Six Reasons to Get on a Plane this Summer

OK, so maybe a deep dish pepperoni is not going to get you on a plane -- but what if it's served with a side of "fewer fees"?

There are some good reasons to fly this summer, and I'm not even counting the good deals out there. Sure, airfares are higher this summer, but that's because they had nowhere to go but up from the historic lows of 2009.

While you'll pay more for your tickets this summer, relatively cheap deals do pop up from time to time (and you'll find most of them if you shop for airfare on Tuesday afternoons).

Why else should you fly? Because, in some cases, airlines are being "nicer" to passengers. And when they aren't, there's always "Iron Man" (my new nickname for Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood): he's got your back.

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#1: The Pizza Factor

No, the FAA has not mandated free pizza on all flights, but it happens, like last month, when a Southwest flight had to be diverted to Pueblo, Colo. due to stormy weather. A couple of other planes soon joined them for the two-hour delay. Meanwhile, there was nothing to eat because the airport was closed.

The pilot of the Southwest flight made a command decision and phoned Little Caesars. Within 30 minutes,40 pizzas were being shared by passengers on all three planes. OK, it's not quite as good as a free ticket, but when's the last time this happened to you? Actually, Delta once held a similar pizza-fest in Syracuse, but that was three years ago.

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I'm going to go out on a limb and say we'll see more of this kind of customer service (or maybe we should call it "customer courtesy"). The airlines know passengers are fed up with the constant whittling away of any kind of onboard creature comforts, and some will (belatedly) try to show us that a human heart still beats beneath all those fees.

Possible downside: Eat too much pizza and Southwest may decide you now require two seats. Of course if that's the case, then you can start your own "too-fat-to-fly" rant on Twitter.

#2: Bumping Up Bumping Payments

It's not quite a done deal yet, but the Department of Transportation wants to increase payments for passengers who've been "involuntarily bumped" from planes, and these days, what the DOT wants, the DOT seems to get.

If approved, compensation rates would for people bumped from their scheduled flights would rise from between $400 and $800 to the neighborhood of $650 to $1,300, depending on the length of the flight. And remember, we're talking cash compensation, not vouchers.

However, I feel it's my obligation to note that the chances of you being forced from a plane due to over-sold seats is really not very high. Last year the rate hovered around 1 in 10,000. Still, that's better than one's chances of dating a supermodel (close to 1 in 180,000).

#3: The DOT's New Super Hero Has Your Back

Ray LaHood sure acts like a super hero these day. He didn't wait around for Congress to enact a passenger rights bill, he did it himself with the Department of Transportation's three-hour rule. At the very least it means no more gut-wrenching stories about loaded planes stuck on tarmacs for nine hours with no food, no water and broken toilets.

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