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Shadow of an airliner over a blue water and a white-sand beach.

Nonstop Flights To Make Your Travels Easier

As airlines continue to expand post-Covid, travelers can access an increasing variety of appealing destinations all across the globe via nonstop flights—a smart choice that minimizes the chance of your trip getting disrupted by delays or cancellations.

Below are our favorite routes (some new, some revitalized since Covid) that savvy travelers should know about.

We’re updating this article frequently as airlines announce new nonstop flights, so bookmark this page and come back for the latest intel.


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Europe
Canada
Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands
Middle East and Africa
Latin America
Asia

 


Europe

Atlanta to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Delta and KLM
Atlanta to Athens, Greece, on Delta (seasonal)
Atlanta to Barcelona, Spain, on Delta (seasonal)
Atlanta to Copenhagen, Denmark, on SAS (begins June 17, 2024)
Atlanta to Paris, France, on Delta and Air France
Atlanta to Dublin, Ireland, on Delta (seasonal)
Atlanta to Edinburgh, Scotland, on Delta (seasonal)
Atlanta to Frankfurt, Germany, on Delta
Atlanta to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines
Atlanta to London (Heathrow), England, on Delta and British Airways
Atlanta to Madrid, Spain, on Delta
Atlanta to Manchester, England, on Virgin Atlantic (seasonal)
Atlanta to Milan, Italy, on Delta (seasonal)
Atlanta to Munich, Germany, on Delta
Atlanta to Paris, France, on Air France and Delta
Atlanta to Nice, France, on Delta (seasonal)
Atlanta to Rome, Italy, on Delta
Atlanta to Shannon, Ireland, on Delta (seasonal)
Atlanta to Stuttgart, Germany, on Delta (seasonal)
Atlanta to Venice, Italy, on Delta (seasonal)
Atlanta to Zurich, Switzerland, on Delta (begins May 31, 2024)

Austin to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on KLM
Austin to Frankfurt, Germany, on Lufthansa
Austin to London (Heathrow), England, on Virgin Atlantic and British Airways

Baltimore to London (Heathrow), England, on British Airways
Baltimore to Reykjavik, Iceland on Icelandair and PLAY (seasonal)

Boston to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on JetBlue (through October)
Boston to Athens, Greece, on Delta (seasonal)
Boston to Copenhagen, Denmark, on SAS
Boston to Barcelona, Spain, on LEVEL (seasonal)
Boston to Dublin, Ireland, on JetBlue (seasonal, through September 30, 2024)
Boston to Frankfurt, Germany. on Condor
Boston to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines
Boston to London (Gatwick), England, on Norse Atlantic and JetBlue
Boston to London (Heathrow), England, on United (through summer)
Boston to Munich, Germany on Lufthansa
Boston to Paris (CDG), France, on JetBlue
Boston to Porto, Portugal, on Azores (begins on June 4, 2024)
Boston to Reykjavik, Iceland, on PLAY (seasonal) and Icelandair
Boston to Shannon, Ireland, on Delta (seasonal)
Boston to Vienna, Austria, on Austrian (begins on July 1, 2024)

Charlotte to Dublin, Ireland, on American and Aer Lingus (both seasonal)
Charlotte to Frankfurt, Germany, on American
Charlotte to London (Heathrow), England, on American
Charlotte to Madrid, Spain, on American
Charlotte to Munich, Germany, on American
Charlotte to Paris, France, on American (seasonal)
Charlotte to Rome, Italy, on American (seasonal)

Chicago/O’Hare to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Athens, Greece, on American (seasonal, begins May 6, 2024) and United (seasonal, operates May 28-August 18, 2024)
Chicago/O’Hare to Barcelona, Spain, on United (seasonal)
Chicago/O’Hare to Brussels, Belgium, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Copenhagen, Denmark, on SAS
Chicago/O’Hare to Edinburgh, Scotland, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Frankfurt, Germany, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines
Chicago/O’Hare to London (Heathrow), England, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Milan (Malpensa), Italy, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Munich, Germany, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Reykjavik, Iceland, on United (seasonal)
Chicago/O’Hare to Rome, Italy, on United (seasonal)
Chicago/O’Hare to Shannon, Ireland, on United (seasonal)
Chicago/O’Hare to Venice, Italy, on American (seasonal, begins June 5, 2024)
Chicago/O’Hare to Warsaw, Poland, on LOT
Chicago/O’Hare to Zurich, Switzerland, on United

Cincinnati to London (Heathrow), England, on British Airways (seasonal)

Cleveland to Dublin, Ireland, on Aer Lingus (seasonal)

Dallas/Fort Worth to Barcelona, Spain, on American
Dallas/Fort Worth to Dublin, Ireland, on American
Dallas/Fort Worth to Frankfurt, Germany, on American, Lufthansa
Dallas/Fort Worth to Helsinki, Finland, on Finnair
Dallas/Fort Worth to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish
Dallas/Fort Worth to London (Heathrow), England, on British Airways and American
Dallas/Fort Worth to Madrid, Spain, on Iberia
Dallas/Fort Worth to Paris (CDG), France, on American and Air France
Dallas/Fort Worth to Rome, Italy, on American

Denver to Frankfurt, Germany, on United and Lufthansa
Denver to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines (begins June 11, 2024)
Denver to London (Heathrow), England, on United and British Airways
Denver to Munich, Germany, on Lufthansa
Denver to Paris (CDG), France, on Air France
Denver to Munich, Germany, on United
Denver to Reykjavik, Iceland, on Icelandair
Denver to Zurich, Switzerland, on Swiss

Detroit to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Delta
Detroit to Frankfurt, Germany, on Lufthansa and Delta
Detroit to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines
Detroit to London (Heathrow), England, on Delta
Detroit to Munich, Germany, on Delta
Detroit to Paris (CDG), France,  on Air France and Delta
Detroit to Reykjavik, Iceland, on Delta and Icelandair
Detroit to Rome, Italy, on Delta

Fort Myers to Frankfurt, Germany, on Eurowings Discover

Houston to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on United
Houston to Frankfurt, Germany, on Lufthansa and United
Houston to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines
Houston to London (Heathrow), England, on United
Houston to Munich, Germany, on United
Houston to Paris (CDG), France, on Air France

Las Vegas to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Delta
Las Vegas to Frankfurt, Germany, on Eurowings Discover and Condor
Las Vegas to London (Gatwick), England, on Norse Atlantic
Las Vegas to London (Heathrow), England, on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic
Las Vegas to Munich, Germany, on Eurowings Discover
Las Vegas to Zurich, Switzerland, on Swiss

Los Angeles to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on KLM
Los Angeles to Barcelona, Spain, on Iberia
Los Angeles to Copenhagen, Denmark, on SAS
Los Angeles to Dublin, Ireland, on Aer Lingus
Los Angeles to Frankfurt, Germany, on Condor (seasonal)
Los Angeles to London (Gatwick), England, on Norse Atlantic
Los Angeles to London (Heathrow), England, on Delta, Virgin Atlantic and United
Los Angeles to Paris (CDG), France, on Air France, Air Tahiti Nui, Delta, and Norse Atlantic (seasonal)
Los Angeles to Paris (Orly), France, on French Bee
Los Angeles to Warsaw, Poland, on LOT

Miami to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on KLM (halts service summer 2024)
Miami to Berlin, Germany, on Norse Atlantic
Miami to Frankfurt, Germany, on Condor
Miami to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines
Miami to London (Gatwick), England, on Norse Atlantic, British Airways, American
Miami to Oslo, Norway, on Norse Atlantic
Miami to Paris (CDG), France, on Air France, American, Norse Atlantic
Miami to Paris (Orly), France, on French Bee
Miami to Warsaw, Poland, on LOT

Minneapolis/St. Paul to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Delta
Minneapolis/St. Paul to Dublin, Ireland, on Aer Lingus and Delta (begins on May 9, 2024)
Minneapolis/St. Paul to Frankfurt, Germany, on Lufthansa (begins June 2024) and Condor
Minneapolis/St. Paul to London (Heathrow), England, on Delta
Minneapolis/St. Paul to Paris (CDG), France, on Air France, Delta and Condor
Minneapolis/St. Paul to Reykjavik, Iceland, on Icelandair (seasonal)
Minneapolis/St. Paul to Shannon, Ireland, on Delta (seasonal)

