Hump Day Fare Hacks: August 3, 2016

This week has been an interesting one, but not for the reasons I’d expected. While I had anticipated talking about how Norwegian fares remained consistent (they did) and that certain transpacific route prices fell (they did), what I didn’t expect was to have Emirates and Etihad comprising three of the 10 positions in this week’s list of deals. Both carriers are known for charging a premium for their services, and rightly so, but I hadn’t expected to find them listing intercontinental flights for less than $1,000. And while I wouldn’t advise impulsively buying a flight to the Middle East (or anywhere, for that matter), I will say that — particularly in Emirates’ case — you should book sooner rather than later if you have the desire to capitalize on these incredible fares.

With that said, there are still some great fares on carriers outside of the UAE. BOS-FRA on Lufthansa for less than $600 and EWR-AMS on United for less than $500 are certainly well below the normal prices for those routes, and I would say that both are very good value for your money. More surprisingly, Cathay Pacific’s flights between New York and Hong Kong have stayed below $600, although I still maintain that they will rise significantly in due course. Regardless, I can’t say that I don’t enjoy seeing such an incredible deal on a five-star airline stick around, and I might even consider going to Hong Kong at some point in the (very far off) future if it does.

Note: All routes profiled are based on a 7-day round trip (departing and arriving the same day a week apart), unless otherwise noted. That said, I strongly encourage you to play with a variety of dates and trip lengths and see what you can find.

 

BOSTON

 

Boston – Beijing

Leave on:

  • September 6-8, 10-15, 17-23, 26-30
  • October 1-5, 10-31
  • Any date in November
  • December 1-10

Carrier: Hainan Airlines
Price: $658

Thoughts: Yes, we’ve seen this one before. Yes, I’m still bitter that BOS-PEK is going for a dollar cheaper than I was able to buy it for (not really). However, I cannot, cannot, cannot reiterate how much of a steal a direct transpacific flight for less than $1,000 on a five-star airline is, not to mention less than $700, and the fact that this fare is bookable for dates just over a month away is even more rare. Get it while it’s here, because my guess is that this fare won’t last for long (although I’ve already been proven wrong on that front).

 

Boston – Dubai

Leave on:

  • Any date in September
  • Any date in October
  • Any date in November
  • December 1-8

Carrier: Emirates
Price: $698

Thoughts: Currently ranked number one in the world by SKYTRAX, Emirates is known for two things: a luxurious experience and extremely high prices — like, $1,500+ for a round trip in economy. Now, however, the carrier is having a fare sale which ends tomorrow, August 4, in which prices on long-haul routes have been slashed by more than 50%. Additionally, Emirates has two flights per day each way between Boston and Dubai on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, so you’ll be riding in one of the newest, most modern aircraft in the skies today.

 

Boston – Frankfurt

Leave on:

  • November 1-13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26-30
  • December 1-13

Carrier: Lufthansa
Price: $521

Thoughts: Given that Lufthansa 747s are commonly seen in the skies around Boston, I’m still perplexed that Google Flights is showing Lufthansa not having nonstop options for this route on a few dates. However, given that this price is the lowest that I’ve seen for BOS-FRA, period, and the fact that it’s on Lufthansa makes it even more valuable.

 

Boston – London Gatwick

Leave on:

  • October 30, 31
  • November 14
  • January (2017) 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29, 30
  • February (2017) 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27
  • March (2017) 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 13, 15, 17

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $340

Thoughts: In addition to being consistently in the $330-$350 range, this route has an excellent example of the “narrowing” of date ranges as time goes on. Last week, there were three dates in November that went for the lowest fare. This week, there is just one. Likewise, December’s low-fare date has disappeared. Regardless, there are still a number of dates on which you can take advantage of this fare. And while I wouldn’t expect the lowest common fare to simply shoot up to, say, $800, it is clear that timing is crucial when finding good fares on Norwegian.

 

 

Boston – Oslo

Leave on:

  • September 26, 30 (return October 4, October 8)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $269

Thoughts: $269 for a transatlantic round trip. Let that sink in.

