Award Winning Life Saver

My favourite "app" (three years ago I would not have said this sentence) is TripIt. I absolutely love Tripit!  And so do others, it has won the Business Traveler Innovation Award winners.   Tripit works like this:Whenever I get an itinerary from an airline, rail company, hotel (pictured below) I forward the confirmation to  Tripit. Users can currently forward confirmation emails from over 1,000 different booking sites. 

Thirty seconds after Tripit has got my email, they send one back:

To me, its like magic!  Every now and then one doesn't work (Interislander ferries in NZ didnt work yesterday!). Tripit creates an itinerary from the confirmation. You can see my upcoming trips below on my Tripit homepage:

 Each of these Trips will include the Confirmations I send and it adds useful info like maps showing how to get from my hotel to the airport etc.
This means that by the time I fly out, I have an entire Master Itinerary for the whole trip with all my conformation numbers, airfares, times etc plus maps, directions, weather and more. For me that saves me hours per trip cutting, pasting, typing, printing and emailing. 

! I can look at that itinerary on-line and I now carry it on my iphone. I can print it for myself and others. I can email it to staff, family and clients. Aspects of it will pop up on my Facebook and on Linked In so friends and colleagues can see when they will be close to me and where I will be! It even links into my computer's calendar and Google calendar.

Tripit then texts me with reminders through my trip. For example, it tells me when I need to check in. It lets me know which gate I will be taking off from and landing at. As soon as a flight is delayed or cancelled, it texts me. It will even recommend alternate flights I can discuss with the ticketing agent. With other add on apps, my phone can automatically trigger emails and texts to friends, family and staff telling them that I have arrived OK!

Tripit even monitors my frequent flyer programs!

There are two versions. A freebie and a paid one. I m not being given any incentive to tell you about Tripit-simply doing the viral thing because it really does help simplify travel!! Let me know how you get on with Tripit or other tools you might be using!

Trying Tiger

Just booked myself on a Tiger Airways flight from Melbourne to Adelaide next week. I saved a mere $6 off Qantas but I want the experience as Tiger will be my 66th airline I have flown on!

Have you flown them yet?

One slip could mean death*

Today I climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Built 1924-1932, the bridge cost the equivalent of $750-million dollars and is the fourth longest single-span steel arch bridge in the world.  The highest point of the arch is 134 metres (440 feet). It was the highest point in Sydney Australia until 1967.  (Google Earth coordinates: 33°51′08″S, 151°12′38″E. 

Sixteen men died from injuries incurred in bridge-related accidents. For  seven men, one slip meant death as they fell into the Harbour waters far below.

Fast forward 78 years. There have been climbing tours of the bridge since 1 October 1998,  Thanks to a gift certificate from my siblings, I did the Discovery Climb, a 3- 3 ½ hour walk to the top of the bridge along the inner arch of the Bridge covering 1.8 km (about a mile) and 1800 steps (great fitness workout!). No one has slipped and fallen on these Bridge Climbs because of the superb safety procedures put in place by the Climb organisers.

Check in starts with a breath test (walkers must be under 0.05). Two of the people who were booked into our time had had a drink at lunch and they were pulled aside for a little "discussion". After the breath test, we then filled out the Legalities including Waiver and health declaration. Then came the suiting up! We wore:

  1. Bridge Suit  over the top of our clothing (seen here on me).
  2. Headset to hear the commentary of the Climb Leader who was fantastic
  3. Beanie hat to keep warm (on my head)
  4. Headlamp = A lamp in case it got dark on the way down (there were clouds coming) (around my neck)
  5. Fleecy jacket (didn't wear it as it was around 14 degrees and not very windy (attached to my back !)
  6. Handkerchief  (left sleeve)
  7. Latch attached to a static line on the Bridge, for the whole of the Climb -without which I could have slipped and fallen!
Safety means no loose objects can be taken onto the Bridge including cameras. Everything we were given was hooked onto us and could not be taken off. Even a small object travelling 75 metres to the road surface could cause a lot of damage to a car! To that end, we all passed through a metal detector and some people were "wanded".  Before we stepped out, we were given a short break for people to use the "facilities" (there's not many places one can relieve oneself on the bridge)!

The suiting up and instruction briefing  were very well handled and took around 45 minutes.

We started the walk by moving up and onto a series of catwalks climbing up to the Eastern catwalk which hangs below the bridge deck. The catwalk is a mere 50 metres (153 feet) above the water. Stairs lead from there to heart of the bridge and then a giant staircase took us up and out onto the very top of the bridge, the full 134 metres above the water. NB If you are not good with heights, I strongly suggest this is not the activity for you.
The views today  were  amazing. We could see 200km (120 miles to the Southern Highlands) and 100km (60 miles)  to the West into the centre of the Blue Mountains, Sydney Harbour was spread out before us with views up the Parramatta River, across the city, and, the Opera House, botanic gardens and Government House (pictured right).
 Ships, yachts, ferries and water taxis zipped around on the water beneath our feet. Planes, and helicopters buzzed over us. They felt so close to us we thought they might collide with us!.

