Airlines don’t like third-party sellers of their tickets, sites such as Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity. They don’t like them because if you use them to book a ticket, the airline has to pay them a fee. As consumers, we like those sites because they allow us to compare fares and routings of most airlines side by side.
Recently, Delta Airlines fired a salvo that may start a war.
Delta notified a couple of smaller third-party ticket sellers, TripAdvisor and Hipmonk, that it could no longer post its flights and fares.
Now, not all airlines are on third-party sites. Southwest has never permitted other sites to sell its tickets. But Delta’s move shocked the on-line travel agencies, commonly called OTAs. They know Delta is trying to drive business to its web site to avoid paying fees, and it fears if other airlines join Delta, and if airlines begin targeting larger sites, they’ll lose a lot of business.
The Internet and sites that allow us to compare fares have been a huge boon to travelers. I fly Delta all the time, I like the airline, and they’re an underwriter of some of my public television shows. But I have to say, I hope the airline realizes how valuable OTAs are to consumers and that their competitors don’t follow suit.
Which may force Delta to retreat.
It was at least five years ago that I first opened an email from a person I barely knew pleading with me. He said he was writing from London where he’d had his wallet and passport stolen, and he was in desperate straits. He couldn’t pay for his hotel and needed funds to get a new passport.
He asked that I wire him $2,500 that he promised to pay back upon his return to his home in the States.
I thought that scam had run its course, sort of like the emails from widows in Nigeria who write to tell me their husbands died in an airplane crash leaving millions of dollars in a secret bank account. And if I could just help them move the funds out of the country by sending them my banking information, we could split to loot.
But two weeks ago, the old ploy was back. The subject line of the email was “Travel Problem,” and the full name of a buddy, Eric, was in the return email. Eric apologized for not telling me he’d taken a trip to the Philippines, but he said he’d been mugged in a Manila alley and needed $2,250 urgently. He said unfortunately he couldn’t be reached by phone.
Eric isn’t in the Philippines. And neither will be anyone who writes you an email like this. Don’t ever fall for this scam.
(This commentary was originally broadcast on 3 April15.)
There are few places where space is tighter between strangers than in the coach section of an airplane flight. Where else might someone you don’t know fall asleep on your shoulder? Here are some etiquette tips from a former flight attendant who now runs a protocol school.
Jacqueline Whitmore is the expert, and here’s her advice. When you have three seats in a row, the person in the middle gets the armrests. If the person seated next to you is a chatterbox, exchange a few pleasantries and then say something like, “It’s nice speaking with you, but I have to catch up on some work.” Or catch up on your sleep. Leaning back with your eyes close generally does the trick.
Before reclining your seat, look back to make sure the passenger behind you isn’t using his or her tray table. Ask if they mind if you recline, and do so gently.
Don’t crawl over a sleeping passenger when exiting your seat to use a lavatory. Simply tap him on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me.”
Never reprimand someone else’s child. If their behavior is outrageous and if talking to the parents doesn’t produce results, speak to a flight attendant and see if you can be reseated.
If we could all see the germs on our cell phones, our laptops, and even on our eyelashes, we’d probably go crazy. Germs can be good for you, inoculating you against diseases, for example. But the kinds that can make you sick are everywhere, and studies have revealed where most of them lurk on airplanes.
Armrests, seat pockets, and tray tables are where most germs reside on planes according to a study by an Auburn University microbiologist. And among those three places, it’s the tray table that’s the worst offender. Especially when passengers use them to change babies’ diapers.
And here’s the scary part: Dangerous germs can live as long as a week on plane surfaces. Infectious disease specialists suggest taking some hydrogen peroxide wipes on board to disinfect surfaces. When you use lavatories or bathrooms at the airport, always wash your hands thoroughly and use that paper towel to open the door when you exit.
And if you do board a flight with a cold, be considerate. Cover your nose and mouth fully if you sneeze or cough. And if you use a tissue, don’t bury it in that pocket on the seat back in front of you.
Airlines set their schedules and the government measures the on-time performance of every flight—some 500,000 a month. But it gets more complicated—why, for example, do two different airlines flying the same routes at the same time post different flying times?
Now there’s a way find which airline will likely deliver you to your destination fastest. And which airports has the least delays.
Delta says it takes two hours and 22 minutes to fly from Atlanta to Houston. United takes 20 minutes longer. I know that because a web site called FiveThirtyEight crunches a year’s worth of stats on each airline’s performance to arrive an average flight that might bear little relation to the airline’s own, posted flying time.
FiveThirtyEight is the site helmed by Matt Silver, the statistician who made his reputation analyzing sports and political races. He’s broadened his scope, using use stats to determine flight times and average airport delays.
For example, the numbers show that departing from LAX adds five minutes to your flight time on average, while departing from San Francisco adds five minutes. Just visit this link, enter your departure and arrival cities, and you’ll find the airline that delivers the best results.