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(CNN) -- There are only 70 more shopping days until Christmas. This year, experts say, you should be shopping early for
more than just gifts.
"Airline fares are 20 to 30 percent above last year's rates, and they vary day to day," said Tom Parsons of Bestfares.com.
This is not the year to procrastinate, according to FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney. "Travelers typically book in the last 30
days before the holidays, but they can't get away with that this year," Seaney said.
Travelers have to dedicate some time to shopping in order to get the best deal.
Airlines seats are likely to be especially tight this year due to high demand from people who didn't make it home last year.
"Grandma will hit you with a rolling pin if you miss two Christmases in a row," Seaney joked.
This year the holiday travel window is narrower than usual since the holidays fall on weekends.
Consumers normally have a 16 to 19 day window for travel, but with both Christmas and New
Year's Day falling on Saturdays this year, the peak travel period shortens to 14 days, experts
And if you're headed to Florida or another warm weather destination, you can bet that as
temperatures go down, prices will go up.
"Avoid flying on peak travel days in order to get the best rate possible. Many of these dates are also blackout dates for fall
specials, so sale fares will be no good,"Parsons said.
Be flexible on dates for the best fares. According to Farecompare.com, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays,
Wednesdays and Saturdays. The cheapest time to fly is typically the first flight out in the morning.
"Sundays are the absolute worst days to fly, and the worst time slot to try to book is the Sunday after Christmas through
the Sunday after the New Year's holiday," Parsons said.
If you need to travel closer to the holidays, try to return home before New Year's Eve. Coming back after the New Year's
holiday is what really kicks up airfare, Parsons said, so if you do stay over New Year's, he suggests waiting and coming
back the Wednesday after the holiday.
Another way to find holiday savings: "Compare nearby airports, and look at package deals rather than booking separately
if you need a hotel," offers Parsons.
No matter what you choose to do, with Thanksgiving a mere 61 days away, the main tip for holiday travel is to book early.
The "early bird gets the worm this year," Parsons said.
|How to Choose a Seat On a Plane
By Samantha Bomkamp, msn.com
Choosing a seat on an airplane isn't just about legroom anymore. New "selection" fees and extra charges to sit in certain
locations in the aircraft have complicated the process.
With airlines now charging for things that used to be baked into the ticket price — a strategy known as unbundling —
they're dinging passengers for seats with more legroom or near the front of the plane. For some people, it's worth the cost.
But passengers should beware: not all so-called "premium" seats deliver what the airline promises. And while most seats in
coach can be had without paying a fee, some discount airlines charge passengers for selecting a seat — any seat.
Here's a look at where to sit for a quieter ride, the most space and which seats are worth the higher price.
Where is the best place, in general, to sit on a plane? You'll likely experience a quieter ride — and less turbulence — in
the front, where the plane is more stable. So, if you tend to get air sick, aim for the first few rows. Up front, you'll avoid the
annoyance of being near the bathrooms, the galley, or the engines. And for those who fear the worst, statistics show you
have a better chance of surviving a plane crash in the front.
One drawback: If you're sitting in the first row you won't always have room to stretch your legs because of the wall dividing
coach and first class.
The next best seats are in the emergency exit rows, although the trip is noisier. You'll have extra space to stretch your
legs. But if your plane has two emergency exit rows back-to-back, like the popular Boeing 737, the first row of seats won't
fully recline. Sit in that second row if you can.
Airlines are squeezing in more seats to get more money per flight, making coach class sometimes feel like a cattle car. A
"premium" coach seat, generally in the front of the plane, holds the promise of some peace and quiet — and more
legroom. But travelers beware: Paying extra, doesn't always mean you'll get extra. While some airlines will give you more
legroom and others tie in priority boarding, some airlines are just charging extra for little or no extra benefit.
So when does premium pay?
If you're flying on US Airways, save your money, says Matt Daimler, founder of SeatGuru.com, a website that helps
travelers pick the best airline seats. The "choice seats" cost $5 to $15 extra and don't provide extra legroom. A passenger
might get out of the plane first, but Daimler says these seats don't give enough bang for your buck.
American Airlines appealed to passengers' impatience when it introduced "Express Seats" last month. For a charge
between $19 and $39, a passenger sits in the first few rows of coach that include bulkhead seats. Passengers can also get
onboard early as part of the fee.
