Archive for July, 2008
In my last post, I talked about the prices for mileage runs, and how high they had become. Today I learned an important lesson: just because the price was high yesterday does not mean that it is high today!
I looked again at a mileage run to Portland, Oregon (PDX). Previously I found trips that cost as much as $800. I looked again today and found a MR to PDX in August for only $310. That’s 2.85 cents per mile: not great, but a lot better than I had recently found.
I changed the parameters to see what that trip would cost in September: the price dropped even more! I was able to buy AUS-ORD-PDX-ORD-AUS for only $240! I’ll earn over 10,000 miles and at 2.21 cents per mile, a good rate!
I don’t know why the price for a trip would drop from $800 to $310 to $240 in a matter of days. Perhaps AA saw that not enough people were willing to pay that higher price. Whatever the reason, I am glad I found this better deal!
Right now I have one mileage run (MR) scheduled for the rest of the year, an August flight to Orange County, California and back. No odd routing on this one, straight out there and back with a transfer at DFW, but I did find a pretty good fare. The other advantage is that I will be able to spend the day with my relatives, some of whom I have not seen for several years.
But I need to get more miles, so today I looked for some more flights. I have made several trips to Seattle and wanted to see what other locations wer available, so I looked at a MR to Portland on an August Saturday.
The first trip was a good MR routing, earning me extra miles: Austin to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Portland. This was also the lowest-priced flight of the day. Not bad, but it did not arrive in PDX until 4:15 p.m. That left only one option for the return: the return flight left at 10 p.m., Portland to Orlando, Florida, to Dallas to Austin, arriving Austin around noon on Sunday. Total cost, $811 to earn 12,622 miles at 6.43 cents per mile. No way I am spending $811 to fly to Portland!
I looked for another option. Maybe I could pay a little bit more for my outbound flight but get a better deal on the return.
The second trip was better, but still not good: Austin to Dallas to Portland to Chicago to Austin, arriving AUS shortly after midnight, for $638 to earn 9,666 miles, 6.6 cents per mile.
I’ve never flown to Portland before, but have made several trips to Seattle, the most I ever paid for that was $258. I am not going to pay $600-800 to fly to Portland. The worst MR I have ever done earned me 2.9 cents per mile: it is not worth it to pay over 6 cents per mile.
So I will keep on looking. With American Airlines’ parent company, AMR, just announcing that it lost over $1.2 billion in the last quarter, I may have a problem finding a bargain out there.
This has been a very bad year for the airline industry with several carriers going out of business. ExpressJet became the latest, announcing that it would cease operation on September 2. It joins Aloha, ATA, Eos, Maxjet, Silverjet, and Skybus, all of which shut down earlier this year.
Business plans that seemed intelligent and fiscally sound three years ago have crumbled before the challenge of $140 a barrel oil. With the exception of Southwest, every airline has added a variety of fees and surcharges, including extra charges for a second piece of checked luggage, a first piece of checked luggage, using frequent flyer miles to get a ticket, using the phone to buy a ticket, and curbside check-in, among others.
US Airways announced that it will discontinue in-flight movies: removing the video system will lower the weight of the aircraft by 500 pounds, saving thousands of gallons of fuel a year per plane. It is reasonable to expect this trend to continue.
When I read of ExpressJet’s closing, I started to think about airlines I had flown on in the past that are no longer in business. Some of these companies went out of business, some merged with other carriers. Whatever the cause, we no longer have aircraft with these names pained on the side. These descriptions are not meant to be complete, you can research these airlines on your own to learn more about them. Hopefully this list will remind you of airlines past.
Northeast Airlines: Northeast offered service from NewYork/Boston/Philadelphia/Washington to Florida and Puerto Rico. It was founded in 1931, it merged with Delta Airlines in 1972. I flew Northeast from New York to Miami in the late 1960s.
Pan American World Airways: Pan Am will be long remembered as one of the great aviation pioneers. Pan Am was founded in 1927. Its flying boats, known as “clippers” eventually offered service from the United States to Europe, South America, and China. In 1970 it became one of the first airlines to fly the Boeing 747 jumbo jet: a December 1988 terrorist bombing caused Pan Am flight 103 to crash in Lockerbie, Scotland, killing a total of 270 people. Pan Am declared bankruptcy in January 1991 and ceased operations in December of that year. I flew Pan Am once, from Nassau, Bahamas, to New York.
Trans World Airlines: TWA was formed in 1930. In 1938 Howard Hughes and his Hughes Tool Company began buying stock in TWA: he continued investing in the airline, eventually gaining control in 1946. He sold his shares in 1966 for a profit of more than $500 million. In 1967, TWA became one of the first airlines in the world to boast an all-jet fleet. TWA fared badly after airline deregulation and file for bankruptcy protection in 1995. TWA merged with American Airlines in 2001. I flew TWA between Austin and St. Louis.
Braniff Airlines: Braniff was formed in 1928, eventually offering service between the American Midwest and South American, Europe, and Asia. It became most famous in the 1960s and 70s when it adopted new design standards that would make its aircraft stand out from other airlines. It was not unusual to see brown, purple. baby blue, orange or turquoise Braniff aircraft. They redesigned their gates and terminals to match the new designs, and gave the flight attendants new, more fashionable uniforms. In 1973 the airline hired Alexander Calder to paint its aircraft. As with other airlines, Branif fared badly after deregulation and filed bankruptcy in 1982. I flew Branniff from Austin to Kansas City.
America West Airlines: America West began offering service from Phoenix, Arizon, in 1983. It rapidly expanded offering service through the American West with Phoenix as its main hub. It grew rapidly, but perhaps too quickly and was not profitable. By the late 1980s it was trying to establish international routes, offering service to Japan and Mexico, but it never had a strong balance sheet. The rise in fuel costs prior to the 1991 Gulf War forced it into bankruptcy, but it continued to fly under bankruptcy protection until 1994. A reorganized America West was created in 1994, but, along with other carriers, lost a lot of business after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2005 it merged with US Airways and took that name. I flew America West from Austin to Las Vegas.
And there you have it, a list of airlines that are now fond memories. Let us hope that no other airlines will join this list.
What airlines have you flown on that are no longer in business?
I have not taken a mileage run since my since my May 10 trip to Seattle. For the first time in a very long time, I have no future reservations on American Airlines.
It’s never easy to do a mileage run in the summer. Traffic is high, planes are full, and fares are generally at their highest point of the year.
I looked at doing another trip to Seattle in August, and saw I could fly AUS-SEA for only $110. That is a great fare! The problem was the return fare: $239 for SEA-ORD-AUS, giving a total price of $380.50: 8,938 miles at 4.26 cents per mile. That is a terrible deal and I don’t book it.
I looked further and found what is, by today’s standards, a bargain. Round trip to Orange County, CA, (AUS-DFW-SNA-DFW-AUS) for a total price of $200: 6,820 total miles for 2.93 cents per mile.
In the past, I would never book a flight at almost 3 cents per mile. But times have changed, and this seems to be a bargain. I’ll have a 7 hour layover at SNA which gives me time to visit with my family, some of whom I have not seen in over 6 years. So, I booked the flight.
In the meantime, I’ll keep looking and hoping for some better deals.