Those last-minute Southwest fares aren't always great deals.A new study from the University of California, Irvine, finds that "last-minute airfares are more expensive on Southwest, on average, than on other airlines when consumers use online searches like Orbitz or Travelocity." In other words, if you're shopping for last-minute tickets, don't just visit Southwest.com and pick the lowest fare you see. Be sure to comparison shop by using an online meta-search engine, such as Kayak.com. You may find a lower 11th-hour fare on another airline. (hat tip, the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth/Dallas)
Ignore news stories about fare hikes. These stories are over-hyped in most cases. For example, on Monday, Reuters reported that Southwest Airlines was raising many of its fares by up to $2 each way. But such information can be misleading. Southwest raised its fares seven times from January 2006 to March 2007, and the major airlines raised their domestic fares 11 times. These price hikes meant that the prices of all the tickets that airlines put up for sale rose on average. But people don't buy all the tickets that are put up for sale, of course. And when you consider how much travelers actually shelled out for fares, you see a brighter picture. Purchased fares were slightly lower on average in the first few months of this year than they were on average during the first few months of 2006. In other words, we travelers are paying slightly less now for tickets than we were a year ago on average, according to JP Morgan Analyst Jamie Baker's explanation in this Travel Weekly story. More to the point, who cares about these fare hikes? They represent merely a small portion of the tens of thousands of fares for sale overall. What you truly need is a helpful strategy for finding a cheap airfare for your next trip. You'll find a collection of Budget Travel's strategies for hunting airfares by clicking here.
Don't expect the Diners Club card to have the same benefits today as it did just a couple of years ago. As travel deal expert Gary Leff points out in this post, Diners Club has gone from winning the "best loyalty credit card" award for nine years running in an annual survey of hundreds of thousands of travelers, called the Freddie Awards, to not even being nominated by travelers for an award in this year's competition. Travelers began rejecting Diners Club after it became a Mastercard and watered down its benefits. Diners Club no longer has partnerships with restaurants, which is rather silly, given its name. It has also made it more costly and difficult to transfer points you earn on purchases to your preferred frequent flier rewards program, too. For details, click here.