Nashville to London (Heathrow), England, on British Airways

Newark to Athens, Greece on Emirates and United (seasonal, March through October)
Newark to Barcelona, Spain, on United (seasonal)
Newark to Copenhagen, Denmark, on SAS
Newark to Dubrovnik, Croatia, on United (seasonal)
Newark to Edinburgh, Scotland, on United (seasonal)
Newark to Faro, Portugal’s Algarve, on United (begins 2025)
Newark to Frankfurt, Germany, on United
Newark to Gothenberg, Sweden, on SAS (through mid-October)
Newark to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines
Newark to Lisbon, Portugal on United
Newark to London (Heathrow), England, on United
Newark to Malaga, Spain, on United (seasonal)
Newark to Naples, Italy, on United (seasonal)
Newark to Nice, France, on United
Newark to Oslo, Norway, on SAS
Newark to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, on United (seasonal)
Newark to Paris (CDG), France, on Air France
Newark to Ponta Delgada, the Azores (Portugal), on United (seasonal)
Newark to Porto, Portugal, on United (seasonal)
Newark to Rome, Italy, on United (seasonal)
Newark to Shannon, Ireland, on United (seasonal)
Newark to Stockholm, Sweden, on SAS and United (seasonal)
Newark to Tenerife, the Canary Islands (Spain), on United (seasonal)
Newark to Warsaw, Poland, on LOT
Newark to Vienna, Austria, on Austrian

New York/JFK to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on JetBlue
New York/JFK to Athens, Greece on Delta, Norse Atlantic (seasonal), United, and American (seasonal, began March 2024)
New York/JFK to Barcelona, Spain, on Delta
New York/JFK to Berlin, Germany, on Delta and Norse Atlantic
New York/JFK to Copenhagen, Denmark, on SAS
New York/JFK to Dublin, Ireland, on JetBlue (seasonal, through September 30, 2024)
New York/JFK to Edinburgh, Scotland, on JetBlue (seasonal, May 22 to September 30, 2024)
New York/JFK to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines
New York/JFK to London (Gatwick), England, on Delta, Norse Atlantic and British Airways
New York/JFK to London (Heathrow), England, on Delta, Norse Atlantic, British Airways and American
New York/JFK to Milan, Italy, on American, Delta, and Emirates
New York/JFK to Munich, Germany, on Delta (begins on April 9, 2024)
New York/JFK to Naples, Italy, on Delta (seasonal, begins on May 23, 2024)
New York/JFK to Palermo, Sicily (Italy), on Neos Air (seasonal, June through October)
New York/JFK to Paris (CDG), France, on Norse Atlantic, Delta, Air France, JetBlue and American
New York/JFK to Porto, Portugal, on Azores (begins on June 6, 2024)
New York/JFK to Ponta Delgada, the Azores (Portugal), on Azores
New York/JFK to Rome, Italy, on Norse Atlantic (seasonal)
New York/JFK to Shannon, Ireland, on Delta (seasonal, begins May 23, 2024)
New York/JFK to Stockholm, Sweden, on Delta

New York/JFK to Warsaw, Poland, on LOT

New York State/Stewart Airport to Faroe Islands (Denmark), on Atlantic (seasonal)

Orlando to Frankfurt, Germany, on Eurowings (winter)
Orlando to London (Gatwick), England, on Norse Atlantic and British Airways
Orlando to London (Heathrow), England, on Virgin Atlantic

Philadelphia to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on American
Philadelphia to Athens, Greece, on American (seasonal)
Philadelphia to Barcelona, Spain, on American
Philadelphia to Copenhagen, Denmark, on American (begins on June 6, 2024)
Philadelphia to Dublin, Ireland, on American (seasonal) and Aer Lingus
Philadelphia to Frankfurt, Germany, on Eurowings Discover
Philadelphia to Lisbon, Portugal, on American
Philadelphia to London (Heathrow), England, on British Airways and American
Philadelphia to Madrid, Spain, on American
Philadelphia to Naples, Italy, on American (seasonal, begins on June 5, 2024)
Philadelphia to Nice, France, on American (seasonal, begins on May 6, 2024)
Philadelphia to Paris (CDG), France, on American
Philadelphia to Venice, Italy, on American (seasonal, began April 2024)
Philadelphia to Zurich, Switzerland, on American

Phoenix to Frankfurt, Germany, on American
Phoenix to London (Heathrow), England, on American and British Airways
Phoenix to Paris, France, on Air France (begins on May 23, 2024)

Pittsburgh to London (Heathrow), England, on British Airways

Portland (OR) to London (Heathrow), England, on British Airways

Raleigh Durham to Frankfurt, Germany, on Lufthansa (begins June 2024)
Raleigh Durham to London (Heathrow), England, on American
Raleigh Durham to Paris (CDG), France,  on Delta and Air France
Raleigh Durham to Reykjavik, Iceland, on Icelandair

St. Louis to Frankfurt, Germany, on Lufthansa

Salt Lake City to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Delta and KLM
Salt Lake City to Frankfurt, Germany, on Eurowings Discover
Salt Lake City to London (Heathrow), England, on Delta
Salt Lake City to Paris, France, on Delta

San Antonio to Frankfurt, Germany, on Condor (begins May 17, 2024)

San Francisco to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on KLM
San Francisco to Barcelona, Spain, on United (seasonal)
San Francisco to Copenhagen, Denmark, on SAS
San Francisco to Frankfurt, Germany, on Condor
San Francisco to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines
San Francisco to London (Heathrow), England, on United
San Francisco to Paris (CDG), France, on United
San Francisco to Rome, Italy, on United (seasonal)
San Francisco to Zurich, Switzerland, on United

Seattle to Helsinki, Finland, on Finnair (seasonal)
Seattle to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish
Seattle to London (Heathrow), England, on British Airways
Seattle to Munich, Germany, on Lufthansa (begins June 2024)

St Louis to Frankfurt, Germany, on Lufthansa

Tampa to Frankfurt, Germany, on Eurowings Discover
Tampa to London (Gatwick), England,  on British Airways

Washington/Dulles to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on United (seasonal, began March)
Washington/Dulles to Athens, Greece, on United (seasonal, operates April 14-December 3)
Washington/Dulles to Barcelona, Spain, on United (seasonal, began February 2024)
Washington/Dulles to Berlin, Germany, on United (seasonal)
Washington/Dulles to Brussels, Belgium, on Lufthansa
Washington/Dulles to Copenhagen, Denmark, on SAS
Washington/Dulles to Dublin, Ireland, on Aer Lingus and United
Washington/Dulles to Frankfurt, Germany, on United and Lufthansa
Washington/Dulles to Geneva, Switzerland, on United
Washington/Dulles to Istanbul, Turkey, on Turkish Airlines
Washington/Dulles to Lisbon, Portugal, on United (seasonal, began February 2024)
Washington/Dulles to London (Heathrow), England, on United
Washington/Dulles to London (Gatwick), England, on Norse Atlantic
Washington/Dulles to Munich, Germany, on United and Lufthansa
Washington/Dulles to Paris, France, on Air France, United
Washington/Dulles to Reykjavik, Iceland, on Icelandair and PLAY
Washington/Dulles to Rome, Italy, on United (seasonal, began February 2024)
Washington/Dulles to Vienna, Austria, on Lufthansa
Washington/Dulles to Zurich, Switzerland on Swiss (began March 2024) and United

Canada

Atlanta to Calgary on WestJet
Atlanta to Montreal on Air Canada
Atlanta to Toronto on Delta, Air Canada
Atlanta to Vancouver on WestJet

Austin to Montreal on Air Canada (beginning May 2, 2024)
Austin to Toronto on Air Canada
Austin to Vancouver on Air Canada (seasonal)

Boston to Ottawa on Porter
Boston to Vancouver on Air Canada

Charleston to Toronto on Air Canada (began March 2024)

Charlotte to Montreal on American Eagle
Charlotte to Toronto on American and Air Canada – Jazz Express

Chicago to Calgary on United
Chicago to Montreal on United
Chicago to Ottawa on United
Chicago to Quebec on United (seasonal, begins May 2024)
Chicago to Toronto on United
Chicago Midway to Toronto on Porter
Chicago to Vancouver on United

Denver to Calgary on United and Air Canada
Denver to Montreal on Air Canada and United
Denver to Toronto on Air Canada and United

Detroit to Montreal on Air Canada
Detroit to Calgary on WestJet

Fort Lauderdale to Ottawa on Porter
Fort Lauderdale to Toronto on Porter

Houston to Calgary on United and WestJet
Houston to Montreal on Air Canada
Houston to Toronto on Air Canada and United
Houston to Vancouver on Air Canada and United

Las Vegas to Montreal on Air Canada
Las Vegas to Toronto on Air Canada
Las Vegas to Vancouver on Air Canada

Los Angeles to Montreal on Porter (seasonal)

Minneapolis/St. Paul to Calgary on Delta

Maui to Vancouver on Air Canada

Minneapolis/St. Paul to Montreal on Air Canada
Minneapolis/St. Paul to Toronto on Air Canada and Delta
Minneapolis/St. Paul to Vancouver on Delta

