Tag Archives: airfares

About those “basic economy” Plane fares….buyer beware!

Yet another way for airlines to nickle and dime us: the “Basic Economy” fare. It means different things depending upon the airline. United’s basic economy does not allow you to stow a bag in overhead (let alone check a bag) so you’ve got to pack very lightly.  Dirck tried this out during a recent trip to Albuquerque (where he was staying with relatives so he could borrow clothes, if need be. Plus   it was only a long weekend trip.) He did have to check in at the counter — he couldn’t get his seat assignments or boarding passes in advance online. And he got closely scrutinized by the counter person who seemed to think he was going to try to smuggle on a bag to go in the overhead. Meanwhile the ticket fare was by no means cheap (about $340) and both of his planes traveling to ABQ were delayed due to mechanical problems so he lost half a day of his trip. Thanks United.

I opted for American’s Basic Economy fare during a recent trip to New Orleans after I read the fine print and found out that I could bring a bag to stash overhead. The fare (a reasonable $240) was about $70 cheaper than the Economy fare, I think. I ended up buying advance seat assignments on both flights for about $9 per flight (two flights each way).  I was in the last group to board, regardless — in the ominous-sounding “Group 9,” which wasn’t that big an issue except when it comes to finding overhead space to put a bag. I didn’t have this issue because Dirck had an Economy ticket (that his employer paid for) and had checked his bag  so he took mine when he boarded with Group 6.

One irritating thing did happen when I tried to buy seat assignments on the way home.  I went online, picked out a specific seat for each of my two flights at a specific price. But instead of giving me the seat I chose for the first flight (an aisle seat toward the front of the plane, so I could get out faster and make my connection) the automated system gave me a seat I never would have purchased (a middle seat way in the back).  I was charged $16, rather than $18 for the two seat assignments. And there was no recourse. I tried calling the airline but they said I’d have to wait until I got to the airport and switch — which I did but the seat I originally selected was no longer available. I did switch to an aisle seat but way back in the plane. It’s a cockamamie system — as I complained to the American ticket agent, it would be like buying a specific book from Amazon and Amazon ending me a different book, at a different price, with no option to correct my order. Consumer be damned….

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Filed under airfare, Airlines, flying

flying American – between the merger and the sequester: who knows?

We are not flying American anytime soon (our next flight – to Phoenix on Saturday is on Delta) but between the pending merger with US Airways and the potential budget cuts if the sequester situation isn’t dealt with by Congress, it’s hard to know what to expect. A recent USA Today story about the effects of the merger (not the sequester) offered this info:

  • The merger will probably take months to finalize and to combine operations. So just keep buying American or US Airways tickets until you’re told to do otherwise. (Eventually there won’t be any US Airways. It will go the way of Northwest, Continental,  Republic, TWA…)
  • Your frequent flyer miles on either airline will be safe! It could take up to a year to consolidate the miles from both airlines into one American account.
  • One likely benefit of the merger is that the new American will increase the number of international flights offered.
  • One  likely downside: fares will likely rise on some routes although one study found that two recent mergers (United-Continental; Delta-Northwest) didn’t result in jacked up fares. Some say creating a third mega airline is better than having two mega airlines as far as fares go….
  • As for sequestration, if Washington doesn’t get its act together, there could be major delays in air travel starting in April at major hubs (chicago, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta) that will muck up travel for all of us.

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A Costa Rica transportation tax for a Des Moines to Newark flight – HUH?

I swear, this do-it-yourself online plane-ticket reservations stuff is so confusing. Yesterday, I finally settled on taking a Des Moines to Newark flight on United in April after weighing various other options to get to NYC. (LaGuardia was more expensive; the flight to Newark is direct! etc.)  The ticket was $359 when I first spotted it. (Not cheap, I know.) An hour or so later it was suddenly $396. I wondered why. So I looked at the fine print and saw that the ticket price was still the same ($338) but the additional taxes/fees had increased from $21.60 by $37. So I looked at the breakdown of the taxes/fees and saw that it included a $15.75 “Costa Rica transportation tax.” Say what?

Then all of a sudden the original $359 fare popped up onto my screen so I just grabbed it – no questions asked. Grrrr

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Filed under airfare, New York City