Tag: airfare

Basic economy: Are the savings worth it?

More airlines will be offering basic economy seating, but will you buy these tickets? This Q&A may help you figure out when it’s worth it.

Briefcase in the plane

What is basic economy?

Think of it as the opposite of premium economy class: You get less but you pay less. The cheaper, fewer-frills seats are a tactic for big legacy airlines to compete with low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier.

Which airlines offer basic economy?

Delta is the leader here; it began introducing basic economy seating in 2012 with a big expansion a couple of years later. Last week, American announced its basic economy will go on sale in February (“select routes” only). United will begin offering basic economy service sometime this year but no start date has been revealed yet. However, a few details about these frill-free cabins have been trickling out.

What won’t you get in basic economy?

It depends on the airline but here’s what you do without on Delta:

  • No seat assignment until after check-in or at the gate.
  • If traveling as a family or group, you may not be seated together.
  • No eligibility for same-day changes or ticket refunds (outside the post-booking 24 hour grace period).
  • Basic economy passengers board last and cannot even pay for early boarding.
  • No paid or complimentary upgrades or preferred seats, even for elite miles members.

Both American and United have released one controversial lost frill that so far Delta has avoided: American and United will not allow basic economy passengers to use full-size carry-on bags. They will allow one small item that fits under the seat and that’s where it must stay because basic economy passengers have no access to overhead bins. And when they say one small item, they mean it: Those planning to board with a laptop, a purse and a backpack or some other small clothing bag will have choose one; the rest must be checked, and yes, there’s a fee for that.

Is basic economy worth it?

So far, we only have Delta fares for comparison purposes; here are some round-trip fares found Jan. 9 for travel in March. The first price is basic economy, the second is regular economy.

  • Boston to Salt Lake City: $267 and $277 (save $10)
  • Atlanta to Chicago: $135 and $157 (save $22)
  • Los Angeles to Newark: $314 and $344 (save $30)

Is it worth it? Passengers opting for no-frills fares are not going to get rich off the savings but sure, it’s worth it so long as you don’t care where you sit, when you board or what you pack. Families of course could save even more but may have a harder time justifying basic economy because of the seating and boarding requirements. On the other hand, unlike Spirit and Frontier, Delta’s basic economy does provide customers with free soft drinks and snacks, and allows regular carry-ons for free.

As for American and United, some will surely be watching the cheaper fares closely to see if they will be worth the inconvenience of the no carry-on rule, as well as the baggage fees.

London for $639? Yes, British Airways is having a ‘Brexit’ fare sale

Is British Airways having a “Brexit” fare sale?

That’s the vibe from the carrier’s in-progress three-day fare sale to London. British Airways is courting American customers by saying: “Your dollar has never gone further, and with our amazing 3 day sale you can see even more of London! “

As for the details, economy fares are available for as little as $639 round-trip from New York. Fares are slightly higher from “select” other BA gateways in the USA, including Baltimore, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington Dulles, among others.

Your dollar has never gone further, and with our amazing 3 day sale you can see even more of London! https://cards.twitter.com/cards/awx7i/1wb21 

The sale ends Wednesday (June 29) and covers travel for “midweek” flights from Aug. 23 through Dec. 14 and from Jan. 9 through May 31. BA says “a weekend surcharge of up to $50 in each direction applies” for itineraries involving weekend flights.

A minimum stay of 7 days is required to get the lowest fares. And BA notes sale fares are “open to U.S. residents paying in dollars only, with travel originating in the U.S.” The full fine print for the sale is available on BA’s website.

Regardless of the details, commenters weighed in on BA’s apparent Brexit sale via social media.

Some reacted enthusiastically to the sale. But, underscoring the rancor that developed in the debate over whether to leave the EU, others said the sale was “in poor taste.”

“Too soon,” said one Twitter user.

“how greedy of you to quickly use your countries economic troubles for your own gain,”wrote another.

The Cheapest (and Most Expensive) Flights in the World

June 11, 2016

Any guesses as to how much the cheapest flight in the world costs?

Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts.

Search online for “Why is airfare so expensive?” and you’ll find no shortage of theories. But try to find information on what air travel actually does cost by factors including miles, fuel, and amenities—kind of essential for determining if it’s expensive in the first place—and you’ll find a lot fewer resources.

Thankfully, someone crunched the numbers: for a recent infographic, Seats and Stools, a residential and commercial seating manufacturer, looked at another type of seat—ones aboard airlines. Findings, based on searches conducted in early May for flights the last week of June via Google Flights, as well as historical research for bespoke forms of air travel, run the gamut.


