Archive: January, 2012
Frequent Travel section contributor Chris Elliott has done a Travel Troubleshooter column on Google Flight Search, a new competitor in the busy realm of searching for airline service, that needs to be read carefully. After a slow start, keep reading and you'll see some flaws in the Google system that Elliott finds.
In addition to what he notes, be aware that Google Flight Search doesn't list fares or flight details for low-cost airlines, including Southwest, JetBlue, Allegiant and Spirit, that aren't full participants in the big airline reservation systems. What you see with Google are only the schedules and fares for the older major airlines and links to their Web sites. If you want to get a more accurate view of all that is available, you also still need to go to the low-cost carriers' Web sites. Also excluded are online travel agencies or meta-search engines including Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz and Travelocity.
My own search of philly.com says the column hasn't been printed yet in the Inquirer but is available online, and you can read it at this link.
The airlines are still howling about it but they now are required by new DOT regulations to let customers know the full cost of a ticket, all taxes, fees and surcharges included, when they buy tickets online. Read more about the new rules here ...
Inquirer airport and airline beat reporter Linda Loyd has an excellent and lengthy story today on a very rare occurrence at PHL: The city and US Airways are in sharp disagreement over whether to expand the airport's capacity to handle flights in bad weather with its now-10-year-old plan to build another long runway along the Delaware. There are strong arguments on both sides of this issue.The story illustrates how much of a symbiotic relationship major cities, Philadelphia in this case, have with major airlines.
When aviation was first developing in this country, most cities, Philly included, provided airlines what they needed in terms of airport capacity for little or no money. Some airports still do that but airlines and airports today mostly depend on each other for their economic lives. Philly needs the economic boost and prestige that comes from being an airline hub, with a large number of domestic and international flights to serve its business community (us leisure travelers just get to come along for the ride in the world of airline profits.) At the same time, US Airways (and other airlines in other hubs) depends on the city and the federal government to funnel taxpayers' money from airline ticket taxes, and the occasional bits of spare change in other federal funds, to the airport. The PHL vs. US Airways debate will go on for some time, so stand by for further developments.
Of all the stories we might have missed over a long holiday break, this could be the most encouraging and welcome one: The last decade has been the safest in history to be an airline passenger. The last major U.S airline crash was just after 9/11, 10 years ago. Read a good AP story here about the safety record and why it happened, and about the near-disasters that could have changed the story.
If I'm not mistaken, I first wrote about the highly annoying practice of airlines advertising airfares that don't include all taxes and fees more than 15 years ago, and probably earlier. Other consumer advocates have complained about the airline practice ever since, Now those ads may become a thing of the past with a new federal rule that's to take effect Jan. 26 requiring full disclosure of the taxes and fees. We will have to see if this turns out to be so burdensome that it will strangle airlines' money-making ability -- something they imply about every consumer-protection rule adopted -- or whether this is something that's helpful and welcome for the carriers and their customers alike. Read more about the new rules here ..