booked a trip in May to
""We purposely booked early so we could get a better deal and a good flight,"" she said. Two months later,
Offered a new itinerary with a stop in
""I probably worked on it five or six hours, looking at various airlines,"" she said. ""
The good news is that fares, far cheaper than they were last year when fuel prices skyrocketed, are likely to stay low, even for holiday travel.
""There's no sign that demand is picking up,"" says
, publisher of JoeSentMe.com, a newsletter for business travelers. ""Airlines will have to keep prices down to fill whatever seats they do fly.""
As airlines continue to cut capacity — either by eliminating flights or using smaller planes — the result will be less-convenient routes and fewer nonstop flights.
Some cancellations will be temporary.
Overall, flights in and out of
, director of network planning.
The main effect will be on routes to
Plans are still a go for daily nonstops from
""We try to make changes far enough out to accommodate passengers who are already booked,"" said Phipps, ""but if demand does not materialize, we'll make adjustments.""
Policies vary on how far airlines will go to re-accommodate passengers when they cancel or change flights.
Refunds are almost always offered, but that doesn't help anyone faced with a last-minute change.
""We look at ways to have as little impact as possible on their travel plans,"" she said. But the airline's written policy, outlined in a document called a ""contract of carriage,"" published on its Web site, leaves the option of rebooking on another carrier ""at our sole discretion.""
""It's frustrating for the consumer who thinks they paid for a nonstop,"" says
, an air-travel expert and CEO of FareCompare.com, a Web site that keeps track of fare changes. ""In general, there's really not much you can do.""
Capacity cuts usually mean airlines can raise fares, the theory being that the remaining flights should be fuller with fewer seats available. They will be, but maybe not full enough.
""With the drop in business travel, the bottom line is they have to keep those planes packed with leisure travelers,"" says Seaney. ""And the only way to do that is to discount because business travel isn't going to bounce back as fast.""
There's fierce competition among airlines for
Seaney recommends shopping within a three-month window of when you plan to travel, and not booking too far ahead.
""Nobody should even be looking past January,"" Seaney says. ""Any trip after that, you should be waiting.""
With the exception of
Check with your airline on changes or see www.smartertravel.com for a fee chart. The charges don't apply to first- and business-class passengers and elite members of the airlines' frequent-flier programs.
Some airlines have begun asking passengers to supply their full name as it appears on a passport or other government-issued ID and date of birth and gender when making a reservation, as part of a new
For now, travelers need to do nothing except supply the information when the airline asks. Eventually you'll need to book reservations using the same name or initials that appear on your official ID. Details at www.tsa.gov.
TIPS IF YOU'RE FLYING THIS FALL
Traveling soon? Here are some tips for flying defensively.
—Provide your airline with a phone number where you can be reached and sign up for its e-mail alerts. Be proactive. Check your itinerary for changes, especially if you've booked far in advance.
Schedule changes are automated to put you on flights that match your original departure and arrival times as closely as possible, but that may not be as important to you as avoiding certain airports, having a shorter layover or flying nonstop at a different time or date.
Call to see what else might be available. Plead your case with a supervisor if necessary.
—Elite members of frequent-flier programs might have more options. The airline might be willing to rebook you on a partner or move your flight ahead or back a day.
Now's a good time to shop for fares if you're planning travel in the next three months. Beyond that, you're probably better off waiting to find the best deals.
""It never pays to panic, or to give an airline your money too far in advance,"" says
, publisher of JoeSentMe.com, a newsletter for business travelers.
—To get an idea of where fares are headed, do a search on Bing.com. Consult its Farecast ""price predictor"" feature, which recommends buying or waiting based on a statistical analysis of whether fares are expected to rise or fall within the next seven days.
—If fares go down after you purchase, call your airline. Some, including
Register on Yapta.com and the site will send you an alert if the fare drops.
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