Nashville to Calgary on WestJet
Nashville to Toronto on Air Canada and WestJet
Nashville to Vancouver on WestJet

New York/JFK to Montreal on Delta, American and Air Canada
New York/JFK to Toronto on Air Canada, American and Delta
New York/JFK to Vancouver on JetBlue

Newark to Halifax on United (seasonal, begins May 23, 2024)
Newark to Montreal on United
Newark to Toronto on United

Orlando to Ottawa on Porter
Orlando to Toronto on Porter

Phoenix to Calgary on Delta
Phoenix to Toronto on Air Canada
Phoenix to Vancouver on Air Canada

Raleigh Durham to Montreal on Air Canada
Raleigh Durham to Toronto on Air Canada

           St Louis to Montreal on Air Canada (seasonal, begins May 1, 2024)

Salt Lake City to Calgary on Delta
Salt Lake City to Toronto on Air Canada
Salt Lake City to Vancouver on Delta

San Diego to Montreal on Air Canada

San Francisco to Calgary on United
San Francisco to Montreal on Porter (seasonal)
San Francisco to Toronto on United
San Francisco to Vancouver on United

Seattle to Montreal on Air Canada
Seattle to Toronto on Alaska (begins May 16, 2024)

Washington/Dulles to Vancouver on United (seasonal, begins May 23, 2024)

Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands

Dallas/Fort Worth to Brisbane, Australia, on American (begins October 27, 2024)

Honolulu to Auckland, New Zealand, on Air New Zealand
Honolulu to Rarotonga, Cook Islands, on Hawaiian

Houston to Auckland, New Zealand, on Air New Zealand

Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand, on Air New Zealand, Delta and United
Los Angeles to Brisbane, Australia, on United and Delta (Dec. 4, 2024 through March 28, 2025)
Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia, on United
Los Angeles to Papeete (Tahiti), French Polynesia, on Delta, Air Tahiti Nui, and Air France
Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia, on American and Delta

New York/JFK to Auckland, New Zealand, on Air New Zealand and Qantas

San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand, on Air New Zealand and United
San Francisco to Brisbane, Australia, on United
San Francisco to Christchurch, New Zealand, on United
San Francisco to Melbourne, Australia, on United
San Francisco to Papeete (Tahiti), French Polynesia, on United and French Bee
San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, on United

Seattle to Papeete (Tahiti), French Polynesia, on Air Tahiti Nui

Middle East and Africa

UPDATE on April 16, 2024: United—the only U.S. airline to resume its service to Israel since October—has paused those flights. El Al continues to operate between the U.S. and Israel.

Atlanta to Cape Town, South Africa, on Delta
Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa, on Delta
Atlanta to Tel Aviv, Israel, on Delta (suspended) and El Al

Boston to Tel Aviv, Israel, on Delta (suspended) and El Al

Chicago to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Etihad
Chicago to Amman, Jordan, on Royal Jordanian
Chicago to Doha, Qatar, on Qatar Airways
Chicago to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Emirates
Chicago to Tel Aviv, Israel, on United (resumes October 2024) and El Al

Dallas/Fort Worth to Doha, Qata, on Qatar
Dallas/Fort Worth to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Emirates
Dallas/Fort Worth to Tel Aviv, Israel on American (resumes October 2024)

Detroit to Amman, Jordan, on Royal Jordanian

Ft. Lauderdale to Tel Aviv, Israel, on El Al

Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, Israel, on El Al

Miami to Doha, Qatar, on Qatar
Miami to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Emirates

Newark to Cape Town, South Africa, on United
Newark to Cairo, Egypt, on Egyptair
Newark to Dubai, United Arab Emirates,  on United
Newark to Johannesburg, South Africa, on United
Newark to Marrakech, Morocco, on United (begins October 24, 2024)
Newark to Tel Aviv, Israel, on El Al and United (resumed March 2024)

New York/JFK to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Etihad
New York/JFK to Amman, Jordan, on Royal Jordanian
New York/JFK to Casablanca, Marrakech, on Royal Air Maroc
New York/JFK to Doha, Qatar, on American
New York/JFK to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Emirates
New York/JFK to Nairobi, Kenya, on Kenya Airways
New York/JFK to Tel Aviv, Israel, on American (resumes October 27, 2024), Delta (resumes June 7, 2024), and El Al

Miami to Tel Aviv, Israel, on El Al

Philadelphia to Doha, Qatar, on American

San Francisco to Tel Aviv, Israel, on United (resumes October 2024)

Seattle to Doha, Qatar, on Qatar Airways

Washington/Dulles to Amman, Jordan, on United
Washington/Dulles to Casablanca, Morocco, on Royal Air Maroc
Washington/Dulles to Doha, Qatar, on Qatar Airways
Washington/Dulles to Tel Aviv, Israel, on United (resumes October 2024)

Latin America and the Caribbean

Atlanta to Cancun, Mexico, on JetBlue and Southwest
Atlanta to Cozumel, Mexico, on Delta
Atlanta to Curacao, the Caribbean on Delta
Atlanta to Lima, Peru on Latam and Delta
Atlanta to Merida, Mexico, on Aeromexico
Atlanta to Mexico City on Delta and Aeromexico
Atlanta to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Delta
Atlanta to Tulum, Mexico, on Delta

Austin to Cancun, Mexico, on American
Austin to Cozumel, Mexico, on American and Southwest
Austin to Liberia, Costa Rica, on American
Austin to Mexico City on Aeromexico
Austin to Panama City on Copa
Austin to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on American and Southwest
Austin to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on American and Southwest

Baltimore to Cancun, Mexico, on Frontier
Baltimore to Panama City on Copa (seasonal)

Boston to Mexico City on Aeromexico

Charlotte to Belize City on American
Charlotte to Cancun, Mexico, on American
Charlotte to Cozumel, Mexico, on American
Charlotte to Curacao, the Caribbean, on American
Charlotte to San Jose, Costa Rica, on American
Charlotte to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on American
Charlotte to Tulum, Mexico, on American

Chicago O’Hare to Cancun, Mexico, on United
Chicago O’Hare to Guatemala City on Avianca
Chicago O’Hare to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on United
Chicago O’Hare to Mexico City on Aeromexico
Chicago O’Hare to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on United
Chicago O’Hare to Tulum, Mexico, on United

Cincinnati to Cancun, Mexico, on American

Dallas/Ft. Worth to Buenos Aires, Argentina, on American
Dallas/Ft. Worth to Cancun, Mexico, on American
Dallas/Ft. Worth to Cozumel, Mexico, (seasonal)
Dallas/Ft. Worth to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on American
Dallas/Ft. Worth to Mexico City (NLU) on Aeromexico
Dallas/Ft. Worth to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on American
Dallas/Ft. Worth to Santiago, Chile, on American
Dallas/Ft. Worth to Tulum, Mexico, on American
Dallas/Ft. Worth to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, on American

Denver to Belize City on United
Denver to Cancun, Mexico, on United and Southwest
Denver to Cozumel, Mexico, on United and Southwest
Denver to Liberia, Costa Rica, on United
Denver to Panama City on United and Southwest
Denver to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on United and Southwest
Denver to Roatan, Honduras, on United
Denver to San Jose, Costa Rica, on United
Denver to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on United and Southwest

Detroit to Mexico City on Aeromexico

Fort Lauderdale to Belém, Brazil’s Amazon, on Azul
Fort Lauderdale to Bucaramanga, Colombia, on Spirit
Fort Lauderdale to Manaus, Brazil’s Amazon, on Azul

Houston to Cancun, Mexico, on United
Houston to Medellin, Colombia, on United (begins October 27, 2024)
Houston to Mexico City on Aeromexico
Houston to Oaxaca, Mexico, on United
Houston to Panama City on United
Houston to Puebla, Mexico, on United
Houston to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on United
Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica, on United
Houston to Tulum, Mexico, on United

Kansas City to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on Southwest (seasonal)

Las Vegas to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on Alaska
Las Vegas to Mexico City on Aeromexico
Las Vegas to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Alaska

Los Angeles to Belize City on Alaska
Los Angeles to Grand Cayman, the Caribbean, on Cayman Airways
Los Angeles to Guatemala City on Alaska, United
Los Angeles to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on United
Los Angeles to Mexico City on Aeromexico
Los Angeles to Nassau, Bahamas, on Alaska and JetBlue
Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on United
Los Angeles to San Jose, Costa Rica, on United
Los Angeles to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on United
Los Angeles to Sao Paolo, Brazil, on Latam
Los Angeles to Tulum, Mexico, on United

