Saturday, November 12, 2011

Things I Miss from Days Gone By - #3 - Enjoyable Air Travel

What's With Those Airline Folks Anyway?

Andy Rooney's gone, so someone has to step up and ask questions that need to be asked. I don't have Andy's talents, but I wonder about many of the same things, and it wouldn't be much of a stretch for me to become a female curmudgeon.

Right now, I'd like to plan a trip, or maybe even two trips. The departure point would be Athens, GA. Athens is a nice town but it doesn't have much of an airport, and getting out of town is a real hassle. Our first choice would be to fly from Greenville, SC. Greenville has a delightful airport, and even though it's a good two hour ride from our house, it's not a difficult drive. Atlanta is closer in miles and has a much larger airport with many more carriers but it's a horrible drive. My everlovin' is fully retired. I still work half-time, but can usually arrange to take a week off on occasion, so we're pretty flexible.

Here's the thing. With all the technology available and all the Internet sites that promise to get you the absolute best price, there is absolutely NO WAY THAT YOU CAN PRICE A TICKET WITHOUT INPUTTING A DEPARTURE DATE. Some sites will offer the extreme flexibility of departing a day or two from your preferred date. Big deal. We don't care when we go ... we just want to know when prices are lowest. "They" say that air transportation is down. In our case, if we found a good price, we would hop a flight several times a year but as it stands now, we pretty much limit ourselves to driveable destinations. Stand-by is not a good option if you have to drive a couple hours first and pay a hefty parking fee, then possibly sit in the airport for days, especially since the number of flights is constantly being reduced.

Why can't a site just display fares to and from given points for several upcoming months ... if necessary, with a disclaimer saying that prices could increase by a certain percentage?

On a related note, I tried to price Southwest Air flights from Greenville to Ft. Myers. No matter what date I entered for the return flight, I got an error message indicating that no flights from Ft. Myers to Greenville were scheduled for that day. It sounded as if they were
discontinuing service between those two points, so I emailed Southwest to ask if that was the case. The automated response indicated that they would respond within five business days, so I telephoned them. It turns out that as of March 10, they will only offer service between those two points on Saturdays. It happens that Saturdays is one of the two days each week that Allegiant, the super cheap base-fare budget airline, flies between nearby Charlotte County Regional Airport to Greenville. Why would Southwest choose to offer service for this route only on the same day that another airline already does? Beats me ... but I sure won't be buying airline stock anytime soon.

Does anybody else remember when people bought round-trip airline tickets
because they were cheaper than two one-way tickets but you could sell or give away the ticket for an unused segment? People seeking to buy or sell those one-way segments often advertised in the personal ad sections of newspapers. Fares were reasonable enough and there were no fees for changing plans, checking baggage, etc. I used to see a lot more of my family then, and flew a lot more often to other places too. "They" wonder why airline traffic has diminished ... and I wonder why charter airlines haven't grown exponentially.

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