MONEY Airlines

Here’s When to Travel to Get the Best Fall Airfare Deals

fall-airfare-deals
Salvator Barki / Getty Images

Early November, my friends.

Airfare is a nice bargain this fall.

Not only have prices dropped as they do every year for the “shoulder season” between summer vacation and the winter holidays, but according to NBC News, September through December prices are about 9% cheaper this year than they were in 2014, and 11% cheaper than in 2013.

Flights to Paris, Barcelona, and Rome have dropped between 11% and 26% just from August and September, says an analysis from Hipmunk. Island getaways in the South Pacific and the Bahamas, meanwhile, are down anywhere from 13% to 29%.

In short, if you haven’t yet planned a fall retreat, this is a good year to go for it.

But when should you travel to get the absolute lowest flight prices?

NBC News says that you’d be smart to plan your getaway for the first or second weekend of November, when search engine Hopper.com estimates that the average domestic round-trip ticket will go for about $262. (Midweek flights can be even cheaper, of course.) You may want to avoid traveling on Columbus Day weekend (October 10-12), when flights will be a tad pricier. And definitely don’t wait until the second half of November: prices will be on the upswing in the lead-up to Thanksgiving weekend.

 

MONEY Travel

Flyers Spent Billions More on Airline Fees Last Year

187138057
Erik Isakson—Getty Images

We spent 18.7% more on fees in 2014 than in 2013.

Can you see the day where the average airline trip costs more in taxes and ancillary charges than it does in the actual fare? It is already possible to do that given the array of fees that we pay along the way.

According to a recent report by consulting groups IdeaWorks and CarTrawler, in 2014, U.S. air carriers racked up a $2.6 billion increase in combined fees and sales of frequent flier miles — a jump of 18.7% over the previous year. The increases are even higher worldwide, with a 20% jump up to $38 billion in fee-based revenue.

This barrage of fees takes place while average fares are rising at around 2-3% annually according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), and profits are rising thanks mostly to cheaper fuel prices. Fuel costs are over 25% of the airline industry costs, and the windfall caused the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to forecast a record $29.3 billion in profits, an 80% increase over 2014.

So why do the fees persist? Because airlines understand that low fuel prices will not last, and taking away fees only to re-impose them later does not go over well with the public. Profits on a per passenger basis are not that large in an industrial context — $8.27 per passenger in profit on a global average, and it won’t take much of a fuel cost rise to cut into that profit. Airlines are rationally shifting toward revenue they can control to neutralize costs they can’t control.

For low-cost carriers such as Spirit and Allegiant Air, fees constitute a large part of their revenue. Spirit Air is cited as the top airline for ancillary revenue as a percentage of their total revenue — a whopping 38.7%. Fees are keeping them in business.

Meanwhile, the largest three U.S. carriers (United, Delta, and the newly combined American and US Airways) racked up $13.7 billion in total ancillary revenue in 2014. Add in Southwest and the total goes to $15.6 billion, or 41% of the world’s total.

To nobody’s surprise, baggage fees constitute the majority of airline fees. Southwest/Airtran is the only holdout for free checked bags (up to two), and three U.S.-based airlines charge for carry-on bags. Frontier charges up to $50, Allegiant up to $75, and Spirit up to $100 per carry-on, although all three offer discounts through online booking and/or memberships.

Checked bags generally are around $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second, but for three bags or more prepare to pay anywhere from $75-$200 per bag. Those fees have prompted some travelers to ship their bags separately to their final destination, trading convenience for much lower costs.

The bag crunch is likely to get worse — the IATA has suggested a new, even smaller standard for carry-ons. Theoretically, it is designed to speed up the usual loading dilemmas and at-gate baggage checks by letting airline personnel instantly tell what fits and what needs to be checked. In practice, that likely means more checked bags and higher income for the airlines.

Common fees include the following:

  • Ticket Changes – Southwest still holds the line at $0, and Alaska Airlines will do the same if changed sixty days prior to the flight. Changes made on the same day of booking tend to be in the $25-$75 range, but most others are in the $75-$200 range. Delta and United can charge fees in excess of $500 in certain situations.
  • Booking Fees – Most airlines charge between $15 and $35 for booking over the phone or in person, although Southwest and Air Canada still do not charge.
  • Unaccompanied Minors – It’s an extra $100-$150 in general to send unaccompanied minors on a flight. (Remember that on those days you’re tempted to ship Junior across the country.)Seat/Boarding Perks – Seat selection/room and priority boarding varies widely, anywhere from $4 for priority boarding with Allegiant to hundreds of dollars. The report noted Delta’s Comfort Plus service alone raked in $350 million in 2014.

