Monday, April 5, 2010

How do you save money on your flights?

As fees multiply, fliers alter course

By JENALIA MORENO
Houston Chronicle

April 2, 2010, 11:50PM

photo
Melissa Phillip Chronicle
Travelers are thinking ahead to deal with the many airline fees they could end up paying. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, Riley Webb prefers to sit in an airplane's exit row when he travels. At Bush Intercontinental Airport for a recent trip, he realized he had to pay $49 for that perk, and another $25 to check his suitcase. That's in addition to the $460 he paid for a round-trip ticket to Miami for a long weekend. “I'm more upset about having to pay for the exit row,” said Webb, of Houston.“That's ridiculous. A co-worker told me about it, and I thought he was kidding.”

Airline fees, airport delays and long lines at security checkpoints have changed the way some people travel, and travelers are becoming more creative in how they pack and plan. Webb can't make himself any shorter, but passengers are finding ways to travel lighter. Schoolteacher Jessica Jackson managed to fit all of her belongings in a small carry-on by planning to use hotel shampoo, lotion, hair dryer and iron. And she wore a pair of brown and black heels that matched all of her outfits. “I wasn't used to being a light packer, but you can adjust some things,” said Jackson, who traveled to a two-day conference in Boston recently. “If I can, I avoid paying for baggage when I travel for work.”

Many airlines now charge for pillows, blankets, movies and baggage. Houston's Continental Airlines recently started charging extra for the emergency row seats, with their extra legroom. And in the fall, it will start charging coach passengers for meals during most domestic flights. Such new revenue streams will bring airlines across the globe an extra $58 billion this year, for checking baggage, airport lounge access and booking car rentals, the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation reported in February. That's 12 percent of total airline revenue and double what airlines collected in ancillary fees in 2001.

‘Nickeled and dimed'

But the fees can make passengers feel like victims of a practical joke in MTV's hidden camera series Punk'd, said Brandon Macsata, executive director of the Washington-based Association for Airline Passenger Rights. “It's almost like a sitcom. ‘Am I beingPunk'd and filmed during this experience?' ” said Macsata, who lugs a lot less in his carry-on bag these days, getting toothpaste and other toiletries from his hotel. “People feel like they are being nickeled and dimed.” College student Jeany Ngo has ditched her sneakers for smaller flats when she flies to San Francisco to visit relatives. A jacket she bought for snowboarding in Lake Tahoe stays behind with her aunt because it would take too much precious space in her carry-on bag. And she overstuffs her bag so much that sometimes it doesn't fit in the overhead compartment. “We're girls. We overpack,” said Ngo, a graphic designer. A few years ago, she would have checked a couple of bags . But she's scaled back.

One bag free

Most airlines still let passengers check one bag for free on international flights.
When Christina Garza flew to Cancun recently for her nuptials, she carried her wedding dress on the plane, and she and her husband-to-be checked just one bag they shared. That way they could check a bag full of gifts and souvenirs on the way back. SmarterTravel.com executive editor Anne Banas said some passengers hire third-party shipping companies to send their luggage from their home to hotels and back. That's more expensive, but travelers can track their bags online and not have to drag them through airports and on shuttle vans.
She likes the plethora of products available now to help the savvy packer, such as single-use toiletries in packets and specially designed carry-on bags. Fliers are also comparing not just ticket prices but baggage fees before they purchase tickets, Banas said. “They're kind of recalibrating what they consider as a favorite carrier,” she said. “Unfortunately, it's more work for the consumer. It's somewhat of a necessity if you want to get the best price.”

To save money, Banas said, some travelers book vacation rentals with kitchens and washers and dryers instead of traditional hotel rooms. And some are taking another look at transportation alternatives. Peggy Clark and her son recently hauled their luggage and a flat screen television set with them during a trip from Houston to Tucson. Taking that gift to Clark's father for his 80th birthday would have been expensive if the two had flown. Instead, they rode an Amtrak train and avoided the baggage fees and airport hassles, Clark said. “I would definitely do it again,” said Clark, an office manager for a cat veterinarian. “It's kind of nostalgic.”

Do you agree? What do you do to save money? Are you driving more? Shipping stuff ahead? Do you check airfares 3 times a day? Share with us...


1 comment:

evision said...

i have gone through this blog. i found it really interesting fot my job and my future career

online business