Category Archives: Airfares

Google’s Flight Search Takes Off

Google debuted its long awaited flight search Tuesday.

The new search, powered by the data and algorithms it got when it bought ITA Software for $700 million in April, can be found directly at Google.com/flights.

Trying out Google’s take on flight search, one can see why traditional flight search engines feared the deal. Google has clearly integrated ITA’s smart algorithms that make sense of ever-changing airline inventory with its massive search infrastructure.

The site’s defining feature? Speed. Results from flight searches show up almost instantly—which comes as something of a miracle, given how accustomed we’ve all become to ten second-waits to find a cheap fare to Boise, Idaho.

Currently, booking a flight requires you to click over to an airline’s site, which isn’t always seamless since you may have to repick the exact flight when you hit the airline’s page. The flight search also gives you the option to limit a search to only one airline, but in the case of choosing Virgin America, Google seemed to have no data.

Despite those limitations, one can only assume that there have been better days inside companies such as Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak, and Hipmunk.

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Steven Slater may not be joining you on Jet-Blue's all you can-fly deal

JetBlue is reviving its unlimited travel deal, which for one month allows travelers to fly anywhere they want, as much as they want.

The offer, which JetBlue (JBLU) originally debuted last year, is on sale through Aug. 20 and is good for travel between Sept. 7 and Oct. 6.

Jet setters can choose between two deals: a $699 package that allows them to travel any day of the week to any of Jet Blue’s 60 domestic and international travel destinations; or a $499 package that excludes travel on Fridays and Sundays.

Jet Blue spokeswoman Allison Croyle said that last year’s program “far exceeded expectations” and was “the most successful promotion in our company’s history.” But she would not say how many packages were sold or how much money the airline made because she didn’t want to reveal this information to competitors. She did explain, though, that on the first day of the offer visitors to JetBlue’s route map surged 860%.

It's all about timing when traveling

Journalist Mark Di Vincenzo, founder of the Business Writers Group, gets into the nitty-gritty of why timing really is everything with his book Buy Ketchup in May and Fly Before Noon. The collection is about 190 pages of tips on when it’s best to do just about anything. Here are some of his travel tips:

Best time of day to fly: noon. According to airline pilots, you will avoid the rush hours and minimize foul-weather delays.

Best day of the week to fly: Saturday. Airlines have fewer flights, meaning shorter lines, fewer delays.

Best month to fly for summer vacation: August. No one knows why, but flight delays are fewer than in June or July.

Best day of the week to shop for airline tickets: Monday or Tuesday, when airlines roll out the best deals.

Best day of the week to rent a car: Tuesday or Wednesday. Most business travelers already have their cars, and you will beat the rush by city dwellers who want a car for the weekend.

Best day of the week for a hotel upgrade: Sunday or Monday, the slowest days.

Best month to book a cruise: April or November. That’s when you can catch the repositioning cruises. The drawback is that these often are trips with few port calls.

How to find summer domestic airfare deals

Everyone hoping to travel this summer is wondering whether to buy an airline ticket now or wait for a sale.

It’s impossible to generalize but if you find a domestic fare under $250 roundtrip with taxes then you might want to grab it. And while it all depends on where and when you’re going, and how flexible your travel dates are, here are a few clues as to what to expect:

Domestic U.S. travel

Domestic airlines have cut capacity, and the merger of Delta and Northwest has reduced price competition. Airlines are determined to make a profit this year, or at least cut their losses. As a result, airfare sales aren’t what they used to be

Southwest, which is reducing capacity by about 4 percent this year, recently announced a “breathtaking” sale on its Web site. Fares from Detroit to Milwaukee were listed at $298 roundtrip. Although we’ll still see those $99 one-way loss-leader coast-to-coast flights here and there, most likely you’ll have to travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday to avail yourself of one.

Traveling on Fridays and Sundays, and from Memorial Day until after Labor Day, will be the most expensive times to fly. If you’re at all flexible, Southwest.com has excellent flexible date search functions.

Airfare alerts: Since airlines are anything but predictable, the best way to grab a cheap seat is to sign up for free airfare alerts.  Airfarewatchdog.com‘s has alerts, but over a dozen other sites also provide them, including Fly.com, Bing.com/travel, Farecompare.com, Kayak.com, Momondo.com, and Yapta.com. Each has its strong points. Find others by doing a Bing or Google search under “airfare alerts.”

And sign up for airline frequent flier programs and e-mail alerts, because they often send out members-only deals and promo codes.

Another way to save: consider package tours. Last year, at the height of the financial panic, tour operators grabbed airplane seats and hotel rooms at favorable prices and locked in exchange rates. Depending on your travel plans, you may well find that a package tour to some international destinations costs not much more than airfare alone.

One other thing to keep in mind: the longer you wait to grab a fare, the less likely you’ll get the seat assignment and flight times you want.