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Here’s a great article about why flight prices fluctuate to such a high degree.  I have experienced this myself, as my Dad, my Uncle, and my new Dad-in-Law are going to Detroit for the Woodward Cruise in August.

When Flying to Omaha Costs More Than a Flight to Paris.

Remember: It’s all about the little things.

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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 Kayak.com.
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 Kayak.com.

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

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 Kayak.com 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 Kayak.com 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: Kayak.com).

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.

The band Dishwalla had a big hit in the 90’s with the song “Counting Blue Cars,” although most people know this song by its chorus’ tagline: “Tell me all your thoughts on God.”
As I fly to New York (via Baltimore) on this lovely, wingletted Southwest 737, I can’t help but think that this could be the overarching theme of my interview on Wednesday. Tell me all your thoughts on God. To a group of people who have spent most of their adult life studying this prompt. Go. Oh, and relax and be yourself.
The good thing here is that I am pretty confident that there is no correct answer. After all, we don’t read “God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah(or Leah, and Rachel if you are Gates of Gray inclined). Instead, we are reminded in the Amidah that each patriarch and matriarch had a unique relationship with God.
Yes, I do have plenty of thoughts on God. But I won’t be explicitly posting them here. That’s one of those little things that I only share on certain occasions and in certain forums. This interview will be one of them.
By the way, best movie to watch on the way to this interview: “Keeping The Faith.”
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.

When I was at UC Davis, I traveled almost every weekend to work.  I songled at synagogues in Davis, Orangevale, San Rafael, and Fresno.   What this meant for me is that I did a LOT of driving.  Now that I work at the Shul, I don’t have the need to do very many road trips.  In fact, the last time I drove for more than an hour was when I moved down to San Diego.  And I wasn’t even in my own car! (I was in the U-Haul while my dad drove my car)

Yesterday, though, I got my long drive.

This weekend is my future brother-in-law’s stag party, and no, it will likely not be anything like The Hangover.  It looks like it will be a bunch of guys eating good food, seeing good shows, and generally having a good time together.  Since it made more sense to drive than fly, I drove from San Diego to our destination last night.

There’s a simple joy in driving the open road at night.  The iPod and Blackberry (gotta love internet enabled phones that allow you to listen to Pandora AND LiveATC.net anywhere!) kept me company.  And it was awesome.

Fortunately, Tirdof was there to welcome me as he lives in the destination.  A great time and a great night’s sleep was had by all.  Can’t say the same about the sleep for the rest of the weekend!

Remember: It’s all about the little things.

As you may have noticed, I really enjoy travel.  Specifically, I REALLY love flying.  I’m fascinated by the fact that we have created such beautiful machines that transport us in ways our ancestors five generations back could not have dreamed.  Almost everything about flying fascinates me.

This past February, I had the pleasure of going to Washington, DC for a conference.  I, along with Friend 1, chaperoned teens from The Shul.  We flew United.  Suffice it to say that they treated us so poorly on our return trip that they refunded a considerable portion of our cost.  Yet, the silver lining of that horrific experience was the actual flight home.  United, like most airlines (except for Southwest) uses inflight radio stations.  United, unlike most airlines, saves one of its channels for the radio communications between the pilots and air traffic control.  To say I love that feature is an understatement.  I could listen to airplane radio chatter all day.

What is it about the radio chatter that is so engaging?  People talk incredibly fast, yet in the most efficient way possible.  Instructions are given and repeated, verbatim (although, if you’re listening for the first time, you may have no clue what they are saying).  Incoming and outgoing planes are routed so that the passenger’s experience is as smooth as possible.  You can even tell from ATC’s tone that they want to get passengers in the air, on the ground, and to the gate as quickly as possible.  It’s a cadre of organized chaos resulting in the safe transport of millions of people every day.  How could someone not be fascinated?!

So while lots of people, myself included, enjoy listening to Pandora at work, I have a new favorite radio station: liveatc.net.  It provides live air traffic control radio chatter for lots of airports.

It.  Is.  Awesome.

Remember: It’s all about the little things.

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