Miami to Barranquilla, Colombia, on American
Miami to Bogota, Colombia, on Avianca, American, Latam, Emirates (starts June 3)
Miami to Buenos Aires (EZE), Argentina, on Aerolineas Argentinas and American
Miami to Cali, Colombia, on American
Miami to Cancun, Mexico, on American
Miami to Cartagena, Colombia, on Avianca
Miami to Fortaleza, Brazil, on Latam
Miami to Guatemala City on Avianca
Miami to Havana, Cuba, on Delta
Miami to Liberia, Costa Rica, on American
Miami to Lima, Peru, on American and Latam
Miami to Medellin, Colombia, on Avianca
Miami to Mexico City on American and Aeromexico
Miami to Panama City on American
Miami to Quito, Ecuador, on Avianca
Miami to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on American
Miami to San Jose, Costa Rica, on American
Miami to Santiago, Chile, on American
Miami to Tulum, Mexico, on American

Minneapolis/St Paul to Cancun, Mexico, on Delta
Minneapolis/St. Paul to Cozumel, Mexico, on Delta
Minneapolis/St. Paul to Mexico City on Delta

Nashville to Cancun, Mexico, on American and Southwest

New York/JFK to Belize City on JetBlue
New York/JFK to Buenos Aires (EZE), Argentina, on Delta and Aerolineas Argentinas
New York/JFK to Cali, Colombia, on American
New York/JFK to Cartagena, Colombia, on Avianca
New York/JFK to Mexico City on Aeromexico, Delta, and American
New York/JFK to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on JetBlue
New York/JFK to Quito, Ecuador, on Avianca
New York/JFK to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Delta
New York/JFK to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Avianca
New York/JFK to Tulum, Mexico, on JetBlue (beginning June 13, 2024)

Newark to Cartagena, Colombia, on JetBlue
Newark to Guatemala City on United
Newark to Panama City on United, Copa
Newark to San Jose, Costa Rica, on United
Newark to Tulum, Mexico, on United

Orlando to Belize City on Frontier
Orlando to Cali, Colombia, on Avianca
Orlando to Liberia, Costa Rica, on Frontier
Orlando to Medellín, Colombia, on Avianca
Orlando to Quito, Ecuador, on Avianca
Orlando to Recife, Brazil, on Azul
Orlando to Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Latam

Phoenix to Cancun, Mexico, on American and Southwest
Phoenix to Mexico City on American
Phoenix to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on American and Southwest
Phoenix to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on American and Southwest

Pittsburgh to Cancun, Mexico, on American

Raleigh Durham to Cancun, Mexico, on Jet Blue
Raleigh Durham to Mexico City on Aeromexico
Raleigh Durham to Panama City on Copa (begins June 21, 2024)

Salt Lake City to Mexico City on Aeromexico

San Antonio to Mexico City on Aeromexico

San Francisco to Cancun, Mexico, on Alaska
San Francisco to Liberia, Costa Rica, on United
San Francisco to Mexico City on Aeromexico

Seattle to Belize City on Alaska
Seattle to Cancun, Mexico, on Alaska
Seattle to Nassau, Bahamas, on Alaska

Washington/Dulles to Mexico City on Aeromexico and United

Asia

Atlanta to Seoul, South Korea, on Delta
Atlanta to Tokyo (HND), Japan,  on Delta

Boston to Seoul, South Korea, on Korean Air
Boston to Tokyo (NRT), Japan, on American, Japan Airlines

Chicago to Delhi, India, on United and Air India
Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo (HND), Japan on Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, United Airlines
Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo (NRT), Japan, on All Nippon Airways

Dallas/Ft. Worth to Seoul, South Korea, on American
Dallas/Fort Worth to Shanghai, China on American
Dallas/Fort Worth to Tokyo (HND), Japan, on American

Detroit to Seoul, South Korea, on Delta
Detroit to Shanghai, China, on China Eastern and Delta
Detroit to Tokyo (HND), Japan, on Delta

Denver to Tokyo (NRT), Japan, on United

Honolulu to Fukuoka, Japan’s Kyushu Island, on Hawaiian
Honolulu to Manila, the Philippines, on Philippine Airlines
Honolulu to Osaka, Japan, on Hawaiian and Japan Airlines
Honolulu to Nagoya, Japan, on Japan Airlines
Honolulu to Taipei, Taiwan, on Air China (begins June 2024)
Honolulu to Tokyo (HND), Japan, on Delta and Hawaiian
Honolulu to Tokyo (NRT), Japan, on Hawaiian

Las Vegas to Seoul, South Korea, on Korean Airlines

Los Angeles to Beijing, China, on Air China
Los Angeles to Hong Kong on American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and United
Los Angeles to Manila, the Philippines, on Philippine Airlines
Los Angeles to Osaka, Japan, on Japan Airlines
Los Angeles to Seoul, South Korea, on Asiana and Korean Air
Los Angeles to Shanghai, China, on Delta (began March 2024) and United (begins August 29, 2024)
Los Angeles to Singapore on Singapore Air
Los Angeles to Tokyo (HND), Japan, on United
Los Angeles to Tokyo (NRT), Japan, on American Airlines, United, and ZIPAIR

Minneapolis to Seoul, South Korea, on Delta
Minneapolis to Tokyo (HND), Japan, on Delta

Newark to Delhi, India, on Air India
Newark to Mumbai, India, on United and Air India
Newark to Singapore on Singapore Airlines
Newark to Tokyo (HND), Japan, on United
Newark to Tokyo (NRT), Japan on United

New York (JFK) to Beijing, China, on Air China
New York/JFK to Delhi, India, on American Airlines and Air India
New York/JFK to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific
New York/JFK to Mumbai, India, on Air India
New York/JFK to New Delhi, India, on Air India, American
New York/JFK to Manila, the Philippines, on Philippine Airlines
New York/JFK to Seoul, South Korea, on Asiana, Korean
New York/JFK to Singapore on Singapore Air
New York/JFK to Taipei, Taiwan, on Eva Air, Air China
New York/JFK to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Uzbekistan Airways
New York/JFK to Tokyo (HND), Japan, on Japan Airlines, ANA, and American (begins June 28, 2024)

San Diego to Tokyo (NRT), Japan, on Japan Airlines

San Jose to Tokyo (NRT), Japan, on ZIPAIR

San Francisco to Beijing, China, on Air China
San Francisco to Delhi, India, on United and Air India
San Francisco to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on Vietnam Airlines
San Francisco to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific and United
San Francisco to Manila, the Philippines, on Philippine Airlines and United
San Francisco to Mumbai, India, on Air India
San Francisco to Osaka, Japan, on United
San Francisco to Seoul, South Korea, on Asiana, Korean Airlines, and United
San Francisco to Shanghai, China, on United
San Francisco to Singapore on United and Singapore Airlines
San Francisco to Taipei, Taiwan, on China Airlines, EVA Air and United
San Francisco to Tokyo (HND), Japan, on ANA, Japan Airlines, and United
San Francisco to Tokyo (NRT), Japan, on ANA, Japan Airlines, United and ZIPAIR

Seattle to Beijing (PKX), China, on Delta (seasonal) and Hainan Airlines
Seattle to Manila, the Philippines, on Philippine Airlines (begins October 2, 2024)
Seattle to Seoul, South Korea, on Delta
Seattle to Tokyo (NRT), Japan, on ANA, Japan Airlines, Delta, United and American
Seattle to Shanghai, China, on Delta
Seattle to Singapore on Singapore Arlines
Seattle to Taipei, Taiwan, on Delta (begins June 6, 2024) and China Airlines (begins July 2024)

Washington/Dulles to Delhi, India, on Air India
Washington/Dulles to Incheon, South Korea, on Korean Air
Washington/Dulles to Tokyo (HND), Japan, on United and ANA

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

How to Get More For Your Miles and Points in 2023

You could be saving thousands of dollars on better award flights and nicer lie-flat seats in premium cabins. Gary Leff, the miles-and-points genius who writes View From The Wing and founded Book Your Award, shared how in our WOW Week 2023 Travel Talks. Watch the video, and read the top takeaways below, for dozens of tips for maximizing your miles and points. Gary recently merged Book Your Award into Point.me, a new service with great tools for do-it-yourself search for award seats. Check it out!

5 top takeaways

Know which airlines have the most award seats.
For international trips, especially in business class, there is often not much availability on U.S. airlines. You’ll find many more award seats available on those U.S. airlines’ international partners.

  • Air France, for instance, flies to numerous U.S. cities, and it’s easy to transfer credit-card points to Air France’s mileage program. (Air France is a partner of Delta’s, but it offers a lot more award-seat availability to people using Air France miles than to those using Delta miles.)
  • Singapore Airlines (a United Airlines partner) releases business-class seats reliably a year in advance. It’s a great way to get to Europe and Japan. You can transfer credit-card points to Singapore Airlines, and you can also frequently use Alaska and Air Canada miles, even though those seats likely will not be bookable using United’s miles.
  • Qatar Airways (an American Airlines partner) has one of the best business-class products in the world, and it reliably releases award seats about a year in advance. It’s a great way to connect through the Middle East and Africa.
  • There are specific routes that have a lot of award seats too. Ultimately, it’s airlines that have too much capacity that offer award seats at a good value. And certain airlines may be flying to the U.S., or to a specific city, for a reason other than demand. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar all fly to Dulles airport in Washington, D.C.—because they believe it’s important to serve Washington, D.C.