The group before us celebrated when two of the party announced their engagement on top of the Bridge! Wedding packages are also available but no one in our small group of five had opted to become engaged or married today!
We were treated to a stunning sunset as we came down on the Western side of the bridge.
Apparently Lonely Planet has rated the Bridge Climb, one of the top ten adrenaline experiences in the world and I can see why. It was exhilarating climbing up and we were truly on a "high" at the top. Coming down was a real let down and I actually felt very deflated ground level.
Our guide was confident, efficient and fun. We felt completely safe as we clambered up and down stairs, and I was impressed with his competence.
Now the negative. The climb costs $198-  and at Twilight the climb will set you back $258 (and from August 1st, the Twilight Discovery Walk will be $268 )!! I thank my siblings very much for their gift for without it I would not have been prepared to pay this price.
It is too high a price for the experience,

After the climb you can buy photos taken of you by the guide (one is free, the others costs around $11 -$12 depending on how many you buy). Remember, no personal cameras can be taken up with you - for safety reasons. Of course,  I then bought a T shirt (Australian made) for $29.95.

Add T-shirt, photos, and walk together and you are looking at almost $300 for the experience. Take a family of four, buy four t shirts and some pictures and you are looking at an outlay of around $850! Reduce the price of the climb by 10% and reduce the photo prices by 50% methinks.
Thank you again to my sister, sister in law, brother, two nieces and a nephew for this amazing experience!

Affordable Honolulu-we like that!

 Ok Mr Cowling...just read your blogspot and yet again found it interesting...wish I had read it few weeks ago. I'm taking my two oldest boys  Hawaii, we are leaving this Sunday...Accommodation is all booked.

 So here is the question for you: how can I save money..already thought about cereal for breakfast.

Thanks for the question!!
I love Honolulu!!

If you are drinking, buy some duty free alcohol- reduces hotel bar prices.

  • In Hawaii food is quite expensive
  • Milk and yogurt very very pricey as it is transported in from California.
  • We found the food court at Ala Moana Center, the big shopping center to be very good, extensive and reasonable. 
  • We bought snacks and lunch stuff from supermarkets - Don Quijute USA Co Ltd  801 Kaheka Street, Honolulu was great with range and pricing - near Walmart
  • Any restaurant near the beach will be pricey. we did a couple on the beach as a treat.
  • If you like Asian food, we found fantastic restaurants that the locals ate in-very basic, very good food and very cheap!
  • Check out this great list  of  local, good and cheaper food posted on Yelp by a local


  • Check out the ABC stores, the local equivalent of 7/11 but with way more including souvenirs and clothing-. They each have an amazing specials each 7 t shirts for $20 or 3 ice creams for $5.
  • .We also bought snacks, t-shirts, sunscreen and souvenirs from Walmart, 700 Keeaumoku St Honolulu,  -its massive and cheapest place in Hawaii.

Transport- Airport to Wakiki

  • a taxi will cost you $35 to $45 each way
  •  a bus shuttle in from the airport.. it costs $9 per person or $15 round trip PLUS they charge for bags. A $1 to $2 per passenger tip is usually expected when you get off for the driver. Handy service but you can wait for a while before it leaves. The other thing is that it weaves ts way to a lot of different hotels which can be a slow drop off. We hopped off the bus and walked to our hotel-wasnt far and beat sitting on the bus
  •  A8 taxi-- for a flat rate of US$30 one way for up to four people including baggage they will take you from the airport t your hotel in Waikiki. .(they will take more people but I don't know the rate). They charge $58 round trip.  Prebook by Internet or phone. Tip on top of between $5 and $8 depending on the driver
  • The Bus, the local public bus company does the trip (Route 20)  to and from the airport for a mere $2.50 but its a long, long slow trip taking over an hour

Transport- Round Oahu

Things to do
  • click here for a list of free and cheap activities
  • surfing, swimming and sun-baking will cost you nothing and are wonderful. 
  • Walking is free
  • watching sunset from Ala Moana Park...ah heaven!
  • For a bit of history, thIolani Palace is  really cool. 
  • Hawaii State Art Museum is excellent
  • Hawaii Army Museum is very interesting
  • You have to do Pearl Harbor (where I am pictured looking somber) .  I would just book in for a tour. Its all organised for you then.- you can take The Bus there but its a long slow trip
  • If you are in Waikiki on a weekend go to  Sunset on the beach -a free quality movie for the whole family to enjoy. shown on a huge 30 foot screen @ around 7pm. They have music for two hours beforehand and food vans. Near the Zoo
  • Otherwise for cinemas; Ward Stadium 16 - Consolidated Theatres, 1044 Auahi St, Honolulu, HI 96814  - before 4pm cheaper

The Rest of Hawaii

  • Consider a cruise - talk to my friends at Campbell Cruises- they have good deals on cruises and other Hawaii travel, tours and accommodation
  • I have found to have some great deals on Hawaii accommodation and flights, singly and as packages - I know you have your accommodation but check out bookit next time!


