Air travel remains a key element in our business, whether we issue tickets for travelers or they arrange themselves. Regular travelers are very familiar with many of the changes which have occurred domestically in recent years; more regional jets (read smaller), busier flights, more invasive security, etc. All this has changed at a time that international air travel has also gone through many changes.
When I travel internationally I usually take a little more time than I would on short domestic flights to consider my options and decide on best alternative, given the various elements to consider.
Items that I consider when travelling internationally include;
1. May I use a low level Business or First Class award for travel on my preferred dates with good routing. If the answer is yes, then no more work required! High level awards are a great way to burn miles if your goal is to empty your account! Low level awards are great value.
2. Is there an airline either I like, or I would like to try that flies the route I intend to use. Not all air travel experiences in premium cabins are created equally…far from it. Flat seats/beds as opposed to angled, old seats with dated entertainment options is a consideration. Historically surly flight crews or dirty planes are also good reasons for overlooking.
3. Lounge access may seem like a small issue, but some airlines deliver a far superior lounge experience than others. Access to an Arrivals Lounge with shower facilities is key if your plan is to keeping moving after reaching your final airport. For example, when connecting in London, ideally you have sufficient time to take a shower so that upon arrival in Scotland, you can begin your day without delay.
4. Access and availability to book preferred seats is even more important if you cannot secure a Business or First Class seat. Exit row seats work well or the various upgraded economy products more airlines are offering. Generally this entails several additional inches of legroom and complimentary drinks. It may also come with added baggage allowance. British Airways have done a fine job of differentiating this product whereas Delta and United have not created a separate cabin, just more legroom and recline. I have discovered that the new Delta Economy Comfort product is pretty decent if you are careful with seat selection…couple that with a decent high level Delta frequent flyer status (for lounge and security lane access) and you have an acceptable solution at reasonable price. I have become reliant on www.SeatGuru.com for seating advise. While not as important, the right seat can make a difference in First or Business Class but is key behind the curtain….never let a computer decide your seat for you!
5.Far from the defining issue of airline selection, but worthy of considering if your goal is the least expensive fare…what type of luggage allowance do you get, if any…and what re luggage charges.
6. I have noticed that airlines serve up flight options in a variety of ways and it is remarkably easy to book the wrong connection, or at least not the best connection. Conversely, be careful not to select connections which have little chance of success, e.g. 75 minutes to clear immigration, customs and change terminals via train in Newark is not a great call. If you miss your connection, and the next flight is full….then your fun begins. Be realistic in deciding on connections and not always push for the tightest, for invariably you will get burned.
7. Important to never dismiss the upgrade possibilities. Some airlines sell upgrades at reasonable costs on the day of departure or at the check-in counter. Fair to say, every airline is different and that should always be considered a bonus if it occurs.
8. Finally, if you are travelling with a friend or friends and have the option of travelling on the same schedule, ask if any of them have premium status with an airline’s frequent flyer program. If you are ticketed on the same reservation together, you enjoy the same perks, such as seat assignments, lounge access, baggage, etc that your friend is entitled to.
As always, the Air Department at PerryGolf is delighted to offer assistance with your travel needs as we strive to stay abreast of ever changing developments and options for air travel.