TIME biofuels

Your Next United Flight Could Be Powered by Animal Droppings

Chicago's O'Hare Airport Hosts Air Industry's World Route Forum
Scott Olson—Getty Images United jets.

This could be a big step forward for the biofuels industry

Get ready for a slightly ripe scent on your next United flight — the airline is going to power a plane with animal waste, reports the New York Times.

Ok, so you won’t actually be able to smell the fuel — for passengers, in fact, almost nothing will be different when a plane takes off from Los Angeles this summer fueled only by animal’s droppings and oils from animal fats.

It will be a big step, though, for the biofuels industry. The Times notes that companies that make alternative fuels have long seen airlines as potential partners, and this United flight could be a sign of things to come.

For more on how the flight will work, and what it could mean for the industry, head to the Times.

MONEY Travel

How to Cancel Your Flight Reservation Without Getting Gouged

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Dave and Les Jacobs—Getty Images

Familiarize yourself with the 24-hour rule.

Have you ever booked an airline ticket only to see that the fare dropped soon after you made your purchase? Unfortunately, the cheapest airline tickets tend to be non-refundable, so price-sensitive travelers usually end up not profiting from that price drop.

Have you ever had unexpected news pop up right after booking your flight that requires you to change or cancel your flight? You may have to pay fees to change your flight or end up stuck with the ticket you can no longer use if your plans change.

In the first case, you should be able to cancel and re-book your flight at a lower rate if you act within 24 hours of your original purchase thanks to a little known federal rule. If your plans have changed, you could even straight out cancel your flight for a full refund.

How the 24-Hour Cancellation Rule Works

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) put the 24-hour no-charge cancellation rule into place, but they also stipulate the purchase must be at least a week in advance of the flight departure date in order to qualify.

This consumer-friendly booking rule has been implemented in a few different ways depending on with which airline you choose to fly. Most airlines choose to allow you to cancel your reservation within 24 hours of booking as long as you meet the requirements of the rule. Airlines that follow the rule exactly as written include US Airways, JetBlue and Spirit.

However, some more generous airlines, such as Frontier and United, do not require you to make your purchase at least a week in advance. Delta is more flexible with the cancellation time period and allows you to cancel up until midnight on the day after you book your flight, which will normally give you at least a few more hours to find a lower fare or change your mind should something else pop up.

American Airlines follows the DOT rule in a unique way. It allows you to book your flight by putting it on hold for up to 24 hours, without charging you for the ticket. Once the hold expires, you have to pay for your ticket, pay a fee for an extended hold or let the ticket and pricing expire. This allows the airline to follow the rule without having to worry about the hassle of refunding any money. Once you purchase the ticket after the hold period, the sale is essentially final. To use this option, simply look for the hold option on the review and pay screen when booking a ticket on American Airlines’ website.

The most generous airline, as far as cancellation policies go, is Southwest. Southwest has neither fees for cancellation nor change fees. If you have to make any changes, you will get full credit for the price that you paid for your ticket. If you decide to change to a more expensive flight, simply pay the difference in fares.

Cancelling or Changing Your Flight Outside of 24 Hours

Once the initial 24-hour window passes, cancelling a flight gets a lot trickier. Each airline has its own policies regarding cancellation fees and change fees. Since many airlines have a handful of different fares you can buy, there are many different rules governing cancellation and change fees.If you need to cancel or change your flight outside of the 24-hour window, first check out your carrier’s website to read up on its policies. You might find a special exception that allows you to avoid fees based on your particular circumstance. If you cannot find what you need on the website, call the airline and speak to a customer service representative. It can’t hurt to ask.

Read next: The Absolute Worst Practice of Airlines Today

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Frequent Flyer Programs Changing

 

TIME

Airline Checked Bag, Reservation Change Fees Just Hit a Record

Old airplanes are stored in the desert in Victorville
© Lucy Nicholson / Reuters—REUTERS

Some fees can reach a whopping $200

The U.S. passenger aviation industry set new records in the first quarter of 2015 for checked bag and reservation change fees, according to the Associated Press.

