out on top for amenities and restaurant options (don't miss the excellent One Flew South). Minneapolis/St. Paul and O'Hare were also tops for amenities and dining options. Is there an airport you avoid at all costs? Let us know in the comments!
Airports Are Being Stripped of Controversial Scanners
When body image scanners made their way into airports in 2010, travelers raised concerns over privacy violations and radiation exposure. Now, three years later, those scanners are being removed from airports around the country. According to an article in Bloomberg, the reason behind the removal is that OSI Systems, who manufactures the machines, has not been able to meet a congressional deadline to make the produced images less revealing. The company reported that it wouldn't be able to perfect the technology until 2014, and the TSA chose to void the $5 million contract. The 174 machines now in use will be taken out of airports and used at other government agencies. There will still be some body scanners in use, though. The Bloomberg article states that the TSA will continue use 60 machines manufactured by L-3 Communications Holdings. These machines use radio frequencies (instead of the X-ray radiation used by the OSI Systems machines) and have been producing less revealing images since 2011. What do you think? Are you happy to see the machines being taken out of service?
FAA Grounds the Dreamliner
If good things come to those who wait, those of you eagerly anticipating your first ride on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can find some consolation in, well, waiting a little longer. The Federal Aviation Administration announced on January 16 that it was grounding the innovative jetliner until an apparent risk of fires caused by its lithium-ion batteries is corrected. The move directly affects United Airlines, which operates six Dreamliners. But the FAA’s decision was mirrored around the globe, including two Japanese airlines voluntarily grounding more than 20 planes. The Dreamliner’s journey from drawing board to runway has been fraught with delays, and this latest setback is especially dramatic because it speaks to the very heart of the jetliner’s promise: Each 787 employs two lithium-ion batteries, which help to make it more fuel-efficient and comfortable than any jet before it. While lithium-ion batteries can be charged more quickly than other airpline batteries, they are known to catch fire; in order for Boeing to include them in the 787, the FAA had to issue a special rule. But when pilots on All Nippon Airways smelled smoke and received automatic warnings of battery problems, they made an emergency landing and the current investigation began. As we’ve reported here, the Dreamliner holds a lot of promise both for passengers and for those who’d like to see eco-friendly planes take to the skies. Its light carbon-fiber construction and extensive use of batteries provide 20 percent better fuel efficiency; windows are 30 percent bigger than on any other commercial jets and employ electronic dimming instead of shades; cabin air is cleaner, lower pressure, and more humid; and storage bins and armrests are significantly bigger. TALK TO US! Have you already taken a ride on the Dreamliner/ What did you think? Will this current setback affect your future travel plans once the 787 is back in the air?