Unsurprisingly, space travel is the most expensive option for air travel. A 12-day ride on the International Space Station—with round-trip transportation—cost Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté a reported $35 million in 2009, the last time a civilian boarded the ISS. (In case you’re wondering, Laliberté totally thought it was worth it.) Though it’s still theoretical at this point, a suborbital flight on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, designed to take a crew of two pilots and up to six passengers to space, is $250,000—approximately $83,000 per minute of weightlessness.

For a terrestrial aviation, the most expensive commercially available option is a $64,000 round-trip ride inEtihad Airways’ penthouse cabin, “The Residence,” between New York City to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Featuring a three-room suite with a butler, this option should probably be categorized as a short-term luxury apartment rental rather than an airplane ride. Do the math, after all, and this seat price equates to about $4,752 per hour.

Other expensive seats of note? A seat on a flight from Portland, Maine to Billings, Montana on United Airlines is the most expensive economy class ticket in the U.S. ($1,585); and the average cost of a seat on an eight-person private plane from New York City to Los Angeles is $33,900—per person. Time to start saving…


On the other end of the price spectrum, there are flight deals to be had: According to Seats and Stools data, the cheapest flight in the world is $11 for a one-way trip from Warsaw to Brussels on Ryanair. Sure, the low-cost carrier is notorious for its no-frills fares (at one point, its CEO was considering charging people to use the lavatory mid-flight), but regardless of which way you slice it, $11 for a ticket is a steal.

In terms of value, which the study calculated as cost per mile, an American Airlines flight from New York City to Miami took top domestic honors at $0.60 a mile. And at $3.70 a mile, the worst value unearthed was a United flight from Newark to Washington, D.C. So much for the destination driving the price.

Yan Baczkowski

Why People Are Cranky About Super-Cheap Flights to Europe

Norwegian Air faces ever more opposition as it tries to increase traffic across the Atlantic.

If you’ve been waiting for Norwegian Air’s deeply discounted flights between Boston and Ireland this summer, don’t pack your bags just yet. Norwegian has been waiting for the U.S. Department of Transportation to greenlight the new route for two years, and while the agency is wrapping up its work this week, it hasn’t said when it’ll make a final decision.

What’s the holdup? Norwegian Air, after all, already flies from the U.S. to Europe, via London Gatwick and several Scandinavian gateways, and it also offers seasonal flights from the U.S. to the French Caribbean. But those flights are operated by a Norwegian company called Norwegian Air Shuttle; Norwegian has another subsidiary, based in Ireland—Norwegian Air International—that was set up to take advantage of greater freedoms out of that nation. (Norway is not a member of the European Union; Ireland is.) And it’s this newer company, NAI, that’s the launch pad for a raft of new flights from Irish airports at cut-rate fares and the source of all the ongoing controversy.

That’s because a powerful coalition of U.S. airlines and their employee unions are labeling this offshoot operation as a major threat to the U.S. aviation industry, charging that it will pay low wages and, as one union official said, could cost thousands of U.S. jobs (allegedly because some U.S. carriers would drop routes rather than compete with this interloper). And they’ve gotten the ear of politicians—this is, after all, an election year—with Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both urging the DOT to reject the new services. In a statement on his website, Bernie Sanders wrote: “The U.S. Department of Transportation should not be rewarding [Norwegian Air International] with a foreign air carrier permit that would allow it to undercut the wages and benefits of airline workers throughout this country… We must do everything we can to prevent a global race to the bottom in the airline industry.”

“We think it’s a very dangerous situation,” said Ed Wytkind, head of the transportation trades division of the AFL-CIO. “They will go for the cheapest employees.”

Although the DOT recently issued a tentative decision in favor of Norwegian, a bill opposing the airline has landed in the House of Representatives and is garnering support. Norwegian has struck back, however. “Our opponents have created a wildly inaccurate fear-mongering situation,” said spokesman Anders Lindstrom. “We have filed a document with the U.S. pledging that NAI’s U.S. flights would be operated by U.S. and European crew,” he said, adding that the employees are paid market wages. He also claimed Norwegian already has more U.S.-based crew than any other foreign airline and plans to add additional American crew.

With all the heated rhetoric, it can be hard to sort out the facts, but one that’s often cited by Norwegian and its supporters (consumer group Travelers United among them) is that the airline business has become highly concentrated. In fact, the three major U.S. international carriers (Delta, American, and United) and their alliance partners control roughly 80 percent of the airline passenger traffic across the North Atlantic.

“The union efforts and claims are totally misdirected and are bad for consumers and the national economy,” said Charlie Leocha, head of Travelers United. Asked by Condé Nast Traveler to comment, a DOT spokeswoman would only say that once all the comments are in this week, there’s no deadline for the agency to act. In other words, super-cheap flights to Europe may not arrive in time for this year’s summer season.

