Azores Airlines: You’ll get there, but it might take a few days

In the United States, Spirit Airlines has developed a reputation of being the most “bare bones” carrier in the skies. Fees for carry-on bags, snacks and drinks (even water!), and extensive delays have deterred a large number of passengers, myself included. Yet there is another, lesser-known European carrier with a presence (albeit a small one) in the U.S. whose service (or lack thereof) has also become notable: Azores Airlines — formerly known as SATA Internacional — the flagship carrier of the Azores islands.

The Azores

Located off the coast of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores are becoming a popular destination for tourists. The incredibly blue water, mild temperatures, and picturesque mountains rising out of the ocean is really quite phenomenal — and those observations are coming from someone who’s never been.

While the (occasionally cheap) fares may attract some to travel on Azores in order to get to this archipelago, there are reasons to be leery — mainly that Azores has a well-documented reputation of shoddy service.

The Incident

Back in June, passengers were unable to fly for days after a ground vehicle struck an Azores plane at Boston Logan, resulting in cancellation of that day’s flight to Ponta Delgada. While it doesn’t appear that Azores was responsible for the collision, one woman described of waiting “three, maybe four” days in the airport. Since Azores didn’t have its contingency plan in place enabling passengers to utilize local hotels, Massport was forced to provide cots for passengers to sleep on in the airport — hardly the safest accommodations, not to mention uncomfortable.

Another passenger said he was continuously told “come back tomorrow,” with scarce information on the flight itself. To add insult to injury, he was forced to pay for transportation to and from his hotel. His view on the incident reveals a galling disconnect and lack of communication from the carrier:

“All these people that are lined up, it is just pure frustration,” Cabral said. “You can’t go to the bathroom; you have to wait in line. No one comes out and manages anything. We don’t believe anything that is being said at this point and time. It is disappointing. We have lost hotels, we have lost appointments, we have lost connecting flights, and we have no idea what we are going to get in return. We don’t know what is going to happen when we get to the front of the line. This is an exercise in futility. It’s an embarrassment, and I really think that something should be done.”

Azores’ Response

For its part, Azores did issue a public statement about the incident after the fact:

“A series of technical issues took out two [aircraft in our] long-range fleet, causing difficulty from Boston to Portugal. Our team has tried to get local airport officials to inform impacted passengers [of the situation].”

A statement is better than saying nothing, in this case, but it was insufficient in my opinion. Particularly, I had to laugh at the use of the word “difficulty.” It seemed to be almost as tone-deaf of a statement as United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz initially using the word “re-accommodate” to describe what happened to Dr. David Dao in April of this year in a memo to his employees.

More importantly, it speaks to the disconnect that occurred between Azores and Massport; evidently, Azores thought Massport would handle communication about the situation, when that is — as the carrier — firmly Azores’ responsibility. Moreover, it’s Azores’ responsibility — not Massport’s — to ensure passengers have appropriate accommodations. Evidently that didn’t happen.

There’s an interesting review of Azores’ “premium” offering from One Mile at a Time. Though this review is merely a subjective take on an Azores flight — and the author is admittedly fascinated by the prospect of flying on an Airbus A310 — an aircraft type that has, these days, mostly been relegated to performing cargo operations — he did express his disappointment in the level of service throughout the review.

Alternatives

For those who are interested in exploring the Azores, there are other travel options. Air Transat, a low-cost carrier based in Canada, operates flights from a number of Canadian cities to Ponta Delgada. Additionally, passengers can fly to Lisbon on airlines like TAP Portugal and then take a connecting flight (albeit going to mainland Europe only to travel back over the ocean seems a bit redundant). And recently, Delta Air Lines announced it would begin service between New York JFK and Ponta Delgada in 2018, giving Americans a new link to these islands.

Of course, there are people who have enjoyed their experience on Azores, according to this list of carrier reviews on SKYTRAX. Moreover, even the “good” carriers are subject to having dissatisfied customers. And ultimately, I haven’t flown Azores, so your experience may well have been different than my perception if you’ve tried the carrier out. However, as a SKYTRAX two-star carrier, Azores is rated the same as Spirit, and you might know how I feel about Spirit if you’ve read my aforementioned blog post. Come next year, there will be a new non stop option for those looking to get from the United States to the Azores (and back, of course).

