Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Airlines’

Peggy’s quick-and-dirty guide to packing light

If you’ve been paying attention to our latest Friday’s Friendly Funny cartoons, then you’ve picked up on my distaste for airline fees. While some are unavoidable, one of the easiest ways to keep your airline costs down is by packing light to avoid baggage fees.

If you’re a serial overpacker, here are some of my quick-and-dirty tips to help keep you underweight and fee free.

Shrink your shoe collection. First and foremost, limit your shoe obsession to two pairs. All you need is one casual pair and one that’s slightly dressier. This will lighten your luggage immensely. Next, pack your shoes on the bottom of the bag, but don’t leave them empty. You should stuff sneakers with socks, belts, and other small items to save space.

Pack early. Don’t wait until that last minute to pack your bags, since rushed packing usually leads to overpacking. Packing efficiently is like a science, so take time to really assess what you’ll need and what you can leave at home. My favorite rule is to lay out everything you want to bring — then cut it in half.

Leave it behind. Leave toiletries at home. Hotels usually provide shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, and anything else you need you can easily pick up in a convenience store at your destination. Also, forget your hair dryer. If you’re staying in a decent hotel, they’ll have one for you. Insider tip: Toiletries and hair dryers might be hard to come by in places like Cuba and Cambodia, so double check before visiting an “exotic” destination.

(more…)

Friday’s Friendly Funny: And now for a word from our sponsors

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Ultimate airplane payback

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: The next hidden airline fee

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Air Travel: Then and Now [INFOTOON]

More than 84 million Americans are expected to travel over the holidays this year, and 42 percent plan to fly to their destination. I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have, how travel, particularly air travel, has undoubtedly transformed over the past several decades. So, we decided to poke fun at some of the most obvious changes in our latest infotoon about air travel, then and now. Feel free to share it with friends and family this holiday season!

What changes have you seen in air travel that make you reminisce about how it ‘used to be’? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

“Air Travel: Then and Now” by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

 

Friday’s Friendly Funny: The real cost of an airplane flight

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Some Friendly advice for flying the not-so-friendly skies

You know that Liberty Mutual commercial where a random act of kindness inspires another random act of kindness? The message of that ad popped into my head after reading Chris Elliott’s article about the attitude of our modern day flight attendants.

In the article, Chris shares stories he’s heard of passengers who’ve had less than sparkling experiences with flight attendants while in the air. Could we improve our relationships at 30,000 feet if everyone was just a little bit nicer to each other?

As the President of a national tour operator, I’m passionate about delivering the best travel experiences at the best value to my customers. But there are certain things that are unfortunately beyond my control — airlines, for example. Grr. Anytime you bring an airline into the mix, there’s a chance that quality customer service could go by the wayside.

There’s been a lot of talk about how the travel industry has changed in the past 20 years. Invasive security measures, less accountability from the airlines, never-ending fees, cramped cabin space, and the constant battle with those overhead compartments, just to name a few.

But what about the flight attendants that Chris calls out in his story? Many say that they’ve become less interested in attending to their frazzled passengers and more concerned with simply keeping rears in seats until the plane lands. Chris asks readers, do flight attendants hate their passengers?

Personally, I don’t think this is the case. It’s no secret that airlines are cutting costs everywhere, and this likely includes the compensation for their overworked staff. These hard working men and women are probably stuck with longer shifts for less money. Their days are plagued with the same changing schedules, flight delays and cancellations, and disgruntled customers as every passenger waiting in the terminal or crammed in a too-small seat. You know how you feel when your flight is delayed or you’re stuck on the tarmac for an hour. What if that defined every day of your week?

While this is no excuse to be rude to the paying customer, it gives us some insight to the mindset of flight attendants. It’s possible that what we’ve been reading as rudeness or disinterest isn’t directed at the passengers at all, but is merely a byproduct of the attendants’ unforgiving job.

Travelling to fantastic, exotic destinations wouldn’t be possible without the work of airline staff whose number one job is to keep us safe. But in my opinion, passengers and airline staff could do a better job of working together to make everyone’s lives easier. The simplest things, such as those random acts of kindness I mentioned, spread virally and can improve the experience of everyone around us when we travel.

Help a fellow passenger with a heavy carry-on. Clean up after yourself. Be flexible with a family that wants to switch seats to sit together. Respect each other’s space. And understand that a flight attendant can’t get the plane off the ground any faster.

