I have to say that I am super excited to be at the Family Travel for Real Life (#FT4RL) conference again, and once again to be live blogging. I hope that you will follow along with me as we learn about family travel, and how those of us with families can take part in it with their families. See below for the lineup of speakers and follow us throughout the day with #FT4RL
Our first speaker is Bonnie from the Frugal Travel Lawyer. She is talking about “the new Frontier”, including also Southwest, JetBlue, and other game-changers. I was talking to her a bit before the conference, and she said that although she’s speaking on airlines today, at her heart she’s actually a “hotel geek”.
She’s been in the miles and points game since about 2000, so she has quite a bit of experience.
(SEE ALSO: Southwest Multiple Passengers trick)
I think that for most families, Southwest provides a ton of value, and is fairly family friendly. The boarding process can be a little tough to get a handle on, but there are a few tricks for how you can maximize your chances to sit together on Southwest. Bonnie said that she uses time.gov to make sure to log in exactly 24 hours before the flight. Personally I just mash the refresh button waiting for the check-in time to tick over :-P.
Southwest is the airline that Bonnie flies most – she said that last year she and her husband flew 55 award tickets (!), and the year before that they went on 70!Another trick to get the Southwest Companion Pass (where your companion flies free on all of your flights, award or paid) is to use Marriott points to book a Hotel + Air package. 270,000 Marriott points is good for 7 nights at a Category 1-5 hotel plus 120,000 Rapid Rewards points, which would get you the companion pass.
I personally don’t live near an airport that JetBlue serves, so I haven’t ever flown them.
Bonnie says that one of the great things about JetBlue is that they are family-friendly. Their TrueBlue frequent flier program offers something called “family pooling“, which lets you combine the frequent flier points for 2 adults and up to 5 kids under the age of 21.
British Airways has a similar offering with Avios – but this is a nice way to be able to earn up to 7x the points on
Bonnie says that she also doesn’t live near an airport that JetBlue flies, but she talked about going to Cartagena (Colombia), and combining points from Southwest to fly to somewhere like Fort Lauderdale and then using JetBlue points to get to Colombia. JetBlue IS an Amex transfer partner.
With Frontier, if 2 people fly roundtrip, then the 2nd person gets a 5,000 mile discount, so for 2 people, those roundtrip tickets would be 35,000 miles instead of 40,000.
One of the quirks with Frontier is that there is an escalating cost for checking bags, so there is a lot of yelling and anger between gate agents and customers at times. It’s actually now cheaper to check a bag than it is to carry one on. You don’t get a free carry-on (only a personal item that can go under your seat). You do get a free diaper bag, and there was a joke wondering if you had to have a kid in diapers to bring one on…
Starting March 7th (today!), your miles on Frontier will expire in 6 months, unless you have accrual activity in the meantime. If you don’t book your award ticket more than 6 months out, there is an award booking fee. But… they’re only accepting bookings through August!!
Another comment on Frontier was that if your flight is cancelled for whatever reason, you won’t get rebooked until the next day (at best!) So if you are super time sensitive (remember the truth of the Traveler’s Triangle )
There was not a lot of love here for Frontier, though Kenny from Miles4More commented that he had heard that you could get some value from Frontier miles by booking National Car Rental.
Another discount carrier that has been in the news is WOWAir, which is a carrier based out of Iceland. They were in the news for having $99 flights from Boston or Baltimore to Reykjavik.
A lot of the low-cost airlines of course make up for their super low fares by charging you for everything else under the sun. Things like bags, seat assignments, and anything else that they can get away with. Here’s the complete list of the fees that WOWAir charges. (You get a carry on free, but only if it is under 11 lbs)
One thing that people complained about with a lot of these airlines (and plenty of the legacy carriers – British Airways I’m looking at you!) was of the long time that it can take to get someone. One of the attendees mentioned an app called “Fast Customer“, which will actually call up to 3,000 companies, wait on hold for you, and then ring your phone
Great talk, and there was tons of good audience participation – I learned a few tricks as well.