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Starting in May, American will start flying from JFK to Madrid, Spain.  Let’s take a look.

Context – There are currently many ways to get to Madrid from the US from 7 different airlines.  Five of those airlines fly from New York: Air Europa, Delta, Iberia, Continental (although they fly from Newark), and now American.

AIR EUROPA, AIRBUS A330, EC-JPF, at JFK, New York, USA. July, 2009Air Europa – One daily flight to MAD leaving JFK 9:30 PM arriving in Madrid at 11:00 AM the next day.  The return flight leaves MAD at 5:20 PM and arrives in New York at 7:30 PM.  $812 round trip, flying an A330 wide-body, part of the SkyTeam Alliance.

Continental 757-325 N56859Continental – Two semi-daily flights to MAD leaving EWR 8:40 PM and 10:10 PM arriving in Madrid at 10:05 AM and 11:35 AM the next day, respectively.  The return flights leave MAD at 11:35 AM and 1:05 PM and arrive in Newark at 2:15 PM and 3:50 PM, respectively.  $1074 round trip, flying 757 narrow-bodies, part of the Star Alliance.

Delta Air Lines 767-332(ER) N194DNDelta – One daily flight to MAD leaving JFK 5:20 PM arriving in Madrid at 7:25 AM the next day.  The return flight leaves MAD at 10:10 AM and arrives in New York at 12:25 PM.  $1004 round trip, flying a 767 wide-body, part of the SkyTeam Alliance.

IBERIA AIRBUS A340 (A340-600), EC-IOB at JFK, New York, USA. 2009Iberia – Two daily flights to MAD leaving JFK 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM arriving in Madrid 7:10 AM and 10:10 AM the next day, respectively.  The return flights leave MAD at 1:55 PM and 5:00 PM and arrive in New York at 4:05 PM and 7:10 PM, respectively.  From $1006 round trip, flying A340 wide-bodies, part of the OneWorld Alliance.

American Airlines (AA) - Boeing 757-200 - N627AA - John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) - November 3, 2009 429 RT CRPAmerican – One daily flight to MAD leaving JFK 5:40 PM arriving in Madrid at 7:20 AM the next day.  The return flight leaves MAD at 10:00 AM and arrives in New York at 12:25 PM.  $1004 round trip, flying a 757 narrow-body, part of the OneWorld Alliance.

Conclusions – If we’re looking just at cost, Air Europa is the way to go.  They are almost $200 cheaper than any other carrier.  If we’re looking just as scheduling, your only option to Spain is a red-eye, however, you can fly pretty much any time of day on the return leg.  It is interesting that American based airlines leave Spain in the late-morning/noon-ish times, and the European airlines leave in the mid-late afternoon.  I can’t decide which of these is best for you.  The good news is that because there are so many options flown by three different alliances, you can use Delta or American miles to give yourself some flexibility (or, alternatively, earn American or Delta miles flying their European based counterpart).  Once again, loyalty will help you decide which flights are best for you.  Unless you only care about the cost of the flight.  Then, you should fly Air Europa.

Remember: It’s all about the little things.

Yes, you can fly to Frankfurt from almost all major markets in America.  And yes, if you need to, you can fly to Berlin on Delta.  But what about Munich?  No love from any American based airlines.  Until now.  Continental has started flying non-stop from their hub in Newark, NJ (also serves NYC) to Munich, Germany.  So, let’s compare the two.  Like always, I use similar dates through
Continental – Flying a 767-200, Continental’s flight leaves Newark at 5:30 PM and arrives in Munich at 7:40 AM.  Good times.  The return flight leaves Germany at 9:20 AM and arrives back in Newark at 12:35 PM.  Again, good times.  For a coach ticket, you will be shelling out $1429.  Business class, $1907. (less than $500 difference!)
Lufthansa – Flying A340s (Lufthansa’s standard long-haul jet), Lufthansa offers service from both Newark and New York-JFK.  The JFK flights are similar times as Continental’s offering, but the flights to and from EWR show some difference.  Leaving Newark at 8:10 PM (not a problem), you arrive in Munich at 10:10 AM.  A little bit later that could affect getting to a morning business meeting.  Coming back, though, there is the advantage of leaving Germany at 3:20 PM and arriving back in Newark at 6:20 PM.  From a business meeting standpoint, this is great.  You get half a day in Munich.  From a sleeping and jet-lag perspective, arriving back in New York later in the day will help you adjust.  Prices are the same for coach ($1429), and the business class service is the same price from Newark ($1907).  The price for business jumps to $3813 flying from JFK.
Conclusions – Price: same.  This means that if you have miles or a loyalty to one airline or alliance, go with it.  If you can afford the extra $500, business class can really make a more pleasurable experience, considering you will be spending 17 hours in flight, round trip.  The differences come in the schedules.  The Continental offering is not bad.  In fact, it’s quite good.  Lufthansa’s EWR offering is good and bad.  It’s good because of the return trip, but it’s not great on the way to Munich.  At the end of the day, though, the times are not that different.  The Continental service is not a game-changer.  Instead, it is a supplement.
Remember: It’s all about the little things.

