Q: Is there such a thing as an affordable European flight this summer? If so, how can I find one? —Catherine Mills, Westport, Conn.
A: Remember when flying to Europe was, at most, a $600 commitment? These days, that’s often just the baseline cost of a transatlantic ticket. According to Rick Seaney, cofounder and CEO of Farecompare, the average airfare to Europe includes about $450 in surcharges (including fuel) and $160 in taxes and fees. Tack on what the carrier itself charges, and it’s no wonder you can find yourself paying more than $1,000 for an economy-class ticket. But you can still fly for less. You just need to know the tricks.
Pay attention to shoulder seasons. Summer flights, hands down, are the most expensive. But if you look around the edges of summer—early June; the last week of August—you’ll find better fares. They’re even more affordable in early May and mid-October. Of course, winter fares are still lowest, and they stay that way from mid-November until mid-March (excluding the winter holidays).
A first class experience would not be complete without first class products. That’s why Delta Air Lines has called upon travel accessories brand Tumi and New York-based apothecary Malin+Goetz to help take their BusinessElite amenity kits to a higher elevation. Now, intercontinental passengers will find a ballistic nylon Tumi case waiting for them on their full-bed seat. What’s inside, you ask? Among various in-flight staples, like a dental kit and an eye mask, fliers will enjoy Neroli lotion and lip moisturizer from Malin+Goetz, socks, shoe polish, and a shoehorn. The kit does not come sans wet wipe—a five-course meal at 30,000 feet can get pretty messy, after all!
Major domestic carriers have put premiums on an increasing number of main-cabin aisle and window seats, making them available only to high-ranking frequent fliers or people willing to add $20 to $60 per trip leg. Though these seats sometimes open up to regular travelers as the flight date approaches, this policy in effect forces families to pay up or risk sitting apart. New York Senator Charles Schumer and others have decried the practice, but their efforts will have little impact in the short term. If you can’t (or won’t) pay the premium, your best bet is to log on to your airline’s website 24 hours before your flight—when carriers begin releasing premium seats to the public.
There’s no shame in admitting this: I’m a compulsive bargain hunter—never satisfied with paying full price without doing some browsing for a good deal. But I suspect many of us fall under the same umbrella, especially when it comes to airfare. Enter Pintrips, a new tool that helps you look at flight options side-by-side, monitoring them in real time for fluctuations in price. Unlike online booking sites, which let you sort by cost, Pintrips aggregates data to show you when your favorite itineraries—those “pinned” to your dashboard—drop or increase in price, and by how much, offering insight on the right moment to book. Plus, the tool lets you share itineraries with anyone you’d like (my husband and I are simultaneously keeping an eye on flights to Cape Town), and you can manage multiple trips at once, each neatly packaged in its own folder and with its own sharing preferences. The best part: It's free to use. (Though you wouldn't expect otherwise from a site that's all about saving, would you?)
Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.
Comparing international airlines is much more apples and oranges than it seems: Without a central governing agency to collect the data, there’s hardly a way to put carriers head to head. Enter FlightStats, which crunches the numbers each year for their Airline and Airport On-Time Performance Service Awards, and whose 2012 winners were announced today.
Not only does FlightStats determine which airlines are most punctual (arriving to the gate within 15 minutes of scheduled times), but they also look at cancellation numbers, alliance-wide statistics, and more. Plus, they've sliced the data exclusively for us by stacking up all the international data in two handy graphics—a useful tool if you're considering loyalty with a new carier. Take a look at some of the winners here.
Q: My carry-on is beat, and it’s time for a new one. What do you recommend? —Jonathan Curley, Seattle, Wash.
A: In the new world order of carry-ons, lightness is key. Victorinox’s 22-inch model($299) is hard-sided yet weighs only six pounds. It also has maximum maneuverability thanks to its eight wheels. (If you are used to two, scooting around the airport with this many is truly life-changing.)
American Airlines and US Airways announced this morning a planned merger that will create the world’s largest airline. Worth $11 billion, the combined airline will have more than 1,500 aircraft and will operate more than 6,700 daily flights to 336 destinations. Though the government still needs to review the merger plans, aviation analysts don’t foresee any major objections and predict it could be approved in just a few months. After that, it’s going to take some time before the carriers can begin joint operations; they must first undertake the herculean task of integrating staff, technology, and hardware. In the meantime, here’s what you can expect from the new airline:
What’s the name of the airline? The merged carrier will take the American Airlines name, and its stylized new logo and airplane livery. It will also operate out of the American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. We also expect that flight attendants for the newly-merged carrier will eventually be wearing American’s recently commissioned uniforms designed by KAUFMANFRANCO, which are scheduled to start rolling out in 2014.
Winter Storm Nemo has yet to hit the East Coast, but its impact is already being felt among travelers. Nearly 3,000 domestic and international flights have been canceled for Friday and almost 1,000 (and counting) for Saturday according to live flight-tracking service FlightAware. The effects of the storm—which may be historic—could snarl air traffic for several days, so travelers scheduled to fly into or out of the Eastern seaboard on Friday and Saturday should rebook in advance, if they haven’t already. Most carriers are waiving change fees to encourage preemptive rebooking.
If you are one of the unlucky, stranded passengers, T+L has a few apps and services to make your delay a little more bearable.
Navigating the airport. Gateguru offers detailed listings (with reviews) for restaurants, stores, and other services at over 120 different airports. It will also give you security wait times and updates on flight delays, and can coordinate with your Kayak and TripIt itinerary planners.
Last-minute hotel rooms. HotelTonight and all of the major online travel agents (Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, and Priceline) have mobile apps that help you find nearby available hotel rooms at a discount. Their inventories are not the same, so if you strike out with one, try another.
Are the latest beauty and wellness products worthy of a spot in your teensy carry-on? T+L Associate Editor Kathryn O’Shea-Evans shares her take.
The Product: Aveda Stress-Fix Concentrate, $22.
Pros: The lipstick-sized rollerball dispenses a highly-soothing blend of essential oils (French lavender, lavandin, and clary sage are sustainably derived from the sun-lit fields of northern Provence). Perfect for pre-flight jitters or a jet lag sleep aid.
Cons: Unfortunately, the scent didn’t last on my skin longer than ten minutes (probably because it’s all natural and not filled with chemicals… perhaps that’s actually a pro?).
Kathryn O'Shea-Evans is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.