This past Monday, I took my first commercial flight since the start of this pandemic...and guess what? It was fine. Now let’s be clear. In the US, most domestic flights are six hours or shorter. My flight was 90 minutes wheels up to touchdown. It was in a non-stop flight from Newark Liberty to McGhee Tyson (Knoxville, TN) on board an Allegiant A320. In short, the flight, service, crew interaction and actual flying went even smoother than I had expected. So here’s the rundown.
The commercial airline industry (or as I like to call it, the world's collective punching bag) is not an easy business to be in especially when it comes to flight delays. According to most recent data, over 44,000 flights are handled by the FAA domestically each day. With over 16.1 million flights handled by them yearly. That’s a lot of take off and landings. Many of these flights are delayed or in some cases canceled altogether, for a number of reasons. Flight cancellations and airport delays are rare in the big scheme of things. Here are a few of the major factors that cause flight delays or cancellations. They are presented in no particular order.
From time to time the general public can be pretty critical of the airlines. There are thousands of flights on dozens of airlines each day, so, of course, some of the criticism is warranted. However, there are times when an airline goes above and beyond for a passenger and THAT is how you build brand loyalty. Let me tell you about my day...
AirlineRatings.com just released its top 20 safest airlines in the world for 2020. I’ve decided to highlight the top ten because, let's face it...your time is valuable.
Incidentally, according to their site, Airlineratings.com delivers expert safety ratings for more than 435 airlines around the world. 230 of the airlines featured on their site carry 99 percent of the world’s passengers. And in case you were wondering, according to a quick google search, there are about 5,000–5,500 airlines in the world, as this is the number ICAO/IATA airline codes in current circulation. In terms of commercial airlines, there are between 770 and 800 commercial airlines globally operating scheduled flights (that are officially recognized). You can read more about how their scoring and rating criteria which generated this list with the link below.
Two of the giants in the air American Airlines and Delta Airlines have plenty to offer travelers, but have you stopped to think and compare them? There are more factors to consider than flight prices and the convenience of direct flights (nonstops) offered. Let’s put the numbers, flight amenities, alliances, sheer number of destinations and actual number of planes side by side for a closer analysis of two of the most dominant airlines.
American Airlines is the world’s largest airline with headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas and boasts flights to 350 destinations. This doesn’t include their regional airline American Eagle and its seven individual airlines, with flights to 242 destinations. Compare that to Delta Airlines, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and flights to 241 destinations, 328 if you include their regional carrier Delta Connection.
Both airlines have loyalty programs that offer frequent passengers a number of perks. Not only can American Airlines’ AAdvantage members earn miles, they can also take advantage of upgrades, no blackout dates, the ability to buy gifts or share miles, and have access to the Oneworld Alliance (American has alliances with 23 airlines). On the contrary, over at Delta, their SkyMiles loyalty program offers miles that never expire, rewards at every level, no cap on miles earned, and the ability to earn miles with their 20-plus partner airlines.
American leads when it comes to the number of aircrafts with 965 while Delta has 764. With regards to baggage fees, both offer the first carry on for free. The second bag will cost you $30 domestically and $60 internationally with American, while Delta charges $30 for the second bag under 50 pounds.
Here’s the lowdown on onboard experiences, meaning entertainment, food, and classes of service:
American has seven classes of service and they include...
Delta has seven classes of service and they include...
That’s a rundown of comparisons between the two giants to help you make an informed decision according to your travel plans and needs. Next time you book a flight, know what’s available then take off on your next adventure. Bon Voyage!
P.S. Explore how to pick the best airline mile programs with yours truly!
With the recent and sudden demise of "Wow Air", I thought I drop a quick note about flying with low cost airlines.
Low cost carriers can be found all over the globe. Are they cheap airlines? Yes and no. Recently, the industry has gotten even more specific with the moniker of "ultra low cost" carriers. But for purposes of this article, I am focusing on American low cost carriers. So please read on if you are considering booking a ticket on any low cost carrier worldwide. Like every other purchase, there are pros and cons to flying with any airline and flying with one of these carriers is no different.
