Airline sales and internet haters…

It’s that time of the year, when airlines start to put out fare sales for the fall promotions, filling seats that might otherwise go unsold. This week was the discount carriers, including JetBlue, Virgin America and Southwest, with the network carriers likely to follow in the next few weeks. It’s always nice to think that you’re getting a bargain, although the sales have so many restrictions that they become difficult to book. For instance, Southwest may offer a fare sale this year that is the exact same one as the sale it offered at this time last year, but because bookings are a little weaker than they were last year, the sale may apply to travel on any day of the week except Friday or Saturday, as opposed to last year, when it only applied to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

"Gotta get those fares down a bit more!"

“Gotta get those fares down a bit more!”

What’s most interesting, however, is this: 2015 is the first year in a while that the deals have actually gotten better, not worse. Part of this phenomenon is a significant increase in domestic capacity, much of it from the low-cost carriers. Part of it is from AA’s expansion of its low-end “Advantage Fares” and some of it simply comes from a slightly weaker economy. But it is interesting to note that year-over-year fares are finally declining a bit.

I’ve never met Ben Schlappig, author of One Mile at a Time, but I’ve spoken to him online a few times and he’s always seemed like a nice guy. Ben was recently featured in a Rolling Stone article as “The Man who Flies Around the World for Free.”The article itself is a very interesting read, but I’ve been surprised by the amount of hate that has been thrown his way online (The comments on Rolling Stone are the nice ones.). Part of the issue is the unfair title of the article, which implies that he says he flies for free. He doesn’t. Nothing is free. Credit cards often have a minimum spend requirement*. Surveys take time. And airlines don’t just give seats away. Part of the hate comes from others who know quite a bit about frequent flyer miles and are upset that he has spilled any secrets to the general public. And part of it is because, well, some people are just mean. Regardless, it’s a very interesting article about a guy with a unique job.



*On the other hand, blogger Gary Leff noted an extraordinarily silly article from consumer advocate Chris Elliott calling credit cards a scam (Coincidentally, it precedes an article about low airfares this fall.), focusing mainly on how they drag you into debt. He’s right, it is easy to run up debt with credit cards. Everything else, however, looks like it comes from a guy with an agenda. Banks do not force you to apply for cards, nor do they force you to spend on them. But more importantly, I’ve never met a blogger who advocates getting a credit card when you don’t pay every single one of your balances in full, each month, as mentioned here. As for the bit about foreign exchange fees and points you can’t use, maybe Chris should check out these cards, which don’t have a fee and consider a cash back card.

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