Q&A: Cheap Flights, Porn on Planes and Other Travel FAQs

PHOTO: What do you do if the person sitting next to you on the plane is watching porn on his laptop?Getty Images
What do you do if the person sitting next to you on the plane is watching porn on his laptop?

From questions about how to find the cheapest airfare to dealing with porn on planes, well, I've heard them all.

These are some of my favorites, and I hope one of my answers will solve a question of your own.

For more travel news and insights view Rick's blog at farecompare.com

Q. What's going on with American Airlines pulling out of cities? Should I worry about the tickets I bought for my summer vacation?

A. No. I'm holding several AA tickets of my own and I'm not concerned in the least. Evidently my fellow travelers weren't concerned either as American reported a 1.4 percent increase in flyers this January compared to January 2011. However, the airline is changing; it is streamlining.

WHAT TO KNOW
  • From questions about 'how to find the cheapest airfare' to dealing with 'porn on planes', well, I've heard them all.
  • These are some of my favorites, and I hope one of my answers will solve a question of your own.

Certainly it was hard to miss the screaming headlines about 13,000 employees facing the axe, and that is terribly sad. For flyers, this'll mean some changes including route cutbacks. American flights out of Burbank will soon disappear, plus the airline's Chicago to Delhi, India, run will soon be cut, among others. This is just a start. At FareCompare, we are constantly updating a list of discontinued AA routes, but note that some of these changes were decided on before bankruptcy came into the picture.

If you have concerns that your route is targeted (and any route could be fair game outside of the biggest cities), don't wait for an email or call from American. Keep up with the news and stay in touch with the airline. They don't want to lose you as a customer especially now and will work with you to get you where you need to go. And this is true if you have concerns about your loyalty miles, too, but we have yet to see a single bankrupt U.S. airline undo any of those coveted programs.

Q. There sure seem to be a lot of airlines shutting down lately. What's going on?

A. What's going on is the high cost of oil coupled with worldwide economic turmoil. It's at least partly why a couple of smallish, financially troubled European carriers could not make a go of it including Spain's Spanair and Hungary's Malev. Do not confuse what happened to these carriers with American's bankruptcy. I expect the U.S. carrier to emerge from the process as a leaner and stronger company with the possibility of a merger partner.

Q. The new airfare advertising rules that force airlines to include all taxes and fees in published prices confuse me. Some think they're great, but some think they stink. What's the truth?

A. The truth is Spirit Airlines is perturbed because they can no longer advertise their iconic $9 airfares since the overall price including taxes and fees is significantly higher than nine bucks.

Other airlines are worried we'll buy fewer tickets when we (subliminally) notice that the previous $59 one-way sale price plastered across airwaves and digital media is now $70. It isn't so much $59 seats taking us where we wanted to go were hard to find. Airlines are more concerned now that we might not even make the effort to get a quote.

Spirit claims the government is forcing them to hide taxes and fees from passengers, but I personally find the new regulations a refreshing dose of transparency. So-called teaser fares did a good job of obscuring the full cost of a ticket and now you know what you'll pay right from the start. Spirit's latest response to all this? A new $2 fee.

I do however agree with the airlines that they are being singled out compared to many other industries which don't have don't have to do an upfront disclosure on whopping taxes - especially on big ticket items - so let's see some full disclosure rules there as well.

Q. How come it always seems like the guy sitting next to me paid less for his airline ticket than I did? Shouldn't we all be paying the same price?

A. We did, back in the days of before de-regulation, but that was more than 30 years ago and today it's all about supply and demand as airlines attempt to squeeze every last buck out of every last seat-holder. Remember, on every plane today, there are typically ten price points.

Business travelers get hit hardest; they make travel plans at the last minute and last-minute airfares are priciest because they "violate" advance purchase requirements on cheaper fares. Legacy carriers typically require a 14 day advance purchase, which drops to seven days (or less) for discount carriers before your begin being treated as a thicker wallet-ed business traveler.

Leisure travelers who book too early also pay a premium. Buy tickets more than three-and-a-half months ahead of departure for a domestic flight and you'll typically pay more than you have to since the airlines haven't begun actively managing their cheapest priced seats yet.

You'll typically pay more if you book on a weekend as discount prices are removed from reservation systems later in the week. Airlines know we prefer to shop midweek on the boss' dime and that is where they get the most bang for their buck on airfare sales.

Smart travelers shop Tuesdays at 3 p.m.ET. By then, most airlines have launched their weekly airfare sales, and competing carriers have matched those fares to stay in the race for your money.

Q. Last time I flew with my kids, the guy sitting next to my youngest was watching porn on his laptop. What should I have done?

A. This is a case where the flight attendant is your friend. If a meaningful look or an "Excuse me, but there are kids here" comment doesn't work, just press the overhead call button. As American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith told us, "Regardless of the issue, federal law gives flight crews the authority to give instructions to any passenger, whether on this subject or any other."

Q. How come all the airfare sales I see are only good for flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays? Who wants to fly then?

A. That's the point. Most people don't want to fly in the middle of the week so the airlines have trouble filling those empty middle seats and flying partial plane-loads does not a profitable bottom line make. So they discount to get more behinds in midweek seats. If they can't fill them, they'll use smaller planes, fly fewer of these less popular routes or sometimes discontinue such flights altogether.

Q. I can never find enough overnight flights, which is when I prefer to fly. What's the deal?

A. Maybe the reason you like to fly then is because it's cheaper and those "red-eye" planes often have empty seats to spread out in, but that's because most people aren't like you. If demand for red-eyes suddenly rose, I don't think you'd like them so much anymore - they'd be too crowded. Take what you can get.

Q. I'm sick to death of bag fees. When are the airlines going to drop them?

A. Look out your window next time you're cruising at 30,000 feet. Tell me if you spot any flying pigs out there. That'll be the signal.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.