You can often get the same seat for fewer miles through a foreign airline’s program.
Numerous foreign airline programs sell the same seats for less. For instance, you can sometimes book Delta business class for a quarter of the points if you book it through Virgin Atlantic’s mileage program. Turkish Airlines charges just 7,500 points each way for a domestic United flight in coach, and 12,500 points for United business class (including Hawaii). United charges three times as much for their own flights! (Citi, Capital One, and Bilt points all transfer to Turkish Airlines.) You can book Iberia business class between the U.S. and Europe starting at 68,000 miles roundtrip when using Iberia’s miles. Booking those same seats through American Airlines AAdvantage would cost 115,000 miles.

When you can, collect credit-card points (that you can transfer to your choice of airlines) instead of miles with just one airline.
It’s better to have American Express points than Delta miles, for instance. That’s because American Express points transfer to Delta plus additional airlines. Similarly, it’s better to have Chase points than United miles. You want points that can be transferred to whichever airline is offering the best deal on available seats for the trip you want when you want it. As mentioned above, Air France offers better availability to travelers using Air France miles (that they got by transferring credit-card points to Air France) than to travelers using Delta miles. Similarly, Singapore offers better availability to travelers using Singapore miles (that they got by transferring credit-card points to Singapore Airlines) than to travelers using United miles.

Award tickets are easier to get than upgrades.
The conventional wisdom used to be that the best use of miles was to upgrade paid tickets. Nowadays, however, upgrades are tougher to get than awards. That’s because it’s easier to get award seats on partner airlines. By contrast, if you try to upgrade, you usually end up waitlisted, and if you don’t have top elite status with the airline, you’ll be at the bottom of the list.

Because U.S. airlines now allow free cancellation and redeposit of mileage, you can book a “worst case scenario” itinerary and then work to improve it. United, Delta, and American no longer charge fees to cancel an award ticket and redeposit the miles. So, if you can find an itinerary that will do, lock in the trip. It may not be perfect, but it lets you lock down the rest of your travel. Now you have all the time between booking and departure to go back and search again for awards, and if you find something better, consider a change; there will be no extra fees to do it.

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Fly Smarter in 2023: How to Get the Best International Flights, Seats, and Fares

What should we expect from airline travel in 2023? Will airfares keep rising? Which parts of the world will be the best value to fly to? When should you book your summer flights? Airline expert Brett Snyder, founder of Cranky Concierge, joined our WOW Week 2023 Travel Talks on January 24th and answered all of these questions and more.

In a hurry? Start the video at 2:55. No time to watch the video? Here are a few takeaways:

  • Airfares will remain high, but there will be some pockets where deals can be found.
    One region to watch for deals is Southeast Asia. That’s because, as Chinese airlines start flying to the U.S. again, it will create a flood of capacity on flights from the U.S. to China and beyond to Southeast Asia (meaning, there will be more connecting options to get to Southeast Asia.)
  • Don’t wait to book your international flights for peak summer travel.
    Big international fare sales for the peak summer period are not likely. If you’re planning summer trips to popular places such as Italy, book now (if not yesterday). For fall travel, it’s okay to wait until spring break or even toward early summer to book. (That’s because fall isn’t as busy as summer, so you aren’t fighting for scarce seats in the same way that you are for summer. You can wait longer and not have as much of an issue.)
  • When booking a domestic connection to an international flight, leave yourself wiggle room.
    Last summer we saw many missed airline connections, and it could happen again this summer. If you’re nervous about missing a connection to an international flight, book a longer layover. If you’re really nervous, book an overnight at the connection point. But be ready for schedule changes to occur. Schedules are fairly firm into spring break right now, but after that, they are not.

Links to Useful Resources

New Nonstop Flights To Make Your Travels Easier in 2023

Where Everybody’s Traveling in 2023: The 10 Most Popular Countries For WOW Trips

Smartest Airports for Making Connections

How Never to Wait on Hold with Airline Customer Service Again

Best International Stopovers: Two Trips for the Price of One

Private Jets: The Safest Option, and More Affordable Than You Might Think

The 2023 WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts

Where To Go When: Ideal Destinations For Each Month of the Year

Winter Is Europe’s Secret Season

Countries with No Covid-Related Entry Requirements

The Countries That Are Open to U.S. Travelers and How to Get In

The 10 Most Popular Countries of 2022 for WOW Trips

WOW Week Travel Talks

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Travel. Trip. Vacation - Top view airplane with touristic map

New Nonstop Flights To Make Your Travels Easier in 2022

My, how things can change in just a short couple of years. In 2019, there was so much promise for a host of new and exciting airline routes, but, well, we all know what happened. Very few, if any of those new flights, actually started while the pandemic raged.

Now there is hope on the horizon again. Many airlines are planning to launch those long-awaited routes next year and relaunch a few older nonstops that had been temporarily shelved, What’s more, some airlines have already announced exciting new trips that weren’t even on their minds before the pandemic.

To help you find your own excitement and inspiration, let’s take a look at the new airline routes that have either just started or are slated to start in 2022.

Europe

Austin to Amsterdam, on KLM
Austin to London/Heathrow on Virgin Atlantic

Baltimore to Reykjavik on PLAY

Boston to Athens, on Delta
Boston to Barcelona, on LEVEL
Boston to London/Heathrow, on United
Boston to Reykjavik on PLAY

Chicago/O’Hare to London/Heathrow, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Milan/Malpensa, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Reykjavik, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Rome, on United
Chicago/O’Hare to Zurich, on United

Dallas/Fort Worth to Helsinki on Finnair
Dallas/Fort Worth to Istanbul, on Turkish
Dallas/Fort Worth to Madrid, on Iberia

Denver to Paris/CDG, on Air France
Denver to Munich, on United

Detroit to Istanbul, on Turkish, will begin but no details are available

Fort Myers to Frankfurt, on Eurowings

Las Vegas to Munich, on Eurowings Discover

Los Angeles to Dublin, on Aer Lingus
Los Angeles to Frankfurt, on Condor
Los Angeles to London/Heathrow, on United
Los Angeles to Paris/Orly on Frenchbee

Newark to Athens, on United
Newark to Barcelona, on United
Newark to Bergen (Norway), on United
Newark to Dubrovnik, on United
Newark to Frankfurt, on United
Newark to London/Heathrow, on United
Newark to Nice, on United
Newark to Palma de Mallorca, on United
Newark to Paris, on Air France starting Dec 12, 2023
Newark to Ponta Delgada (Azores), on United
Newark to Rome, on United
Newark to Tenerife (Canary Islands), on United

New York/JFK to Paris, on Air France
New York/JFK to Stockholm on Delta 

Orlando to Edinburgh, on Virgin Atlantic

Portland (OR) to London/Heathrow on British Airways

Raleigh/Durham to Reykjavik on Icelandair

Salt Lake City to Frankfurt, on Eurowings

San Francisco to Frankfurt, on Condor
San Francisco to London/Heathrow, on United

Seattle to Helsinki on Finnair
Seattle to Istanbul, on Turkish

St Louis to Frankfurt on Lufthansa

Washington/Dulles to Amsterdam, on United
Washington/Dulles to Athens, on United
Washington/Dulles to Berlin, on United
Washington/Dulles to London/Heathrow, on United
Washington/Dulles to Madrid, on Iberia
Washington/Dulles to Reykjavik, on United

 

One last thing worth noting over the Atlantic: European leisure operator TUI will move its Florida gateway to… Melbourne, a small and easy airport located a little over an hour southeast of Orlando.