The priority boarding option might be worth it if you want to get on and off the plane fast, but it's possible to get a seat
close to the front without paying extra. Plus, the premium seats can only be reserved at the airport. That might
inconvenience travelers accustomed to checking in online.
Southwest also offers priority boarding for an extra cost. Because the airline doesn't have assigned seats, it might make
sense to fork over $10 and get on the plane first.
Southwest doesn't charge seat selection or premium seat fees.
Which airlines provide the most incentive to
pay extra? United and JetBlue. Both provide
enough extra legroom to make it worth your
while, as well as priority boarding incentives.
"I really don't mind the fees when I'm getting
something for my money, and these are ones
that I think are really valuable," Daimler says.
And if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the
different charges and rules, remember, you're
"I really feel bad for the consumer — this is really
so tough to navigate," Daimler says.
Rule of thumb: book early, and always choose your seat right when you book. Good seats, especially those that don't cost
extra, go fast. With those airlines that charge a selection fee, like Spirit and AirTran, you'll have to know the rules. For
AirTran, you can book a seat within 24 hours of your flight for free, at the airport or online. For Spirit, you'll have to wait for
an agent to assign you a seat at the airport.
Red-eye flight or luxury overnight stay? Elbow graze with a next-seat neighbor or face-to-face conversation at an in-flight
The following 10 airlines, presented in no particular order, prove that luxury is a reality, and the only thing impossible is a
lack of comfort when soaring 35,000 feet above sea level.
|Where luxury and flying go hand-in-hand
“Emirates is the most luxurious,” said Maria L. Chandra of ViaHer.com. This
Dubai-based airline boasts a young fleet with accommodations unlike any other
Aside from the new A380 First Class private suites — which are fully equipped
with an electronically operated door, mini bar, reading light, work desk,
illuminated vanity mirror and room service — there is one additional steamy
perk in this 14-suite cabin: onboard showers. Chandra, who has visited 51
countries and traveled extensively by air, was most impressed with this feature.
“They were so clean, everything smelled very good, it felt like a spa.” With
heated floors, leather seating, and perfumes by Bvlgari, the ambiance in this
shower haven is fit for royalty.
For those traveling in pairs, adjoining center suites in the middle of the first-
class cabin have a privacy divider that can be raised and lowered. As for
entertainment, the Emirates award-winning Ice entertainment system provides
more than 1,200 channels, including live BBC news headlines, with satellite
telephone, SMS and e-mail.
When asked what airline is best, Mathias Friess, CEO of WebJet.
com, said, “hands down, Etihad.” This airline is funded by Abu-
Dhabi, which according to Fortune Magazine, is “the richest city in
the world.” At six years old, Etihad already unveiled its new first-
class Airbus A340-600, featuring 12 individual suites and a mere
$70 million in recent renovations.
With extra-large seats, sliding privacy doors and luxury leather
interior, Etihad is certainly a cutting-edge aircraft. “Competition for
premium customers remains intense ... our investment and
product innovation will ensure that we have not simply remained
competitive, but that we are the market leader,” Etihad Airways
CEO James Hoganin said in a statement.
The aircraft matches the chief's assertions. In addition to the luxurious personal suites, Etihad offers onboard food and
beverage managers to ensure quality delivery and presentation, dine-on-demand options, and special accommodations for
youngsters traveling alone.
The A380, Singapore Airlines' newest carrier, takes extra leg room to the next level. “There is a door, so you have total
privacy,” said ViaHer.com's Chandra, and once you open that door, you see “a bed made up with a down duvet.”
Sit back on the widest seat in the sky at 35-inches across, watch movies and television on the largest in-flight flat screen
and dine whenever you please on tableware designed by Givenchy. The hospitality and service is unmatched and the
overall attention to detail is outstanding.
“Even people who have not flown this airline still believe they are among the best out there,” said WebJet.com's Friess.
“Overall, it is just a terrific, professional experience,” said Bryan Saltzburg, manager of TripAdvisor and SeatGuru.com.
Based in Seoul, South Korea, Asiana is Skytrax's reigning "Airline of the Year" for 2010. The first-class cabin offers
spacious accommodations as well as comfortable, 180-degree transforming seats. “Asiana invested a large amount of
money into the new first-class seats,” noted TripAdvisor's Saltzburg.