Airlines made $1.6 billion from those fees, the highest amount for a first quarter since bag fees were introduced in 2008.

Part of the reason for the climb is simply that more people are flying, with 3.2% more seats filled year-over-year, according to the report. Airlines are putting the fees on more passengers, though, and fees are getting higher — the AP notes that some fees can reach a whopping $200.

Over the past 12 months, the airline industry has pulled in $3.6 billion in checked bag fees and $3 billion is reservation change fees, the AP said.

MONEY Travel

America Just Saved Your Carry-On Bag

airline-luggage
Tetra images RF/Getty Images

A proposal that would try to shrink the size of carry on-luggage is getting "a comprehensive reassessment" after American backlash.

Last week, the International Air Transportation Association made waves in the travel world when it announced a proposal to reduce the size of airline carry-on luggage. The new specifications were a 20% smaller than what major U.S. carriers currently permit, leaving many travelers worried they might have to purchase new luggage if they wanted to bring them on board.

Now, the Chicago Tribune reports that the trade group, whose member airlines represent almost 85% of total air traffic, is backing down and beginning a “comprehensive reassessment in light of concerns expressed, primarily in North America.”

While the IATA, which is based in Montreal, gave the entire continent credit for shouting down its bag regulations, U.S. opposition may deserve the most credit. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) both ridiculed the plan, with Menendez expressing his suspicion that the proposal could be “another industry ploy related to baggage fees since dubious tactics, like hidden fees, are already used to trick consumers.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports a U.S. airline group that includes American, Delta and United, the world’s three largest airlines, also came out against the bag standards.

Backlash against the smaller carry-on bags initially prompted the IATA to clarify that their proposal was not a hard cap, but rather an optimum size that would give qualifying luggage priority to stay on the plane in case the flight became too full. But on Wednesday, the organization backed off further and announced it was putting the plan on hold for reassessment.

As the Upshot‘s Josh Barro points out, the IATA isn’t exactly crazy to be encouraging smaller carry-ons—unpopular as the idea may be. “On average, commercial flights on American carriers rose from 73 percent full in 2002 to 83 percent full in 2014,” writes Barro. “Those trends, and the imposition of fees for checked baggage, have combined to mean overhead bin space is increasingly scarce, and airlines must more frequently gate-check carry-on bags, which delays boarding and annoys passengers.”

But he also notes policing luggage sizes can be too time consuming (and off-putting to passengers) to be cost-effective for airlines, which is why most companies don’t even abide by the current size limits. “In the past, U.S. airlines have not enforced their existing carry-on luggage standards, so American consumers continued to purchase the larger sized carry-ons,” Stephanie Goldman, a senior director for marketing at the luggage manufacturer Samsonite, told the Upshot.

Now, thanks to America, you can still bring those larger bags on your flight.

Read next: Airline Group Says Your Carry On Bag Should Be Even Smaller

MONEY Airlines

Airline Group Says Your Carry On Bag Should Be Even Smaller

You might have to pack lighter--and buy a new carry-on bag

On Tuesday, a trade group representing airlines around the globe published new guidelines for the size of carry-on bags. The International Air Trade Association says that if bags are limited to 21.5 inches high (standing up on wheels) by 13.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep, then “theoretically” everyone on a 120-seat plane should be able to bring a suitcase on board.

(The press release doesn’t elaborate on whether their theory accounts for duty-free-shop hauls and that guy in front of you who insists his weirdly-shaped garment bag can fit if you push down on the door really, really hard.)

According to the Washington Post, the new guidelines, which individual airlines may or may not choose to adopt, call for bags about 21% smaller than currently allowed by major U.S. carriers. (That’s measuring by volume.)

carryon2

Considering that many travelers intentionally purchase the largest carry-on bag possible in order to pack as much as they can, many pieces of luggage would be too big to be carried onto the plane if the change is made.

That’s a big if, of course. An American Airlines spokesman, for one, told the Post the carrier has no current plans to change the rules.

