With all sorts of bad airline-related stories popping up lately (fees for blankets, Kevin Smith too fat to fly, and the ever present airline strike...this week it's British Airways.) I really got to thinking about the choices we make when we buy airline tickets. Many people simply buy the cheapest ticket available, without regard for other factors. Sure, a cheap ticket can get you from point A to point B, but are you really getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to your entire trip? Keep reading for a few reasons why the cheapest ticket may not be the best ticket for your next trip.
Avoid Connections and Layovers
Your travel time is precious, especially if your vacation time is limited. Every connection you make, the hours you waste on layovers, is time that you're not spending enjoying your trip. Plus, every link in your air travel chain is just another chance to be delayed, or even worse, to have a missed or canceled flight. I've given up finding the lowest price and look for reasonably priced direct flights that work best with my trip schedule. I see that $20 or $50 as a small price to pay to maximize your fun travel time and minimize the grumpy, "I'm stuck in the airport with nothing to do" time.
Arrive and Leave From Best Places for Your Trip
Typically, multi-city flights (or open-jaw tickets) cost more than round trip itineraries. But, if you're planning on hopping around to different cities, I'd strongly recommend considering looking at your transportation costs overall, and don't overlook multi-city flights. For example, let's say you're going to Italy for two weeks and you've found a really cheap flight into Milan. After you visit Milan, you go to Venice, Rome, Firenze, and then you plan on heading back to Milan to fly home. In addition to spending a lot of transit time on the train getting back to Milan for your return flight, you're also spending significant amounts of money. I recommend considering an open-jaw ticket, so that you can spend more time enjoying yourself, less time in transit, and perhaps even save money.
Time Arrival To Avoid Jetlag
The cheapest flights, especially long-haul flights, are typically ones that put you at your destination at inconvenient times: red eye flights, early morning departures, late night arrivals...I've done them all. But after a while, I've started to wonder if the savings is worth it? After all, whenever I suffer from jetlag (and can't shake it), I waste time stumbling around, half dead, desperately wanting to sleep. While we may not be able to always afford to make a better choice, I implore you, don't neglect your entire trip for a few bucks (if you can afford it.) Sure, that red-eye flight might save you some money, but is it worth being dead when you arrive?
Avoid Bad Airports
Airport tastes are a deeply personal thing. I hate Dulles(IAD), love Hartford, and don't want to step foot in De Gaulle again. Ask another person and their lists will be different. I can't produce a foolproof list of airports to avoid (although many people have tried) but I can suggest that you do some research on security lines, airport nightmare stories, and ask for your friends' recommendations. Most importantly, stick with your gut. If you hate a particular place with a passion, don't fly through it just to save a few bucks. After all, if you've got to spend hours waiting for a flight, you don't want to be miserable and let those bad feelings leak out into the rest of your trip.
Better Customer Service
In the airline price wars, customer service has been a consistent loser in the war for travel dollars. When low prices are the main concern for the customer and the airline, those slashed prices come with a cost of inadequate services. If a company isn't taking care of its employees, you can tell. And more and more frequently, caring, helpful people have become a rarity on flights. Those who travel often will tell you quickly what airlines they love, and they reward those airlines with their business. In return, frequent business travelers often stick with a single airline, and that loyalty earns them all sorts of perks and special treatment. Infrequent, vacation-only travelers may not have that luxury, but I propose that we'd all be better off rewarding airlines that take care of us and those with reputations for good customer service with our travel dollars.
Please don't mistake this advice as anti-thrift rhetoric. I'm still a cheap-ticket loving guy. But keep your expectations in check, don't expect five star service at rock-bottom prices. After all, you get what you pay for.