Saving Big Money on Trips!

A colleague (lets call him Dave) and I travelled to the same conference for three nights in Portland, Oregon from Washington Dulles (pictured right). Leaving aside the airfare, it cost my colleague for his accommodation and expenses in Portland $1081.00! It cost me $446.20.  

How did I save the $634.80?

Don't travel with baggage -I am going to write a separate blog article on how I travelled for two years now with only carry-on!  In the meantime, suffice to say, no baggage reduces time hassles, and charges for check in. I brought my boarding pass with me, wheeled my small case on board and walked straight off the plane.  Dave paid $25 for his bag both ways --$50 round -trip

Find reduced hotel rates  by looking at,,  In Portland, Dave used the conference hotel for $165 a night. I am confident enough to use (an online tool where you bid for hotels in a city but you don't know the hotel until your bid has been accepted. I use it to get hotels in Asia, Canada, Europe, UK, and USA, having checked the aforementioned websites first). In this case, I was amused to find that I was staying at the official Conference Hotel but paying $99 a night! - saving $66 a night over Dave!

Join the Hotel Rewards/Frequent Traveller Scheme- members get special deals and the more you travel, the better the deals. They can  include free stays, free drinks, free internet. In this case, I could not earn any points because I had booked with Priceline. To add insult to Dave's injury, when I checked in, the hotel offered me as a member of their Rewards Program,  an upgrade to a suite for an extra $42 a night (including taxes).  So I ended up staying in a room five times bigger than Dave for less than his closet sized room. In addition, there were some other freebies with the upgrade including free Internet and local calls. Hotel internet cost Dave $22.95 a day.

I always look for Starbucks or Mcdonalds or a cafe with free Internet before I will pay for Internet in my hotel room. Sometimes the hotel may offer free wifi in the lobby. Be warned. I was in a very swish hotel in Singapore (using Priceline) and wandered down to the lobby bar to use the free wifi and have a drink. The cheapest drink at this hotel was $14! If you travel regularly, get a mobile broadband account.

Also, look for apartments. I use apartments a lot and I like them because I can feel at home,  wash clothes and spread out  If there are a number of you traveling, an apartment is much cheaper than multiple hotel rooms. Renting an apartment, means I can cook in my room which has been fun. I like cooking and have had guests over in some very interesting places, saving even more money!

Use Public Transit 
On arrival at Portland airport, I trundled my suitcase off the plane, ignored the frustrated faces waiting at baggage and went to the TriMet ticket machine to buy a public transit ride into downtown. My Light rail fare is $2.30. I then walked the short walk to the light rail line. After a 7 minute wait, the ride is then 40 minutes but I can work and read on the light rail easily and I answer emails all the way in. Its a 3 minute walk to my hotel.

Dave having waited at  the airport for his luggage then picks up his car. The car collection process takes about 20 minutes and the drive to downtown about 25.  Dave's car cost $294.00 plus fuel. He then garaged it at the hotel (it never left the entire time) at a cost of $75.00 plus tips. His transfer cost $369.00 plus tips and fuel - mine - $4.60. There is transit at many airports-consider it as an option before car rental and taxis. There are times when I will opt for the more expensive option when the PT option is not as convenient.

In the USA when I do rent cars I use Priceline for Car Rental Savings-works fine for simple round trip rentals. Elsewhere and the USA I use Vroomvroomvroom which is a brilliant car rental site-saves me heaps of money and allows me to compare all of the options in a location. (sometimes Vroomvroomvroom has been cheaper than Priceline!).

Dave enjoyed a buffet breakfast each morning in the hotel for $24.95. I went to the nearest supermarket and bought cereal, milk, juice and fruit for $18.60. I stored the cold things in my fridge (check your hotel policy).  I saved $55.35! Plus buffet breakfasts lead to over-indulgence of unhealthy foods. When I travel as much as I do, I am trying to reduce my calorie intake and stay healthy! I eat the cereal from a cup using a handy utensil i travel with which is combined spoon, fork, knife. Not classy but healthy and cheap. I have taken those packet soups for lunch which again is not classy but can save money plus picnic supplies from supermarkets cut the costs again!