Melbourne, FL, to Birmingham, Doncaster/Sheffield, London/Gatwick, and Manchester

Melbourne, FL, to Bristol, Glasgow, and Newcastle in May with Edinburgh

Canada

Atlanta to Montreal, on Air Canada

Austin to Vancouver, on Air Canada

Boston to Calgary, on WestJet

Chicago/O’Hare to Toronto on Flair

Detroit to Montreal, on Air Canada

Las Vegas to Ottawa, on Flair
Las Vegas to Victoria (BC), on Swoop

Los Angeles to Montreal, on Air Transat

Nashville to Edmonton, on Flair

New York/JFK to Toronto on Flair

Salt Lake City to Toronto on Air Canada

San Diego to Montreal, on Air Canada

San Francisco to Montreal, on Air Transat

Seattle to Montreal, on Air Canada

Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands

Honolulu to Auckland, on Air New Zealand

Houston to Auckland, on Air New Zealand

Los Angeles to Auckland, on Air New Zealand
Los Angeles to Papeete (French Polynesia) on Delta, Air Tahiti Nui and Air France

New York/JFK to Auckland, on Air New Zealand, starts Sept 17, 2022

San Francisco to Auckland, on Air New Zealand
San Francisco to Papeete (French Polynesia) on United and French Bee

Middle East and Africa

Atlanta to Cape Town, on Delta, starting Dec 17, 2022
Atlanta to Tel Aviv, on Delta, starting May 10, 2023

Boston to Tel Aviv, on Delta
Boston to Tel Aviv, on El Al

Chicago to Tel Aviv, United and El Al

Dallas/Fort Worth to Tel Aviv, on American

Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, on El Al

Miami to Dubai, on Emirates

Newark to Cape Town, on United (year-round)
Newark to Johannesburg, on United
Newark to Tel Aviv, on El Al and United

New York/JFK to Doha on American
New York/JFK to Tel Aviv, on El Al, American and Delta

Miami to Tel Aviv, on El Al and American

San Francisco to Tel Aviv, on United

Washington/Dulles to Amman, on United
Washington/Dulles to Lagos, on United
Washington/Dulles to Tel Aviv, on United

Central and South America

Austin to Cozumel on American
Austin to Liberia (Costa Rica), on American

Denver to Roatan (Honduras), on United
Denver to San Jose (Costa Rica), on United

Fort Lauderdale to Barranquilla (Colombia), on Spirit
Fort Lauderdale to Bucaramanga (Colombia), on Spirit

Los Angeles to San Pedro Sula (Honduras), on United

Minneapolis/St Paul to Roatan (Honduras), on Sun Country

New York/JFK to Belo Horizonte (Brazil), on Eastern
New York/JFK to Cali (Colombia), on American
New York/JFK to Cartagena on Avianca
New York/JFK to Puerto Vallarta, on JetBlue

Newark to Cartagena, on JetBlue

New Orleans to San Pedro Sula (Honduras), on Spirit

Ontario to San Salvador, on Avianca

Orlando to Belize, on Frontier
Orlando to Cali (Colombia), on Avianca
Orlando to Liberia (Costa Rica), on Frontier
Orlando to Medellín on Avianca

San Francisco to Liberia (Costa Rica), on United

Seattle to Belize, on Alaska

Asia

New nonstop flights to Asia are slowly being added. In addition to several nonstops that have resumed.

 

Chicago to Delhi on United and Air India

Los Angeles  to Singapore, on Singapore Air
Los Angeles to Tokyo/Haneda, on United, expected by October 29, 2022
Los Angeles to Tokyo/Narita on Zip Air

Newark to Delhi on Air India
Newark to Mumbai on United and Air India
Newark to Tokyo/Haneda, on United, expected by October 29, 2022

New York/JFK to Delhi on American Airlines and Air India
New York/JFK to Mumbai on Air India
New York/JFK to Singapore on Singapore Air

Portland (OR) to Tokyo/Haneda, on Delta
Portland (OR) to Seoul/Incheon, on Delta

San Francisco to Bangalore, on United, starts October 28, 2022
San Francisco to Delhi on United and Air India
San Francisco to Singapore, on United

San Francisco to Singapore, on Singapore Air

Washington/Dulles to Tokyo/Haneda, on United, October 29, 2022

Washington DC to Delhi on Air India

Vancouver to Bangkok, on Air Canada, December 1, 2022

 

Brett Snyder is President at Cranky Concierge, a service that Wendy recommends to WOW List travelers seeking the savviest help with international airline travel. Brett’s service ferrets out the smartest routes and fares, monitors your flights, and provides emergency rerouting assistance if your flight is delayed or cancelled.


Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Air Travel in 2022: Best Flights, Fares, Miles, and Seats

Is there any affordable airfare anywhere in the world this year? And, if so, where? Air travel watchdogs Brett Snyder, founder of Cranky Concierge, and Gary Leff, founder of View From the Wing and Book Your Award, reveal what you can expect from airlines and airfares in 2022: when to buy your tickets, how to choose the safest flights, where to find business-class bargains, how to get the most value for your miles, and much more.

 

Read more

New Nonstop Flights To Make Your Travels Easier in 2022

When Is the Best Time to Buy Airfare This Year?

When and Where to Use Your Airline Miles This Year

Best International Stopovers: Two Trips for the Price of One

The Best Credit Cards for Travelers

Private Jets: The Safest Option, and More Affordable Than You Might Think

Getting a Covid Test Abroad is Easy

5 Testing Tips for an Easy Return Flight to the U.S.

How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel

Traveler Reviews of Pandemic Trips Arranged by WOW List trip-planning experts

 

 

Nafplio or Nafplion, Greece, Peloponnese old town houses aerial panorama and snow mountains

When and Where to Use Your Airline Miles This Year

Frequent travelers want to know the best time to start tapping into that stockpile of credit card points and miles they’ve been racking up during the pandemic, plus the destinations and airlines where those awards will stretch the furthest. For some timely tips, we reached out to miles-and-points expert Gary Leff, who reports on this topic on a daily basis at View From the Wing and who founded Book Your Award, the go-to flight-planning service for getting the best value for your miles and points.

In his own words, here are ten things Gary wants travelers to know about airline miles right now:

1. Points are worth less now than pre-pandemic and will continue to devalue over time. So use them now!

“Airlines tried to hold onto cash during the pandemic. As a result, awards they typically have to pay cash for (like award seats on their partners) became more expensive. Delta’s SkyMiles and United’s MileagePlus now charge more for award travel on partner airlines (like ​​Vietnam Airlines and Air Canada, among many others) than they used to. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points can be used on any seat on the airline—that’s expensive, so Southwest has also reduced the value of their points.

In short: Points are worth less today than they were before the pandemic, and they will most likely continue to devalue with time. The lesson, though, is the same as it was pre-pandemic: Points will never be worth more in the future than they are today. You should use your points now and then start earning them again, rather than saving them all for a future date.”

2. Award flexibility, however, is more lenient than ever—so go ahead and book tickets now, then cancel and rebook if a better deal comes along.

“Cancellation and mileage-redeposit policies of each airline will vary, but in general, award flexibility is greater than before. There were pandemic travel waivers, but also fundamental changes in airlines’ awards programs. American AAdvantage eliminated cancellation and redeposit fees entirely. United has eliminated cancellation and redeposit fees entirely for domestic itineraries, and allows free cancellation for international itineraries a month in advance. Delta has eliminated these fees entirely for travel that originates in the U.S.

Traditionally, the best times to book award travel have been when schedules load: around 12 months out, 6 months out, and in the few days prior to departure. But since tickets bought with points provide such flexibility right now, there’s no downside to locking in a trip ASAP and then canceling/rebooking if a better deal comes along later.

Given the uncertainty in the world, airlines have been holding back more seats until closer to departure. The pandemic has meant that booking late can lead to better results more often than in the recent past. So while there is a good chance that better options (a nonstop versus a connecting flight, or a better airline partner) will arise closer to your travel dates, current ticket flexibility means you can make those improvements at little or no cost.”

3. You’ll find the most valuable seats on long-haul, international flights. The least valuable seats are on domestic flights to leisure destinations.

“During the pandemic there’s been greater demand for domestic travel to leisure destinations (like Florida and Colorado) and close-in international leisure destinations (especially Mexico). That makes awards for those routes tougher to get and pricier when you get them—and thus worse value. The best value comes from the most expensive tickets for seats that are going unsold; right now, that applies to long-haul international premium cabin travel on flights that aren’t full. For example, you could spend as few as 60,000 miles to fly roundtrip business class between the East Coast and Spain on Iberia.

Those differences in value were there before the pandemic, but it’s become doubly true over the past couple of years.”

4. You’ll also generally find better seats on non-U.S. airlines.

“Uncertain times may mean that airlines are a bit more conservative making award seats available—they don’t want to risk giving up a seat for points that they might sell for cash. And many airlines haven’t fully rebuilt their international networks and schedules yet, so there’s fewer international seats available than pre-pandemic. That can make it tougher to get these seats. I’m finding the best availability, though, on non-U.S. airlines that fly to the U.S. On the whole they bring back their flights earlier than demand, there are more empty seats, and so more mileage awards are available.”

5. Unfortunately, business class seats are tougher to buy with awards right now.

“One thing that’s made business class awards harder to get is that many airlines have retired  their larger planes or kept them grounded. There are relatively more smaller Boeing 787s flying than larger 777s, and several airlines have dropped A380s entirely. That means fewer seats and fewer premium seats on each flight, making business awards harder to get.