Other fees include charges for carrying pets (typically $100), drinks and snacks ($3-$16), and pillows/blankets ($0-$10).

You can find summaries of all the fees for domestic airlines online in several locations, but check the date of last update. This guide to airline fees is fairly recent (April 2015) but does not reflect the newly combined American and US Airways.

Fees are subject to change, so check with the airline before booking.

More From MoneyTips:

MONEY deals

The Week’s Best Deals: Cheap Flights, Free Breakfast, Bonus Gift Cards

Carl's Jr. restaurant sign
Bob Pardue—Alamy

Early Labor Day sales are in effect too.

Here are the best deals we’ve come across this week for shoppers, travelers, and hungry diners:

Affordable Getaways with Southwest
Start planning your next getaway thanks to the airfare sale offered by Southwest Airlines via DealBase. (Click on “Southwest Airlines” in the top line on the landing page to see this sale.) These include some of the lowest prices we’ve ever seen for domestic one-way fares from Southwest Airlines. Book this travel deal by September 3 for travel from September 8, 2015, through March 3, 2016. Thinking about getting insurance for your trip? Check out our guide to travel insurance to see if it’s right for you and your vacation.

2-for-1 Sandwiches at Carl’s Jr.
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Breakfast, on the other hand, can be free—once you’ve made a purchase—at participating Carl’s Jr. locations. Purchase one Cinnamon Swirl French Toast Breakfast Sandwich and get a second one for free via this printable coupon. (The same offer applies at Hardee’s with this coupon.) Deal ends September 23.

Bonus Gift Card with Paper Towels
Paper towels might not be the flashiest purchase, but they are certainly a necessity. Right now, you can pick up three eight-park rolls of Bounty Select-A-Size Giant Role for a total of $29.97 ($9.99 apiece), and get a $10 Target gift card to boot. (Add three packs to cart to see this price.) In-cart, select in-store pickup to cut it to $26.97. Assuming you’ll use the gift card, that’s 71¢ per roll and the lowest total price we could find by $26. Deal ends September 5.

Early Labor Day Sales with Sears
Labor Day is probably your last chance to score big deals before the huge discounts on Black Friday, and the sales have started already. Sears discounts a selection of appliances, electronics, apparel, and more as part of its Labor Day Kick Off Sale. Even better, take $5 off select orders of $50 or more via coupon code “SEARS5OFF50,” $35 off $300 or more via code “SEARS35OFF300” or $50 off appliances of $499 or more via code “EXTRA50.” (“Hot Buy” items are excluded from coupon discounts.) Opt for in-store pickup to dodge shipping fees, which start around $5. (Select items and many orders of $59 or more receive free shipping. Larger items may carry additional shipping charges.) Deals end September 2.

For more on how to get the best deals this coming week, check out our complete guide to Labor Day Sales. 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.

MONEY deals

$15 Flights! Crazy Airfare Sales From 4 Airlines Right Now

Southwest Airlines
courtesy Southwest Airlines—Wieck

All four airlines have flights on sale for under $50.

The data indicates that, at long last, flights are getting cheaper. Based on this week’s crop of new airline sales—with four airlines launching sales starting under $50 a flight—it sure seems like prime time to snag a deal.

Before plotting a cheap getaway, note that availability on the fares listed below is limited in terms of both seats and dates. Be as flexible as you can to ensure the best possibility of paying the least. For the most part, forget about flying on a Friday or Sunday for a prayer of grabbing one of these bargain fares. But if your schedule allows midweek travel during the off-peak autumn season, there are some amazing deals to be had.

Frontier Airlines: From $15
Like Spirit Airlines, Frontier runs on a business model of cheap flight prices and few (read: almost no) complimentary extras. The tradeoff for having to pay for basic amenities like carry-on baggage is inexpensive airfare, especially when there’s a sale—like now. One-way flight prices start at just $19 or $20 for select Tuesday, Wednesday, and (sometimes) Saturday departures on routes such as Phoenix to Chicago, Denver to Portland (OR), Cleveland to Raleigh-Durham, and St. Louis to Orlando. In most cases, flights must be booked by August 26. In many cases, the fare is lowered to $15 with use of the code SAVEBIG when purchasing.