The Wife and I had an AMAZING time on our honeymoon in Costa Rica.  Because The Wife had miles on American, we were able to fly first class the whole way for less than we spent on two dinners in Costa Rica (albiet, they were awesome dinners!).  We flew American from San Diego to San Jose through Dallas.

American has just announced new service from New York (JFK) to San Jose Juan Santamaria International in Costa Rica (SJO), starting on April 6, so I thought I’d do some comparisons for you, my eleven readers.

Context – Continental and LASCA (a subsidiary of TACA Costa Rica) already fly to San Jose from Newark and JFK, respectively.  American’s service will be the third hub to serve SJO, the other two being Dallas and Miami.  All three airlines will now offer one non-stop each way on select days.  Because of the difference in schedules, I will use the lowest available price in a given week from

American – Their JFK service will only be on Thursdays, leaving JFK at 3:35 PM and arriving in San Jose at 7:15 PM.  The return flight will leave San Jose at 8:35 AM.  But honestly, who wants to fly at that time from an incredible country like Costa Rica?  Especially when you have to get to the airport 3 hours ahead of time for international travel.  5:30 AM?  From a vacation destination?  Bad move, American.  Round trip fare wil set you back $353, although American charges $25 for your first checked bag each way.

LASCA – Their JFK service goes into San Jose on Saturdays and Sundays, but goes back to JFK on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  More options.  Cool.  Flight times, however, leave much to be desired.  Leave JFK at 6:10 AM (i.e.: arrive at the airport at 3 AM.  Great way to start a vacation.) and arrive in San Jose at 9:30 AM.  Return flight leaves at 6:00 PM and gets into JFK at 1 AM (i.e.: get back to the city around 2 AM if you’re lucky.  Great way to end a vacation.).  $377 for the round trip, but LASCA has no checked bag fees.

Continental – They actually offer daily service, although it’s from Newark.  Lots of options.  Lots of cool.  The flight from EWR to SJO leaves Newark at 5:25 PM and arrives at 8:35 PM.  Speaking from experience, that is a great time to arrive in San Jose.  Just enough time to go through customs, get to your hotel, and settle in.  Nice.  The flight back to EWR, however, leaves at 8:00 AM (same issue as American).  Gross.  Round trip will set you back $373 before a $25 charge for your first checked bag each way (save two dollars by pre-paying for the bag).

Conclusions – First, let’s look at price, assuming you will check a bag.  $423 for Continental, $377 for LASCA, and $403 for American.  Not a huge difference, but if price is a huge factor, go with LASCA.  Then again, let’s consider the schedules.  No airline has a great schedule.  Whichever airline you choose, you will have to deal with an early morning.  It is up to you as to whether you want to wake up early to get to your vacation, or wake up early on your way back.  Trust me: fly through somewhere else and avoid losing sleep for avoidable reasons.  You’ll want the sleep in an incredible place like Costa Rica.

Day 11 10

A few days ago, I took a couple of hours out of my day, went down to the airport, and watched the planes land.  Such a simple pleasure.  I recommend taking the time to find these simple pleasures for yourself.  It made my day!

Check out the pics.

Remember: it’s all about the little things.

In another episode of American trying to catch up to United (remember when American just added service to Beijing, even though United already had a few non-stops?), American Eagle, a subsidiary of American Airlines, will be adding service from Chicago’s O’hare to Pensacola, FL starting June 12.

Context – Just like United, American’s one daily flight will both arrive in and depart from PNS on Saturday and Sunday, meaning if you want to arrive or depart any other day, you will have to fly through a different hub, such as Dallas, Miami, Washington-Dulles.  Both airlines use the small EMB-145.  So, how do they compare(Again, I use and the same travel dates for the comparison)?

American – American’s flight from ORD-PNS leaves Chicago at 11:00 AM and arrives at 1:05 PM.  Not bad times to be flying, although you will have to get lunch in the Chicago airport or you will be hungry when you land.  The return flight leaves Florida at 1:30 PM and lands at 3:55 PM.  Again, not bad, and you won’t be scrounging for a meal.  This round trip will set you back $357 before you check any bags.

