Rick Seaney is the CEO of the airfare news, research, and tracking resource FareCompare. This website is always my first stop before booking tickets as it provides instant price and route information through multiple channels at once to easily compare and contrast options.
Rick is an incredible source of industry information and insight. I interviewed him earlier this week for his take on the important airline industry happenings that will impact family travel in 2012.
FareCompare Getaway Map
What are the major airline industry updates planned for 2012?
A big change happened just last week. Airlines now have to disclose the entire flight fare inclusive of taxes and fees to consumers in published prices. If they don’t, they can incur a stiff fine. This new rule will help travelers get to the real price quickly so they won’t feel hoodwinked.
We may see an expansion of benefits for trusted travelers like allowing liquids and shoes for people giving up information. Customs services will be expanded as well to let these people get through the customs process faster.
I saw President Obama speak in Florida a few weeks ago. He’s making a pitch to develop programs to accelerate travel into the US from foreign nations. We haven’t seen this kind of promotion of the US as a travel destination for 10 years.
FareCompare offers a valuable service where travelers can receive alerts when fares fluctuate. This is helpful for families because when you multiply even minor price differences across multiple tickets, the savings can be substantial.
What are other tips to keep pricing down when traveling with kids?
First of all, most kids under 12 receive a 10-25% discount on airfare. European carriers tend to be more generous than US carriers with family discounts.
For the most part, most airlines treat teens as adults so there is no break there.
Bags are not as big of an issue with international flights as the allowance is bigger and fees are included in the fares. As far as kids are concerned, every now and then there are special deals for kids. Usually, families have to travel before mid-March and after the last week in August to get them.
The cheapest airfares are from Monday through Thursday for transatlantic flights. One tip is to fly during this period for at least half the flight to reduce costs.
Note that traveling before the last week in March, the last week in May, and during the last week in August (or later) can save hundreds in dollars in airfare.
When we fly to Europe, we like to fly to the East Coast first and hang out before continuing on our trip. The pricing can be less than buying one roundtrip ticket to Europe, especially if you can fly a low cost carrier in the United States.
Ireland is the cheapest country to fly into. Spain and Switzerland also cost less than other countries in Europe. Rome, Paris, London are expensive — at Healthrow the tax alone is $200 per ticket compared to $150 at Gatwick and $83 in Dublin.
Use Low Cost Carriers in Europe
Save money by traveling like a native in Europe and using Low Cost carriers for internal flights. FareCompare doesn’t concentrate on the low cost carriers in Europe like Easy Jet and Ryan Air. We partner with Skycanner who has broad coverage of low cost carriers.
What are the destinations that are the best bets for affordable airfare this spring and summer travel season?
If you look at seat capacity, Florida in the US is the best bet. There are many flights landing in an array of cities, including Southwest who has started flying to the Panhandle.
For coast-to-coast travel, Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) are good bets this year because Virgin America is strong and driving costs down for these markets. Meanwhile, Boston and New York City will be expensive this year, as is Canada where there is strong demand and no pricing deals at the moment.
In general, flying to the Caribbean costs more than Mexico given the ongoing security concerns there. Costa Rica is sky high right now. Better deals can be found to the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.
Are there any tips for securing better pricing for business class fares?
The new world order is Premium Economy and lots of airlines are adding more seats in this class of service; pricing is $1,800 to $2,000 where a typical Business Class seat runs $4,500 per ticket.
If you really want to fly Business Class, the best way is to use Loyalty Programs to redeem a full ticket or get an upgrade award.
Most airlines offer a discounted First Class fares with a 45 or more day advance purchase. To secure the fare you must buy the ticket well ahead of time and it is non-refundable.
What is the optimal time to buy tickets to Europe from a price perspective?
Transatlantic fares are the least expensive one to 5 months before departure. Typically, you don’t want to shop earlier than this to optimize pricing.
Oil prices should continue to remain in the $90-100 range so they will not be a variable in airfares this year. The best you can do for travel to/from Europe is $690 round trip. Any ticket for $1,100-$1,200 round trip for June and July departures is a great deal as this is the peak period.
Daddy daughter adventure in Costa Rica
What is your favorite destination with your family?
It sounds trite but my favorite destination with my family is all varieties of Disney. We’ve had fun at Disneyland Paris three times and at the Orlando and LA versions a half-a-dozen times. Anytime I can go to Disney on a quick trip we go. For ages 5-10 it is the best place to experience the world through a child’s eyes.
Our 11-year-old’s favorite city is Florence, Italy. We love going to Europe as a family — our daughter has pushpins on a map showing all the places she’s gone in the world. It’s cool!