 

NEW YORK

 

New York JFK – Abu Dhabi

Leave on:

  • September 6-8, 12, 14, 15, 19-22, 26-29
  • October 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27, 31
  • November 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30
  • December 1
  • January (2017) 19, 23-25, 30, 31
  • February (2017) 1, 2, 6-9, 13-16, 21-23, 27, 28
  • March (2017) 1, 2, 6-9, 13-16, 20-23, 27, 30
  • April (2017) 3, 5, 6, 10-13, 17-19, 24-27
  • May (2017) 1, 3, 4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29-31
  • June (2017) 1, 5-8

Carrier: Etihad
Price: $836

Thoughts: A very, very good price, especially considering the route and the carrier — and that’s not even mentioning the range of dates available (probably the most extensive I’ve seen yet). Ranked sixth in the world by SKYTRAX, Etihad is known for having a three-room suite, dubbed “The Residence,” on its Airbus A380 aircraft that goes for well north of $30,000 one way. That said, its economy product is among the best in the industry, and is well worth the $836 that you’d pay for a flight of this length.

 

Newark – Amsterdam

Leave on:

  • November 1-7, 9-18, 21, 22, 24-30
  • December 1-8, 10, 11, 14

Carrier: United Airlines
Price: $462

Thoughts: As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there are a number of fares that I profile that are seen regularly simply because they’re cheap (looking at you, Norwegian) and I want to expose them to people who wouldn’t know about them otherwise. This, however, is simply an excellent fare on an otherwise expensive route. Prices for Amsterdam flights tend to run higher than what you generally see for round trips between the U.S. and Europe. And while I found $506 for JFK-AMS on KLM recently, I didn’t expect to find a sub-$500 direct flight to Amsterdam, even if from EWR. I anticipate that Amsterdam is one of the more popular destinations for many New Yorkers and New Jerseyans, so I’d get moving on this one rather quickly.

 

New York JFK – Dubai

Leave on:

  • Any date in September
  • Any date in October
  • Any date in November
  • December 1-8

Carrier: Emirates
Price: $698

Thoughts: Pretty much all of the same applies to what was said under the BOS-DXB listing, except that Emirates operates the A380 between New York and Dubai. So, if you’ve ever wanted to experience economy-class luxury on a double-decker, this may well be the time to do it. Just remember — this fare sale ends tomorrow, August 4.

 

New York JFK and Newark – Hong Kong

Leave on:

  • October 24-27, 31
  • November 1, 2, 8, 15, 17, 22-24, 28-30
  • December 1, 5-7

Carrier: Cathay Pacific
Price: $554

Thoughts: Really not sure when the jig will be up and the prices rise astronomically, especially considering it’s Cathay Pacific, fourth in SKYTRAX’s 2016 rankings and a five-star carrier to boot.

 

New York JFK – Stockholm

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 16, 18, 20, 21, 25, 27, 28, 30
  • February (2017) 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 20, 25, 27

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $280

Thoughts: Even if it’s $2 up from last week, I don’t think I need to start the “transatlantic flights for less than $300 are insanely cheap” speech again.

 

 

 

 

 

Maximizing Your Savings on Flights: See Where the Deals Are in the Northeast

As humans, many of us are leery about making large financial investments. And while buying a plane ticket isn’t an investment of the same magnitude as, say, buying a house, we should be similarly careful when booking flights. Given high operating costs, as well as the desire to make a healthy profit, airlines will do everything they can to maximize revenue. Indeed, as the old adage goes, they want to “have their cake and eat it too.”

However, sometimes it can be difficult to tell the quality of the “bargain” that you’re getting when booking a flight. For example, if you’re in Boston, you might think that you got a great deal on a $280 flight to New Orleans, only to find out that a friend paid $150 for the same flight. ‘So what’s the difference?’ you wonder. ‘It’s the same flight!’

There are numerous reasons that ticket prices fluctuate — far too many for me to list here. What I can do, though, is provide a realistic estimate of how cheaply certain flights go for. As such, I’ve compiled the cheapest destinations from the major airports in each New England state, plus the tri-state area (that’s New York and New Jersey). And while part of it is definitely selfish, as I’ve always been curious to find out what O+D combinations are consistently the cheapest, part of it is to help people gain a better understanding of what a good deal might look like.

Each fare classification, along with its destination and airport combination, is based on the common fare. Of course, there will be times where a route that normally goes for $280 suddenly goes for $110, but I am not taking those into account — this is based on scouring a variety of fare calendars and finding the lowest price that one can reasonably expect to be able to book for that route. For that reason, one-day aberrations aren’t counted.

A few things to note:
1. That old wives’ tale that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are the cheapest days to fly? It’s legit. While there are exceptions — for example, I have done Saturday to Sunday BOS-BUF and BOS-EWR round trips for less than $100 — this does hold true for the most part. For that reason, I usually try to plan trips that are 3, 4, or 7 days in length.

