Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Nuisance of Airlines

It’s never easy to book a flight. I think airlines do it on purpose. On one hand, it’s nice that these days anyone can book a flight themselves with a credit card and access to the internet. Of course, it’s not good for the travel agents who have gone out of business because of this newfangled technology but for the rest of us, it’s nice.

For me, when I’m planning a trip for pleasure, part of the fun is the research. Once you make up your mind to go somewhere, checking out flights and prices becomes part of your daily routine. When you get the right deal, you book. It’s that easy.

Except…it’s never that easy, is it? In my case, my friend Saz and I have decided to go to New York this year. Before I moved to Los Angeles, Saz and I used to take trips to New York together in the spring and sometimes to L.A. in the Fall. Then I moved and life and finances got in the way. Now, we’ve decided it’s time to go back and celebrate our friendship in style.

So, I’ve been looking for plane tickets. There are some good deals available at the moment. The problem is, they’re not exactly what I’m looking for. Ideally, I’d like to fly from the airport near my parents’ house- Fort Wayne, Indiana. This means I could drop off the pups, stay overnight and then head out in the morning. Then when I fly home, I can pick up the pups and then head home with them. However, because they live near a smaller airport, not a major metropolitan one, this means flights are a lot more expensive.

This is not a surprise. It’s a common fact that major airport hubs have more options and therefore ticket prices to and from them are less expensive.

What is a surprise is that if I do fly Fort Wayne, I connect through Cincinnati.
Not so odd? Well, I live in Cincinnati.

So, naturally, my thinking is, “well, if it’s X dollars to fly from Fort Wayne through Cincy, it will be less to fly direct from Cincy…right? Because, clearly, there is a direct flight from Cincy.”

Silly, silly Captain Monkeypants! What am I thinking. It costs MORE to fly from Cincinnati than if I connect through this airport on my way to New York. Also, I can’t get on this flight because according to Orbitz, Travelocity and Delta’s website, there is NO direct flight at this time.
Hmm….colour me confused. I suppose it’s to do with hubs and traffic and airport taxes and all that. I don’t know. If you ask me, since I’d be using more airline fuel to hop from Fort Wayne to Cincy to New York, I’d assume I should have to pay less than if I just fly from Cincinnati to New York.

Also, I’d be utilizing less manpower if I just took one plane.

Also, it just seems silly to drive to my parents only to fly home and then catch another plane when I could save myself the bother and just drive to the Cincinnati airport.

Still, this doesn’t help with the issue of the puppies. I’m trying to now plan a trip so I can drop the pups off, drive back home the same day, fly out the next morning and fly home with enough time to head up to my parents to pick up my fluffy canine bundles of joy. This is working out a lot less expensive. However, time-wise, airlines aren’t making it easy.

I know that airline ticket prices aren’t arbitrary. There’s a ‘prime time’ to travel and an ‘off-prime time’ to travel. What I don’t understand is that on the ticket prices I’m seeing, I can leave earlier in the day and get home at a reasonable time for a decent price. Or, I can pay a lot more, take the same flight but sit at a connecting airport for a couple of hours and then get home late at night.

It doesn’t make sense. Perhaps if I worked in the travel industry, it would make sense but…I don’t and it doesn’t. Why would I want to pay more to hang out at an airport only to get home later? I’m grateful that the option I’d prefer- nonstop- is cheaper at the moment but I’m still scratching my head as to the logic behind the ticket pricing.

It’s the same thing as baggage. I heard a story on the news that said some airlines would start charging for carry-on bags as well as checked luggage. I don’t understand that. I know airlines need money but, well, we all need money. We also need clothes and underwear when we travel. It’s almost like we’re being blackmailed to be allowed to have the basic necessities on a trip. “Hey, you- give us twenty bucks or you’re going to have to either wear the same underwear for your entire trip. Or you could buy a whole new wardrobe. Except then you’d have to leave it behind because we’re going to charge you to bring that home!” (insert evil villain laugh here).

I know that airlines need every penny that they can get. This is why they now charge for snacks. Also, this is why they squeeze in those extra rows of seats in Coach so that you feel like your elbows and your knees are one, why you feel like you can’t move for fear of accidentally elbowing your seatmate and why when you bring down your tray table, you have a moment where you are greatful that you aren’t any bigger than you are because otherwise, it would be resting on you and that would make your drink a little unstable.

They do have us hostage because there’s really no other convenient way to travel. In some countries, there are trains. In the U.S. there are trains in some places but not everywhere. It’s sporadic. Driving takes a while. Also, you can’t take a train or a car to most of the other continents so, pretty much, flying is our only option.

Still, I always look for the best deals. It’s just a delicate balance of the right deal from the right airport at the right time. It’s like a puzzle where, at any time, the pieces can shift and the prices can change. And they do. Constantly.

Have I mentioned that I think airlines like to make things difficult? Ah well, what fun would there be if everything was easy?

Happy Wednesday!

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