Here’s a look at the current rules for airlines (in inches), and how much your bag might have to shrink if they went with the new guidelines. One thing that jumps out is how varied the rules actually are.

American, United, Delta, Jet Blue, Aeromexico, Virgin Atlantic

Current policy: 22 high x 14 wide x 9 deep

How it would shrink if they followed IATA guidelines: 0.5 x 0.5 x 1.5

Change in volume: 21%

Southwest

Current policy: 24 high x 16 wide x 10 deep

How it would shrink if they followed IATA guidelines: 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5

Change in volume: 43%

Air Canada

Current policy: 21.5 high x 15.5 wide x 9 deep

How it would shrink if they followed IATA guidelines: 0 x 2 x 1.5

Change in volume: 27%

Alaska Airlines

Current policy: 24 high x 17 wide x 10 deep

How it would shrink if they followed IATA guidelines: 2.5 x 3.5 x 2.5

Change in volume: 46%

WestJet

Current policy: 21 high x 15 wide x 9 deep

How it would shrink (grow) if they followed IATA guidelines: (+0.5) x 1.5 x 1.5

Change in volume: 23%

Spirit

Current policy: 22 high x 18 wide x 10 deep

How it would shrink if they followed IATA guidelines: 0.5 x 4.5 x 2.5

Change in volume: 45%

British Airways

Current policy: 22 high x 18 wide x 10 deep

How it would shrink if they followed IATA guidelines: 0.5 x 4.5 x 2.5

Change in volume: 45%

Air France

Current policy: 21 high x 13 wide x 9 deep

How it would shrink (grow) if they followed IATA guidelines: (+0.5) x (+0.5) x 1.5

Change in volume: 11%

Lufthansa

Current policy: 21.6 high x 15.7 wide x 9 deep

How it would shrink if they followed IATA guidelines: 0.1 x 2.1 x 1.5

Change in volume: 28%

Read next: Airlines Aren’t Making Nearly As Much Money As You Think

MONEY Airlines

Airlines Aren’t Making Nearly As Much Money As You Think

Passengers use self-service machines to check in for flights on Delta Air Lines at Detroit Metro Airport.
Jim West—Alamy Passengers use self-service machines to check in for flights on Delta Air Lines at Detroit Metro Airport.

Somehow all those fees don't result in monster profits.

Airlines charge customers for everything from a carry-on bag to a bottle of water, airfares are sky high, and there’s rarely an empty seat on a plane. Fuel prices are low as well. You’d think carriers would be making money hand over fist.

Somehow, though, the industry’s average profit is just $8.27 for each passenger that boards a flight. That doesn’t sound like much, and amounts to what is described as “a hard-earned 4% average net profit margin” by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in a new report.

At its annual meeting in Miami Beach, Fla., on Monday, IATA revised its outlook for 2015 to a net profit if $29.3 billion, an upgrade from earlier projections of $25 billion, Yahoo News reports. Either figure would be a notable increase from 2014’s $16.4 billion net profits for the industry.

While this is all good news for the airline industry as a whole, not every region is booming. Airlines will profit $8.27 for every passenger carried on average, but North American carriers earn double that figure for each passenger on a flight, while airlines in other parts of the globe are much less profitable. In fact, North American airlines generate over half of global profits, pegged at $15.7 billion for this year. Europe, the second most profitable region, is expected to generate $5.8 billion in profit. Asia-Pacific, African and Latin American airlines are performing below average in terms of expected profitability.

In any event, higher profits compared to last year are expected, with low fuel costs acting as a major driver behind the industry’s improved outlook. An average Brent crude oil price of $65 per barrel is 36% lower than the 2014 price of $101.4, according to IATA.

Fuller planes are another factor. The overall number of passengers is expected to grow 6.7% this year, compared to 6.0% growth in 2014.

What does this mean for each of those passengers? IATA swears that, despite the rise of airline fees and airfares, the value of airline travel is outstanding. “The average return fare (before surcharges and tax) of $429 in 2015 is forecast to be more than 64% lower than 20 years earlier, after adjusting for inflation,” the report states.