Defining a low cost carrier is not exactly easy. But for now, I'll use the Wikipedia definition. "A low-cost carrier or low-cost airline (occasionally referred to as no-frills, budget or discount carrier, and abbreviated as LCC) is an airline that is operated with an especially high emphasis on minimizing operating costs and without some of the traditional services and amenities provided in the fare, resulting in lower fares and fewer comforts. To make up for revenue lost in decreased ticket prices, the airline may charge extra fees – such as for carry-on baggage. As of July 2014, the world's largest low-cost carrier is Southwest Airlines, which operates in the United States and some surrounding areas".
Okay, let's start with a general consensus of low cost airlines operating in and around the US. Low cost airlines list:Perhaps by the time this article is published, a new low-cost carrier will pop up, but I think you are starting to get the picture.
I have flown on every single one of these carriers. Offering a critique might be as useful as an expensive orange peeler. I say this because every single one of these airlines I've flown has taken off and landed in the place I was going. Simple as that.
Low cost carriers are capitalizing on consumers desires to go from point A to point B with no frills. But low cost carriers are competing for your business, not just with the legacy carriers (AA, United, Delta), they're also competing with other low cost carriers. Therefore, each low cost carrier is just a little different and the devil is in the details. Some charge for snacks and drinks others do not. Some have different seating configurations, boarding priority schemes while others do not. The key here is to think about what's important to you. All of these low-cost carriers have mobile apps and direct booking sites. Some have better customer service than others. But it’s important to note; if you select one of these carriers, then you are accepting the risk of flying with them. Not usually a safety risk. Low-cost carriers don't crash or have more mechanical problems than others just because they are low cost. The same, basic functionality of a low cost carrier is the same as the big carriers. They are governed by the same government agencies as well.
The risk I'm talking about has everything to do with the number of aircraft the low cost carrier owns and the number of flights they offer per day in their departure and arrival cities or towns.
I fly on low cost airlines about 30% of the time because 70% of my travel these days is work-related. Often time, low cost carriers have limited schedules. Not always, but when I travel for work, I need a lot of options. So this is my cautionary warning, when flying on a low cost carrier, lower your expectations. I don't mean to sound persnickety or elitist, I'm simply reminding you, the business model is different on a low cost carrier. Once again, read the fine print and know what the cost of your ticket includes (and what it doesn't).
On a related note, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the low cost carriers that fly (seasonally and/or year round) to and from your home airport. Deals can be found if you have some advanced warning and regardless of your airline of choice, respect your travel days and treat as such!
PS. For quick tips on airport car parking and airport arrival time and check out these videos:
Recently, I was flying from New York City to Nashville and was enjoying my "TSA Pre Check" expedited line. At the moment of truth (the X ray machine), I noted the screeners were asking passengers to remove snacks from their bags and place them in those convenient grey bins. I honestly didn't think much of it. First the shoes, the liquids, the laptops, the outerwear and NOW they've come for the snacks. However, this happened again at another airport a couple of days later so I decided to do some digging.
Here's a Washington Post article highlighting some of the hand-ringing.
This is NOT a new policy. It was a recommendation made by the TSA to its airports and screeners in an effort to avoid a manual, time-consuming search. Apparently the X Ray machines have a hard time deciphering a plastic explosive from a protein bar. And, if you stop to think about it, it makes sense. However, the public's response has been less-than understanding. I spoke with Lisa Farbstein from the the TSA and the recommendation seems pretty straight-forward.
"As part of its counter terrorism efforts, TSA continuously enhances and adjusts security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats. TSA’s top priority is to protect the traveling public, and every policy and security procedure in place is designed to mitigate threats to passengers and the aviation sector – which we know our adversaries continue to target. Adjustments to screening procedures are a necessary part of operations and TSA does so in the most efficient and effective way possible while maintaining a positive passenger experience."
I say, let it go.
