News and Notes for November 9th
Through the holidays, I'll try to update the blog at least once a week with news and notes, to help you plan your trip... and deal with the potential mess of traveling this fall. You can always check past entries by clicking on the calendar up in the right-hand corner of the page. No more waiting... here's my news and notes for November 9th.
Jingle Bills! Holiday Fares Skyrocket
Graphic Courtesy CNN
If you're waiting to buy that ticket for a Christmas trip, you've probably waited too long. Fares are sky-high for travel around the 25th, likely because of the way the holiday falls this year. With Christmas on a Monday, many are taking-off on that Friday, and making a long weekend of the holiday. And most have already bought their tickets. Fares are running almost double their yearly average... and a solid 30-40% above seasonal averages. I did some research for flights out of Portland, leaving on Friday the 22nd of December and returning on Wednesday the 27th (all statistics courtesy Farecast.com). Here's what I found:
Portland - Chicago
Two-Month Average: $531
Two-Month Low: $379
Current Fare: $617
Portland - New York City
Two-Month Average: $546
Two-Month Low: $395
Current Fare: $564
Portland - Orlando
Two-Month Average: $678
Two-Month Low: $599
Current Fare: $717
Portland - Las Vegas
Two-Month Average: $289
Two-Month Low: $256
Current Fare: $318
Portland - St. Louis
Two-Month Average: $557
Two-Month Low: $382
Current Fare: $647
Going, Going, Gone! Frequent Flier Miles Disappear Sooner
If you haven't read the fine print on your frequent flier accounts lately, you might not have noticed it. Some airlines are changing the mileage expiration rules, reducing the length of time you have to redeem your miles from three years to just 18-months.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer and USA Today have reported, US Airways (which now also owns America West) will require frequent fliers to post some kind of activity to their account every 18-months in order to keep their miles from expiring. Previously, the airlines allowed accounts to go dormant for three years before those miles expired. US Airways joins Continental as the only two airlines to put an 18-month expiration date on miles. Delta has a two year grace period, while American, Northwest, and United allow the traditional three year grace period.
Time to Vacation in... Iran?
Photo Courtesy Irantourism.com
Believe it or not, Iran wants you... to visit on vacation. The Iranian Tourism Department has annouced a travel agent commission program, to encourage westerners to visit their country. This tidbit comes from my friend Don Francis, owner of Barbur Travel/Banner Tours in Portland:
"While the airlines... no longer pay commission to travel agents, don't be surprised if we try to push visiting IRAN (of all places)... as the hot new destination. In an apparent move to show the nuclear standoff is strictly between the governments and not the US Citizens, Iran is awarding travel agents... a $20 commission for every US Citizen and European visiting their country and $10 for every visitor from another country. So any chance you can do a change of plane in Tehran on your next flight down to Oakland? Please!"
Somehow, I don't think Don's going to see an explosion in bookings.
Viewers' Turn: Question About File Video
Photo Courtesy Airliners.net
Got an interesting e-mail from a viewer by the name of D. Ann this week, and I wanted to be sure to address it here. D. Ann writes:
"As a former aviation person I have noticed that some of the file pix used are really, really old. Tonight's story re: American, showed an old 727. Any chance you can get this kind of stuff eliminated? For those of us familiar with aviation it just shoots down the credibility of the story."
This is a battle I fight on a weekly basis. Here's the essential problem: when a national story comes over the wire about an airline, or airfares, or an airport, we often don't have a free photographer to go out to PDX and shoot new video. So we lean on our extensive collection of newsfile, from previous stories. A lot of times, our editors (who are slammed with dozens of pieces of video to cut) only have time to find the first clip of a particular airline, and lay it down. So, if it's an old Boeing 727 (a type that's been retired by all our nation's major airlines) it's not always caught. Especially if I'm not here to view the video first.
My goal is to go through our newsfile and eliminate all the older video from the rotation. But that takes a lot of time, and I just haven't been able to find it in my schedule.
But I can promise you, D. Ann, we'll all pay better attention after your e-mail!
I really do like hearing from all of you. Drop me a line anytime at email@example.com.
PDX Cell Phone Waiting Lot Returns
Just in time for the busiest travel season of the year, PDX will bring back its cell phone waiting lot. From November 18th through January 2nd, you'll be able to park out at 82nd and Air Cargo Way for free, and wait for the person you're picking-up to call you when they arrive. You can avoid paying for parking and avoid traffic on the arrivals level at the airport.
Coming Soon: My Holiday Travel Guide
Before the Thanksgiving holiday, I'll publish my annual Northwest Holiday Travel Guide right here on the blog. It will include insider tips on navigating the holiday rush, new TSA regulations, and how to avoid standing in long lines. Look for all that, right here, on the Monday before Thanksgiving.