Last night, I attended a travel media roundtable, hosted by Smarter Travel, at Landmarc restaurant in the Time Warner building in New York City. It was a great chance to hear some presentations from colleagues on what they see happening in travel in 2010, as well as see some friends and meet new people.
(I finally met Pauline Frommer, after months of being Facebook friends. She’s as delightful and insightful as she sounds on her radio show. I’m also happy that I finally met LA Times columnist/blogger/Twitter tweep Jen Leo, as well as the NYTimes Frugal Traveler Matt Gross who wrote one of my favorite travel articles last year about crewing a sailboat in the Grenadines).
One of more interesting trends came from George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. His team has noticed more airlines introducing promo codes for their lowest fares, that are often good for a very limited amount of time. These promo code fares aren’t picked up by some of the usual fare aggregators that many of us use, such as Kayak. Instead, they are released through newsletters, through frequent flier offers, on their websites and through Twitter. He speculated that the airlines are doing this so they can build traffic to their websites and sell other products, such as credit cards.
So does this mean you need to clog your in box with a ton of airline newsletters? George says that Airfarewatchdog is picking up these promos so you can check there and sign up for one of their sale alerts. If you have a certain airline that you fly all the time (or live at a hub), though, you should look into receiving that carrier’s newsletter or signing up for their Twitter feed.
Other trends that George noted: overall, airfares are still low – but the usual winter sales to Europe haven’t been taking place. Cancun, the Bahamas and San Juan are the lowest Caribbean fare markets right now, and Canada is higher than usual. And George says the best time to nab a sale fare is Friday evening after 8 p.m., as the airlines won’t change it until the next morning (thus they can put out a sale fare without worrying that other carriers will match it). This window is also the easiest to grab a mistake fare, as the airlines can’t go in and fix it, George said.
Well-known travel columnist Ed Perkins warned us that some airlines, including Allegiant, have added a la carte fees for using a credit card to book your flight online. It’s called a “convenience fee” (and personally, I think it’s insane. What are you supposed to do – show up at an airport and pay in cash? Ugh). He predicts that more airlines will add this fee to the list of the growing charges that we’re all paying for now.
Carolyn Spencer Brown of Cruise Critic said that Royal Caribbean’s monster ship, the 6,000+ passenger Oasis of the Seas will continue to be the “It Girl” of cruising this year (sister ship Allure rolls out later in 2010). People in the audience asked her about the Haiti controversy, and she said the majority of her readers supported RCL going back to Labadee.
Smarter Travel Executive Editor Anne Banas showed us a map of all the routes to the Caribbean and Central and South America that are being added by low-cost carriers. Columbia in particular has seen its airlift grow, she noted.
And finally, Matt Daimler of Seatguru told us some of his secrets for getting an upgrade. My favorite? Make friends with the ground crew – apparently they have the power to upgrade you too. Who knew? Some others shared their upgrade stories, which blew me away – clearly, I have to be more proactive in trying to score these as I never get them (although I do get the exit row quite a bit).
I hope some of this information helps people planning their own trips. If you have any tips you’d like to pass along, leave them in the comments section below. I’ll share them in a future post.