Hump Day Fare Hacks: December 28, 2016

Norwegian Index for December 28, 2016: 246.2

The past few years have seen – anecdotally speaking – a massive influx of low-cost transatlantic flights into various air travel markets. With that in mind, I decided that it might be interesting to see what an “average” price for these particular transatlantic flight deals might be. That’s how the Norwegian Index was born.

If you’ve followed Hump Day Fare Hacks, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen the Norwegian Index trend downward throughout the year. It’s fitting, then, that the Index set a new record low in its final iteration of 2016. I’ll leave you to look at the fares, as they speak for themselves.

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 – Copenhagen

Leave on:

  • April 4, 2017 (return April 13, 2017)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $266

Thoughts: This may be just a single date in 2017, but the price is good enough that it may be worth taking advantage of.

 

Boston – London Gatwick

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 23, 25, 29, 30

  • February (2017) 6, 8, 13

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $260

Thoughts: By far the lowest that this has been.

 

Boston – London Heathrow

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 15-20, 22-27, 29-31

  • February (2017) 1-3, 6-10, 12-15, 20-24, 26-28

  • March (2017) 1-3, 5-9, 13-17, 19-23

Carriers: Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic Airways
Price: $473

Thoughts: The SkyTeam members are offering identical, sub-$500 fares.

 

Boston – Oslo

Leave on:

  • April (2017) 3, 10 (return April 11, 18)

  • May (2017) 1, 8 (return May 9, 16)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $254

Thoughts: Not the lowest it’s ever been, but certainly “up there” (or, perhaps, down there).

 

Boston – Paris

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 15-20, 22-24, 26, 27, 29-31

  • February (2017) 2, 3, 5-7, 9-10, 12-14, 20, 21, 23, 25, 26-28

  • March (2017) 1, 2, 5-8, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19-24, 26-31

  • April (2017) 2-7, 9-11, 19-21, 23-28, 30

  • May (2017) 1-5, 7, 8

Carriers: Air France, Delta Air Lines
Price: $425

Thoughts: As a route that usually goes for well north of $500, this one came out of left field.

 

NEW YORK

 

New York JFK – Barcelona

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 26-29, 31

  • February (2017) 2-5, 7, 9, 14

Carrier: American Airlines
Price: $376

Thoughts: Cheap cheap cheap cheap cheap.

 

New York JFK – London Heathrow

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 15-31

  • February (2017) 1, 2, 4-15, 19-28

  • March (2017) 1-23

Carriers: Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic Airways
Price: $473

Thoughts: Same prices as DL and VS are offering on BOS-LHR.

 

New York JFK – Milan

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 17, 18, 24, 25, 31

  • February (2017) 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28

  • March (2017) 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29

  • April (2017) 4, 11, 12, 19, 25, 26

  • May (2017) 2, 3, 10

Carriers: Alitalia, Delta Air Lines, Emirates
Price: $496

Thoughts: Sub-$500 Emirates flights don’t come along every day! (Oh, and Alitalia and Delta operate this route, too.)

 

New York JFK – Oslo

Leave on:

  • March (2017) 3, 23

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $203

Thoughts: Giving the JFK-ARN all-time low a run for its money, no pun intended.

 

New York JFK – Stockholm

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30

  • February (2017) 1, 3, 4, 27

  • March (2017) 1, 24

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $248

Thoughts: The fact that a $248 fare on JFK-ARN isn’t considered unusual says a lot.

The Top 10 Deals Found in 2016

With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time for reflection – particularly, reflection on the flight prices of the year.

Of course, there will still be one final edition of Hump Day Fare Hacks – to be published on Wednesday, barring the apocalypse – but I figured it might be fun to have a look back in advance. That’s why I’m compiling a list of the 10 best deals that I found in 2016 – both domestic and international.

Contrary to what you might think, these prices are not listed from most expensive to least, but rather by how good I believe the value of each flight to be. It’s subjective, so feel free to disagree, but the great thing about America is that we each get our own opinion.

