I don’t think a week goes by that someone doesn’t ask me what website offers the lowest airline fares. The short answer is, there is no one website that fits that description, but there are websites that are different than others, and you should know those differences.
To begin with, there’s an airline’s web site, which is always helpful but, of course, doesn’t show the routes or fares of other airlines.
Then there are the third-party websites. The best known are Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity. They’re just fine, but keep in mind they work with or are partly owned by the airlines, and they don’t display as many ticket combinations as a couple of other websites.
But—and this is a big “but”—many sites don’t show you flights on budget carriers that want you to book directly with them so they can avoid paying a booking fee to other sites. Principal among those discount carriers is Southwest, which is now America’s largest airlines depending on how you keep score. You must go to Southwest’s own site to find their fares.
It may take a bit of shopping around, but always check more than one site for both routings and fares.
London recently said hello to two, all-American burger joints. A Five Guys a well as a Shake Shack opened in Covent Garden. Five Guys, started by five guys in Washington, DC, in 1986, and famous for offering 15 free toppings, is America’s fastest growing restaurant chain, according to Forbes.
And Shake Shack is the upscale burger and shake chain that was started as a hot dog cart by Manhattan restaurateur Danny Meyer, better known for his very upscale restaurants such as Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern.
Item #2: How many times have you been watching an in-flight movie when, 15 minutes from the ending, the airline switches off the in-flight entertainment system because the aircraft is beginning its descent to land?
Air France joined British Airways this week in announcing that passengers can now enjoy in-flight entertainment from the moment they settle into their seats before takeoff to the moment they exit the plane.
And Item #3: The Space Shuttle Atlantis is now on public view at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Florida’s Space Coast, about an hour’s drive east of Orlando. Details here.
I was surprised to learn recently that tourism is down in China. For the third, consecutive year, no less. The number of foreign visitors to China for the first five months of this year decreased by four per cent over the same period last year. How are other country’s doing?
The biggest loser has to be Egypt—we’re not considering Syria here—which relies heavily on tourism for revenue; one out of eight people in Egypt are employed in the tourism sector, and last month’s riots and warnings by the US and UK governments to curtail all non-essential travel to Egypt hurt that country badly
China saw a sharp drop off—25%–of visitors from Japan, probably due to ongoing territorial disputes. Even the number of American visitors declined by two-and-a-half percent. Only tourism from Vietnam and India increased.
In England, the world’s love affair with pregnant Kate Middleton is doing wonders for tourism, at last in the case of Kensington Palace (pictured) where the young couple lives. Twice the number of visitors—440,000—visited between last March and this March compared to the previous year.
By the way, if you’re headed to London, Buckingham Palace is open to visitors this summer Sept. 29th.
I owe USA Today’s investigative travel editor, Gary Stoller, thanks for calling this to my attention in a recent story. He discovered that sometimes, if you buy a ticket on a foreign airline through a US-based airline—even if the airlines are in the same marketing alliance—you might grossly overpay.
You’d think that if you went on United Airlines’ web site to buy a round-trip ticket between Seoul, Korea, and Bangkok, Thailand, on its alliance partner, Thai Airways, you’d have no problem.
Except that you won’t find any Thai Airways flights there. You’ll be offered a United flight through Tokyo for more than a thousand dollars. But go to Thai Airways’ web site, and you’ll find a non-stop, round-trip ticket for $534. That’s half the United site’s price, and it’s non-stop, to boot.
Stoller found the same thing happened when he checked flights on airlines that partner with Delta and American. He asked Delta for a round-trip Paris-Nice fight. Delta didn’t tell him Air France had a quick flight for $187; it suggested a flight via Amsterdam for—get this—nearly $3,700.
Lesson learned. Don’t rely on airline alliances to deliver everything they imply.
What do you think?
Airlines are always striving to reduce the weight of their planes to save fuel. A few weeks ago I talked about the trend by airlines to provide cockpit crews with lightweight iPads, thereby eliminating the need for pilots to lug around 35-pound bags filled with printed manuals.
But Go Air in India has taken things even further. The airline realized women, on average, way less than men, so it’s decided to employ more female flight attendants and fewer male ones. And slim women will have an edge over women who aren’t so slim because petite flight attendants mean fuel savings. The airline says it expects to save up to $500,000 a year with its new policy.
I wonder if there are any overweight men around the executive suites of Go Air? I ask because their health care costs are generally higher due to their weight. Maybe Go Air woud save by only hiring slim women to run the company?