Discussion in Flyertalk occasionally
inspires me to develop web-based applications and other resources of assistance
to frequent travelers on certain airlines. By and large, I seek to make contributions
that combine technical innovation (such as figuring out how particular portions
of an airlines' web site work) with substantive significance (such as helping
frequent travelers more quickly and efficiently obtain the information they
need). To that end, I have prepared the following resources:
Airline Fare Codes - which booking classes selected major carriers use for revenue tickets, awards, and upgrades
Airfares result from a combination of two separate data structures. First, a passenger must have a valid fare valid for the desired dates of travel, with possible restrictions as to carrier, routing, season, day of week, time of day, advance purchase, and booking class. Second, a passenger must have a valid reservation for a specific flight, including a booking class for that seat.
Ordinary travel systems combine these two databases -- showing what itineraries are available to match a user's general request. That's helpful for many users, much of the time. But if you don't see a price you like, is that because of a problem with fare (e.g. you don't have a required saturday night stay, don't have enough advance purchase, etc.) or because of inventory (the seats were available, but have been sold)? Knowing which system is causing your problem will help you evaluate adjusting your plans to get the flights you want.
Several services now provide access to this data. Some options:
ExpertFlyer - $10/month or $99/year - Provides comprehensive, reliable fare data (with routings, change fees, etc.) and inventory. Email updates provide notification of inventory changes (e.g. availability of a frequent flier award or other discounted seat) and even improved seating options. An interactive web site. Highly recommended!
KVS Availability Tool - Provides comprehensive fare data and inventory. Draws from multiple web-based sources and presents this data in a unified interface in a Windows app (usable on Macs via an emulator). Subscriptions start at $35/year, though I find the features I want are in the higher levels ($60/year or $75/year). Six-month subscriptions are also available.
I book most hotels through Priceline. I've enjoyed remarkable values from Pricline -- reliably, $50 for the Hilton at LAX; typically, $80-$100 for ordinary downtown business hotels. These savings have led me to forego hotel loyalty programs. Be sure to read bidding instructions to learn the circumstances in which you may "free rebid" if your first bid is rejected. (Sources: 1, 2.)
Running In and Around Airports - how and where get a solid workout at selected airports, with minimal cost and maximum convenience . You'll need a plan for where to put your suitcase and where to take a shower; I'll tell you what I've figured out.
London Heathrow's free
local buses (PDF) - cheaper and faster than
Have a problem with a trip to, from, or via the US? The natural first step is to talk to the airline, preferably in writing to customer relations. Buf it that's unsatisfactory, the Department of Transportation can consider your problem. Most consumers prefer the DOT's "informal complaint" process which is a straightforward web submission. This sometimes reaches a more senior airline representative who can help where ordinary customer relations staff can't or won't.