Doing our part to help flight attendants will likely result in their reciprocation, making our time in the sky more pleasant for everyone. 
What do you think? Am I defending the indefensible? Would making an effort to be a kinder passenger make a difference? Is this a simple issue of human accountability where everyone shares some blame? Or do flight attendants simply hate their passengers?
Anyone who knows me knows how frustrated I often get with the airlines. But I personally do not believe that flight attendants deserve all the blame for our bad experiences. Rather, I would look a little closer at their employers.  

Airline fuel surchages: We feel your pain

As Arthur Frommer pointed out in a blog post last week, the airline fuel surcharge is back. But is anyone really surprised? I’m certainly not, especially considering the rising cost of oil (now close to $80 a barrel) and the financial mess surrounding just about every major airline.

FP_Fuel.jpg

Frommer points out that the airlines haven’t given any public notice about the fuel surcharges. He regularly conducts test bookings, and hadn’t noticed anything until a friend told him about an increase due to fuel on a ticket to London.

The issue of surcharges for fuel is a hot one around the Friendly Planet Travel office. We’re constantly trying to figure out how to deal with these charges, particularly since the government has made it our responsibility (as the issuer of the tickets) to collect the surcharges from you, the travelers, whenever they are levied.

This is a very messy and unfortunate position in which to find ourselves. At our company, we take a lot of pride and satisfaction in creating high-value-for-your-money vacations, and anyone who has seen our Web site can attest to the fact that they are paragons of full disclosure.

If it’s a cost, it’s disclosed on the tour’s Web page. All but the fuel surcharges, that is. Oh, they are definitely included in tour prices when we create a tour and cost it, but that doesn’t mean those charges are stable and won’t go up.

As fastidious as we are about full disclosure and great pricing, you can imagine our chagrin when an airline sends us an e-mail to announce that a fuel surcharge is in the works. Sometimes the announcement comes retroactively, and the only thing we can do is send that dreaded notice that the airlines have already raised fuel and that’s that.

Sometimes we get a few days of grace in order to send frantic messages to our travelers to let them know they can avoid the increases by paying for their tickets immediately so that we can issue them. But the grace period is always short, and imagine those unhappy travelers who have full mailboxes, or who don’t check their messages each day, or who might be on an African safari and are out of touch. They don’t have any recourse.

And the fuel surcharge increases can be significant – usually around $100 or more per ticket. If you’re a family of four, that could add up to a big chunk of your vacation spending money.

I’m not even going to start on the subject of what these fuel surcharges mean to us. If we do get a grace period, the entire office goes into a frenzy of extra work to contact everyone, collect and process payments, and issue tickets.

And for the record, we don’t get a penny of that fuel surcharge increase for our efforts, either. It’s just our job to do this mountain of extra work, for which we not only receive no compensation, but get unhappy travelers, who usually can’t believe it isn’t somehow our fault.

While we have absolutely no way to avoid the surcharges when they occur, there are a few strategies that help to manage them.

  • If you pay for your ticket at the time you book your tour, you are able to guarantee the cost of the ticket at the moment. If fuel goes up, you’re protected. If fuel goes down, well, you might have overpaid. But honestly, fuel goes up way more often than it goes down, so the odds are in your favor if you do opt to pay for your ticket when you book your tour.
  • You can make a mental note that the cost of your trip could go up by another $100 to $200 per person, and budget for this at the outset. If the fuel increases, and you’re not willing to buy your ticket way in advance, you accept the higher cost, but aren’t blown away by the expense because you’ve taken it into consideration. If your budget for the trip doesn’t allow the possibility for an extra fee for fuel, you probably should not book the trip. You’ll do yourself a favor if you save up more money for your vacation until you can afford the extra cost.

The way it’s going these days, fuel surcharge increases are coming in waves, and if you’re traveling anywhere by air in the coming months, you’ll likely see the impact in the cost of your ticket. Whether you pay for your ticket in advance to avoid potential fuel surcharges or you budget for extra cost so you don’t let it ruin your vacation, please don’t blame us for it. We’re as blameless as you are. Honest. ;)
 

If you would like to comment on fuel surcharges, how pricing is done on travel, or if you have any ideas for managing these increases in the cost of fuel, please leave a comment, or send an email to me at pmgoldman@friendlyplanet.com.

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

Tour & Cruise Packages Our specialty for 30 years! Find one now:
choose a region Europe Mediterranean Asia Middle East Africa Central America Caribbean South America South Pacific