Airfare Deals: Jumping But Not Biting

The School Calendar Rules Travel Time
We are no longer tied to the school calendar.

My daughter graduated from high school this June (hooray!), so we are entering a new phase of life.

For the first time in 13 years, our travel plans will not be dictated by the public school calendar.

As parents well know, travel during school breaks and over the summer is considered high season in terms of airfare and hotel rates.

Flights and hotel rooms are expensive and award availability is limited.  Parents with kids in school simply don’t have the same flexibility as free agents.

We are not quite empty nesters because my daughter is living at home while attending community college.   My husband is looking forward to retirement soon.   That will expand our opportunities for leisure travel.

There are lots of places we want to go, with Japan at the top of the list.

Bargain Flights are Back!

Have you noticed that the airwaves these days are filled with airfare deals?

My inbox and twitter feed are chock full of amazing airfare bargains.

Getting in on these deals requires you to act fast and to have schedule flexibility.

But the deals are fantastic!

  • $99 to Europe.
  • $500 roundtrip to Asia.
  • $19 for domestic flights.

Check out these recent offerings posted by The Flight Deal:

The Flight Deal is One Source for Bargain Fares
The Flight Deal is One Source for Bargain Fares

In terms of frequent flyer miles, I have a stash of American Airlines and United miles, as well as some British Airways and Southwest miles.

My strategy going forward is to spend down my miles balances and to focus on cash back opportunities.

Growing Your Travel Savings Account

Earlier this year, I opened Capital One’s Venture Card.  This card earns 2 times points on all purchases.  Rewards points can be redeemed for travel expenses.

I also opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card early this year.  This card earns 2 times Ultimate Rewards Points on restaurants and travel.  These points can be transferred to the several airline partners or cashed out for statement credits.

Cash Back is King

I plan to concentrate my spending on the Venture card, with the exception of most travel purchases that will go on the Sapphire card.  Cash back is still king, but Ultimate Rewards points can be used as miles or cash.

Both the Venture card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card carry annual fees, which are waived the first year.  I have heard it is easy to get the fee waived on the Venture card.  That is not the case for the Sapphire Preferred, so I will probably will probably cancel that card when the fee comes due.

In the meantime, I will be accumulating points in my “travel savings accounts.”  These points are a lot more liquid than miles, it part because they are good for any bargain tickets you may grab, and also because partial redemptions are possible.

Has your points collection strategy changed, in light of the raft of cheap flights?

 

 

$1167 RT Newark to Paris — Biz Bed on OpenSkies

New York to Parks on Open Skies $1167 in Business Class
New York to Paris on Open Skies:  $1167 RT in Business Class

I took the bait!  Yesterday I saw a flash sale advertised on Dan’s Deals for a $1167 round trip flight from Newark (EWR) to Paris Orly (ORY) in lie-flat seats.

I booked the deal on Open Skies — a “luxury, boutique” offshoot of British Air.

$1167 is the price of a discounted economy fare ticket to Europe during high season!

Having missed the previous day’s hot deal of just $981 RT, I knew I had to act quickly to get in on possibly the second best bargain of the summer.

If this deal interests you jump on it quickly!

Hack this fare down to $1167
Hack this fare down to $1167

 

How to Hack Your Way to Paris in Lie Flat Seats for $1167 Roundtrip

Open Skies is running a promotion on their nonstop flights to Paris from New York’s JFK or Newark airports.  They are advertising a sale price of $1698 round trip for business class, which they call Biz Bed service.

To discount the fare further, you need to join AARP (membership is $16,) which offers a $400 discount per passenger on Business Class flights on British Air.

To lower the price by an additional ten percent, apply the promo code CARDOFFERU, which is available to holders of the Chase British Airways credit card, and possibly others.

This brings the roundtrip fare for lie flat seats in business class down to $1167, just about the same as the OpenSkies price for economy seats.

Book Now, Ask Questions Later 

Please, don’t!  These are nonrefundable tickets so you need to know what you’re doing.

I had never heard of OpenSkies airline before.

But the time was right for me, so I booked the tickets first, and asked questions later.

What is a Luxury Boutique Airline?

OpenSkies has some slick marketing copy on their website — contrasting New York City to Paris, and touting their Biz Bed product.

With tickets in hand, I did some research, and found decidedly mixed reviews.

There are numerous reports on the web about delayed and cancelled flights, tired seats, and subpar service.  I may need to temper my expectations to avoid possible disappointment.

Our flight leaves from the Newark airport, which is pretty convenient for us because we can take the train up from Washington, DC.  

