Can you imagine giving an airline thousands of dollars for your family’s flight, only to find out last-minute that you can’t even sit together? Unfortunately, this scenario is becoming increasingly common with fuller flights and less freely available reserved seats. Even after you’ve shelled out a lot of money, airlines may reserve certain seats for an upcharge and then assign the rest at random. While the remainder of your vacation may be great, starting it on a 3 hour flight in the middle seat, by yourself fuming, certainly isn’t the stress-free scenario anyone would envision.
Let’s face it, air travel can be taxing and confusing. With this reality it’s imperative that you work with a travel professional on all parts of your vacation, including transportation. We know the ins-and-outs of the latest airline fees and trends, and we can help guide you to the best possible outcome, particularly with family and group travel. Read below on how we assist clients every day.
Proactive booking. For solo and frequent travelers, it’s often common to desire the seats toward the front of the plane, and airlines have taken notice by charging an extra fee to reserve many of these seats if you don’t have preferred status. On the other hand, we’ve found that many families and groups don’t really care where they sit on the plane, so long as they can all sit together. If this is true in your case, the key is to be proactive and book early. There are many other travelers like you that don’t want to pay $29 or more to reserve a seat, so naturally the “free” seats fill up fast, particularly if you’re trying to get multiple rows together. When booking vacations with us, we’ll get you the best seats available based on your needs. If a flight is on the fuller side, we might be able to recommend another flight alternative that has more seats available. Or, if paying an upcharge is required, we’ll find the most cost-effective combination of seating so you can stick together. In any case, the earlier we can get you booked, the more options you’ll have.
We get group perks. Planes aren’t getting any less full. In 2002, the average capacity of a flight in the U.S. was around 73%. Now we’re talking upwards of 86%. Combine that with more fees and upcharges, and it’s a recipe for groups getting split up. Fortunately, we’re experienced in this area so you don’t have to be, and in some cases we can get pricing and seats through a group block. If your group is 10 or more people flying on the same day, same flights, we will obtain a group contract from the airline. This allows the price to be the same for all flyers to avoid price swings that can otherwise occur. The airline then assigns seating to the group. If the group is 9 or less, or if there are folks going on different flights, we’ll coordinate the various schedules and seat assignments, but the rate is whatever it is at the time of booking. Regardless, it’s much easier to let us coordinate instead of relying on everyone to book their own travel – that’s a recipe for disaster, or at the very least, unnecessary stress.
Schedule changes can mess things up. We always preach booking early, but one issue is that airlines notoriously make changes between the time you book and the time you fly. Booking on your own, you might rightfully think everything is squared away with great seat assignments, only to find that they’ve switched you to another flight where everyone is spread out on all corners of the plane, or on different flights altogether. Luckily, we check on flight itineraries regularly. So, if your airline puts you on a smaller aircraft, changes your itinerary, or kicks out your seat assignments, we’ll catch it early.
Other “secrets” in air travel. There are a few absolute truths we live by with air travel, one being that we never put clients on ultra low cost carriers (ULCCs). We’ve found that any advertised savings truly isn’t worth the hassle, and you might end up spending more once it’s all said and done with the fees, particularly if you want a certain seat. However, even in the best of circumstances, on the best of airlines, you might encounter a scenario where a member of your group is separated. If this happens, it never hurts to ask a friendly gate agent what they can do. You’d be surprised how much leeway they have to make customers happy. This is especially true when traveling with children. While there currently are no legal regulations requiring airlines to seat children with their parents, gate agents and passengers will be quite accommodating if you only ask politely for assistance.
The goal of a vacation is to relax, connect with loved ones, and regroup, but unfortunately air travel can be a stressful start to your trip. For a better experience, work through us. We’re already planning your amazing family or group getaway, so why not relinquish the stress of coordinating air travel as well? We’ll monitor your trip, keep things stress-free, and get you the best overall value available.