Dave and I had the same meals for lunch and dinner.

Where did I save the money?

Baggage:  $50
Hotel and internet: $140.85 -had i not taken the upgrade, it could have been more.
Transfers:   a massive $387.70
Breakfasts:  $56.25

Consider the money I saved could pay for another 4 nights in the location!

Any other tips that you have found?

(photo is taken on flight from PDX to IAD)

By the way, Portland is a great city- one of my fave cities:-

Finding Cheaper Fares

I recently booked a fare from Australia to the USA. How much would you pay from Australia to the USA?:
  • Option One:  $847
  • Option Two: $1992
Choice is easy!
Now, if I told you Option One included an upgrade to Premium Economy (with extra leg room and special check in), which would you choose?
Still easy. Hands up if you would have picked Option One each time?!
But how can this be? Easy! Delta Airlines  arrived on the route a year ago and is discounting like crazy to get people to fly them. Now I would never fly Delta in a million years but on key markets, United and Qantas are matching Delta's fares. The question is finding the right key market. What is key for Qantas can be quite different for United. It means searching between airfares. And the search was worth it! $1005 to be exact.

Let me give you another scenario!
Australia to the USA via New Zealand
  • Option One:  $2099
  • Option Two: $2399
  • Option Three: $4065
All in economy. In fact, these three fares are ALL in the same class on the same flights via the same airline on the same dates. Just priced at three different sources.

Option One is a do it yourself on line option
Option Two is via the airline booking system
Option Three is via a Travel agency

How would you feel if you had bought the $4065 fare and chatted casually to the person next to you to find out they had paid half your fare? You will probably guess I didnt pay $4065 on this occasion.....In fact, I often wont talk about my fares when flying because I know how cheaply I have paid.

I want you to save money on fares so here are my cheaper airfare search tips for you:

  1. Limit the time spent searching. There is no point spending eight hours trawling through the web to find a $5 saving! How many hours will I put in to save money and at what point will I just give it to an agent.
  2. Remember fares change quickly and sales come and go by the hour sometimes-book early. It is rarely true that there are last minute specials.
  3. Once booked, dont look for fares again! If a cheaper one comes out, its too late! No point beating yourself up. No regrets
  4. Travel agents may hate me but I have found that I usually find better fares than many agents. Many times I have taken a fare to an agent and had them ticket it for me. Having said that there are some agents who are very good at finding amazing fares and will help you with them. There may be other reasons for using an agent like their support for you on other areas or their access to other specials. (i am looking for a good agent ever since mine left to have babies!)
  5. Compare fares at different sites. Never ever rely on one fare source. I use the Airlines sites PLUS online aggregators such as,,, These compare fares from multiple sites and airlines. If its a straight forward routing, then look at online agents such as House of Travel in NZ, Best flights and in Australia, Expedia in  USA and in UK: Remember though make sure you are comparing apples with apples. A fare might be $199 on one site and $149 on another. While the same airline, you find out later one price includes baggage and the other doesn't!
  6. Consider seasons for international fares. Every airline and every market has slightly different seasons but generally the most expensive fares are the ones sold in "High Season".  This table  above gives me a good rule of thumb. Flying one day before an original choice can save you hundreds because you are in a less popular season. Eg June 13 and June 15 can be $100s different on a fare.
  7. I try and have a range of dates -three days before and two days after my intended travel and I instruct my agent or airline to look for the cheapest fare over those days. Or I search myself. Many search engines allow you to extend your search NB There is no point saving $60 if you then have to pay for two nights in a hotel but if you are happy to extend your vacation or holiday go for it.
  8. The sneaky stop rule. Flights can be non stop or you can have one stop  or even two stops. The airlines and airports may not want me to tell you this but I discovered with Ansett (RIP) that I could fly from Sydney to Melbourne. I could do it non stop or I could choose a one stop option with a stop in Canberra. Now Ansett (and many other airlines) did not care how long I stopped for (as long as it was not over night then its a "stopover").  Sometimes  I would fly an early flight Sydney to Canberra, STOP to "change planes" and book the latest connecting  Canberra -Melbourne flight as possible. Now I could sit in the airport while waiting for the "connecting" flight or I could leave the airport and have a day of sightseeing or business! Guess what I did? Technically you are not supposed to leave the airport but I found as long as was back in time for security and boarding, it worked fine. Interestingly enough, the trip to Melbourne with the stop in Canberra was cheaper than just a trip from Sydney to Canberra. Now the airlines have tightened up on the length of stops but I have used it sucessfully in a few places (NB does  not work on international flights).
  9. Related to that is a similar practice with Stopovers. Sometimes its cheaper to fly to another destination and add where you actually want to go as a stopover!.  Sounds stupid?  it is.  But it has saved me a lot of money in the USA particularly. eg One time I had to fly from St Louis to Pittsburgh. It was cheaper to fly St Louis- Philadelphia with a stopover in Pittsburgh than it was  to fly St Louis-Pittsburgh!! On that flight because it was a one way, I did not complete the second portion of the ticket. I have found fares when it was cheaper to fly to Paris with a stopover in London than just flying to either London or Paris. NB Not all stopovers are free. Compare carefully!
  1. Next is what I call the round trip Bonus. I once had a conversation that went like this
                            Me: I would like to book a one way fare  please on 15th January
Agent: Sir, you would like a  round trip fare on that date
Me: no, I want a one way
Agent: Sir, I think you may be saying you want a round trip
Me: No I want...,, How much is a one way on that date?
Agent: $300
Me: and a round trip?
Agent: $180
Me: $180 both ways ie $90 each way?
Agent: Uh Yes sir
Me: When do I need to book to come back?
Agent: You can make your return date anytime for a year-
Me: do I have to use the return portion
Agent: Up to you sir - you don't need to ever use it of course sir

