Saturday, April 11, 2009

Is Recession Travel Really a Bargan?

With all the hype about travel being cheaper, easier and all-round better during this down economy, I have to mostly disagree. On a recent website entry the author lists these 10 points as justification for why recession travel is good. I list my reasons why it isn't.

1. Deals Galore: While it may be true you can get a free additional night at a hotel, you might have to book 6 or 7 nights to get it. Some airfares have been reduced, but remember that they have also reduced the number and frequency of flights and you may have layovers on flights that used to be non-stop. One person responds that what used to be a 3 hour flight turned into a 10 hour nightmare because of added stops, layovers.

2. More Free Stuff: There are package deals offering credits on airfare, but usually only on the highest priced "Waterfront suite". You can get free spa treatments..... if you book the $4,000 resort package. Not much free stuff useful for the budget traveler.

3. More Frequent Flyer Award Availability to Europe: The airlines report that they are making more awards available, but many frequent flyer program members are stymied completely when they try to use miles to book an award flight at reasonable flight times. Many are forced to make drastic compromises in their travel plans. Many are forced to pay twice as many miles, to book an unrestricted award. The airlines don't release reports about these, and won't. Remember airlines are still in the business to make money, so you are not going to see them giving you something for nothing.

4. Faster Airport Security Checkpoints: The FAA predicts 9% fewer domestic passengers passing through terminals this year. Nine percent doesn't seem like much of a decrease to me. Take into consideration the layoff of TSA checkpoint personnel, airline counter staff, and fewer flights because of the slower economy and viola!, you have the same problem of too many travelers for the terminal staff to accommodate comfortably.

5. Higher Chance of the Empty Middle Seat: False! Fewer flights mean airlines are still filling planes. Each vacant seat is lost revenue which they won't let happen if at all possible.

6. Better On-Time Performance: I may have to concede this one. With on-time performance at 80% this year as opposed to 69% last year I think the industry is just trying harder and it is unrelated to fewer flights. When you add stops and layovers to a flight, you also decrease on-time departures and arrivals. Word of warning: Newark and LaGuardia have the lowest performance record. Book through alternate airports as stops on your itinerary.

7. Faster Luggage Return: This too may be true, but not for the reasons of fewer passengers, or fewer flights. When you make a passenger pay (a great motivator) for checked baggage, they will bring less with them. Fewer checked bags equals faster luggage returns.

8. Favorable Exchange Rates: So for every $10 you would have spent in London last year, you will spend $7 this year. Did anyone check to see if hotel rates and other travel related expenses increased by 15% in the last year? If prices have not increased, this is indeed a silver lining for international travel.

9. Easier No-Reservation Dining: I almost never eat in restaurants requiring reservations so I'll leave this discussion to those that do.

10. Shorter Lines in Popular Destinations: Stands to reason with fewer travelers there would be shorter lines. Most top sights now offer reservation services which get you in without a wait, so this may not be as important a perk as it seems.

Bonus: Better Onboard Selection: Who cares? Take your own sandwich anyway if you want to save money.

For a sum-up I would suggest that yes, there are some deals to be had, but it will cost you time and energy doing the research. You will find deals, but most come at some sort of compromise. Budget travel is budget travel and will continue to require digging in and doing the research.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you. I'm planning a trip to Chicago next month and both Gary and I have spent hours upon days searching for bargains. We finally got "reasonable" airline tickets with only one plane change - certainly not the "bargain" prices we hoped for. Also finally got "bargain" hotel rates on Michigan Ave for just under $200 per night - a bargain if you're used to $400 and up (which I'm not). Oh well, Happy Travels! When the money runs out, we'll stay home.