Though many of these new perks are route-specific amenities, the quality of service and accommodations on Asiana
certainly are comfortable. “My experiences with Asiana have all been memorable and pleasant,” said Todd Dubose of
Springdale Travel Agency. “The crew is professional, accommodating, unobtrusive, and gracious. Their check-in is silky
smooth, and their lounges very comfortable and relaxing.”
Skytrax reviewer Alan Biederman agrees. “Amazing lie-flat seats. Duvet covers top and bottom with tuck-in service.”
Cathay Pacific, a Chinese airline based in Hong Kong, describes first
class as a “suite rather than a seat.” Before the flight, relax in The Wing,
Cathay’s exclusive first-class waiting area. “The lounges are an
important part of first-class lass travel, providing a quiet oasis or
personal work environment before, while connecting to, or after flights,”
said Gus Whitcomb, Cathay Pacific's communications manager.
Visit gourmet eateries, transcendent spas and relaxing reading rooms to
ease the nerves before a long haul. And onboard accommodations are
sure to wow as well. Passenger Jeff Daniels described the airline as
having, “tremendous privacy, [the bed] is extremely comfortable in the
sitting and reclining positions, to accompany some of the best food and
wine in the sky or on the ground.”
Do you prefer a chauffeur? If yes, then this airline is for you.
Lufthansa’s first-class experience is not limited to a typically delicious German brat. Rather, this Frankfurt-based airline
boasts an intimate upper deck with eight large seats, which are “striking and very big,” said Skytrax customer reviewer
Thomas Anderson. The first of its kind, the Lufthansa First Class Terminal brings service to the next level.
Upon arrival, you are greeted by a personal assistant that will assist you through security and provide whatever you may
need. When it is time to board, forget about uncomfortable shuttle buses with crammed-in carry-ons and limited seating.
First-class passengers are chauffeured from terminal to aircraft in a Mercedes, BMW or Porsche, which “has no rhyme or
reason, but makes a big difference,” said WebJet.com's Friess, also a former Lufthansa employee.
“If you want to feel exclusive, they have mastered it,” Saltzburg added. “Transfer is great and unique.”
Once on board, the comfortable amenities, remote-controlled privacy screen, leather interior and subtle ambiance make
this first-class cabin a relaxing retreat.
“Many of these first-class carriers are focusing efforts on what happens off the plane,” said Saltzburg of SeatGuru.com. But
when asked which airline had the best ground services, he said: “Thai Airways far exceeded Singapore’s on-ground
service. Walking off the plane and having someone waiting to escort you to the lounge, that is something I truly
And he’s not the only one. Positive customer reviews and responses flock to this airline. Perhaps it is the Asian hospitality,
delicious “Chef on Call” meal service or complimentary spa treatments that leave passengers completely content.
It depends on what the trip has in store for you. “When choosing the airline, focus on the entire experience. I take into
consideration the airport, layover time, food, culture, etc.,” Saltzburg said. “And Thai Airways, for me, set the bar for overall
Virgin Atlantic Airways
For Sir Richard Branson’s Britain-based Virgin Atlantic, it’s all about the experience. Though Virgin Atlantic is jam-packed
with extravagant perks like upscale bar areas and exclusive snooze zones, the focus is not on hardware alone. The focus
instead is on the staff, the lounges, the attitude and the experience.
“Awesome lounges in New York and London, and the attitude is just right,” Friess said.
“Others have adopted the first-class ground experience that Virgin started,” added Saltzburg.
Though the onboard facilities may not be as luxurious as Emirates or Singapore, the overall experience that Virgin Atlantic
achieves is the most luxurious aspect of this airline. As for aircraft updates and renovations, Chandra said there are
rumors that, “at some point, Virgin Atlantic wants to build an in-house casino and gymnasium.”
“Qatar used to be minor and now they have made their way into part of the big
league,” said Friess. “Qatar is on everyone’s mind.”
Qatar Airways, headquartered in Doha International Airport, is one of the youngest
fleets in the world. For first- and business-class customers, the experience begins
in the Premium Terminal, which boasts convenient check-in, meal reservations,
spa facilities and more.
On the flight, enjoy a top-notch, eight-course meal consisting of cheese and sushi
plates, foie gras, caviar, and smoked salmon that “is second to none,” according to
passenger Dan Beaumont.