Note: To my knowledge, none of these fares are promotional fares. There were certainly some prices that were even lower than this, but I excluded fare sales.

The Full Top 10:

10. Boston to Chicago O’Hare – United Airlines – $97 round trip

9. Boston to London Heathrow – British Airways – $460 round trip

8. Boston to Nashville – jetBlue – $77 round trip

7. New York JFK to Paris – American Airlines – $357 round trip

6. Boston to Copenhagen – Norwegian Air Shuttle – $279 round trip

5. Boston to Oslo – Norwegian Air Shuttle – $252 round trip

4. Newark to Hong Kong – United Airlines – $488 round trip

3. San Francisco to Beijing – United Airlines – $478 round trip

2. New York JFK to Oslo – Norwegian Air Shuttle – $217 round trip

1. New York JFK to Stockholm – Norwegian Air Shuttle – $199 round trip

 

Hump Day Fare Hacks: December 21, 2016

Norwegian Index for December 21, 2017: 269.0

While this week didn’t hit any records in terms of lowest fares, there were a number of big surprises across the board. Perhaps the biggest is that Norwegian flights from both Boston and New York to Copenhagen are selling for less than $300 round trip. Of the three major European destinations (the other two being London Gatwick and Oslo) that are served by Norwegian from both Boston and New York, I would have guessed that Copenhagen was the least likely to break the $300 mark. Then again, I wouldn’t have guessed that BOS-MAD would still be going for below $400, either. Either way, all flights listed are below $500 round trip, so these are opportunities worth exploring!

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 – Copenhagen

Leave on:

  • April (2017) 4, 11, 25 (return April 13, 20, and May 4)
  • May (2017) 2, 9, 16 (return May 11, 18, 25)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $279

Thoughts: Of the three Norwegian routes in Boston, I figured this was the least likely to break $300. Shows how much I know.

Boston – Frankfurt

Leave on:

  • April (2017) 5, 11, 20, 24-30
  • May (2017) 1-3

Carrier: Lufthansa
Price: $495

Thoughts: This route has hovered around $500 in recent times, but I certainly didn’t see this one coming.

Boston – London Gatwick

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 22, 25, 27, 29
  • February (2017) 1, 5, 6, 8, 12, 13

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $303

Thoughts: The low-water mark for this route. Could it break $300?

Boston – Madrid

Leave on:

  • March (2017) 6, 16, 20, 27, 29

Carrier: Iberia
Price: $381

Thoughts: I still don’t get how this one is so cheap.

Boston – Oslo

Leave on:

  • March 27, 2015 (return April 4)
  • April (2017) 10, 24 (return April 18 and May 2)
  • May 1, 2017 (return May 9, 2017)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $286

Thoughts: Beat out by CPH this week, but still running very cheap.

NEW YORK

New York JFK – Barcelona

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 17, 20, 21, 24, 26-29, 31
  • February (2017) 2-5, 7, 14, 20

Carrier: American Airlines
Price: $376

Thoughts: Considering this is a legacy carrier, this is on the verge of exceptional.

New York JFK – Copenhagen

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 16, 20, 23, 25, 27, 30
  • February (2017) 1, 6, 8, 17, 20, 22, 24, 27
  • March (2017) 1, 6, 8 13, 15, 22

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $239

Thoughts: This seems to be Copenhagen’s week.

New York JFK – Helsinki

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 17-31
  • February (2017) 1-7, 12-16, 19-24, 27, 28
  • March (2017) 2, 3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24

Carrier: Finnair
Price: $401

Thoughts: Out of left field.

New York JFK – Oslo

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 17, 26, 29, 31
  • February (2017) 2, 3, 5, 7, 28
  • March (2017) 21, 23, 26

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $263

Thoughts: This seems a bit more “normal” than the low of two weeks ago. Still fits in the bargain category.

New York JFK – Stockholm

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30
  • February (2017) 1, 4, 6, 10, 22, 24, 27
  • March (2017) 1, 6, 8, 17, 24, 26

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $244

Thoughts: It’s not as cheap as it’s been in the past, but still a bargain.