OpenSkies flies nonstop to Paris Orly, which I understand is a bit closer to the city than CDG.

We will take our chances.

What is OpenSkies’ Biz Bed Service?

OpenSkies touts their Biz Bed class as a “uniquely premium” direct service between New York and Paris.

They claim:

  • spacious seat that converts to a fully flat bed
  • access to comfortable private lounges
  • dedicated check-in, fast track security, and priority boarding
  • if you’re travelling from New York, a gourmet meal in the lounge before your departure
  • an intimate and exclusive cabin with only 20 seats
  • soft under-mattresses, luxurious Egyptian cotton duvet, full-size pillow, and pajamas
  • exclusive and attentive service
  • the finest French cuisine with a 4-course menu cooked by master chefs
  • the finest wines French vineyards have to offer
  • the famous Ladurée macarons
  • a personal iPad, loaded with movies, music, games and entertainment
  • noise cancelling headphones
  • space for a handbag and small suitcase onboard, and three pieces of checked luggage included in the fare
Open Skies promises French champagne and macarons
OpenSkies promises French champagne and macarons

It all sounds a bit over the top.  Personally, it’s the Ladurée macarons that caught my attention!

Having never travelled in Business Class, I am sure I will be grateful just to stretch out.

I am not under any illusions about the “luxury” of air travel.

Suggestions for Paris, please!

I’ve been to Paris several times, but not in the last 25 years!

If you have any suggestions of the best places to stay (e.g. neighborhoods) and things to do, please share in the comments.

We hope to take some day trips by train so I welcome any ideas on destinations within striking distance of Paris.

Hidden City Ticketing — Revealed

SKIPlagged App:  Free on iTunes
SKIPlagged App: Free on iTunes

Airfares often defy logic.

Why is a ticket from Washington DC to Salt Lake City more expensive than a ticket from Washington, DC to Las Vegas — with a stop in Salt Lake City?

How can you search for so-called “hidden city” or “throwaway”tickets?

Well, there’s an app for that!

SKIPlagged Finds Cheapest Airfares via Throwaway Ticketing

Skiplagged
HNL to LAX

Skiplagged, available for free in the iTunes store (and also available for Android phones), identifies the lowest available fares for a route.

It takes the guess work out of what city you should use as the final destination when searching for throwaway fares.

Here’s an example, illustrated by screen shots from the Skiplagged app.

Lets say you wanted to fly one-way from Honolulu (HNL) to Los Angeles (LAX) on  October 14.

Skiplagged
HNL to OAK via LAX

There is a nonstop flight on Delta Airlines for $394.

If you run the search on Skiplagged, you see that the same flight continues on to Oakland (OAK) for a total fare of just $207.

That’s quite a difference!

Of course, you will have to search for a return ticket, and compare the results with the cost of a round-trip ticket.

Travel Hacking 101:  The Do’s and Don’ts of Throwaway Tickets

Be aware that throwaway ticketing violates most airlines’ Terms of Service (except perhaps Southwest Airlines).

You risk being kicked out of the frequent flyer program, having your miles confiscated, and even being banned from the airline.

It’s not against the law, but it is a very risky practice.

Some experts offer these cautionary notes:

  • Good for one-way tickets only
  • Don’t check bags
  • Don’t use your frequent flyer number

The makers of the Skiplagged app suggest several sources for more information:

Continue reading —>

Dulles Flyer: Tampa Roundtrip for $88…Leaves Tomorrow

Flying Tonight App
Flight Tonight! app, free from iTunes

I’m a sucker for retro graphics so of course I had to download the new Flight Tonight! app available for free from the iTunes store.

This app is for spontaneous travelers who are trawling for cheap flights from their home airport.

It arrays flight information in a new way — by displaying the cheapest available roundtrip flights leaving from your location tonight and tomorrow morning.

Flight Tonight!:  Where Can You Fly This Weekend?

I checked out a number of departure cities to see if there were any deals.

Flight Tonight App
Where can you fly this weekend?

Nothing interesting popped up.

But when I tried my home region (WAS) (for Washington, DC area airports) there was a real bargain:  $88 roundtrip, nonstop to Tampa, Florida!

The app indicated that the fare was available for a number of itineraries — a 2-day, 4-day, 6-day, 7-day,  or 9-day trip.

The flight was on Frontier Airlines, which commenced flying from Dulles International Airport in August 2014.

Thank goodness we finally have a low cost carrier flying out of Dulles.  Maybe we will start to see some real competition for a change.