2. You can probably find a more technical explanation somewhere else, but it’s common for tickets to have price hikes approximately one month and two weeks out. That said, you might be able to find a steal if an airline is having trouble filling a plane (which I’ve done).

3. It might seem obvious, but flexibility is huge in terms of getting the best deals. You’d be surprised how much difference there can be in flights just one day apart.

 

Boston

Under $100

  • Baltimore
  • Chicago (ORD)*
  • Cleveland*
  • Detroit*
  • New York (EWR + LGA)

Under $200

  • Atlanta
  • Buffalo^
  • Charleston, SC
  • Charlotte
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Indianapolis
  • Milwaukee
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • Myrtle Beach
  • Nashville
  • New Orleans
  • Orlando
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Raleigh-Durham
  • Richmond
  • Washington D.C. (DCA + IAD)

Under $300

  • Austin
  • Denver
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami
  • Phoenix

 

Burlington, VT

Under $200

  • New York

Under $300

  • Charleston, SC
  • Charlotte
  • Orlando
  • Washington D.C.

 

Hartford, CT

Under $200

  • Baltimore
  • Charleston, SC
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Milwaukee
  • Orlando
  • Washington D.C.

Under $300

  • Atlanta
  • Cincinnati
  • Cleveland
  • Detroit
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Miami
  • Nashville
  • Raleigh-Durham
  • Richmond, VA
  • St. Louis
  • Tampa

 

Manchester, NH

Under $200

  • Baltimore
  • Columbus
  • Indianapolis
  • Milwaukee
  • Nashville
  • Washington D.C. (DCA + IAD)

Under $300

  • Charlotte
  • Chicago
  • Orlando
  • Philadelphia
  • Raleigh-Durham
  • Tampa

 

New York

Under $100 – EWR

  • Boston

Under $100 – LGA

  • Boston
  • Chicago (ORD)*
  • Dallas*

Under $200 – EWR

  • Burlington, VT
  • Charleston, SC
  • Charlotte
  • Indianapolis
  • Milwaukee
  • Nashville
  • Orlando, FL
  • Portland, ME
  • Raleigh-Durham

Under $200 – JFK

  • Burlington, VT
  • Charleston, SC
  • Charlotte
  • Milwaukee
  • Orlando
  • Portland, ME
  • Raleigh-Durham
  • Richmond, VA
  • Washington D.C. (DCA + IAD)

Under $200 – LGA

  • Atlanta
  • Charleston, SC
  • Cleveland*
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Indianapolis
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Miami
  • Milwaukee
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Nashville
  • Orlando
  • Portland, ME
  • Raleigh-Durham
  • St. Louis
  • Tampa
  • Washington (DCA + IAD)

Under $300 – EWR

  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Houston
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • Phoenix

Under $300 – JFK

  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Houston
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Phoenix
  • Pittsburgh
  • Seattle

Under $300 – LGA

  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • New Orleans
  • Phoenix
  • Pittsburgh
  • Portland, OR*
  • Salt Lake City*

 

Portland, ME

Under $200

  • New York
  • Washington D.C. (DCA + IAD)

Under $300

  • Albuquerque, NM*
  • Atlanta, GA*
  • Baltimore (BWI)
  • Charlotte
  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Miami
  • Orlando
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Raleigh-Durham

 

Providence, RI

Under $200

  • Baltimore
  • Chicago (MDW)
  • Indianapolis
  • Nashville

Under $300

  • Austin
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Orlando
  • Tampa

 

* While there are a number of dates in which you can get a fare within this range, most dates will be in the next $100 range.

^ I took a $97 round trip to Buffalo in June, but it appears that prices have hiked since.

Flying BOS-NYC is cheaper than you’d think.

At first thought, flying from Boston to New York (or even New Jersey) may sound borderline foolish. After all, the two metro areas are separated by a mere 180 miles, a distance commonly traveled by car. Indeed, the percentage of people who travel between the two areas via personal automobile or bus is far greater than those who make the trip via air.

If I had a car, I probably wouldn’t give a second thought to flying between Boston and New York. However, air travel between the two cities is more common than you might think: there are 60+ flights per day each way between BOS and the three major New York airports (EWR, JFK, and LGA). And though a certain number of those are made up of either business travelers or connecting passengers who are not solely traveling between Boston and New York, the aforementioned flights would simply not be viable if they relied solely on those two groups of people to support them.