Nice agent! He saved me $120!
Some airlines have now eliminated these fares but they pop up a lot! British railways use these type of fares a lot! So type in one way and round trip and you may be pleasantly surprised!

11 If you have more time, the cheaper airport option may work well. In cities with multiple airports nearby, one may be cheaper. Eg Oakland and San Jose in the Bay area often have cheaper fares than San Francisco (but not always!). Long Beach can be cheaper than Los Angeles. In Europe I had a friend flying to LIverpool, England. Fare was 90 euro. We found an alternate fare flying into Manchester for 9 euro-from there he caught the train into Liverpool Lime Street for about eleven pounds.  It was an additional one hour seven minutes but consider the bus from Liverpool airport to downtown takes 30 minutes anyway! And he saved around 70 euro! NB Warning,. Ryanair are notorious for flying to cheaper airports that are nowhere near the city you are going to eg Stockholm Skavsta Airport is Nowhere Near The Swedish Capital, Girona is 100km from Barcelona with limited transport and Paris Beauvais is  80km outside of Paris with a 13euro ride!

12. Check carefully the fare class. You will be aware that there are different Travel classes in an aeroplane:

  • First
  • Business
  • Premium Economy
  • Economy
But within each travel class there are different fare classes, relating to the  restrictions attached to that fare. You may be seated in the same section but find that you pay very different fares and get very different benefits depending on your fare class. The major things that will impact a passenger depending on fare class:

  • luggage- cheaper fare classes may restrict your luggage eg Full economy may get two free bags and the cheapest discount economy may get none
  • Frequent flyer points-lower fare classes get fewer points or even no points!
  • Cancellation- lower fare classes may not allow a refund when you cancel a flight
  • Booking Changes-the cheaper the fare and the lower the class, the more restrictive the change conditions- Don t buy non refundable non changeable tickets if you need to change them. It is no use yelling at an airport check in clerk if you bought tickets that cannot be changed without a hefty fee!
  • Upgrades-you often cannot upgrade to a higher Travel Class with certain fare types-if you want to upgrade on a sector, get a higher fare class
The classes vary slightly from airline to airline but the list I have here seems very representative (NB I have seen S and E used in Premium Economy and Discounted Economy). I usually ask the agent for the cheapest upgradeable fare. I may not want to upgrade (though I do like to) but its the simplest way of finding a fare which gives me the cancellation penalties I can live with.

13. After one Conference I went to, I was waiting with a group of delegates for our flight. When the boarding announcement was made, I boarded and made my way to my favourite seat (1A)..right at front of first class. The other delegates were stunned, amused and some jealous. What I did not tell them was that when I had searched for a fare, I had selected first class as a search option and found a First Class seat for $30 less than an economy seat! This has now happened on three occasions. On another three occasions, I have found the difference between economy and Business or first to be so negligible that I have treated myself!

Good Luck

What US airlines spend on food

One of my other favourite blogs Cranky Flier has an article on What airlines in the USA spend on food.
United spends the most around $6 per passenger. One assumes that most of this spend is for their first class pax. American and Continental spend a little less and Delta spends $5 per passenger. Southwest spends around 25 cents (all pax get peanuts and a cup of water/soft drink/juice).
Be interesting in Australia and New Zealand and Europe to compare whats spent here.

Discount Airline Ripoffs!

