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Moore's Guide to Airlines

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Sierra Mike, Dec 4, 2002.

  1. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    You know, it all depends on where you go...and who you go with.

    NORTH AMERICA

    American Airlines: I'll be honest, I never liked American all that much, but I had no alternative, since they bought out my #1 carrier of choice, TWA. (My reasons for flying TWA was that I could almost always expect to hop on a 747 flying international legs or a 767 for long-haul domestic...and I could upgrade to First Class for $100 each way at the ticket counter, space available.) However, since the changeover, I've racked up about 72,000 miles on my shiny new AAdvantage Card, so they must be doing something right.

    But the big problem with American is their price structure; outside of United, they're the most expensive in the industry. 9/11 sure helped that a lot, though the effect was not immediate. In late September, I flew from JFK to LAX on American on an unrestricted coach ticket (which I instantly upgraded to biz class for $400, saving me about $300 off the published fare). Service was good and, surprise, surprise, the 757 I was on went wheels-up on schedule--a rarity when leaving any of the NYC airports. But now, an Economy class ticket (unrestricted; restricted tickets will not generate miles on American) costs $2,443.00. Now, that's steep. But even more egregious is the amount of a restricted, unchangeable, non-transferable fare: $1,290.11. Here's the published fares, according to www.aa.com, using 12/21/02-12/28/02 as the departure/arrival dates:

    Coach, Restricted:
    $1,290.11

    Coach, Unrestricted:
    $2,443.00

    Business Class (not available on every flight):
    $3,637.00


    First Class (only worth it on a 767-200, -300, or ER):
    $4,417.00


    When I bought a Full-Fare Coach ticket--which I always did, so I can upgrade at a substantial cost, using either dollars or miles--I would pay on average around $298.00, as recently as March of this year. With an upgrade to Business Class using cash, total ticket price was just under $700.00--round-trip. American's service is actually very good, perhaps as good if not better than that of my beloved TWA (which still had the best first class cabins I can recall on a domestic carrier), but it sure as hell isn't worth the price increase they're sticking us with these days. However, here are some tricks for you to help defray the cost:

    1) Get a AAdvantage Mastercard, offered by Citibank. You think I got those 72,000 miles from flying all the time? On American? Forget it! Get the damned card, and then do two things with it immediately:

    2) Enter the AAdvantage Elite program. In order to qualify, you must fly 25,000 miles a year, from January 1 to December 31.

    3) Buy Upgrades. Upgrades are available for about $55.00 each. The more you buy, the less you spend upgrading a ticket later; the upgrades are applied to the fare. And if you buy with the card, you get the miles AND the upgrades!

    4) Join the Admiral's Club. Especially if you fly international, and have to report in around 3 hours ahead of time. It's a good place to relax, but the coffee sucks.

    5) ALWAYS inquire about a fare upgrade to the next class of offered travel at the desk when checking in. American is pretty good about elevating you without charging you an arm and a leg, even now.

    Northwest Airlines: I never paid Northwest any attention at all until I started blazing trails to Asia several times a year. American could take me as far as Japan, or to Hong Kong on a codeshare (Cathay Pacific, detailed later), but American's international prices have always been murder. I'm all for flying around the planet, but hey, I don't need to spend $8,000 to do it on a domestic carrier. But there are times when a domestic carrier is the only choice available, and for me, it's Northwest.

    The gig with Northwest is that they're not huge like American, Delta, and the hopefully-gone-soon United, but they're bigger than US Scare and, depending on the given day, Continental. You will have to suffer through the rather ignominious fate of a lay-over in Detroit or, on occasion, St. Paul (or both, which I had to do once), but inflight service is exceptional up front. I've never flown coach on Northwest, so I can't comment on it. On most flights, Northwest's Business and First Class are the same (it's actually First Class, but on international flights, there are three distinct cabins.)

    The numbers, using the JFK/LAX route:

    Economy/Coach:
    $811.50

    Business Class:
    $1,928.55

    First Class:
    $1,928.55


    So you can see from the fares here, if you can stand changing planes in Detroit, Northwest is the clear winner. NWA's WorldPerks program is pretty standard, and their Elite Class is in three flavors: WoldPerks Elite (which I have), WoldPerks Elite Silver, and WorldPerks Elite Gold. The distinctions between classes are pretty vanilla, but the best thing about the program is that you get unlimited First Class upgrades, and a 50% mileage bonus to boot. So a run to Tokyo will net you about 10,000 miles, even though the trip from JFK is only about 6,400. It's worth it. And for a major carrier, their prices can't be beat.

