Lufthansa coupon: Take 40EUR off your next flight

lufthansa couponLufthansa has been issuing a wave of coupon codes geared at American travelers over the last six months, perhaps as a way of driving marketshare straight to their site rather than having users go to an online travel agency. Their most recent coupon is for 40 Euros ($55.64 at time of publication) off of an international flight. The voucher can be redeemed until May 1st and travel must be be before August 1st, 2011.

All that you have to do to scour up your own unique coupon code is venture over to Lufthansa.com and enter in your info.

As to whether or not Lufthansa’s fares are competitive in your particular market is another question. Our suggestion over at Gadling Labs is to run your fare search on Kayak first and then see if LH is competitive. After that, move back to Lufthansa.com and proceed with your booking.

Another area in which this coupon might be useful is for flights on the A380. Since Lufthansa just started flying out of JFK with the new double decker this could be a good opportunity to experience your first flight on the new aircraft.

Five things you can do right now to start earning cheaper plane tickets

cheap plane ticketsTwo realities exist in the market for cheap commercial airfare: the one that traditional media and the airlines want you to believe and the high frequency, tech-savvy market where real, cheap fares live. Unfortunately, 99% of the people on this planet are forced to live in the former world, whether it’s due to limitations in technology, discomfort with making snap decisions or understanding of how the general system works.

What’s the difference between the two markets? Here’s a hint: if you’re getting daily alerts from Travelzoo, you get excited with American Airlines sends you an email with sale fares or you have a travel agent you’re among the 99%.

That remaining 1%, if you want it, can be cultivated in a few simple steps, though we’ll warn you right now that they place the onus on you, the buyer for making things happen. Still curious? Let’s get started.

5. Do your research online. The problem with the traditional airfare industry and its fares is that they’re geared for the 300 million people that might be shopping for tickets in any given day. Waiting for fare sales to come to you means you’re already behind the curve, that another ten thousand people could have read the email before you and bought your weekend tickets to Paris or your flight to Vegas for your bachelor party.

If you want to actually find unnaturally cheap fares, you need to actively be searching. Every day. You need to know what the buzz is in the industry, what routes are hotly contested after and how you can book the cheapest ticket fastest.

Flyertalk and it’s awkward twin brother Milepoint are the two places to start your research. Both forums are populated by real people searching for dirt cheap tickets every day — those $150 mistake fares to Europe or the $450 tickets to Sydney. When one of those members finds the right ticket they post it on the forum (check the Mileage Run subcategory) and everyone discusses. That’s your time to chip in on the conversation, find a few tickets and contribute to the community.

For ticket booking your best bet is usually a metacrawler like Kayak, or Mobissimo. Those engines use the broadest reaching technology to pull fares from across the web – and give them to you – so that you don’t have to spend time shopping from site to site.

4. Sign up for fare alerts and Airfarewatchdog. If you haven’t got time to hit the reload button on Flyertalk 20 times a day (we’re not kidding), the next best thing you can do is subscribe for fare alerts. Airfarewatchdog runs the best in the industry – they’re actually a tightly knit team (mostly) sitting in an office in Midtown Manhattan, manually searching for fares every day and sending them out to their massive reader base. And they do it fast – not at predetermined times when their email bursts circulate or when their servers are up to speed or when the right ads are in place – minutes after the deals break they’re emailing their subscribers. Rumor has it that they watch Flyertalk too.

While you’re at it, if you’re a Twitter subscriber, Airfarewatchdog has an excellent feed, and you can also take the time to follow The Points Guy, your local Travelzoo and Gary Leff if the Dog happens to be asleep.

Finally, if a decent deal is all that you’re looking for you can set up a fare alert at Kayak.com or any number of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). All that you need to do is search for your ideal fare, sign up for an account and click the “fare alert” option. Once your fare drops to an appreciable level you’ll get an email.

We should warn you though, current fare alert engines are slow and obtuse. You might have better luck searching manually ten times a day versus trusting an automatic search. But that discussion is for another day.

3. Speak to your significant other. Have you found a ticket that you’re keen on purchasing? Good. The clock’s ticking and you need to book it as soon as possible. Not when you get home from work, not after you’ve washed your pants. Right now.

