Monday, October 27, 2014

The Myth of "The best day to buy cheap airline tickets"

Those so-called "experts" keep coming up with new ideas supported by dubious facts about what is the best day to buy tickets on the cheap.  Wednesday? That is so out.  Tuesday? That came after Wednesday, or was it before?  The latest claim by clueless reporters is Sunday!   Citing faulty airline data of average price per ticket and other factors, those "experts" are trying to handicap the airlines' complex pricing models.  The truth is that the best day to buy the cheapest ticket depends on so many complex factors that includes among other things: Seasonality, competition, capacity, shifting routes and schedules, frequency and so on.  Add to all that some irrational randomness in pricing followed by airlines matching each other, you have the rubik's cube of pricing that pundits and experts are trying to divine.  These articles published from time to time make for entertaining reading but are otherwise devoid from any facts.  In conclusion, the best day to buy a ticket is when you like the price.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jet Fuel Cost Goes Down, But Airlines Increase Fares and Maintain Fuel Surcharge

Well, may be Southwest went along the "successful" fare increase so they can slap colorful hearts on their freshly painted 737's.  Delta started the fare increase signalling Thursday October 16.  By Friday the 17th, Southwest aggressively matched  Delta which was then copied by almost all airlines.
Southwest has transformed itself to act like a legacy carrier.  The once proud discount carrier with friendly service now resembles all others. What is really puzzling about this latest fare increase is that fuel costs have gone down dramatically over the past 3 months, down about 25%.  International airlines, with the DOT's blessing or looking the other way, have maintained the "Fuel Surcharge" that was implemented when fuel prices were above where we are now.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ebola's Big Impact on Travel

The U.S. government as well as the European Union are scrambling to contain the Ebola virus which has now begun to show up in the U.S. and Europe.  As of now, there is no clear plan or strategy of how to deal with travel restrictions from affected areas in west Africa.  Limits on non-stop flights will not work as most travelers from west Africa transit or stop through Europe.  The symptoms of the virus may not show until well after the travel has taken place as was the case with the Liberian man arriving in Dallas and initially released only to be diagnosed later.  While there are no easy solutions, travelers must take precautions on their own and might consider avoiding travel to the affected areas.

Update October 8: DHS is taking "new measures".  DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said agents would observe all travelers for "general signs of illness"...and that DHS is taking a"layered approach..."  These measures will create more questions than answers.  What training or qualifications do agents have to identify people with illness (ebola) if the symptoms are not showing? What happens if they do identify people with symptoms?....

Monday, September 29, 2014

Air France's "Gourmet" Strike is Over

Air France announced that "normal schedule" will resume September 30 after the Pilots Union decided to end their strike.  The inconclusive end leaves on the table the possibility that another strike may happen in the future over the very same issue.

The Pilots union called off the strike "in the interest of passengers and the company".  The 2-week disruption caused a huge financial loss for Air France and displaced tens of thousands of passengers that due to limited availability were stranded.

The Pilots feel that they are entitled to legacy gold plated benefits and pay even if Air France is trying to expand it's low cost carrier alternative.  They want the same unrealistic pay and benefits for the low cost operation, essentially defeating the purpose of low cost and making it uncompetitive with the ultra efficient Ryan Air, Easyjet and the dozens of other options that are taking away market share from Air France.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Another Day, Another Legroom Skirmish

Yet another flight, this time Delta from New York to Florida, had to be diverted because of 2 passengers arguing over reclining seats.  This issue is turning into a frequent occurrence as airlines keep taking away personal space to squeeze in more seats.

Some passengers believe that the flying experience has really deteriorated.  Whether it is tight spaces, long security lines, surly TSA agents and flight crews to the on board experience, flying isn't what it used to be.  The cattle car feel has provoked travelers trying to protect their space from recliners, armrest hawkers and the deodorant challenged.  The average seat has shrunk along with legroom, while the average size/weight of the traveler has increased.  Perhaps the airlines can come up with a new fee for "minimum personal space".

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Airlines Should Address Wheelchair Fraud

We have all seen it.  Wheelchairs at airports to assist travelers who are truly unable to walk and navigate their way to/from gates and security lines.  For this group in genuine need, the airlines and airport authorities must do everything they can to assist.  However, an ever-increasing number of "savvy" travelers, have gamed the system to demand wheelchairs to expedite their processing as they go to the head of the line for check-in, security, and boarding.  Such highly sought after amenities create the perfect situation for able travelers to cheat the system, robbing the truly needy by compromising the service, and putting extra burdens and costs on airlines and airports.  Miraculously, these cheating passengers spring to their feet when the flight lands and the line of wheelchairs waiting in the jetways are sent back empty.
So what should the airlines do?  If they do get a request for wheelchair assistance, make the passenger sign a document attesting to the genuine need of assistance.  They should have their luggage checked in.  It will also be important to tag the seat of the wheeled passengers so they remain in their seats until all the other passengers disembark.  Since there is an additional cost to airports and airlines, perhaps a service fee should be charged and the arrangements must be done in advance.

Friday, August 1, 2014

CDC Issues Ebola Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel warning for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  This Level 3 warning is due to the increasing risk and spread of the Ebola virus in the region.
“This is the biggest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history. Far too many lives have been lost already,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “It will take many months, and it won’t be easy, but Ebola can be stopped. We know what needs to be done. CDC is surging our response, sending 50 additional disease control experts to the region in the next 30 days.”.  The warning is to avoid all non-essential travel to the region and take extra measures of precaution such as screening travelers to avoid the spread of the disease.