Given airlines’ increasing profitability, will they stop or at least slow the pace of nickel-and-diming customers for every conceivable need once they’ve purchased their tickets? Perhaps that that’s too high an expectation.

Read next: Airline Group Says Your Carry On Bag Should Be Even Smaller

MONEY Travel

10 Free Airline Amenities That Make Flying Fun Again

Gavin DeGraw sings his single, "Best I Ever Had" on a Southwest Airlines flight.
Southwest Airlines—Wieck Gavin DeGraw sings his single, "Best I Ever Had" on a Southwest Airlines flight.

From live concerts to Canadian beer.

With all the airline fees adding up, it’s hard to remember what perks you get as a passenger. However, there are still some airlines that show their appreciation for customers, dishing out amenities that make them stand out from the rest. These airlines have come up with everything from free alcoholic beverages and DirecTV to slippers and playing cards. Want to catch a surprise Imagine Dragons flight? Dying to flirt with that person you met at the gate? These amenities aren’t just available to first-class passengers either — they’re available to all passengers throughout the cabin. Now that’s something that stands out!

1. Free beer, wine, and snacks with Porter Airlines

Had a long day and need to unwind? You can do that at no charge on Porter Airlines, who fly throughout Eastern Canada and the Eastern United States. The airline offers free local Canadian beer, wine and snacks to all passengers. The luxury treatment continues with drinks served in real glassware and no middle seats. The amenities start before the flight, too, as the airline’s airport lounges are open to all passengers and provide free newspapers, snacks and Wi-Fi.

2. Live at 35 with Southwest

Imagine flying at 35,000 feet when your favorite band takes the stage — well, the aisle. As part of Southwest Airlines’ Live at 35 program, passengers have seen popular bands such as Imagine Dragons, Echosmith and Better Than Ezra perform a surprise concert on their flight. In addition to surprise shoes aboard Southwest flights, the Live at 35 program also offers passengers exclusive access to music festivals and events across the country. The airline also has Southwest-branded venues in New York, Denver, Dallas and Atlanta for loyal fans to watch live entertainment.

3. DirecTV on JetBlue

Travelers no longer have to worry about missing important television events such as the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards or a Real Housewives of Atlanta marathon when flying on JetBlue. The airline offers free DirecTV for all passengers who want to choose between ESPN, NBC, Bravo, Food Network, VH1 and even the Disney Channel. On the airline’s E190 and A320 planes, passengers have access to 36 channels, while the A321 planes offer more than 100 channels.

4. Slippers on Japan Airlines

Travelers fly in comfort on Japan Airlines: The airline provides slippers — in yellow, blue or pink — to all passengers looking to get a bit more relaxed on their long flight. Amenity kits with a toothbrush set, earplugs and eye mask are also available for passengers on longer routes. Flight attendants have pain relievers, motion sickness medicine, nasal sprays, bandages and more for passengers who are feeling under the weather. For those looking to send a note home, postcards and ballpoint pens are also available upon request. Talk about good service!

5. Do not disturb/wake me up sleep mask on Etihad

On board Etihad Airways, even economy passengers are sure to get a good night’s sleep. The airline offers a Sleep Tight amenity kit that includes socks, a toothbrush and earplugs as well as an eye mask that passengers can wear to notify flight attendants not to disturb them or wake them for meals! Etihad also give each passenger a full-sized fleece blanket, and on longer flights, the airline designed a pillow that converts from a standard pillow to a neck pillow for easy sleep.

6. Turkish coffee and Turkish Delight on Turkish Airlines

Whether you’re flying to or from Turkey, Turkish Airlines bring Turkish culture to the air. It’s the only airline that offers Turkish cuisine to all its passengers. Additionally, Business Class passengers will get the opportunity to nosh on Turkish Delight and Turkish coffee. The hors d’oeuvres and soup service are equally authentic, as they’re an important part of any Turkish meal. In both the Business and Comfort classes, meals are also served in porcelain dishes.