Chances are that you’re trying to travel with someone else, so you need to be familiar with each other’s schedules prior to booking and taking a whirlwind trip across four continents. If that person is immediately unreachable then they should at least be familiar with the concept of what you’re getting them into. And if it’s completely out of the blue, then at least you can fall back on the airline’s cancellation policy. Let’s talk about that some more.

2. Get familiar with your airline’s cancellation policy. Depending on the airline, you may have 24 hours to ticket (American) or cancel (Delta) a reservation that you’re considering. This gives you some time to get home, think about logistics and talk with your travel partner about what sort of craziness you’re getting into. Do yourself a favor and if you find a cheap ticket, wander over to your favorite airline’s search page and search for “cancellation policy.” If there’s a sturdy one in place you can buy your tickets first and ask questions later.

1. Commit to a journey, not a destination. Alright, Copenhagen in the winter may not be your most ideal vacation, but they’ve got a slew of ubercool restaurants, a strong design culture, super friendly people and a great take on life. Revel in the fact that you bought your ticket for $150 and you’ll be thrilled with almost anywhere you go.

Which BIG airline just pulled out of three booking sites?

american airlines orbitzAs you’ve read here on Gadling, the battle between airlines and online travel agencies is poised to heat up. For the past few years, a dismal economy has sent many bargain-hunters to online travel sites with the hopes of finding fantastic deals and minimizing the pain in their wallets. Yet, with the travel market and the broader economy showing signs of recovery, airlines‘ brand power will gain momentum, and customers with more cash at their disposal will favor convenience and recognition over saving a couple of dollars. A battle for your money and your loyalty is brewing.

And, it’s just intensified.

Last month, American Airlines and Orbitz tangled over fees and the booking process, with the airline threatening to yank its inventory from the travel site, a threat on which it made good. After a temporary restraining order was issued, a judge ruled yesterday that American could pull its inventory from the online travel agency and ordered Orbitz to stop selling American Airlines tickets and displaying its fares.

Now, Delta‘s getting in on the action.

The airline has yanked its inventory from a handful of smaller online travel agencies, Aviation Week reports, including CheapOair, OneTravel and Bookit as of last Friday. So, if you’re hunting for cheap tickets on these sites, you won’t run into Delta any more. Aviation Week observes that it appears to be “part of a partial shift in its distribution strategy,” and notes that it seems different from American’s move with Orbitz.For Delta, the decision looks like it’s part of an effort to consolidate around larger online travel agencies, while American is targeting agencies directly, rather than using an intermediary to reach another intermediary.

While the means may be different, the objective appears to be the same. With a shift in the economy, airlines have a bolstered position in the marketplace, and this is likely to give them a bit more weight in dealing with online travel agencies and in reaching consumers directly. For American, it seems like a play to reduce costs and increase efficiency – as it is for Delta (though through different means). Ultimately, however, Delta wants more direct action from consumers, which reduces its sales costs and increases profits, which is what differentiates its decision from that of American.

According to a statement by Delta in Aviation Week, “Delta is being more selective in our use of online travel sites in the future as we continually work to improve our online distribution strategy.” The company adds, “We continue to make significant investments in delta.com to make it an industry-leading travel site, and we believe that delta.com will become the preferred online site to book travel on Delta.”

A representative from CheapOair was not available for comment.

I asked Douglas Quinby, Sr. Director, Research, at travel industry research firm PhoCusWright, his thoughts on Delta’s decision, and his reply was pretty striaghtforward: “The only surprising thing about this move is that it has taken this long.” He explained, “U.S. airlines have impressively restrained their appetite for growth (i.e. capacity) on the back of a (more or less) recovering economy. With clear control of their inventory, airlines have already started rationalizing distribution, and the weakest links are first to get snipped. American may have jumped the gun a bit with Orbitz, but believe me – we ain’t see nothin’ yet!”

So, what’s the net effect of all this? Do the actions of Delta and American suggest that we’ll be paying higher fares in the future because of behavior that doesn’t benefit the consumer? My bet is that the average fare buyer won’t see a whole lot of difference, especially given the share of sales already owned by the airlines via their own websites. The infrequent leisure traveler, especially, is losing an alternative … though it’s one that won’t be as important in a recovering economy.

[photo by boeingdreamscape]

Extra airline fees could mean better service! This is the FUTURE

airline feesSoon, airlines could make all their profits on the extra fees you pay. Seriously. Yesterday, the Department of Transportation revealed that airlines have had their most profitable year since it started tracking the data back in 2002. And, a good chunk of revenue came from baggage fees, reservation change fees and ancillary fees. In the third quarter alone, it was good for more than $2 billion. So, the foundation is in place. All the airlines need to do is build on it.