United – The United flight from ORD-PNS leaves Chicago at 2:00 PM and arrives at 4:15 PM.  A little bit later in the afternoon, but you can have lunch at home and the early-bird special in Florida.  The return flight leaves Florida at 4:45 PM and lands at 7:00 PM.  Unless you get something for the plane, plan for a ate dinner.  This round trip will set you back a bit more, $381.

Conclusions – Both airlines offer decent schedules, although the price is quite high for a 2 hour flight.  If you have time to spare, Delta offers one-stop service for about $100 less.  Even if you want to stay on United, allowing a stop will reduce your fare by $100.  On American, it is actually more expensive to have a stop than to take the non-stop.  This means that American really wants you to fly their non-stop.  United doesn’t care as much.  They just want you to fly their airline.  Only time and numbers will tell how this new service will affect traffic through PNS.  Yes, American is playing catch-up.  But they seem to be doing it right.

Remember: It’s all about the little things.

I’m liking this project of taking new routes and analyzing them, so I was happy to indulge with Virgin America’s new planned service from Orlando to Los Angeles (LAX)  & San Francisco (SFO), starting August 19.  Like always, for comparison’s sake, I used if available (or the airline) and the same travel dates.

Context – Orlando already has 5 non-stops to and from LAX on American, Delta, & United, and 1 to/from SFO on United.  Virgin America is trying to expand their markets by filing in  market for travelers who want the benefits of Southwest (i.e.: lower fares) without compromising on in-flight perks (i.e.: great wifi availability, satellite tv, ability to order beverages/food directly from your seat, etc.).  So, how does their Orlando service stack up?

Service between Orlando (MCO) and Los Angeles (LAX) – The flights from MCO-LAX, which all last around 5 and a half hours, offer three time options for departure(just add 2.5 hours to the departure time to get the arrival time in LA): 7 AM (United & Delta), 1 PM (American), and 7 PM (United, Delta, and now Virgin America).  Flights from LAX back to MCO offer a little more flexibility, but not by much.  The Virgin America and American flights both leave LAX around 8:30 AM and arrive around 4:30 PM.  Delta & United offer similar morning service, with their flights leaving around 10:30 AM.  However, Delta & United also offer red-eye flights leaving around 10 PM and arriving in MCO around 6 AM.

Service between Orlando (MCO) and San Francisco (SFO) – This is where airline choice can make a difference.  Both United and Virgin America have one daily non-stop.  United offers morning service from MCO-SFO, and afternoon-late evening service back to MCO.  Virgin America, however, offers evening service from MCO-SFO, and morning-evening service back to MCO.

Price – Using the same dates Virgin America, American, Delta, and United had the EXACT same prices for coach ($289 rt to LAX, $419 rt to SFO).  With the exception of Delta & United who offer a whopping $2 discount if you pay for your bags online, all four airlines charge $25 for the first checked bag.  The only price difference came for business/first tickets.  Virgin America costs more for their upper class seats ($284 more to LAX, $142 more to SFO), and the cheapest rt business ticket found in this group is $1745 (AA, Delta, United – MCO-LAX).

Conclusions – If you’re traveling between MCO-LAX, there is no benefit to choosing Virgin America for their timing.  United & Delta offer flights at around the same times and offer a greater choice for your travel needs.  If you’re traveling between MCO-SFO, however, timing can matter.  My recommendation is to use the airline that best serves your scheduling needs.  There is also no benefit to choose Virgin America for their value.  All four airlines offer the same coach rates.  As you can tell, the new service does not add anything too new or exciting to the airline landscape in Orlando.  But, maybe your choice is based more on how the planes look.  For your viewing pleasure, here are your options:

Remember: It’s all about the little things.

Yesterday, I analyzed the new Sun Country service to London from Minneapolis.  Today, I saw an ad for American Airline’s new non-stop flight from Chicago O’hare (ORD) to Beijing (PEK).

First, let’s put this flight in context.  United already has a non-stop from ORD-PEK, as well as a non-stop from SFO, seasonal service from Washington-Dulles and Tokyo-Narita.  This will be American’s first route into China, so I imagine they will want to remain competitive.  For comparison’s sake, I used and the same travel dates.

American – Travel time to Beijing: 13 hours 30 minutes, Travel time to Chicago: 12 hours 50 minutes, $1009.