You have ONE DAY to book Virgin America first class tickets for less than coach

Photo: Kentaro IEMOTO, Flickr

Photo: Kentaro IEMOTO/Flickr

Virgin America is celebrating the most American of holidays (OK, maybe second most) with an incredible Thanksgiving week 50% off sale on First Class and Main Cabin Select tickets, in effect making it cheaper to fly first class than it is to travel coach.

There are some majorly tight restrictions here, so you’re going to have to get booking almost immediately. The sale ends at 11:59 Pacific Time on Wednesday, November 11. But for those of you who have room to spare on that credit card balance, use the code POSH at checkout on any nonstop or connecting travel routes between Thursday, November 19 and Friday, November 27 to score the sweet savings.

We previewed the deal ourselves (wishful thinking!), comparing prices on flights from San Francisco to Boston, and the deals speak for themselves. Regular prices for the trip:

Screenshot: Virgin

Screenshot: Virgin

Aaaaand the POSH discount prices:

Screenshot: Virgin

Screenshot: Virgin

First class tickets will actually cost you less than seats in the main cabin on that redeye flight, and that’s hardly the only deal worth taking advantage of. But again, remember that the POSH promo ends extremely soon. For a full list of restrictions, or just to have an excuse to “accidentally” book a trip out of town this month, check out the Virgin America POSH promo page. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wow Air to launch flights to San Francisco, LA

Icelandic budget carrier Wow Air is expanding its transatlantic route network to the US West Coast.
The airline which sells one way tickets to Europe from just $99 will fly from its Reykjavik base to San Francisco five times a week and Los Angeles four times from next summer.
From Reykjavik, Wow offers connections to more than a dozen European destinations.
Ticket prices will be announced in January when reservations go live for the flights and the actual start dates for each service are still to be confirmed.
WOW began flying to the US earlier this year with services to Boston and Balitimore/Washington DC.
It will fly A330-300 jets on the Los Angeles and San Francisco routes with one-class economy cabins.
It also said earlier this year it plans to add flights to Toronto and Montreal.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Members-only Set Jet promises “better than first class” air travel

Photo: Set Jet, Facebook

West Coast-based members-only luxury airline Set Jet is getting into the daily flights grind,announcing a schedule of routes between Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco and Las Vegas. You’ve never flown on a members-only luxury airline and don’t know what to expect, you say?

Set Jet describes itself as, ahem, “a Membership based social network and private jet charter flight platform, available exclusively for its security pre-screened and approved Members”. And as such, the far majority of us will never actually buckle into one of the company’s Bombardier Challenger 850 or CRJ200 private jets for a jaunt off to a luxury vacation. I’ve made my peace with that. Still, it is equal parts exciting and eye-rolling to read about what the company is working to accomplish.

Set Jet flights can be booked (by members) as little as 30 minutes before a departing flight. If you’re the type to not cut it quite so tight when it comes to boarding, you can enjoy access to the company’s private lounge in its own VIP terminal. Up in the air in one of just 15 sumptuous seats aboard the plane, enjoy complimentary cocktails made with top shelf liquor. All of this adds up to what Trey Smith, President of Set Jet, calls “better than first class travel”.

Set Jet membership will set you back $99.95 each month, with one-way flights on the aforementioned routes costing an additional $399. I think it’s safe to say at this point that the general public is familiar enough with the concept of a brand new transportation company with an untraditional business model. If anything, we’ve come to expect it. A similar members-only airline just kicked off daily all-you-can-fly service in New York, D.C. and Boston after all.

The test for Set Jet and the like will just be time.

WOW Air once again offering dirt cheap transatlantic flights

Photo credit, WOW Air

Make no mistake about it: this is no mistake airfare. The recently announced sale from Iceland’s low-fare WOW Air will surely leave you saying “wow” once you reach the checkout page on the budget airline’s website. Airfare between its U.S. destinations of Baltimore/Washington and Boston to London Gatwick are as low as $150 each way, including taxes.

Budgeteers willing to eat before the flight, travel light, and risk the wrath of being assigned a middle seat are in luck. Food on board, checked baggage, and seat assignments (including the option to block the middle seat next to you) all raise the needle on the overall price.

Travel with your own entertainment since this no-frills airline won’t ply you with free cocktails or the latest Hollywood flick. Flights connect through the airline’s hub in Reykjavik with just over an hour of ground time, but for flyers crammed into WOW’s tight, all-economy class seating that might be a welcome stop for a leg stretch. The deal is available on the airline’s website for travel between October 1 and December 15 and between January 10 and March 10. Since this is a one-way fare sale price, it is available in either direction whether starting in the U.S. or London.