The TSA is responsible for keeping us safe in the the airport and on planes. They have to stay one step ahead of the evil-doers. Their polices recommendations and practices are not arbitrary. As a matter of fact (according to the TSA), The TSA screens more than TSA screens 4.9 million carry-on items for explosives and other prohibited items every day!
My flights are usually North American which means I don't carry a lot of (or any other than mints and gum) "snacks" through security. The same goes for when I travel with my children...who seem to snack on an almost constant basis.
If you must fly with snacks, I suggest you purchase them on the plane or at the airport after security. Some in the travel industry refer to the time we spend after security and before you board your plane "the golden hour". If you MUST bring them from home, place all snacks in a clear zip lock bag for easy removal and placement in a bin.
No need to fret, contemplate or complain on Social Media, its just a safety precaution.
My two cents.
Greetings my fellow travel buddies...this week we’re discussing cheap flights. Two ultra low-cost carriers Southwest vs. Jet Blue Airways are the subject de jour.
Southwest Airlines is a much larger airline than Jet Blue. But they do compete for the same dollar, so that is why we are comparing the two. Let's start with the basic facts:
Size of the Fleet
Before we go any further, deciding HOW you are going to get somewhere via flight can be a seemingly daunting task when it comes to price. But let’s demystify that for you. Let’s look at this idea from an airline’s perspective and then we will get to you.
Revenue management is a big deal for airlines. What is the highest price an airline can charge for a seat?
Let's use a quick analogy to answer. When you look at the produce section of a supermarket, an orange has a fast expiration date. It was picked off the tree, and now it’s ready for you to purchase. The grocer wants to charge as much as he or she can for that orange before throwing it away. Unless the commercial aviation industry radically changes they way they charge for seats, then think of every seat on every flight as a piece of rotting fruit. That seat on that day on that flight (or segment) is only going to exist once. If the flight takes off and a seat is empty, then it becomes a piece of fruit the airline makes no money on.
Now let’s talk about you. You expressed an interest that you want a cheap flight to wherever you are going. Many factors contribute to the cost of an airline seat. These include, the specific airline, the on-board experience, the class of seat, where you are flying from and where you are going and how long it takes to get there. And finally, in some instances how far in advance you book and pay for these seats.
For starters, in many cases getting the lowest or cheapest airfare has everything to do with where you live and what airport is your home airport. That’s where the word HUB comes into play or “cities of focus” or operating bases. To give you a clue, research online and check the number of gates an airline occupies at any given airport and then check to see how many flights depart from that airport or city per day. More gates and more flights equal more flexibility when things don’t go as planned.
The top five hubs for Southwest include Chicago Midway, Baltimore, MD, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas Love Field. While Jet Blue’s top cities include JFK in New York, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Logan airport in Boston, Long Beach in California, San Juan Puerto Rico and Orlando, Florida.
Why is this important, because the more fights per day on the airline you choose from the place you’re flying from and to decreases the chances of issues on your air travel day. Issues such as missing your flight, weather delays, crew delays or airplane mechanical problems.
Now let’s look at the value of your time. The longer it takes to get somewhere...the less you might pay. Airlines know through years of industry research; the flying public wants direct flights. That’s point A (the place you are flying from) to point B (your ultimate destination) without having to stop, or change planes. Therefore, a direct flight might be slightly more expensive than an itinerary with stops or connections. Also, the time of day you depart often affects the ticket price. For instance, a 6:00 a.m. departure might be cheaper than the more desirable 9:00 a.m. departure.
Given all that, let’s get back to Southwest vs. Jet Blue. Southwest has one class of seating. Jet Blue was also built on this premise. However, on some longer Jet Blue flights you’ll find premium or business class seating. They call it Mint. On Southwest, they have an open seating policy. Each passenger is assigned a letter and you board by letter and take any seat you wish. Jet Blue has a more traditional seating arrangement whereby you select your seat, or one is assigned to you before you board.
Both airlines offer complimentary snacks and soft drinks. Both charge for alcoholic beverages and Jet Blue offers additional in-flight snacks for purchase on some flights. Both airlines have in-flight entertainment options. And both have frequent flyer programs.