Hump Day Fare Hacks: December 14, 2017

Norwegian Index for December 14, 2017: 256.8

Although the $199 that JFK-ARN was going for didn’t last, the Norwegian Index still dropped by another 7.5 points to a new record low. And while this is largely due to the $217 found on JFK-OSL, it is also complemented by the $254 that BOS-OSL is going for. The $311 on BOS-CPH gives the Index a bit of normalcy, but – even so – it still dropped by 7.5 points. Even so, only four of 10 flights profiled this week were Norwegian flights, and all were under $500 round trip.

What does this mean? It means that transatlantic flight prices – across the board – appear to be going down, both legacy and low-cost carriers (LCCs). This isn’t news, of course, but it’s still exciting for all of those who are looking to travel across the pond.

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 – Copenhagen

Leave on:

  • April (2017) 4, 25 (return April 13, 2017 and May 4, 2017)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $311

Thoughts: Was up $1 last week over the week before, and now back $1. What goes up must come down (by the same amount)?

Boston – Lisbon

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 16, 22, 23, 29, 30
  • February (2017) 5, 6, 12, 13

Carrier: TAP Portugal
Price: $479

Thoughts: $1 off of last week, and with three more available dates. Can’t beat it!

Boston – Madrid

Leave on:

  • March (2017) 2 , 6, 16, 27, 29

Carrier: Iberia
Price: $381

Thoughts: This has held for a lot longer than I’d have anticipated.

Boston – Oslo

Leave on:

  • March 27, 2017 (return April 4, 2017)
  • April (2017) 3, 10, 24 (return April 11, 18, May 2)
  • May 1, 2017 (return May 9, 2017)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $252

Thoughts: Has to be the lowest I’ve seen this route – even considering the $256 base fare I saw last spring.

Boston – Zurich

Leave on:

  • April (2017) 8-11, 18, 19, 23-27, 29
  • May (2017) 1-3

Carrier: Swiss Airlines
Price: $473

Thoughts: Up $26 from last week, but this is still exceptional.

NEW YORK

New York JFK – Berlin

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 11, 12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, 31
  • February (2017) 1, 2, 7-9, 13-15, 21, 23, 28
  • March 1, 2017

Carrier: airberlin
Price: $466

Thoughts: Can’t say I thought an airberlin flight would make it on Hump Day Fare Hacks, but the numbers don’t lie!

New York JFK – Dusseldorf

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, 31
  • February (2017) 1, 2, 6-9, 14, 21
  • March 7, 2016

Carrier: airberlin
Price: $446

Thoughts: Make that two airberlin flights!

New York JFK – Lisbon

Leave on:

  • February (2017) 3, 6

Carrier: TAP Portugal
Price: $479

Thoughts: A pretty good pair of options, with other sub-$500 options to be found elsewhere in February.

New York JFK – Oslo

Leave on:

  • February 5, 2017

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $217

Thoughts: If it wasn’t for the $199 deal last week on JFK-ARN, this would be revered for plenty of time to come. Still, it deserves recognition in its own right.

New York JFK – Stockholm

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 20, 21, 23, 27, 28, 30
  • February (2017) 1, 4

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $245

Thoughts: I knew $199 was too good to last, but this is still exceptional.

Hump Day Fare Hacks: December 7, 2017

Norwegian Index for December 7, 2017: 264.3

Oh my Stockholm.

Obviously, the new Norwegian Index record by 16.5 points is somewhat stunted due to Stockholm’s barely-believable fare. Even so, two of the other three Norwegian routes profiled this week are “insanely cheap” (less than $300 round trip).

I would guess that a $199 round trip is about as low as a transatlantic flight will go, and I would imagine that the route will be back to $250+ next week. However, I’ve been wrong before, so we shall see!

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 – Copenhagen

Leave on:

  • April (2017) 4, 25 (return April 13, 2017 and May 4, 2017)
  • May 2, 2017 (return May 11, 2017)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $312

Thoughts: A $1 increase over last week doesn’t change that this is exceptionally cheap.

