Custom airfares: good or evil?

By | October 28th, 2013


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Behind the scenes, the propellerheads who create your fares are working on a smarter way to sell tickets. The airline industry is developing technology standards that could serve up a special fare intended only for you, based on how often you fly, where you live, your gender, age or marital status. Details are in my USA Today column.


Which travel traditions should we bring back?
Remember when everyone dressed in their Sunday best before they flew? Neither do I. But it’s just one of several traditions that people wish would return to travel. Which other travel traditions do you miss, and why? Here’s my email address. As always, don’t forget include your full name, city and occupation.

Become a smarter traveler
Pre-order my new book, How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). It’ll help you navigate the ins and outs of the travel industry and save lots of time and money. Details are right here. By the way, if you’re heading out somewhere on a trip and need help with something, I’d be happy to email you a draft of a chapter, whether you order the book or not.

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Related story:   Here's to a year of safe travels and smarter purchases -- Sponsored by


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Somewhere in the attic of my old house in Key Largo, Fla., a reminder of my biggest consumer mistake ever is collecting dust. I’ve never told anyone about it. Until now. Read the rest in my latest post.

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Before I tell you about Justin Cohen’s case, there are one or two things he wants everyone to know. He likes kids. He’s a former teacher and has a “high tolerance” for unruly youngsters. Except maybe on an overseas flight where he’s seated next to a kid that doesn’t stop whimpering, whining and screaming for the entire trip. Can this trip be saved?

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Even though he couldn’t use his airline ticket, Eric Smith refused to cancel his reservation on a United Airlines flight from Omaha to Baltimore. The reason? Smith, a technician at an aerospace company in Montgomery Village, Md., ran a few numbers, with frustrating results. Here’s what happened next.

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Are you a whining customer? 3 ways you can tell
No one likes a whiner. Crybabies rarely get what they want, and even when they do, they end up looking ridiculous. If you don’t believe me, just spend a few minutes reading the comments on my consumer advocacy site. Or watch this video of a woman who missed her flight. Enough said.


Hello from Coeur d’Alene, Id. Since we last reported in, we’ve been everywhere — up to Glacier National Park, to a dude ranch in Montana and hiking around Idaho. You can catch up on our family travel blog or by “liking” our Facebook page. Later this week, we’ll do something we haven’t done in a decade. We’re flying on a certain airline on a certain very special day. Can you guess?

  • bodega3

    The propellerheads?

  • Hanope

    I loved the comment in the Custom Airfare column about how such things could provide “extras” such as a family sitting together in an airline. I remember when I was a kid, it was never an issue, my family always always always sat together on the airplane. However, now as an adult, except for the one time my husband and I flew with a baby and had the infant basinet, we’ve never once gotten airline seats altogether. Someone is always separated and the airline personnel just shrug their shoulders.

  • $16635417

    No name calling.

  • What on Earth are you talking about?

  • Oh, I get it. You’re upset that I referred to my yield management friends as “propellerheads.”

    You think that’s a personal attack? Come on.

    I actually asked the trade group I was writing about if it objected to that term weeks before I filed the column. They didn’t.

    If you want to make personal attacks in the comments — and I think you and I know darned well what a personal attack is — then our moderators will be happy to deal with you.

  • bodega3

    Name calling is name calling. That is all.

  • I think it’s amusing that you choose to embrace a literal definition of a term like “name calling” when it suits you, but that you’ll accept a loosey-goosey, “well-we-all-know-what-that-means” definition when it comes to the travel industry’s deceptive use of “free.” I guess it’s too much to ask you to be consistent.

  • bodega3

    Just questioning the word you used to describe those who work for the airlines and come up with the fares. Big difference in what you wish to compare, but not one worth further commenting on except to say that the term your picked to use puts your column in a negative tone right off the bat.

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