United – Travel time to Beijing: 13 hours 20 minutes, Travel time to Chicago: 13 hours 3 minutes, $1002

Conclusion – Both flights offer almost identical travel times (if you’re curious about why some flights take longer than others when going to the same destination, check out my friends over at FlightCaster), including similar departure and arrival times (the American flight leaves an hour earlier out of Chicago and the United flight leaves 40 minutes earlier out of Beijing).  Both flights use the wide-body Boeing 777.  Both flights earn you miles on great airlines with many more destinations.  Which should you choose?  Wherever you have miles.  Both offer just about the same flights, so personal preference here is key, if you’re planning on flying coach or can use your miles for upgrades.  If you are going to pay for a business class seat, though, there is no comparison.  The United flight is $3288, where the American seat is $7587, a difference of almost $4300.  That’s a lot of chump change.  If you can afford paying for first class, United charges $21,134.90, and American charges $21066.  Not much of a difference, but if you’re actually paying this much for a flight, you don’t even care about the cost.

Remember: It’s all about the little things.

Hello!  Welcome back!  I know I have been missing writing to you, my eleven listeners…er…readers.

Sun Country, a low-cost midwest based airline, has just announced they will start flying to London once a week during the summer from Minneapolis to London’s Stansted airport.  While Minneapolis has had a non-stop from Delta into Heathrow, this flight is meant to lure the budget traveler. Yes, the budget traveler who doesn’t mind being charged to check a bag (Delta doesn’t charge for your first checked bag.  Sun Country charges $20 each way for your first checked bag, if you make the payment at least 24 hours before your flight.  The fee goes up to $25 if you don’t pre-order.), and who doesn’t mind making a fuel stop in Gander, Newfoundland (Delta can make it non-stop because they use 767s, as opposed to the shorter range 737-800).

I did some research to compare the difference between these flights (I used the same flight dates to avoid differences in price based on timing – Depart Friday July 23, Return Sunday Aug. 1):

Sun Country – Travel time to London: 9 hours 30 minutes, Travel time to Minneapolis: 10 hours 55 minutes, $976.10 after checking one bag.

Delta – Travel time to London: 8 hours 20 minutes, Travel time to MSP: 9 hours, $954 including a free checked bag (Source:

Conclusion: Sun Country’s total travel time is 3 hours and 5 minutes longer and costs about 20 dollars more.  If you need Sun Country miles, then I guess this is a better deal.  If miles don’t matter, but your time does, go with Delta.  My guess is that I won’t be the only traveler to figure this out.  The good money says that this route will be a bust for Sun Country.  And it’s not their fault.  Some airports just don’t work well for multiple flights to London.  Take San Diego, for example: At least two different airlines have tried doing non-stops from San Diego to London.  British Airways’ flight failed because the plane was too heavy to take off with all of the fuel required, so it would make a pit-stop in Phoenix. Zoom Airlines tried, but they went under in 2008.  Being so close to LA, which has 5 different airlines flying non-stops from LAX-Heathrow at least 7 times a day, San Diego isn’t a good market for a SAN-London non-stop.  Similarly, Sun Country is trying to tap into the market that wants the benefits of flying to London cheaply and time efficiently.  Unfortunately, they’re not there yet.

Remember: It’s all about the little things.

Mystery solved!

The Northwest 747 that was parked on the north side of the San Diego, CA (SAN) runway was the Philadelphia Eagles’ charter jet.

Why was this a mystery, you ask?  I’m so glad you did!

A few reasons:

1) It is rare for a 747 to even fly through San Diego.  For a little while, British Airways flew a “non-stop” from San Diego to London.  But because our runway is so short, a fully loaded 747 can’t take off without running into the lovely folks in Point Loma.  The British Airways flight would fill up with passengers and enough fuel to get to Phoenix, where they would pick up more passengers and more fuel.  Not surprisingly, the flight did not last long.  This is why it is so rare to see a 747 at SAN.  (the last time a 747 flew through SAN was a Japan Airlines 747 taking baseball players to the World Baseball Classic)

2) Northwest’s hubs are Detroit, Minneapolis, and Memphis, and Delta’s hubs (Delta owns Northwest) are Atlanta, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, and JFK.  You may notice that none of those cities include Philadelphia, where the Eagles are from.  You know whose hub is in Philly?  US Air.  Frankly, I don’t blame the Eagles for going with ANYONE other than US Air (The Basheret and I had a horrific experience the last time we flew US Air).  Interesting, nevertheless.


How did I figure all of this out?  I’m glad you asked again!

I sent an email to the address on the “Contact Us” page of the San Diego Airport website.  Seriously.  They responded in a timely manner, they were courteous, and they provided just the information I requested.  I understand this is often hard to find, and it’s a little thing, but it is surely appreciated!

Sometimes, if you have a question, email the people in charge.  Be friendly, and you’ll likely get a friendly response.  Remember, the people on the other end put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you.


Remember: It’s all about the little things.

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