My last blog post got me thinking. I have significant frustration with all of the "extras", most discount airlines charge. Lets look at six discount airlines and their fares

1. Edinburgh to Oslo with Ryan Air
Fare advertised:  10 pounds. 

There are of course no 10 pound seats left when I try to book one- The seats are now 26.99 pounds (see right).  They then add:
  •  a compulsory web check in fee of 5 pounds - If its compulsory I believe it needs to be in the fare
  • bag fee-its my choice to take 15kg of bag for 20 pounds
  • I choose to board first - Ryanair seats are not allocated – you choose where you want to sit  once you are on board so early boarding guarantees you access to the “better” seats.I like the emergency exit so 4 pounds more 
  • Travel insurance. I decline it but they are quite persistent at trying to get me to buy it
  •  a 5 pound admin fee (why is this not included in the original fare if everyone is going to be charged it?)

TOTAL FARE for a 10 pound flight? 60.99 pounds. While this is still a great fare-its 500% higher than advertised. And with the compulsory check in and admin fees, the advertised fare should have been 20 pounds.

2. Sydney to Melbourne with Tiger
Fare Advertised: $38.95. Tiger claws these expenses from you:
  • a seat! Yes, the fare entitles you a ride in the plane but on top of that everyone pays for their seat: $4 gets you a crappy one (think middle seats and back of plane), $10 are the average seats and for $30 you get a good one like front row or emergency exit- I choose emergency exit
  • a bag $20 for 15kg
  • a Credit Card fee of $6

TOTAL FARE for a 39 dollar flight? $94.95 -170% higher than advertised- It would seem to me that the advertised fare of $38.95 needs to be $48.95 to include the tax, seat fee and ;"convenience" fee as these are non optional.

3. Atlanta to Washington DC with Spirit Airways
Fare Advertised: $9.00

Actual cheapest fare available in all of August: $85.74 then add:
  • Taxes and fees of $29.40
  • Carry on bag $30 (thats extortion)
  • Checked bag $25
  • Emergency exit seat (my choice) for $20. 
Total fare $190.14 !!!! TEN TIMES THE advertised fare. The funniest part of it is that if I join their club for $39.95, they will reduce my baggage charges by $20! MMMMM I wonder how many fall for that one. Advertised fare should be: $145.64 (include the carry on baggage charge)

4. Toronto to Vancouver, BC with WestJet
Fare Advertised: $219.00

To that we add taxes and charges:
  • HST: 35.64 (Harmonised Sales Tax)
  • AIF:  25.00 (Airport Improvement Fees)  
  • ATSC: $7.12 (Air Travellers' Security Charge)
  • NAV/Ins:  $23.00 (I assume Navigation and Air Traffic Control Services)
  • Seats which start at $11.30 (i choose emerg exit for $16.95)

 TOTAL FARE for a $219 dollar flight? $326.71 -50% higher than advertised
Advertised fare should be: $321.06

5. Kuala Lumpar to Phuket with Air Asia
Fare Advertised: 130 MYR

Air Asia adds:
  • Taxes 25MYR
  • Bag 15kg for 20 MYR
  • Meal options are 8 MYR (on such a short flight that makes sense as an extra)
  • To reserve a seat is 5 MYR (25 for a "Hot Seat")
  • Travel insurance automatically-you have to "unselect" it to avoid it
  • a "convenience fee" of 5 MYR to pay for your ticket

TOTAL FARE for a 130 MYR flight? 185 MYR -40% higher than advertised
Advertised fare should be: 185 MYR 

6. Christchurch, NZ to Melbourne, Australia
Fare Advertised: $169

The Jetstar fare includes the taxes but not a luggage charge of $20. It also includes your seat unless you want an upfront seat ($10) or an emergency exit seat ($25). They also charge you a $5 "extra" for your credit card fee-that is not an extra.

TOTAL FARE for a $169  flight? $194 -16% higher than advertised
Advertised fare should be: $174 

I understand that airlines want to charge us for our choices (eg bags or an emergency exit seat) but I dont agree for paying for an everyday seat on the plane. To show taxes as extra also annoys me. I cant make those suckers optional.

The whole system makes comparing fares tricky eg Airline A includes a bag but charges for a seat while Airline B includes all and Airline C waives the seat fee but and charges for bags. Not convinced thats being competitive

Can I please be quoted a fare that includes travel, seat, taxes, check in and booking fee? To bring a bag or ask for an emergency seat, charge me (although I think frequent flyers should get a discount on that charge!)

What do you think? Do you find the charges annoying? Rude? Confusing?

Worst Airlines I have flown

Ok, everyone has a horror delays, lost bags, line ups etc etc. I am not talking about those hiccups in travel but the consistent poor treatment of customers by an airline. The continual treatment of us as if passengers were an on-going nuisance.

This does not include the airlines I wont even try at all:  airlines in most of Africa, Kyoro North Korean Airlines, Biman Bangledeshi and Cubana- find all  airlines banned from Europe airspace here.