Ultimately, there are a number of people who choose to fly between Boston and New York – myself included – as it can be surprisingly cheap. For example, I’ve flown BOS-EWR for $97 round trip on both jetBlue and United, and I felt that I got my money’s worth (and then some) both times. And with jetBlue slated to start flying between BOS and LGA for as low as $97 round trip this fall, it continues to be surprisingly affordable to take to the air.

The Value of Time

It’s often said that “time is money.” And while that phrase is used in a variety of contexts, it usually meant to express the belief that people will pay more to get to where they need to go in less time.

Below, I’ve made a cost-benefit analysis of each of the three modes of transportation that takes into account price and time. Obviously, there are a number of different variables that may affect total travel time, but I feel that these numbers are relatively consistent across the board.

Bus

  • ($15.00 each way) x (2 legs) = $30.00 round trip
  • Arrive 15 minutes before boarding the bus
  • 4 hours, 30 minutes (minimum, without traffic) to Penn Station
  • Total travel time: Minimum of 4 hours, 45 minutes

Train

  • ($49.00 each way) x (2 legs) = $98.00 round trip
  • Arrive 15 minutes before boarding the train
  • 4 hours (average) to Penn Station
  • Total travel time: Average of 4 hours, 15 minutes

Plane

  • $97.00 round trip
  • Arrive 90 minutes before departure (1 hour before boarding)
  • 40 minutes to EWR, LGA, JFK
  • 10 minutes spent taxiing to the gate
  • Total travel time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

For me, it takes about 15 minutes to get to both Logan (via Uber) and South Station (via the T), so that variable remains relatively consistent. Others, meanwhile, may be significantly closer to one of Logan or South Station, so that’s why I didn’t choose to include getting to the starting point of your journey in the cumulative time. Additionally, the bus and train are going to be more convenient if you’re going to Manhattan, while LaGuardia is more convenient for the Bronx, JFK is more convenient for Long Islanders, and Newark is more convenient for those going to New Jersey.

Why should you fly?

In addition to the obvious time savings, flying is – generally speaking – subject to fewer traffic variables than taking the bus. Of course, there can be taxi delays, ground stops, and the like, but the total time in the air will remain relatively consistent (between 30 and 50 minutes), regardless of which airport you’re flying into.

Additionally, it’s much easier to justify a “weekend trip” to New York when your travel time is half of what it would be otherwise. For example, say you fly out of Boston at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning; there’s a good chance you’ll have arrived at your destination by 10. Take the bus, however, and you’d need to leave at 5 a.m. to arrive at the same time. Likewise, the return leg sees a similarly dramatic effect; a 6 p.m. flight will likely have you home by 8, while a 6 p.m. bus trip would see you home at 11.

If you’re going to be in New York for a long period of time, it may behoove you to save money and take the bus or train. The shorter the trip, the more value you’ll get out of flying.

Why shouldn’t you fly?

Certainly, there are variables that work against traveling by air. For one, LaGuardia’s operational capabilities as a single-runway airport make it a very undesirable place to be flying in or out of during peak times (6-10 a.m. and 5-8 p.m.). Additionally, the need to arrive at the airport with more time to spare before departure than you’d need for a bus or train is another impediment. And, finally, a $34 Megabus ticket – on the surface – is far cheaper than a $97 jetBlue round trip. For those looking purely at the sticker price or required to abide by certain employer reimbursement rules (only the cheapest mode of transportation, etc.), flying might not be the best option.

Pros and cons of all three modes

Plane vs. Bus:

  • Plane is faster; bus is cheaper
  • Plane is subject to taxi delays (minor at BOS/EWR, worse at JFK/LGA)
  • Bus is subject to traffic delays on the road
  • Bus takes 2.03 times longer than plane

Plane vs. Train:

  • Plane is faster; costs are similar
  • Plane requires that you arrive 90 minutes before departure; train, 15 minutes is fine
  • Train may be subject to traffic delays between Stamford and Penn Station
  • Train takes 1.82 times longer than plane
Bottom Line: Do what makes sense for you

In no way am I attempting to promote flying as the superior method of traveling between Boston and New York. Certainly, the few Megabus trips that go for $1.00 are simply too good to be beaten, and an Amtrak fare sale may well yield prices that the airlines can’t compete with. Additionally, my willingness to pay is a maximum of $100 round trip for any ticket on said route – I absolutely refuse to pay more than that. However, if cutting your travel time by half (each way) is worth it, you don’t have a car, and you can afford to spend $100 to get to New York and back, then you might want to consider the sky. Contrary to popular belief, it might be worth it.