This isn’t the first time the airline has offered cheap transatlantic fares — most recently WOW offered $99 one-way fares to Paris and Amsterdam, but the cheapest tickets were snagged up almost as soon as they went on sale, so don’t wait if you want any chance at scoring round trip tickets as low as $300.

WOW Air has an expanding network across Europe, giving U.S.-based travelers numerous options to fly abroad for cheap. Unlike Icelandair, Wow Air does not offer a free stopover in Iceland, so those wishing to take a dip in the Blue Lagoon or visit one of the island’s famous volcanoes will have to put those plans on hold.

Even if flying further afield from London, this discount airfare pairs perfectly with the variety of low-fare carriers that fly from London Gatwick airport. Just be sure to pack light as the meager carry-on allowance for WOW Air weighs in at a wimpy 11 pounds.

Next week is the cheapest time to book your holiday travel — and could save you almost 20%

Photo: Skyscanner

August expenses are usually of the beach vacation, block party or back-to-school shopping variety. Thoughts of gift-giving, cooking for 20 members of your extended family, and holiday travel booking are supposed to be safely tucked away in the back of your brain. But a new study revealsthat the best time to purchase holiday airfare is much sooner than many of us may think.

The week of August 10, as in next week, is the most opportune time to buy flights during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays, according to global travel search engine,Skyscanner.

The study claims that booking Christmastime flights – that’s anything between December 20 and 28 – 19 weeks out will save you an impressive 18.7% compared to booking at other times of the year. New Year’s Eve flights booked that same August week – anything between December 27 and January 4 – will shave 14.4% off of your total costs.

While savvy Turkey Day travel won’t net you quite as significant of a savings, Thanksgiving flightsshould be purchased 15 weeks out for an average price cut of 5.4%. That timeframe coincides perfectly with the lucky week of August 10. Winner, winner, turkey dinner!

Those of you hoping to spend the next month replenishing your thirsty bank account after splurging this summer, fear not. While the savings won’t be quite as large, Skyscanner’s research highlights the weeks of August 31 and September 28 as your next best bets for booking Christmas and New Year’s travel, if you haven’t been budgeting just yet for an airfare splurge next week.

Skyscanner is doling out this advice based on analysis of 2014’s airfare pricing peaks and valleys. Data from the same period on how to avoid awkward family dinner smalltalk was unfortunately inconclusive. But when in doubt, retreat to the kids table.

Overbooked flight? Don’t take that voucher, because you could get $1,300 instead

Infographic: AirHelp

You’re sitting at your departure gate, giving the woman with three devices plugged into the charging station your best shame stare, when you hear the loudspeaker above your head crackle to life. “Our flight has been oversold,” the gate agent says, “And we are looking for volunteers to take a later flight.” You cock your head to the side, considering it. You don’t have anything but Netflix waiting for you at home and you wouldn’t mind picking up a voucher for a future flight. But if you’re thinking of peeling your thighs from that vinyl seat and walking to the counter – DON’T.AirHelp, a startup that helps inconvenienced passengers receive compensation from the airlines, says you could do so much better.

The airlines do sell more tickets (typically just about 1% more)  than they have actual seats, because they assume that a certain percentage of passengers will not show up for the flight. But, as a number of frustrated EasyJet passengers have discovered this summer, those calculations aren’t always accurate. According to AirHelp, the airlines’ load factors – the number of seats that are filled – have been steadily increasing by a percentage point or two every year, which adds up to an increase in the number of passengers who get bumped from their booked flights. In the first three months of this year, 143,000 passengers on U.S. airlines were denied boarding due to oversold flights, an increase of 6.3% over the same period last year.

Infographic: AirHelp

AirHelp reminds us that becoming a frequent flier or holding elite status on an airline makes you less likely to be booted from a flight, but what do you do if you’re just a low-level schlub with a window seat? You don’t volunteer for a later flight and you ignore that offer for a flight voucher and hold out for real cash instead. That voucher might be worth between $200 – $400, on average, to put toward a future flight. But if you are involuntarily denied boarding on flights within the U.S., Airhelp will help you collect up to $1,300 for your trouble (for a cut of the money, of course), as well as a full refund for the cost of your confirmed flight.

Before you start planning how to arrange all that cash for an Instagram picture, realize that there are a few exceptions to that rule. If the flight you’re placed on lands within an hour of your original flight, if you “fail to comply with ticketing, check-in or reconfirmation procedures,” if your aircraft was swapped for one with a smaller capacity or if you’ve been bumped due to weight restrictions on a plane with fewer than 60 seats, then you’re not entitled to that cash payout.

Infographic: AirHelp

At least that’ll give you another reason to snarl at the woman hogging the charging station. Meanwhile, here are a few other ways to get paid if your flight is delayed or canceled.