American Airlines, the nation's third largest airline carrier, is enduring court battles, bankruptcy troubles and highly anticipated strikes, all of which have hindered the company's profits and operations, including "serious flight delays," the Chicago Tribune reports.
American Airlines' turmoil, including the Kingfisher Airlines lockout for example, adds to the instability that customers feel when booking flights to travel this upcoming holiday season. Travelers are weary of spikes in airfare and hidden expenses, such as American Airlines' $35 unbolted-seat fee
, that can unexpectedly exceed budgets.
Follow the tips listed below to keep expenses within your budget and prevent unexpected costs if you're spending the holidays away from home.
Compare Travel Insurance
To protect yourself from unexpected mishaps that could drain your bank account, find and compare travel insurance
policies. Travel insurance will safeguard you and your family in the event of a canceled trip or lost baggage. For example, insurance can provide reimbursement for nonrefundable expenses if unforeseen bad weather causes your flight to be canceled or delayed. Coverage could also ensure that medical treatment is available in case of an accident while traveling or on vacation.
With a secure travel insurance plan, you'll protect yourself from traveling incidents and scenarios such as:
* Last-minute flight or trip cancellations
* Missing bags with essential medications
* Stolen wallet, passport or luggage
* An accident or injury that requires immediate medical attention or evacuation
Insurance will also provide emergency cash, alternative transportation arrangements and replacements for stolen or missing possessions.
Select Less Popular Travel Days
Unfortunately, airfare prices have risen and will most likely continue to do so during the holiday season. CheapAir.com CEO, Jeff Klee, told MercuryNews.com that fares are, on average, $24 higher than a year ago. To mitigate the exorbitant costs of traveling, Klee recommends scheduling flights on non-peak departure and arrival days. Avoid flights on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving. Trips scheduled for Tuesday through Saturday or Monday through Friday can save travelers up to $113, on average, round trip, according to Klee.
According to Priceline.com's 2012 Holiday Season calendar, the best days to travel
in November for Thanksgiving are 22, 27, 28, 29 and 30. The best days to travel in December for Christmas are 9, 10, 11, 12, 18 and 25. January 1 and 2 are good days as well. Priceline.com's calendar is continually adjusted to reflect the most up-to-date fares.
Book & Bid Reservations in Advance
Airfare isn't expected to lower anytime soon because of slim seating availability, flight reductions and airline mergers, according to travel expert Brian Ek from Priceline.com. Compared to last year's holiday season, Priceline.com calculated that airline prices are about 3 percent higher. Book early, even before Halloween, to get the best airfare deals.
To find even more affordable prices, bid on tickets and find available seats in advance using Priceline.com's "Name Your Own Price" ticket service. Ek told The Sacramento Bee that travelers can expect to save 20 percent this year using the bidding process. While using the pricing feature, research and compare airfare for the most informed bidding. Bid low at first to become familiarized with the system and trending prices. Bidding is a cost-effective tool for international travel as well and don't forget to account for taxes, which can hike up your total cost. Travelers are are able to bid on tickets between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Thoroughly research various airlines and flight options, because certain airlines include hidden fees and additional costs that can be easily dismissed if you're rushing through the process. Keep in mind that paying extra for a Southwest Airlines ticket may outweigh the extra charges for checking bags with United Airlines. A good way to prepare for unexpected costs is to search for bag-checking pricing and restrictions
airlines have, such as weight and size. For families with multiple passengers, booking with an airline that doesn't charge extra for checking baggage will be cost-effective.
Airlines that accept the first bag for free include:
* Cape Air
* Era Aviation
* Jetblue Airways
* Pacific Wings
* Seaport Airlines
Era Aviation, SeaPort Airlines and Southwest Airlines accept first and second bags with no additional costs.
Also, if you're researching flights early enough in advance, keep an eye out for rates from competitors and check often. Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, Kayak.com and Expedia.com are excellent sites for comparing updated rates and reviewing the best prices. Travel sites also offer price alerts and mobile apps for staying up-to-date on available flights, rates and flight statuses.
Search for Discounts & Coupons
Discount site Fatwallet.com offers travel deals, coupons and big savings with cash back rewards. Customers shopping for the best deals will find money-saving offers for round-trip flights, zero booking fees on flight purchases and up to 65 percent off flights. Ebates.com's Travel & Vacations category provides an extensive list of coupons and cash back opportunities for airline and airfare travel sites. Customers can get online coupons and coupon codes for Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines as well as CheapAir.com, Priceline.com and Orbitz.com. Become a member and sign up for exclusive promo codes and updates. To reduce the total cost of your trip, shop for vouchers as well as discounts on vacation packages, cruises and rental cars.
Most airfare sales are posted on Tuesday for a day or two. Check for sales on Wednesday and look for competitors that will try to match low prices. Prepare your itinerary beforehand, so that if you find an excellent sale price, you can purchase it on the spot. By subscribing to AirfareWatchdog.com
, you can receive various alerts such as:
* Route specific, city-to-city fares for a variety of airports
* Cheap round-trip rates to multiple destinations from local airports
* A list of low rates from multiple cities to a single destination
Expect to pay more if you want first-class seating, prefer a window or an aisle seat, or need to depart and arrive on specific dates. If you're arranging flights for a family or group, sitting separately will reduce the cost. Priceline.com recommends that customers searching for the most affordable prices should book flights for the early morning or late evening. Shop for flights between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. and after 8 p.m. Avoid the travel hours of 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.