Jet Blue has code share agreements with a long list of international carries while Southwest does not.
We announced last week that while the staff here at Erik The Travel Guy takes lots of trips, to help bring you the latest and greatest info, we want you to be a part of the selection process. You can vote at erikthetravelguy.com/vote or leave a comment on this video in the comments below.
Keep in mind, this information is for educational purposes only and contains editorial opinion by yours truly. Facts contained here may change without notice. We try to keep up with the changes, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research before making travel purchases.
Whether I’m packing for a business or leisure trip, my soft-sided briefcase is always close by. Different from my carry-on (roller) and my checked luggage, my briefcase is essentially my man-purse and an extension of what I keep literally on my person (in my pockets). I’m not the most organized person in the world, but I have learned (over time and through trial and error), these are the items most-needed on my travels.
The bag itself. My briefcase is black, soft faux leather. I travel a lot so my luggage gets used and I usually go through about one briefcase every two to three years. I do not use expensive luggage when I travel (or in my personal life for that matter). My briefcase has a strap on the exterior so it can slip over the handle of my carry-on roller. Attached to the handle is an “Erik The Travel Guy” luggage tag.
Regardless of where I’m going, these are essentially what you will find in my briefcase:
Relevant file folders from my office
Laptop with my travel power supply and a wireless mouse (I’m a little old school)
iPhone (when going through airport security)
iPad (long haul flights) with downloaded books and movies
Sunglasses in case with alcohol wipes
Wallet (when going through security)
Passport (international travel and some domestic)
Boarding pass (if applicable...I usually use an airline app)
iPhone charging cable
Portable power supply (emergencies)
Pens, sharpie and business cards
Pad of paper
Two organic tea bags
Hand Sanitizer and travel antibacterial wipes
Travel-size Advil, Rolaids & Cough drops
So there you have it. The idea here is to spark thought on what works for you, but that’s what I’m working with…
The outcome of air travel has a lot to do with the attitudes of the parents. Visiting an airport and flying can be fun…if you make it so. Flight delays can happen but if the parents remain in a good mood, chances are the kids will too. Keep it positive and follow these tips to reduce the stress of flying with kids!
Don’t Over Schedule
Getting from point A to point B can be long, so I try not to schedule any important events during a travel day.
Book transportation as early as possible
This includes the flight and car service (both ways). Making reservations in advance, not only allows you to budget the expenses beforehand but also eliminates walking time. Seeing a driver dressed in suit and tie, holding a sign with your name on it would make anyone feel special, including your kids. Maybe the driver will even let one of them wear his shiny black hat. If this happens, parents are awarded bonus points.
Plan for Security
If you haven't done TSA pre-check before, traveling with children is the time to do it. Lines are shorter through airport security, eliminating the hassle of standing for long periods of time, which is helpful when the kids are getting too big for that handy-dandy stroller. Slip-on shoes for everyone are also a good idea, especially if you're asked to remove them.
I allow my kids to pack a small carry on (yes, mine have the Frozen backpacks), for a change of clothes, their swimsuits, coloring books, iPad, a deck of cards…etc. If it fits, pack it. If I'm on my game, I sometimes prepare a route map for them and even an itinerary, so they can follow the course. Don't forget anti-bacterial wipes for the tray tables and chewing gum to help with the altitude changes (ear popping) often experienced during take-off.
Seat Kids Near the Windows
Not only do little ones like to look out the window, but you also keep them away from the food and beverage cart, where hot coffee and water could easily spill.
Budget or Bring Snacks
A budget for snacks or light meal on the plane is my usual protocol. Kids love to order from the menu, especially if it's out of their routine, so give them some freedom to the items you know they'll like and most importantly eat. Other parents I know pack easy, low-sugar finger food such as string cheese, Cheerios, pretzels, carrot sticks, and granola. You don’t want to bring anything too messy, but boys are these options helpful when your kids are hungry.
Do you have other tips for air travel with kids? Let me know in the comments below!
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the Emmy award- winning, nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!