7. Seat-to-seat chat and ordering on Virgin America

Virgin America’s fleet of planes represent the new age of flying — from the colorful overhead lights to the personal screen available to each passenger. The personal touchscreen allows passengers to choose their own in-flight entertainment as well as order drinks and food at the touch of a button. Even cooler, the system allows passengers to send an ice-breaking drink, meal or snack to another passenger. It also features a chat room for co-workers to connect or for passengers to send a flirty message.

8. Playing cards and writing kits on Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines take the in-flight amenity offerings to a new level. They, too, offer a toothbrush, toothpaste, eyeshades, earplugs and knitted socks to each passenger. However, they also offer a complimentary set of Singapore Airlines postcards, playing cards and writing kits upon request. Travelers under the age of 12 are also treated to exclusive Cartoon Network collectible items on certain flights. Each passenger also gets a video monitor and handheld control unit to browse the entertainment offerings on KrisWorld, the airline’s famous in-flight entertainment system.

9. Celeb chef children’s meals on Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic tasked TV chef Lorraine Pascale with the job of creating signature dishes for the airline’s Upper Class passengers as well as a variety of children’s meals served throughout the entire cabin. Pascale created healthy dishes featuring fresh, nutritious and simple ingredients. Upper Class passengers can enjoy dishes such as a Thai beef salad with roasted pine nuts and chili dressing or a salmon, lentil and chorizo dish served with asparagus. The children’s meals include a macaroni-and-cheese dish with pancetta and chicken strips with potato wedges and crushed peas. Oh, to be a kid again.

10. Free Wi-Fi on Emirates

No matter how much you’d like to escape the office during your flight, there’s always some crisis that needs to be averted. On Emirates, passengers can stay connected for free with the airline’s free onboard Wi-Fi. Passengers can enjoy 10 MB of data for free or buy 500 MB for just $1. The airline offers each passenger an in-seat satellite phone and on-screen SMS and email services. Travelers can also follow the up-to-date flight progress via the airline’s map channel, Airshow. That way, you’ll know exactly when you’re landing to schedule any post-flight meetings or activities.

MONEY Travel

This Is the Absolute Best Time to Book a Flight

airplane in flight at dawn
Aaron Foster—Getty Images

Timing is everything.

We all know that flights get more expensive as the departure date gets closer, and flights are full enough these days that unless you have extraordinary flexibility on travel times and the airline you use, you are not going to find many last-minute deals. In fact, you are more likely to be shut out of any usable options.

Booking early is a wise choice, but how early? Is it possible to book too early? Yes it is, say the folks at Cheapair.com. In 2014, they studied the prices on almost 5 million flights daily from 320 days in advance until the day of the flight, amassing 1.5 billion data points. On average, the lowest fare on domestic flights could be found when booking 47 days in advance of the flight. The “prime booking window,” the dates with the generally lowest prices, was between 27-114 days in advance.

As an average, airfares open up at around $50 above their lowest price and tend to stay there for a few months until the demand picture begins to come into focus and prices start to adjust based on market conditions. For any individual flight, the fluctuations are large and frequent. The lowest possible prices during the booking windows changed 70 times on average, with the difference between the fares at $201 even when excluding the two weeks prior to flight. Keep in mind, $201 represents the difference in the lowest fare numbers over time. The total fare fluctuations would be much higher.

What happens if you are stuck in that final two-week window? You are almost certainly going to pay more. The average increase in price was $111 in the last 14 days prior to departure and $174 during the last week.

Any trip with naturally higher demand is going to skew away from this model. Certain times of year and some popular routes defy the averages. Cheapair.com notes tickets to Hawaii as an exception to this rule; typically, the cheapest fare to Hawaii is when the flight first goes on sale. Anyone who has traveled at Christmas and Thanksgiving, as well as to in-season vacation destinations, is well aware of price spikes. Earlier booking is almost always better for these flights.