As for post-trip, Qatar offers a lounge in Doha that provides travelers with sleeping
cabins and showers. If only in town for a brief business meeting, there is no need
for a hotel room; rather, freshen up with a nap and shower in a private room —
right in the terminal.
While many of the airline websites provide virtual tours of the aircraft, Qantas
provides a virtual tour of the Melbourne and Sydney airport lounges. The new first-
class lounge in Sydney, designed by Australian industrial designer Marc Newson,
provides a relaxing Feng Shui layout with custom-designed European oak
sculptures and a spectacular vertical garden composed of 8,400 plants and
extending 30 meters.
Enjoy complimentary facials and massages in The Payot Paris day spa followed by
a delicious meal conceived by prominent Australian chef Neil Perry. And not to
worry — If you feel like sitting and relaxing until departure, just file requests with
your chair-side waiter, who will take care of your every need until you board.
While onboard the Qantas Airbus A380-800, enjoy one of the 14 fully flat beds,
luxurious furnishings and designer amenity perks.
Coming at a cost
But don’t be mistaken — this all comes at a cost.
“Many people who fly first class don’t pay for it; they are either upgraded or have many frequent flier miles,” said Chandra.
So then what is the point of these upgrades? Chandra believes it is for marketing. “Who doesn’t want to talk about a
shower or chef on board an aircraft,” she asked.
However, WebJet.com's Friess insists that these accommodations are imperative for airlines.
“First-class seats alone can bring in 10 times the revenue of the average economy seat.
Even if you have a couple of empty seats up in first class, you are still bringing in a lot of money on
those seats that are filled.”
The only thing missing is a hot tub and tiki lounge ... or does Virgin Atlantic already have this one in the works?
|Fed-up fliers protest airport security measures
Online campaign urging travelers not to fly Nov. 24, refuse full-body scan - By Bill Briggs - MSN
A grassroots group of fliers who say they are fed up with airport “feel ups” and who call TSA X-ray machines
“porno scanners” are cooking up a Thanksgiving Eve revolt that, they vow, will turn the nation’s heaviest
travel day into “holy hell.”
Fueled by two new websites — OptOutDay.com and WeWontFly.com — as well as by several awkward, security-point
frisking videos that recently went viral, movement members are vowing to unleash a surreal spate of Nov. 24 disruptions
just as millions of Americans fly off for annual family feasts. Atop the protesters’ tactical list: urging passengers to “opt out”
of full-body scans, forcing TSA employees to instead administer “enhanced,” hand-sliding, pat-downs that can include
feeling a person’s inner thighs and buttocks.
One X-ray glimpse typically takes TSA employees about 30 seconds, but the more-intimate, physical searches —
implemented by the federal government three weeks ago — can last several minutes per passenger. If a large enough
portion of travelers choose to “opt out” of the scans, security lines could potentially coil to record lengths at multiple
airports — and travelers may miss their flights.
While John Pistole, head of the TSA, called the planned, collective opt-out “irresponsible,” a TSA spokesperson promised
Wednesday that the agency will be “well prepared” and “fully staffed” to handle any such actions.
Protesters have their doubts.
“TSA is not going have the manpower to stick their hands in the pants of every man coming through there,” said James
Babb, a 42-year-old advertising consultant from the Philadelphia area who co-founded WeWontFly.com. “We are really
encouraging people to not just opt out of the radiation scan but also opt out of the groping by not flying at all.”
According to e-mails Babb has received this week via his website —
which he says gets 70,000 hits per day — some male flyers plan to
arrive at nearby airports on Nov. 24 wearing kilts but no underwear.
Others are vowing “nude protests” inside local terminals and some
demonstrators say they will show up at security checkpoints with
“lingerie models” in tow — perhaps creating an angry yet circus-like
atmosphere among the milling crowds.
Babb’s motives are personal — he wants to spare his two young
daughters, he said, from the unnecessary radiation of TSA scanning
machines and from what he believes to be inappropriate touching by
TSA workers. Many other travelers, meanwhile, argue that the new
screening techniques are trampling their civil liberties.
At OptOutDay.com, the site’s author calls Nov. 24 “the day ordinary
citizens stand up for their rights ... and protest the federal
government's desire to virtually strip us naked.”
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