Flight Tonight Departures from IAD
Flight Tonight Departures to Tampa from IAD

All prices shown are round-trip, and taxes and fees are supposed to be included (but may not be, so double check.)

The Flight Tonight! app displays both domestic and international destinations.

This app isn’t for everyone.  But if you are flexible, and looking for a cheap getaway, this Flight Tonight! arrays possible destinations in a convenient manner.

Who would have thought you could pick up last minute tickets to Tampa this cheap?

Foreign Visitors Can Fly Anywhere in Japan for $100

Experience Japan Fare
Experience Japan Fare: Fly Anywhere for $106

Japan is a nation of islands with great geographic diversity — from the snow capped peaks of Hokkaido to the tropical beaches of Okinawa.

While much of the country is connected via high speed rail, if you are short on time or want to visit more far-flung regions, you may be interested in one of the many discount airfares available to foreign visitors.

Increased competition by discount airlines in Japan have led to an array of discount offers on domestic routes:

  1. Experience Japan Fare
  2. One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare
  3. Japan Airlines Welcome to Japan Fare
  4. Star Alliance Japan Airpass
  5. ANA Visit Japan Fare

The most flexible of these is the Experience Japan Fare.  You can purchase tickets while in Japan allowing for more spontaneity, and there are no blackout dates.

The major downsides of the Experience Japan Fare are that tickets must be purchased 3 days in advance and are non-changeable and nonrefundable.

The Experience Japan Fare:  Up to 75% off Domestic Airfares

All Nippon Airlines (ANA) offers the Experience Japan Fare to international visitors to Japan.  You can fly anywhere in Japan for 10,800 Japanese Yen, including taxes and fees.  At today’s exchange rate (June 24, 2014) that’s $106 US dollars.

This is a gigantic bargain!  For instance, the regular one-way fare between Tokyo and Okinawa is 46,000 Yen.  The Experience Japan Fare at 10,800 Yen is more than 75 percent off!

Eligibility for the Experience Japan Fare

Experience Japan Fare
Experience Japan Fare

The Experience Japan Fare   is meant for visitors to the country.  There are  three conditions to be eligible for the fare:  You must:

  • reside outside of Japan;
  • hold a passport issued by a country other than Japan; and
  • have an international ticket from any airline to and from Japan.

How to Fly Anywhere Within Japan for $100

The Experience Japan Fare of 10,800 JPY per flight (this includes the 800 JPY tax) is good for tickets issued from April 1, 2014 until October 25, 2014.

There are some rules to keep in mind:

  • Reservations must be made at least 3 days prior to the departure date.
  • Tickets can be purchased up to 14 days before departure.
  • There is no limit on the number of segments you may fly.
  • Seats are limited and may not be available on all days or on all flights.
  • You will accrual frequent flyer miles.
  • One checked bag is included in the fare.
  • No changes and no refunds allowed.

Please note this important caution:  There may be instances where it may cost less to include all Japan domestic flights within your international flight discount fare if you are connecting to/from an ANA international flight.

Further information on fare conditions is available online.

Other Airlines Offer Special Fares for Foreign Visitors to Japan

There are several other discount fares with comparable prices.

One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare

To be eligible for the One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare, travel to Japan must be a carrier in the One World Alliance and tickets must be purchased before arrival in Japan.

oneworld Yokoso/Visit Japan Fare.
One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare

One World includes JAL, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Qantas and several other airlines.

Tickets cost 10,800 Yen and are valid for two months.

Blackout periods apply:

Continue reading —>

Frontier Airlines to Link Washington Dulles with 14 Cities; $39 Intro Fares on Tap

Frontier Airlines Credit Card
Jim, Joe, Jay and Gary the Penguins

As a Reston, Virginia local, I was pretty psyched about the news this week that Frontier Airlines will be flying a regular schedule of flights to 14 popular destinations out of Dulles International Airport (IAD) near Washington, DC.

Grab Introductory Fares on Frontier Airlines Now!

Frontier is a low-cost airline and they capped their announcement with a 12 hour sale with fares as low as $15 one way!  I didn’t get in on the sale — I heard the website was pretty overwhelmed — but there is still a chance for introductory fares as low as $39 if you buy your tickets by May 17, 2014. 

Beginning August 19, 2014, Frontier will offer nonstop service to:

Frontier Airlines Credit Card
Foxy the Fox
  • Atlanta
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Orlando, FL
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Tampa, FL

Beginning September 8, 2014, Frontier will begin nonstop service to:

  • Chicago-O’Hare
  • Cincinnati
  • Detroit
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Las Vegas
  • Memphis, TN
  • Fort Myers, FL
  • St. Louis
  • St. Augustine/Jacksonville, FL
Frontier Airlines Credit Card
Buddy the Badger

Frontier’s  service from Washington-Dulles will operate on 168-seat Airbus A320 aircraft.