Spirit Airlines: From $34
Low-fare, high-fee Spirit Airlines lists select dates this fall when fares start at just $34 each way on routes such as Atlantic City to Atlanta, Philadelphia to Myrtle Beach, New Orleans to Chicago, Las Vegas to San Diego, and Orlando to Cleveland. Longer routes like Fort Myers to Minneapolis and Los Angeles to Cleveland are priced starting at just $63. These sale prices must be booked by August 26, and availability and dates are limited. Members of Spirit’s $9 Fare Club can save up to $10 or so more on each flight, though paying the $60 annual fee is probably only worth it if you fly Spirit a few times a year.

Southwest Airlines: From $39
Because Southwest is the lone airline that still allows passengers to check two bags at no extra charge, this is arguably the best value of the bunch. The airline is discounting flights all over the country, and sale airfares are valid for purchase through September 3. Still, availability is limited so it’s probably best not to wait too long. The best fares start at $39 each way on a few routes to and from Washington, D.C. (Reagan) and Indianapolis, Akron, and Columbus (OH). Among the other intriguing deals are Orlando to Indianapolis ($102), Seattle to Orange County ($94), Oakland to Las Vegas ($63), and Baltimore to Fort Lauderdale ($88).

JetBlue: From $49
Bookings must be made by Wednesday, August 26, to snag JetBlue fares such as Detroit to Fort Lauderdale ($79), Hartford to Washington, D.C., ($79), Charlotte to Boston ($79), New York-JFK to Jacksonville ($99), Long Beach to Sacramento ($59), Las Vegas to Long ($49), and Boston to Richmond ($49). Fares on valid on Monday-Thursday and Saturday departures from September 8 to December 16, with a few blackout dates around holidays.

Read next: This Is the Cheapest Time of Day to Book a Flight

MONEY

The Next Spirit Airlines May Be No Better Than the Old One

Frontier Airlines Offers Cheap Uncomfortable Flights
Scott, Kathryn—Getty Images Frontier Airlines was bought by Indigo Partners in 2013 and is now planning to double its fleet size.

Frontier Airlines emerges as a copycat to low-cost Spirit Airlines.

How much discomfort is someone willing to endure for a cheap flight?

This is the question travelers must consider when facing the prospect of flying on the new Frontier Airlines. The carrier, reinvented by Indigo Partners, the private equity firm led by Bill Franke who ran ultra-low budget airline Spirit Airlines, has scaled back on basic amenities like legroom and gotten rid of TVs, free carry-on bags, complimentary drinks, free reserved seating, and even its toll-free customer service number.

And, like its highly profitable low-cost rival Spirit Airlines, Frontier’s strategy of cutting costs and airfares while adding fees have yielded great financial rewards for the company. Frontier earned more than $129 million last year, and it plans on a huge expansion that would double its fleet in less than a decade, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Unfortunately, Frontier’s growth and enhanced profits have come at the sake of customer satisfaction and the quality of the service. Delays plague almost a third of Frontier’s flights, and the rate of customer complaints about the airline are second only behind Franke’s former project, Spirit.

What’s more, while Spirit has a long-established reputation for cramped seats and few complimentary extras, the brutally efficient character of Franke’s Frontier Airlines is at odds with the airline’s past reputation of catering to business travelers and special touches like complimentary cookies. This sharp break from the past has especially frustrated passengers in Frontier’s main hub, Denver. But to the airline, that’s the cost of providing an ultra-cheap fare — some as low as $15.

Franke, however, maintains that he isn’t doing things quite like he did at Spirit, which charges for water and doesn’t have reclining seats. He believes plenty of consumers would be happy to pay slightly more than basement prices to get a more humane experience. “I now think there is a kinder, gentler way,” he told the Journal.

MONEY Travel

Flight Prices Just Got a Whole Lot Cheaper

airline-costs-drop
Russ Rohde—Getty Images

It's been 20 years since fares decreased this much.

Looking to plan a last-minute end-of-summer getaway? You’re in luck: Airline ticket fares saw their steepest drop in two decades last month.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded a 5.6% drop in fare prices in July, even as U.S. consumer prices as a whole inched up 0.1%, NBC News reports. What gives? Fuel costs at a six-year-low and a Justice Department investigation into potential airline collusion that may be keeping the industry on its best behavior, for starters.

Whereas decreases in airline fares typically lag behind dropping fuel costs by six months or even a year, BestFares CEO Tom Parsons told NBC that the sustained low costs of fuels and airlines’ unprecedented profits are likely giving them the confidence to compete with budget airlines. And with the late August “Deal Zone” coming up in late August — when kids head back to school and families aren’t traveling — consumers can expect even bigger drops and better fares than usual.