My do not fly list is ordered from THE worst to the not as worst!

  1. Air Zimbabwe- no confidence in them at all-very sad state of affairs
  2. DELTA...delayed Late and TArdy-In 2002, I vowed never, never, never will I fly them ever, ever again. Delta also tops the list for the most complained about airline in the USA! Things seem to be moving there, however and I am curious to see what things are like now
  3. Alitalia- Italy has style, passion, beautiful women, good food and wine- none of that seems to have got to an Alitalia plane
  4. Jetstar - as a Qantas subsidiary there are certain things they get right but fundamentally I cannot join the ads with leaping people with excitement. Herded onto crowded planes by harassed staff with no luxuries such as food and entertainment means grumpy passengers and some horrible incidents. I feel sorry for JQ staff but not sorry enough to fly them.
  5. Air Asia - The times I flew Air Asia, my heart was in my mouth. Boarding the always late flights consisted of the staff opening the doors and standing back as the passengers stampeded the plane-no one was safe! I saw grandmothers bowled over by people wanting the "best seat". Ironically this was not the emergency exit which is where I sat! I hope their safety provisions and pilot training was better than everything else I saw. Cabin crew minimally helpful and in an emergency, I would have no confidence in them. 
  6. Us Airways ...I was always told US stands for unserviceable...enough said
  7. American Airlines - operating as a fragment of their once proud selves, American is tatty, rude, and uncomfortable. Unfortunately for Qantas customers like me, they are part of One World and offer codeshares, joint lounges, combined frequent flyer programs etc. The Contrast of getting off a gleaming Qantas or British or Cathay Pacific craft onto an American flight is extraordinary. Qantas Premium Economy is better than American's Domestic First Class (I have flown both a few times)! If you see me on American its because I am grabbing at One World Frequent flyer points. If I am on American and enjoying it, offer up thanks for a miracle.
  8. Ryanair- I actually had an all right experience with Ryan and many of my friends do. I flew them because I specifically wanted to see what they are like. In fact, I would fly them again-in a pinch.  Note well their hidden costs (fares start at pennies but you then add seat cost, booking fees etc etc. NB their airports  are often miles from where you expect them to be, their cabin crew are almost rude and I frankly don't trust Ryanair's safety and I wonder at some of their ethics. (picture is the Ryanair safety card printed on seat back as they have removed the pocket on the back of the seat)

Have a look at the Most complained airlines in the USA

MJ's Top Twenty-One (21) Airlines

What makes a good airline?
For me safety, attitude and comfort are paramount. Punctuality is nice but I kind of accept most times this is out of the control of the airline.
At the moment this is my ranking of my favourite airlines.  NB I have not yet flown Kingfisher, Emirates or Etihad!
  1. Air New Zealand-flying ANZ reminds one that flying can be a pleasure (their Sydney lounge pictured right). This is an airline that still hands out sweets upon descent, makes safety videos where the staff are naked, introduced the most amazing check in  system ever, and lie flat seats in Economy! (see comments on the naked ads here)
  2. Lufthansa-I find LH consistently safe, friendly (yes!) with nice food and good lounges
  3. Qantas-felt there was a dip for a while here -but they are on their way back...would like them to make the effort to become a five star with Skytrax...they must be close 
  4. British Airways- struggling for years-they remain a favourite with me but for how long?
  5. Continental-despite Skytrax lumping them in with all the other US 3 star airlines, I think they are the best of the US mainlines. How long this will last is a good question? They dropped free meals this year and plan to merge with United...maybe next year I will drop them to Number 21??
  6. Cathay Pacific-these guys used to be my all time favourite but I feel they are slipping -badly-still beat most of the world's airlines but what happened to the legendary CP service?????
  7. Virgin America-everything about VA is class-hope they can hang onto this as they expand
  8. JetBlue-No one could believe a customer oriented airline would survive out of NYC. I have loved JB since they started. No fuss no stress flying-significantly they are the only US airline to be given a 4 star rating by Skytrax- a joy to fly.
  9. Frontier Airlines- highest safety ratings!! Planes with groovy animals on their tails
  10. Air France - quality food, amazing wine, unlimited bread and good service
  11. Alaska Airlines- consistently delightful with great punctuality
  12. Singapore Airlines -people rave about SQ -they are a good airline but I have not found them to be #1 or #2
  13. AirTran- a few years ago, this airline hit the bottom..since then they have improved out of sight (unless you are a family travelling with kids...they have a bad policy here)
  14. Southwest Airlines- not so cheap budget carrier that does what they say will: Get you there safely!"
  15. Air Canada--
  16. Malev - Hungarian Airlines
  17. SWISS
  18. Pacific Blue - a pleasant way to travel the Pacific
  19. Virgin Blue- 
  20. bmibaby-Except for their punctuality, I find bmi baby, a cheap convenient way to travel across UK/Europe. I will always choose them before Ryanair 
  21. United Airlines- the second best of the big American carriers -what does that tell you when it is at Number 21? You will find Delta on my worst airline list!
    Will do my ranking of all my airlines I have ever flown by the end of 2010. See my list of worst airlines I have flown.