Cranky Flyer has a great analysis today about the tortured history of low cost airlines at Dulles Airport and it’s not a pretty story.  Hopefully, Frontier’s entry into this market will create some price competition.

Frontier Credit Card Sign Up Good for Two Free Round Trips

Frontier Airlines has a pretty generous standard award chart, with 20,000 miles required for a roundtrip for travel within the U.S., including Alaska.  The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard® offers a sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 90 days.

So the current credit card offer is good for two round trips, and then some.  That’s because you can travel with a companion for just 15,000 per round trip.

That’s a pretty generous bonus for a very low spend requirement!

There is a $69 annual fee which is not waived in the first year.  Note that Barclay’s advertises this offer as a 50,000 mile bonus, but that includes the balance transfer provision, which is never a good deal because of the fees charged.

What’s more, look at all the cute animals that you can get on your credit card!

Frontier Airlines Credit Card Offer
Frontier Airlines Credit Card Offer

Here are the specifics:

Continue reading —>

Act Fast for $79 Intro Fares From DCA to Dallas

Virgin America Inaugural Service from DCA to DAL
Virgin America Inaugural Service from DCA to DAL

Virgin America is inaugurating new nonstop service from Washington, DC (DCA) to Dallas (Love Field).

The airline is offering an introductory fare of  $79 one way, including taxes.

Tickets must be purchased today or tomorrow, April 25 or 26, 2014.

The fare is available for travel on most dates from October 13, 2014 through November 20, 2014.  

Do you like the graphics in Virgin America’s advertising campaigns?

Japan Dreaming: Save 25% on United Saver Awards to Japan

United Airlines is offering a 25 percent discount on award tickets to Japan, just in time for the cherry blossom season and festivals.

This is the bargain of the century!

Round-trip coach tickets for nonstop flights from Washington, DC to Tokyo price out at over $2,000 in April 2014, but can be had 52,500 miles with this sale!

The regular “saver” award price is 70,000 Mileage Plus miles.

What’s more, there is plenty of availability for Dulles International Airport (IAD) in both directions!

Saver Award Space From NRT to IAD
Saver Award Space from IAD to NRT
Saver Award Space From NRT to IAD
Saver Award Space From NRT to IAD

I did not check availability for other departure cities — but the offer is good for travel from the mainland U.S. and Canada.

The offer is valid for coach tickets purchased by April 17, 2014, for travel between April 1 and April 30, 2014.

A sample itinerary I checked priced out to 52,500 miles plus $120.50 in taxes for a roundtrip ticket, or $2,480 in cash.

That means that you could get enough miles for a roundtrip ticket to Japan just by opening a single credit card and meeting the minimum spend requirement.  That’s extraordinary if you think about it!

Here’s the link to the full Terms & Conditions.

Amex “Offers for You” — $75 off Virgin America

Amex Offers for You:   $75 off Virgin America
Amex Offer: $75 off Virgin America

American Express is offering some cardholders a credit of $75 on their bill if they make a purchase of $375 or more at Virgin America.

That amounts to a 20 percent discount on air travel!

You can check to see if you have been targeted for this offer by logging in to your American Express account and looking under the “Offers for You” tab.   You must select the offer to apply it to your credit card account.

In my experience, credits on qualified “Offers for You” purchases post immediately to your account.

The offer runs through March 10, 2014.

How to Get Credit for a Nonrefundable, Non-Changeable Plane Ticket

Shut Up and Give me my MoneyMy daughter was scheduled to go on a school trip to Belize this spring break, but she had to withdraw from the trip due to unforeseen circumstances.

The school had purchased the plane tickets from United Airlines, and they were nonrefundable and non-changable.

$864 down the drain?  Maybe.

We learned that there was a way to partially recover the value of the ticket.

By entering the confirmation code on the United reservations website, it is possible to apply the amount paid toward another ticket.

There are three limitations.

  1. The ticket must be in her name only.
  2. The value must be used within one year of the date of issuance.
  3. You must pay a $200 change fee.

Paradoxically, we would have to spend another $200 to take advantage of the $864 credit.

The same change fee applies whether the price of the new ticket is $150 or $750.

Worth it?  It depends.

Have you had any luck recovering value from a cancelled ticket?