If you are specifically looking for business class seats, however, some award programs are better than others. Right now (e.g. over the past week) there’s been great availability on Emirates (for their U.S.–Europe flights), Turkish (from most U.S. gateways. and they serve more countries than any other airline in the world), Singapore Airlines, and SWISS (especially their New York JFK–Geneva and Montreal–Zurich flights, great for connecting most places in Europe).  That covers Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. South America is often tougher.

Note that award availability changes frequently with many airlines, so this can all come and go in a matter of days.”

6. Now is the time to start (or continue) using travel credit cards.

“Card programs have become more robust during the pandemic. American Express and Chase were already strong, but Capital One has gotten much better improving its transfer ratios with nearly all partners to 1:1, and Bilt [a loyalty program for rent payments] has entered the scene in the past few months as a strong transferable points currency. Any of these can deliver great international business class awards because their points transfer to a variety of airlines across Star Alliance, oneworld Alliance, SkyTeam, and non-alliance carriers.”

limestone rock jutting out of water in the islands of Thailand

Award travel availability to Southeast Asian destinations, like Thailand, are good right now. Photo: eltonmaxim / Pixabay

7. Flights to Southeast Asia are currently a great value for your points.

“Right now is the moment in time to grab award tickets to Asia, as countries are just re-opening and many travelers have already booked their 2022 plans. For instance, Singapore Airlines has had great award availability and represents a great way to get to Southeast Asia. It’s becoming possible to travel to Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, for instance, but much of this year is a loss for those destinations.”

My general advice is to travel where it’s desirable to go but where other travelers aren’t going, because that means excess unsold airline seats for awards and other elements of the trip may be better value, too (and the destination less crowded). While tourism in Europe has started to regain its footing, that isn’t yet true for many destinations outside of the continent.”

8. If you do want awards tickets to Europe, Emirates has been a strong option.

“Emirates has just recently had great availability in business class to Europe; and while Emirates Skywards has raised the cost of many awards, they’ve left Europe untouched.

Over the past couple of months I’ve had great luck with redemptions on Emirates, and they don’t just fly from the U.S. to Dubai but also from JFK to Milan and Newark to Athens. Every major transferable bank currency’s points can be moved to Emirates Skywards. (But never do this until you find the availability you want!)”

9. For travel to Africa, try British Airways points through Qatar Airways

Just last week, Qatar Airways awards became substantially cheapers using British Airways Avios. You can use Avios to fly Qatar Airways to Doha and beyond, including Africa. (BA just reduced the number of points and surcharges required for this, and they are a transfer of Chase, American Express, and Capital One.)

10. Consider flights to countries that aren’t fully re-opened yet.

“Airlines are usually making their ‘low level’ mileage awards available out of seat inventory they don’t expect to sell—this availability varies by airline, but most international airlines that are reopening routes before there’s demand have more inventory. One great strategy is to book awards far in the future for destinations that aren’t fully re-opened, assuming that they will be at some point. There’s usually little demand for flights to these countries and reasonably good award inventory. If it turns out the destination still isn’t open enough to be viable to visit, you can probably cancel the ticket for free now.” (See tip #2.)

One more tip

If you have lingering questions about premium international air travel to specific destinations or routes, reach out to Gary’s team at Book Your Award (here’s how it works). He also recommends point.me—a new subscription tool for searching awards across a variety of airlines. “You enter where you want to go, then it shows you the options available for your dates and walks you through booking the flight with helpful step-by-step guides, and even videos showing how to transfer points where needed and how to make the reservation,” he says. “This product just launched with substantial venture capital backing.” Otherwise, each airline lets members search for award tickets for free.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

 

Shadow of an airliner over a blue water and a white-sand beach.

When Is the Best Time to Buy Airfare This Year?

Given the rise in fuel prices that’s happening now, given the surge in people who want to travel this summer, and given the no-fly zone over Russia, when should travelers buy their airline tickets for flights this year? We spoke to two air travel experts to get their insights.

If you’re traveling this summer

“For summer, buy now,” says Brett Snyder, founder of Cranky Concierge, a service that not only helps people find and book the best flight options, but also monitors those flights for schedule changes. “Things are starting to get tight, and it might already be too late for the best availability.”

Savanthi Syth, Global Airlines Analyst for Raymond James Financial, agrees. “If there is no change fee, I think travelers should book tickets now. Fares are likely to remain high for the summer due to strong demand, constrained supply (as airlines make sure they have enough crew to avoid operational issues experienced last year), and fuel likely to remain elevated at least in the near term and possibly longer.”

Snyder is seeing that too. “You are starting to see higher fares, especially in premium cabins,” he says. “The lowest fares are long gone—especially to Europe.”

If you’re traveling this fall or winter

“For the fall and beyond, I would hold off, especially for airlines that have change fees,” Syth says. “If you plan on traveling around Thanksgiving or Christmas, I would recommend booking if you see a good fare, but can probably be patient otherwise. That said, I would not recommend waiting on booking those flights too close in, as demand around peak leisure travel periods has been resilient throughout the pandemic, once travel restrictions were lifted.”

And as Snyder explains, airfare pricing is tied to demand. “Loosely, 100 days before travel is when airlines start to play close attention to demand and set pricing to match.” That means that if you buy a ticket, say, a year in advance, that fare is just a rack rate—and most likely high. “There may be exceptions like on Christmas or Thanksgiving. But for normal travel periods, they just put in high fares.”

So when is the right time? “The answer is always ‘whenever you’re ready’,” says Snyder. “If travelers want the comfort of having it locked in, great for them. Others want to wait to see if it comes down. We just always tell people, if you see a ticket at a price you think is fair, get it. You’re going to spend so much time and energy trying to game the system and get the best deal that it’s often not going to be worth it.”

Not everything is changing, though. “You will continue to see fare sales at certain points, as you have seen in the past (like the end of summer), and I would take advantage of those if you can,” Syth says. “Some airlines are trying to encourage the use of points, so I would recommend checking what it would cost based on dollars or points before booking.”

The benchmarks or flags that travelers should look for

Contrary to what you might think, the red flag is not the increase in fuel prices. It’s the decrease in airlines’ capacity. “Fares don’t move just because gas gets pricey,” Snyder explains. “What changes is the number of seats the airlines put out there. They’ll look at their plan and say, ‘This made sense back when fuel was cheap, but now we need higher fares. We can’t just raise fares, so we’re going to cut back on flights and reduce the number of seats we’re putting out on the market because more people are fighting for fewer seats.’ So if you see them cutting capacity, you can expect higher fares.”

Where will you see it? Right in the news. Alaska and JetBlue both made mainstream headlines when they recently trimmed their flights and routes (and Cranky Concierge’s newsletter also covers those updates).

Will economy fares and premium fares be affected differently?

Syth thinks they are both likely to go up. “However, if there is a strong recovery in business demand, premium fares might go up faster this year,” she says. She notes that during the pandemic some travelers were willing to pay more for that better experience. “So far that seems to be holding, but I am not sure how long that lasts.”

Snyder also wonders about this. “They can raise the price, but if people won’t pay it, it doesn’t matter. Now people are paying more for their gas in cars and more for other goods, so they have less to pay for airfare.”

How international fares are likely to be affected

As both Syth and Snyder point out, fare trends depend on the destination, as well as factors such as how many flights go there, how big those planes are, how many travelers want to travel to go there, and global politics.

“I suspect Latin America will see cheaper fare offerings in the near- to medium-term than the Transatlantic, particularly to South America (although possibly not on U.S. airlines),” says Syth. “Asia will be a bit more mixed. Demand is low, so you would expect good fares, but capacity has also been pared back significantly. Also the Russia-Ukraine conflict has made it difficult for U.S. airlines to serve some South Asian destinations. Here too, it will vary by country.“

That said, both experts say Europe is going to be expensive because everyone wants to travel there. “You have two things going on: You have general demand of everyone wanting to travel, and you also have Asia off limits, so everyone is focusing on Europe,” Snyder says.

 

Aerial view of Athens Greece from airplane June 4 2021

6 Things I Learned About Taking an International Flight to a Recently Reopened Country

I’ve just landed in Greece, after a nine-hour nonstop flight from New York. Here are five things I learned about taking an international flight to a recently reopened country.

Check the situation at the gate at least an hour before boarding—it is likely to be hectic.

When I arrived at JFK two hours before my flight to Athens, I passed through security in less than a minute (really!), but at the gate I found a scene that was a mess. For one thing, the flight was packed—it was a big plane (2-4-2 configuration in economy) and nearly every single seat was taken, which meant that there were a ton of people huddled around the gate. But what made it worse was that everyone was queued up in a very, very long line for a reason that few people seemed to understand. Some thought it was the usual pre-boarding lineup. Others thought we had to get verified for something before we’d be allowed to board. Still others weren’t sure if this was a verification line only for people who had to show their Covid test and if there was a separate line for vaccinated people.