    Dead Airlines

    I have now flown 65 airlines. I was astounded to do some maths this week and find of those sixteen are now out of business. Its a tough game flying.
    1. East West - anyone remember them? Ansett killed them off in 1993
    2. Ansett ....killed off by Air New Zealand, Newscorp, TNT and the Howard Government, many of us are still bitter about this
    3. Ozjet (seem to have collapsed three times-have they actually gone?)
    4. Compass -killed by undercapitalsation, heavy competition and politics
    5. Airlines of South Australia
    6. Hazelton-bought by Ansett, merged into Rex -I used to love it when flying Hazelton and one of the Hazelton family were piloting the planes-made one feel safer!
    7. Kendell-bought by Ansett, merged into Rex
    8. SkyEurope (wikipedia says something telling: The company never managed to make a profit.)
    9. SwissAir (now Swiss) died after advice given by consultancy advice went wrong, damaging the Swiss image of good business. Wonder if the consulting company gives refunds? The sad thing about Swiss collapse was that Sabena, the Belgian airline favoured by Tintin died too!!!!
    10. BOAC and British European Airways (now British Airways)
    11. Aloha Airlines (closed 2008)
    12. Pan Am-once one of the world leading airlines-I flew my first 747 with these guys
    13. Independence Air-fun airline-undercapitalised trying to compete with United-enjoyed flying with them
    14. Northwest (now Delta)
    15. Nigeria Airways...shut down 2003 - killed by corruption
    16. Origin Pacific-always a pleasure to fly-I saw a lot of NZ with them

    LAX-SYD on A380

    I have waited a long time to give the Qantas (QF) A380 a go. My Singapore Airlines (SQ) A380 experience was in Nov, 2009 so was very very excited to finally have the QF experience. It has been 28 years 1 week since I first flew in a 747 the other jumbo of the skies. Today was my 632nd flight in my life and my 210th with Qantas.

    My experience was improved when Qantas upgraded me at Check in from Economy to Premium Economy (thanks Qantas!). This put me in the upper deck in seat 38K - I think the best seat on the plane. Huge amount of legroom! (It did put me at the end of Upper deck de-planing though which may be an issue for some. When I land @ LAX, I like to be off ASAP to get into the horrible immigration lines faster).

    I was on Sir Wilmot Hudson Fysh (one of QF founders), Reg No: VH-OQ.(photo here)

    Take off out of LAX was MARVELOUS. The A380 clearly loves to fly. We trundled smoothly out onto the runway after a jerky pushback. Then we moved onto the main runway for takeoff. With not a lot of fuss, engines fired up and we rolled down the runway picking up speed before a gentle leap into the Los Angeles sky.

    The seat was wonderful. The service fantastic and food superb. On Board Customer Service Manager Kim personally welcomed me as a Platinum (NB to Qantas and other airlines, I like the welcome and I remember it when it does and doesn't happen) She arranged for a tour of the whole plane (including a peek into First). Thank you!

    It is a beautiful plane inside ( I still think the 747 looks better externally). Prior to the A380 launch, Qantas said: "We think it will be the best in the sky and when people see it on board they will be bowled over." I was not bowled over by the Economy sections especially the Green coloured seats in the middle section. In addiiton, the on-board Business lounge area is rather underwhelming. The feeling of spaciousness is, however, marvellous.

    The A380 compared to the 747 is so quiet-some pilots have actually complained its too quiet.

    Onboard entertainment worked well (I also worked!). I would like a simpler indexing system which lists all shows and which channel they are on as I find scrolling through menu after menu a little annoying.

    609am landing into a darkened Sydney was very smooth. We first wandered all over the Sydney sky (probably while waiting for a landing slot after curfew lifts at 0600). We came in over Kurnell and Botany Bay landing gently Northwards on Main North/South Runway 34L.

    A smooth immigration intake using the Smartgate, followed by quick luggage delivery, straight forward quarantine process meant I was through in the terminal in under an hour (including duty free shopping). The messy domestic transfer process was its usual disaster. The Qantas check in agents under pressure were a little snappy (no seat changes here we dont have time). Yeah its better than Heathrow or New York but its horrible.

    Breakfast with my friend Melody in the Domestic Business lounge before my onward flight (QF 419) to MEL made the morning perfect!