    Good news with Northwest is that they keep their costs low, and the service doesn't seem to suffer all that much. You will doubtless be flying a DC-9/MD-80 on the short legs of the trip, but a much bigger and better-equipped jet on the longer stretches. Take advantage of their premium class rates, and definitely consider the WorldPerks program. If I could figure out how to roll my miles from the AAdvantage program to the WorldPerks program, I'd do it. Also, the WorldClubs are better than American's Admiral Clubs...and the coffee's better, too. Even in Detroit.

    Delta Airlines: I hate Delta. They always lose my luggage. I'll never, ever fly them again, ever since the time in December 2000 when I tried to make it to Corpus Christi to spend Christmas with my beleagured little Mom. I never made the connection, because it had already left the gate...but somehow, my luggage did. I'll never figure that one out. I was marooned in Hotlanta, while my suitcase was in Corpus Christi. Delta is responsible for the first and only time I've ever had a psychotic meltdown dealing with airline personnel. I hate them, I hate them, I hate them!

    Continental Airlines: For price, Continental is not too damned bad...but I've always had problems with delays, especially since you have to change over at Houston. Again using our hypothetical JFK/LAX run, here are the breakdowns:

    Economy/Coach:
    $832.00

    BusinessFirst:
    $2,739.00


    Now look...Continental uses the same mixed cabin scheme that Northwest does on their domestic flights, but why is it almost a thousand dollars more? Am I being charged more to stop in Houston? I don't get it. Now true, Continental does fly more places than Northwest. And there is the added bonus of not having to stop in stinky Detroit...but is it worth another grand to avoid Motown? Not to me, though sometimes you can get a treat by stopping in Cleveland instead. To be honest, the only destination I use Continental for is Corpus Christi. I stop in Houston, change to a puddle jumper even I could fly, and I'm wheels-down in CC by the Sea an hour and ten minutes later. But Continental's service sucks. It has always sucked. It will forever continue to suck. They suck so bad I don't even have a frequent flyer account with them--but I do have one with US Air. In order for that to happen, they must really, really, super suck. Plus their BusinessFirst seats suck. And they fly you in an ERJ or 737 on the first leg of the trip, and maybe give you a 767-400 on the LAX side.

    But get this--flying the reverse route (LAX/JFK) will cost you $3,286.00, and you still have to stop in Houston. What the hell is all that about?

    US Air: They're so ridiculously expensive now, forget about it. I only flew them on the La Guardia/DC run, or on the LGA/Rochester run. Plus, they'll likely be gone soon...and given that a coach ticket to Los Angeles from La Guardia costs $2,117.00, they deserve it. For $2,117.00, I can get a seat on a corporate jet. Why not go that route, instead of risking your life on an Airbus that has a 50/50 chance of frying its French-made electronics harnesses halfway through the trip?

    Fast and Dirty Getaways:

    On the East Coast, JetBlue. OK, OK, so they fly Airbusses, but look, not every one of them will wind up in a cornfield. JetBlue will actually take you from New York to Long Beach, California for $302.50 on a single-class aircraft that, really, isn't all that bad.

    Southwest is a touch better, leaving Islip/Long Island for LAX at $269-299. Again, mono-class airplanes, but hey, if they can get you where you need to go and you're not sitting next to a 400-pound guy with bad body odor, you're all set.

    Next up: International flights.

    Bon apetit.

    SM

    (PS: Always buy unrestricted if you can...so if something happens, the airlines don't rape you with fees. And if you're in a frequent flyer program, try your best to fly at least one upgraded flight segment...the payoff in miles makes it more worthwhile.)
     
  2. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Wow man. Great stuff!
     
  3. Stiofan

    Stiofan Master Po

    I can only add one small tip. Use that co-branded credit card (American, Southwest, etc they all have them) for all your shopping. I've got a friend who has purchased two cars with his. Turns around and finances the cars with his credit union and pays off the charge before thay charge any interest. If your credit limit isn't high enough, just charge the down payment and again pay the card off before interest. The guys flies everywhere cheap. I personally usually fly only on the west coast so I'll go Alaskan or Southwest and don't rack up the miles you do, but I'll take your post under advisement if I need to use a bigger carrier.
     
  4. joseftu

    joseftu ORIGINAL Pomp-Dumpster

    Great info...
    but you forgot to mention that the $300 from JFK to Long Beach on Jetblue can be round trip!
    If you reserve early enough, that's coast to coast, non-stop, for $150!!
    To me, that's shocking! Not to mention the leather seats, and the little tv with a fairly good selection of directv channels for <b>every</b> seat (a major plus if you're flying with a young child), and <b>not</b> flying out of the cursed LaGuardia.
    I fly from NY to CA about twice a year, and I've <b>never</b> had as good an experience for so little money as I have on JetBlue.
    (Now if they'd only fly to San Diego, instead of Long Beach).
     