Boston – Lisbon

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 22, 23, 29, 30
  • February (2017) 5, 6

Carrier: TAP Portugal
Price: $480

Thoughts: $12 off last week!

Boston – Madrid

Leave on:

  • March (2017) 2, 6, 13, 16, 27, 29

Carrier: Iberia
Price: $381

Thoughts: March in Madrid is looking good.

Boston – Oslo

Leave on:

  • March 27, 2017 (return April 4, 2017)
  • April (2017) 3, 10, 24 (return April 11, 18, May 2)
  • May (2017) 1, 8 (return May 9, 16)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $291

Thoughts: Still a member of the sub-$300 club.

Boston – Zurich

Leave on:

  • April (2017) 8-11, 18, 19, 23-27, 29
  • May (2017) 1-4, 6-10

Carrier: Swiss Airlines
Price: $447

Thoughts: A good deal indeed.

NEW YORK

New York JFK – Barcelona

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 13 17, 19-24, 26-29, 31
  • February (2017) 2, 3, 5, 7, 9-12, 14, 20, 27
  • March (2017) 1, 2, 21, 29

Carrier: American Airlines
Price: $477

Thoughts: Spain seems to be the place to be.

Newark – Dublin

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 10, 11, 13, 16-18, 22-25, 27, 29
  • February (2017) 2, 3, 5-7, 9, 12-14, 20, 21, 24
  • March 7, 2017

Carrier: United Airlines
Price: $522

Thoughts: Luck of the Irish.

New York JFK – Milan

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 17, 18, 24, 25, 31
  • February (2017) 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28
  • March (2017) 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29
  • April (2017, 4, 25, 26
  • May (2017) 2, 3, 9, 10 $496

Carriers: Alitalia, Delta Air Lines, Emirates
Price: $496

Thoughts: $496 for Emirates? Yup.

New York JFK – Oslo

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 27, 29, 31
  • February (2017) 5, 7, 21
  • March 21, 2017

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $255

Thoughts: Pretty darn good.

New York JFK – Stockholm

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 23, 28
  • March 24, 2017

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $199

Thoughts: Not a misprint.

Cork Popped: NAX to pick from PSM and PVD as alternatives to BOS

Just days after Norwegian received DOT approval for flights between Boston Logan and Cork, Ireland, the carrier made a big announcement. Instead of flying out of Logan, it will fly its Boeing 737-800s out of either Portsmouth, NH or Providence, RI. Norwegian will continue to operate 787s between Boston and Copenhagen, London Gatwick, and Oslo.

The chosen location would be the carrier’s second base to open in the U.S., after the announcement that NAX would open a base at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, NY (SWF), around an hour north of New York City.

The Reasoning

Norwegian’s explanation for its decision is quite interesting, in my view. “To operate the Boeing 737s … from a primary airport [such as Boston] becomes much more expensive with a small aircraft type than a larger aircraft type due to limited passenger numbers,” Norwegian spokesman Anders Lindstrom said.

A Cost-Benefit Analysis

While both airports are approximately an hour from Boston, each has its own unique advantages.

Portsmouth’s advantages:

  • Pease has just one airline who operates scheduled service to the airport – Allegiant Air, a low-cost carrier whose focus is on domestic operations.
  • Less-congested city (approximately 30,000 people vs. 100,000)
  • Close to Interstate 95
  • Hourly bus service to Boston

Providence’s advantages:

  • It would appear that the catchment area for potential passengers is much larger than Pease
  • MBTA Commuter Rail service to Boston
  • Close to Interstate 95
  • Better potential for connections from other airlines
A Closer Look

There is some business sense in Norwegian’s decision. Certainly, there’s something to be said for lower operating costs, especially considering the airline’s low-cost model. Yet it remains to be seen if passengers are willing to travel an hour or more just to save a few bucks. This will be pertinent, particularly considering the extensive number of ancillary fees that Norwegian charges. Moreover, while negotiations have been going on for some time, it is a bit perplexing that Norwegian waited so long to make this declaration.

Of course, it could well be that these flights are a hit, and are the start of a big transformation. Who knows!