With global oil prices near all time highs, many people are experiencing sticker shock when booking airfares. If you are planning to attend RSNA 2011, Nov. 27-Dec. 2 later this year, you may be wondering when to book your airfare to get the best deal.
According to Carl Unger, writing about airfares on the “Smarter Travel” website, airline fuel costs have spiraled out of sight and United Airlines and several domestic carriers recently announced a $420 fuel surcharge for overseas travel. Consequently many travelers are looking for ways to get the best deal possible on their way to RSNA 2011 next November.
Of course the Internet provides a multitude of ways to search out the best airfares, but it can be time consuming, and there are lots of questions about when to buy and how to avoid pitfalls.
On the question of when to buy, one website that might prove useful is the HotWire Trip Starter. While it only tracks U.S. domestic airfare trends, it should give you an idea of when fares have traditionally spiked and when they typically fall within a given year. Over the past two years, for example, airfares from New York to Chicago tend to rise in late April, late June and then level off until they really spike to annual highs in mid-November, but drop back to near annual lows around the end of November.
For Los Angeles to Chicago, the trend line is similar but stays higher longer in the summer months before leveling off in September before shooting up in mid-November and hitting annual highs in mid-December. As with the NY-Chicago fares the lowest fares of the year tend to occur in late November. On the other hand, if you are coming from Dallas, fares tend to remain steady all through August before dropping in late September. There is a small spike in mid-November, but even then fares don’t reach summer-time highs.
Another useful site is YAPTA.COM, which lets you check an airfare and then set up an alert that will send you an e-mail anytime the fare drops. If you purchase a ticket, most airlines put in the fine print that there is price-drop guarantee. This lets you buy your ticket when you want, and then set up your yapta.com alert and maybe get a lower price later. The Yapta site even has an easy-to-use online form that will help you claim your refund.
Of course doing-it-yourself can lead to some ugly surprises. As an example, you find a great fare, and start to book it, only to find out that the taxes, fees and surcharges may as much as double the fare you thought you were getting. Other pitfalls, some online fares are non-refundable.
If you don’t have the time, or don’t want to deal with the hassles, the good news is RSNA has secured special domestic and international discounts for RSNA 2011 attendees not available to the public.
For domestic travelers, United Airlines offers a 5 percent discount on select UAL and United Express qualifying flights. It is quick and easy to secure the discount, just go to United.com and use the book travel tab and enter the promotional code 553SB. If you prefer to do it by phone, just call 1 800-521-4041 and use the same promotional code.
For international travelers, RSNA attendees can receive up to a 20 percent discount on the Star Alliance network. These airlines include ANA, Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Blue1, bmi, Brussels Airlines, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS International Air Lines, TAM Airlines, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, US Airways.
To obtain the discount, call the reservation office or go to the special website staralliance.com/conventionsplus. After you have registered for the conference use the promo code UA10S11. Registered attendees plus one accompanying person will be granted a discount of up to 20 percent depending on the class of travel. Discounts are only offered on published business and economy class fares, excluding special website/Internet fares, senior, youth and group discounted fares.
Don’t want to bother with making all the arrangements yourself? RSNA has used GANT travel Management for the past 11 years. RSNA attendees who book air travel through GANT Travel receive up to a 15 percent discount on United Airline fares. If you book by Sept. 30 you will be entered into a drawing for a $500 (US) travel credit. Contact GANT at 1-877-613-1192, international +1 011 630-227-3873, or RSNA@ganttravel.com.