  5. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Oh, but I did...

    ...see? :)

    All fares are quoted round-trip.

    SM
     
  6. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Right, and I did mention the AAdvantage Mastercard. All the airlines have 'em, but I've only got the AAdvantage card. I want to get one for Northwest, but haven't got around to it yet.

    SM
     
  7. Jedi Writer

    Jedi Writer Guest

    Anyone who flys a lot knows that joing the Admiral's club or some other airline equivalent is the best money you will spend on your flying experience.

    Thanks for pointing it out. I am too lazy but if you are motivated you might point out the many other advantages they offer besides free coffee and and a comfortable place to camp--starting out with you can check in there and get better seats or if you want to change something they will do it for you and give you priority and access to things the people on the floor don't have.
     
  8. Allene

    Allene Registered User

    Interesting thread, Steve! I've had all your problems and then some with Delta. As for United, we were so upset at how they treated us way back in the early 1980s that we have avoided them ever since. The only time we flew TWA was to London and back in 1999. We were impressed with their service on that trip.
    Now that our nearest large airport is Spokane, we will be seeing a lot more of Northwest, and we flew to Boston on one of their flights in October, en route to my mother's funeral in Nova Scotia. Service was good.

    I do, however, have a serious beef with all the U.S. airlines when it comes to bereavement discounts. Even though almost all of our flight was in U.S. airspace (the connector flight from Boston to Halifax is only about two hours or less), all the airlines we called flat out refused to give us a bereavement discount when they found out the funeral was outside the United States. As a result, we paid enough for those tickets to go to Europe and back twice! I very much doubt whether these ticket agents even knew where Nova Scotia was located.

    Allene
     
  9. Techie2000

    Techie2000 The crowd would sing:

    For what it's worth my aunt flies Delta to and from Florida twice a year and has never had a problem...
     
  10. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Techie,

    Flying any airline out of the NYC area can be a ridiculous experience. LGA, JFK, and EWR are generally responsible for about 50% of the traffic delays, with O'Hare and LAX coming in after the Trio of Terror, as I call 'em. Delta's presence at all three NYC airports needs to go through some serious revisions. I don't know what occurs behind the scenes, but I never had the same issues with any other airline.

    Allene,

    I flew bereavement once--on TWA--and it was fine, even though I was headed for Corpus Christi, which is a pain in the nuts to get to. I'm surprised that the airline you flew on didn't give you the bereavement fare; all they need is the number of the mortuary and the name of the deceased for verification. I'd be mighty pissed about that myself, and would definitely start some sort of campaign against them. I'll look into that and see what options there are for this.

    Jedi,

    Damn straight about the clubs--but now, you still have to go through the rest of the lines in order to check your bags. Clubs can no longer accept them, since they're almost always located on the other side of the security checkpoint. I would hasten to add that, for those who can afford it, first and biz class passengers get preferential treatment on check-in, and this can save a lot of headaches...albeit at a substantial cost.

    But that does nothing to offset the other perks a club can provide the weary traveller. Everything from internet access to showers are available, and in some, upscale dining is available as well, and even sleeping areas. It's always worth the $400 admission, in my book.

    SM
     
  11. Allene

    Allene Registered User

    Steve,

    I just asked my husband about the problems with the bereavement discounts. He spent at least an hour on the computer comparing flight costs and more than two hours on the phone trying to work things out. They were going to offer us $700 flights out of Spokane until they found out the location of the mortuary, then they doubled the cost and told us it was because the funeral was outside the United States. (This sort of attitude is one of the reasons why the United States isn't winning popularity contests in other countries.) Northwest and Delta both turned us down for bereavement discounts. Ed cannot remember about the other airlines. It was a terrible night! We were in shock! Some of them were charging so much that we couldn't have afforded them even with a discount.

    We haven't bothered doing anything because we already have too much stress in our lives from months of selling our home, moving out of state, and dealing with building contractors.

    It is very kind of you to offer to look into this sort of situation. I certainly don't expect you to do so. It is possible we were dealing with extraordinarily stupid people, like the agent years ago who spent over an hour trying to get us from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Sydney, Nova Scotia. We didn't know what was wrong until she explained the problem lay in getting a flight out of Halifax for Los Angeles. She was trying to send us to Sydney, Australia!! This is a true story! :(

    Allene
     
  12. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    LOL!!!!

    Well, let me look into it, regardless...I'll see what I can turn up.

    SM
     

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