The low prices are expected to last into the fall, but don’t wait too long: economists predict that the ticket price slump will be temporary.

 

MONEY Travel

Obama Pushing to Resume Commercial Flights to Cuba This Year

The National Hotel, Havana, Cuba
Rob Rae—age fotostock The National Hotel, Havana, Cuba

Hopping a flight to Cuba is about to get much easier.

Soon after the federal government announced new rules cracking the door wide open for Americans hoping to visit Cuba, ferries and charter flight operations sprang into action to launch Cuba-bound services for travelers.

For the time being, however, the options remain limited—and somewhat complicated. Getting to Cuba isn’t as simple as hopping on a website and booking airfare to, say, Miami or Aruba because regularly scheduled commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba still do not exist. And the reason they don’t exist is that restrictions remain in place prohibiting such services.

These restrictions could soon disappear, though, if President Obama has his way. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration is working on a deal with Cuba that would allow commercial flights between the two countries to resume as soon as December 2015. The momentous event would mark the first time in more than half a century that Americans could quickly, easily, and legally book passage to the Communist-ruled island nation.

Quite obviously, the aftereffects of allowing regular commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba would be huge for American travelers and Cuba’s tourism industry. “If they do that and it’s possible to book an ordinary flight instead of go on a charter, lots more people would go to Cuba,” William LeoGrande, an American University professor who has conducted extensive research about U.S.-Cuba relations, told the Wall Street Journal.

If things go according to plan, it will only get easier for Americans to get their hands on (legal) Cuban cigars.


TIME Airlines

This Airline Just Made a Huge Order For 250 Jets

US-AVIATION-AIRBUS A320
SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images An Airbus airplane.

IndiGo is India's largest airline

French-based airplane maker Airbus has scored the company’s biggest order ever in a deal it firmed up with Indian budget airline IndiGo.

IndiGo, India’s largest airline, and Airbus have been working together since as far back as 2005 when the airline ordered 100 A320s – which Airbus has already delivered. IndiGo committed to expanding the fleet to 280 Airbus aircraft in 2011, and with today’s announcement, increased the fleet by an additional 250 planes.

The Associated Press said the jets would cost $26 billion at list price, although the news agency points out customers usually negotiate discounts with jet makers.

Strong economic growth over the next few decades is expected to propel the Asia Pacific region’s airline industry to new heights, with some observers estimating it will one day be the largest air travel market in the world. By 2033, almost half of global traffic will be to, from, or within the region, reports say.

India is a star performer from the region. The International Air Transport Association has projected that India – currently the ninth largest market in terms of air passengers – will overtake the United Kingdom to become the third largest market by around 2031.

TIME Emirates

This Airline Is Launching the Longest Flight in the World

HSV Team Hands Over A380 To Emirates Airline
Krafft Angerer—Getty Images Emirates stewardesses pose in front of an aircraft.

Here's your big opportunity to spend almost 18 hours on a plane

Emirates said Thursday it would begin offering daily flights between Dubai and Panama City, according to the Associated Press. The duration of the trip, when westward, totals 17 hours and 35 minutes, making it the longest commercial flight in the world.

The flights, which will begin Feb. 1, make Panama City the inaugural destination in for Emirates in Central America. The trip traverses a total of 8,590 miles, according to Bloomberg. Previously, the longest flight in the world was a flight from Dallas to Sydney offered by Qantas, which took 17 hours.

According to Bloomberg, Panama will serve as the entry-point for tourists and business travelers into South America and the Caribbean.

TIME Airlines

Airline to Begin Weighing Passengers for ‘Flight Safety’

Airline to set up a “special weighing machine” at the departure gate

Uzbekistan Airlines announced a new policy that involves weighing passengers shortly before take off.

A statement by the airline announced a decision to install a “special weighing machine” at departure gates, where passengers would be weighed along with their luggage.

“According to the rules of International Air Transport Association, airlines are obliged to carry out the regular procedures of preflight control passengers weighing with hand baggage to observe requirements for ensuring flight safety,” read a statement posted to the airline’s webpage.

A spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association denied any knowledge of a regulation that would require passengers to stand on a scale, adding in a statement to CNN that airlines normally calculate passenger loads as a mathematical average, rather than a precise, personal measurement.

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