To be honest, I think the airline industry gets a bad rap for the whole "cattle car" reference. Yes, airplanes fly fuller these days. Yes, airlines have figured out how to squeeze extra dollars from the traveling public. But, there are things that you can do to keep your flying costs down:
- If you are a frequent flyer, stick with the same airline. Your frequent flyer points or segments add up to provide you with all kinds of benefits. For example, some airlines waive baggage fees. On the airline I fly, I get preferential boarding (and hence preferential seating) and preferential treatment for standby (so if I show up and can catch an earlier flight, I get to bump others on the standby list). I also fly enough that my trip to Boston back on Labor Day cost me a whopping $10.
- Avoid the temptation to over pack. I travel with a carry on and a briefcase/computer bag. No checked luggage required. If you do need to check luggage, shop for airlines that don't charge for your first checked bag (yes, there still are a couple). A related point - when you are shopping for best ticket price, make sure you understand and factor in those fees in your analysis. Look at things like bag fees, change fees, etc. Are you really getting the lowest cost for your trip?
- Understand restrictions and fees on your fare. We all think that shopping in advance is the best way to save on tickets. But, this only works if your flight schedule is set in concrete. If you need flexibility, then avoid the cheapest fares. Very often you will not be able to change flights without paying the difference in fares available at the time of your flight change *and* a change fee. Even at the airport.
- Related to bag fees, make sure you understand weight restrictions. Trying to pack it all into one bag? Be careful- you might get to the airport to find you have an overweight bag. And most likely, the fees you will pay for that bag will be more than the fees you would have paid to check two lighter bags.
- Related to luggage, if you are going to travel frequently, invest in a good rolling carry on bag. The good bags are specifically made to slide into an overhead bin on a commercial airliner with a minimum footprint. For example, my Travelpro 21" carry on bag slides handle first into the overhead bin. When they can't close the bin, it's not my bag that gets pulled out and gate checked! Not to mention, I can easily pack enough in my carry on bag for a two week trip.
- Final cost saving tip - if you are on a longer flight and want/need a meal or snack, bring one on the plane. Yes, you'll have to pay inflated airport prices since you can't bring food and/or drink past the security checkpoint, but those prices are still less (for more) than what you will pay on the plane.
- Standard budget: 2030 calories
- Exercise allowance: 0
- Total calorie budget: 2030 calories
- Total consumed: 2248
- Calorie surplus/(deficit): (218) Sigh. But that pumpkin spice frappucino at the airport sure was good!