And, it looks like some are trying to do that.

According to MSNBC, US Airways President Scott Kirby said that baggage fees and ancillary fees could add up to 100 percent of the airlines profits this year. We’re not talking about some future development, here. This is now. We’ve been talking for a while about how airlines are coming to rely on these fees. Last year, it was an issue of surviving the recession; this year, it’s been about driving profits. Regardless of prevailing economic conditions, it’s clear these fees aren’t going anywhere. It would stand to reason, therefore, that they’d become a larger part of airlines’ profits over time.

But, 100 percent? How would that work? Let’s take a look.First, think about the trend in reduced amenities, putting aside the weird stuff you read about this morning. Food isn’t free, and you’re paying for bags and premium coach seating (think exit row and bulkhead). This lowers airline costs on an available seat mile basis.

Now, what does it mean to lower costs? Well, it provides the elbow room to compete more effectively on fares – translation: cheaper tickets. So, in theory at least, this puts more butts in seats. The lower cost, however, erodes profit per available seat mile, because there isn’t as much revenue assigned to it.

This is where the fees come in.

If all you buy is a seat, you score! You’ll have the chance to get it for less than you would have paid otherwise. If you’re the kind of person who goes to the movies and sneaks in your own snacks, you’re all set. But, the minute you need something else, you’re going to have to pay. This is where the airlines can make their profits. Essentially, getting you into a seat becomes a marketing opportunity for everything you sell. Going back to the movie theater example, it’s equivalent to the previews you see that implore you to go out to the lobby and grab some popcorn. And, they can pump up the prices on food, liquor, bag-checking and so on to make up what they’re effectively giving away on a break-even seat.

Of course, this is a bit oversimplified, but you get the idea. The future of airlines may be to turn a cheap seat into an opportunity to up-sell you on everything else. Frankly, it isn’t a bad idea. In addition to making tickets cheaper, the flight attendants will need to sell in order to help the airline turn a profit. Sales without service is usually a fool’s errand, so a shift in strategy of this sort will lead to better passenger treatment. Maybe we’ll actually be treated like customers!

All these extra fees may not be such a bad idea after all. The airlines don’t realize this, but if they make all their money on the amenities, they’ll actually have to deliver an enjoyable experience.

Let’s pay less to pay extra and be treated like human beings in the process.

[photo by Augapfel via Flickr]

How much are you really paying for your plane ticket?

How much are you really paying for your plane ticket?We’ve heard airline employees gripe ad nauseam about how flying just isn’t what it used to be … because it’s so much cheaper than it was back in the glory days. True, we’re looking at a much different world post-regulation, but that was so long ago that it isn’t relevant any more.

So, what about today? Are airlines still getting hammered in the deal (as they contend), or are consumers giving ’til it hurts? The answer, of course, is somewhere in the middle.

You probably saw my story this week that puts plane tickets up 13.1 percent year over year for the second quarter, though it really just offsets a 13 percent decline last year. Nonetheless, the $341 average domestic fare is close to the 2008 peak of $346 and the third-highest average domestic fare attained since 1995 (2006 came in second at $342). It really does feel like we’re getting screwed.

Think again. Airline employees have a point, but only narrowly.


Adjusted to 1995-equivalent dollars, the average domestic fare this year is only $238. That’s a 20 percent drop from the $297 average fare in 1995. Over the past 15 years, the airline industry has lost a lot of ground. The peak, in 1995-equivalent dollars, was reached in 1999 ($302) and maintained in 2000 ($300) before the slide began. Even in this analysis, however, 2010 shows a marked improvement from the 2009 level of $213 (in 1995-equivalent dollars).

So, in pure cash, the airlines have been getting shafted. The industry’s position falls apart, however, when you consider the inclusion of ancillary fees, which are expected to be good for $8.9 billion in airline profits this year, according to IATA. The inflation-adjusted fare we’re paying doesn’t include the amenities we used to receive … and the airlines are generating extra income from what they used to include in the price of a ticket.

There’s no doubt that airfare is cheaper than it’s been in at least a decade and a half, but you’re not getting the value you used to.

[photo by Mr. T in DC]