Just like trying to time the stock market perfectly is generally futile, so is trying to time the airfare market perfectly. You want to find a good deal, but you don’t want to make yourself obsessed and miserable trying to get the absolute best deal. Remember that on average, fares are far more likely to go up than they are to go down.

Does the day of the week matter? To a certain extent, it does, as midweek departures and returns tend to be cheaper. If you have that flexibility, factor it into your search.

In summary, do some research on your flight time/destination to see if it’s a known exception to the rule, and book early if that’s the case. Otherwise, start checking flights often within the prime booking window to get a feel for the fluctuations, and book your seats relatively early. The pickier you are with airlines, departure and arrival times, number of stops, seat locations, etc., the earlier you should book.

Finally, if you have to hedge your bets it’s better to book early — the extra amount you’ll pay for booking far in advance is minimal compared to the cost of waiting too close to travel time to complete your booking. Good luck on your search, and enjoy your travels!

More From MoneyTips:

 

TIME India

Indian Trainee Pilots Passed After Just 35 Minutes Flight Time, Report Says

“We’d kill not only the passengers, but we might crash in a village and kill even more people”

Multiple airline disasters over the past year have thrust a spotlight on flight safety and pilot training around the world, but a new report on Tuesday revealed that many Indian youths were being given pilots licenses after less than an hour of flying experience.

The report, published by Bloomberg, revealed that dozens of pilots in India were given certificates vastly inflating the number of hours they had supposedly spent learning to fly an aircraft.

“What if I was flying and had an emergency? I wouldn’t even know how or where to land,” 25-year-old Anupam Verma, who only spent 35 minutes in the cockpit but received a certificate saying he had flown for 360 hours, told Bloomberg.

Verma, like many others, was given a $44,000 subsidy by the Indian government to train as a commercial pilot and potentially join one of the country’s ever-expanding budget airlines.

“We’d kill not only the passengers, but we might crash in a village and kill even more people,” he said.

Read more at Bloomberg.

MONEY

This Week’s Best Deals: 70-Inch Sony TV, Free Donuts, Airfare Sale

United Airlines plane
courtesy United Airlines

TV, donuts, travel ... what's not to love?

Here are our top choices for bargains this week:

A Rare Summer TV Deal

While June is typically not a great month for television deals, this special on a Sony 70″ TV begs to differ. Drop the TV into your shopping cart, and the price drops to $1,399.99 — aka, the lowest price we’ve seen for any Sony 70″ HDTV, ever. (It’s also at least $300 less than what most stores are currently charging.) And according to CNET, this model is no slouch: The publication deemed it to have “very good picture quality with deep black levels, relatively accurate color, solid video processing, and one of the best bright-room images in the business.” Plus, the biggest negative in that review was the price, which is no longer a factor with this deal.

First-Time Airline Coupons

Now might be time to book that getaway you’ve been putting off, since both Delta and United Airlines are offering coupons that cut prices sitewide. Use coupon code “NMK9P” to get 2% to 10% off at Delta, or “ZTG7960642″ at United to get 4% to 10% off. (You’ll need to enter the codes before searching for fares.) While the discounts might seem slight, don’t be fooled: it’s extremely rare for airlines to offer such sitewide promotions. In fact, this is the first time we’ve found such coupons from either carrier.

Be on the Lookout for Freebies on Friday

This will be a good week for anyone with a sweet tooth (and a light wallet). June 5 is National Donut Day, which means stores nationwide will be offering free donuts, sometimes without purchase. Regular restaurants to take part include Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts, and Tim Horton’s, but keep an eye on any and all donut shops, just in case. For more details on Donut Day, click here.

Almost Everything Ships Free!

Target may have already lowered its everyday minimum for free delivery to $25 (previously at $50), but now the store is dropping it entirely — for a limited time, at least. Most items purchased at target.com now receive free shipping, which is a savings of about $5, depending on the order. That means you can place small orders without having to worry about whether it’s “worth it” after the cost of delivery.

Amazing bargains pop up at any given moment, so consider signing up for a daily email digest from DealNews to have the best offers sent directly to your inbox.

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