Protecting yourself from airline shadiness

A few weeks ago I read that the Department of Justice is subpoenaing some of the major airlines (Southwest, Delta, packing cubesAmerican, and United) for manipulating capacity which in turn keeps ticket prices high.  Now the Department of Transportation is investigating five major airlines (Southwest, Delta, American, United, & JetBlue) about the possibility that they price gouged after the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia in May.  What the heck, major airlines!?!  I know this is just an investigation at this point, but it makes you wonder if any of these airlines can be trusted.  I’m afraid the answer is not really.

American, Delta, Southwest, and United own 80% of the domestic market.  That’s a whole lot of control for just a few companies.  What makes this so frustrating is how little control travelers, especially business travelers, have.  It’s not like we can just stop traveling.   In order to work have to fly, and these carriers know that.  So what’s a business traveler to do?  Look out for ourselves, that’s what!

Concessions.  If an airline is at fault for a delay other than weather, hold them accountable.  Ask for miles, vouchers, and upgrades, and if it doesn’t sound like a reasonable concession ask to speak to management.

Avoid fees.  You hear it from me a lot, but don’t check your bag unless it’s absolutely essential.  Put together a capsule wardrobe to save room.  Use packing cubes (pictured) to compress your clothes.  If you do have to check a bag consider flying Southwest who doesn’t charge for your first two checked bags, or look into a credit card that offers a benefit of a free checked bag.

Cash in your points.  Airlines would love for you to look at your points like a savings account.  Unfortunately you are asking for trouble if you look at them that way.  The longer you hold on to those points the more you risk them expiring or being devalued.  Put together a plan and start spending!

Shop fares.  My company has a corporate travel department that works out pricing for flights.  We get pretty good rates, but I like to test those rates time to time using the Google Flights website.  I often find that Google Flights has comparable rates to my company’s corporate rate.  I know a lot of people that have found great airline ticket prices using Google Flights, and I’ve been lucky enough to find some very low prices for personal travel. The only downside to Google Flights is that you can’t book Southwest through their site, as you have to book directly through Southwest.com (for Southwest deal notifications sign up for their Click ‘N Save).  Million Mile Secrets post has a great post on using the Google Flights site. If you aren’t a Google fan Airfarewatchdog is a good source for airfare deals as well.  Their site also has lots of very helpful information on airline fees and policies under the Airline Information tab.

Readers, do you think there are any trustworthy airlines? What are your tips for protecting yourself when dealing with airlines?

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