Delta representatives were at the gate, but they were not using a PA system to make announcements, just shouting occasionally—so you couldn’t hear anything. We all waited, wondering what we were supposed to be doing. I got the feeling that the airline staff was feeling the same way. As rules change and solidify for the countries we’re traveling to, the airlines are tasked with a lot of the prep work—and they don’t yet have good systems in place. This is why boarding was scheduled to start an hour before departure, but it was still a confusing hour. So if you’re the kind of traveler who usually saunters to the gate right around boarding time, do yourself a favor and (a) get to the airport at minimum two hours ahead of your flight and (b) head to the gate as soon as you get through security so that you can evaluate the situation and find out whether you need to start queuing up early for any verification process that has suddenly popped up.

In my case, it turned out that the airline staff wanted to look at everyone’s passport, boarding pass, and official Passenger Locator Form—a contact-tracing form from the Greek government that had to be submitted online prior to departure. (To make things more complicated, when some passengers had filled out the form, me included, they got confirmation emails that the QR-coded, approved document wouldn’t arrive in their email inbox until midnight on the day of their arrival in Greece—and since our flight was an overnight flight that started the day before, we only had proof of submission but not the actual approved form. In the end, the frazzled single Delta staff member tasked with checking the documentation allowed this, but there was a lot of stress among my fellow passengers as to whether they’d be allowed to board.)

Print everything out.

If you keep all your documents on your phone (boarding pass, vaccine/test proof, and any government-required health forms), you’re going to have to shuffle through a bunch of apps when an official asks to see each one. If it’s allowed, you might want to go old-school and print everything out on paper so you can hand over the stack in one fell swoop rather than wrestling with your phone. In fact, the Delta attendant asked me for a paper boarding pass—maybe it makes their lives a little easier too.

Carry a scarf—it’s even more important now.

This is a classic tip, but there’s a new reason why a scarf is part of my essential plane gear. Delta put a blanket and pillow on every seat (yes, even in economy) for the overnight flight, but I couldn’t help but wonder: How clean are they? How are airplane pillows sanitized? The blanket came wrapped in plastic, which I guess indicates that it came from the cleaners. However, the pillows were not wrapped in anything—it was just a pillow in a pillowcase, and I couldn’t tell if the pillowcases were disposable or had been cleaned, as they were just sitting there on the seat on top of the blanket. So throwing a scarf or an extra shirt over the top can act as a personal pillowcase.

Eat at a different time than everyone else.

We took off at 5:15 pm NYC time, and dinner was served shortly after we boarded. Of course everyone took off their masks to eat (quick shout-out to all the passengers, because almost everyone wore their masks correctly; and kudos to the Delta flight crew, who politely nudged noncompliant passengers throughout the flight). Even though I’m vaccinated, and I know that airplanes are pretty safe environments, I still didn’t feel entirely comfortable dining with a few hundred strangers with their masks off. So I decided to wait to have my meal until everyone around me had finished eating and put their masks back on. This had two additional perks: First, I was able to use the bathrooms before the inevitable post-meal rush left them nasty. Second, delaying my meal meant that I could go right to sleep after we took off and therefore get on Greece time more effectively (it was midnight in Greece when our flight took off, we landed at 10am, and I am writing this feeling well rested and ready to get on with my day). When I woke a few hours later, I could eat while everyone else was masked. (I had brought my own food, but if you prefer to eat what they’re handing out, ask a flight attendant to hold your meal.)

Look for open seats at the last minute.

On my way to the airport, I checked the seat plan on the Delta app to see if there were any open rows left on my flight. I already knew the plane was going to be packed, but I also knew there’d been a few of the paid “preferred” rows still available when I checked that morning, and I was considering using my miles to upgrade. But I wanted to wait until closer to the flight time because I also knew I’d be frustrated if I spent the miles expecting to have a two-seat row to myself only to have someone snatch up the other seat at the last second. It was a bit of a gamble, but it paid off: I got the aisle spot in a two-seat row, and no one took the window. I don’t know why that row was considered “preferred”—it wasn’t an exit row, and the seats were the same size as the others—but my 9,500 SkyMiles points purchase ended up being worth it. I had more space for my own Covid-related comfort, and I could stretch out to sleep. If you don’t want to upgrade to a premium class or even a comfort-plus category seat (which was sold out on this flight), you could try this hack and see if you can get a little more space at the last minute.

Get the VIP fast-track pick-up for when you land at your destination.

Ironically, the entry process once I landed in Greece ran a lot smoother, and took a lot less time, than the boarding process in New York. That’s partly because the ground staff in the country you’re traveling to probably knows exactly what they need and how the process works. But it’s also because Mina Agnos, one of Wendy’s recommended travel fixers for Greece, booked a VIP fast-track pick-up service for me: A guide met me with a sign before I entered the passport control area and whisked me past the line of other passengers. First I flashed my CDC vaccine card and my Passenger Locator Form (as promised, the official version with the QR code was in my inbox when I landed, although no one ended up actually scanning the code). Then my fast-track fixer brought me to a special, no-line window to get my passport stamp. Several dozen people were on the regular line, and I expect there would be even more of a crowd as our plane continued to unload all its passengers. Not only did this whole process take just a few minutes, but it also alleviated the stress of dealing with the unfamiliar logistics of our Covid-travel era. With my fast-track fixer at my side, I knew that if I ran into a problem, she could communicate with whatever authorities might have questions, aid me in solving them, and help me get any additional support I needed.


We’re Here to Help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

Where to Travel in 2021: What’s open, what’s worth it

Every week more countries are reopening to U.S. travelers, but which will deliver a Covid-era experience you’ll be happy with?  We asked our WOW Listers based around the world to share on-the-ground intelligence in a live conversation and Q&A on May 3, 2021. During this WOW Week talk, they shared smart options for travelers and weighed in on whether you’re better off going soon, or later this year, or next year instead.

The hour was packed with valuable trip-planning insights, which we’ve outlined here for quick reference.  Watch the video above for the full conversation (start at 3:25, which is when viewers had arrived and we got started in earnest.)  For a complete list of the countries that are open to U.S. travelers now, click here.  And for a list of the countries where vaccinated U.S. travelers can go with no pre-trip testing required, click here.

North America

The most popular U.S. national parks will be packed this summer. Forward the video to 10:40 to learn about lesser-known yet spectacular national parks.  Read reviews of superb national-park trips that our readers have taken during the pandemic, and use our questionnaire to ensure your own national-parks trip is extraordinary.

To hear about Colorado ski resorts in summertime (where you’ll find 5-star hotels at 3-star prices) and Hawaii specials, skip to 13:10. Read reviews of exciting ski-resort and tropical-resort vacations during the pandemic, and use our questionnaire for a five-star mountain or beach vacation.

To learn how to visit Disney World safely, skipping the lines and enjoying private experiences, forward the video to 16:10.  Read reviews of Disney trips during the pandemic, and use our questionnaire for a low-risk, high-reward Disney trip.

For Alaska by small expedition ship (think Glacier Bay all to yourself, with no large cruise ships and everyone on your ship vaccinated), skip to 17:45.  Use our questionnaire for a low-risk Alaska adventure.

To learn about safe travel to Mexico, with no pre-trip Covid testing required, skip to 20:47.  Read reviews of successful Mexico trips during the pandemic, and use our questionnaire for a low-risk, high-reward experience there.

Tropical Islands

Think Belize for Caribbean beaches, coral reefs, and boating adventures, and forward the video to 25:00. Read reviews of Belize trips during the pandemic so you can understand why we’re recommending it so highly, and use our questionnaire for a low-risk, low-hassle trip there.

If your dream is a private overwater bungalow in Tahiti or Bora Bora, skip to 28:30 to learn how French Polynesia has kept Covid cases low. Read reviews of these islands during the pandemic, and use our questionnaire to get your own extraordinary experience of French Polynesia.

To learn about safe sailing in the Galapagos Islands, with few other boats around, skip to 32:00. Read reviews of Galapagos trips during the pandemic, and use our questionnaire for a low-risk, high-reward trip there.

Pre-Covid-style private-island idylls in the Maldives are addressed at 36:14. Read about Brook’s trip to the Maldives during the pandemic, and use our questionnaire for a low-risk, high-reward trip there.

“Outdoor Museums”: A Unique Moment for Iconic Sights Without the Crowds

Soak up Croatia‘s medieval walled towns and charming islands, minus the tour groups and cruise hordes that normally pack the streets in summertime.  Learn more at 48:06.  Read reviews of carefully planned Croatia trips during the pandemic, and use our questionnaire for your own low-risk, high-reward experience there.

Turkey‘s legendary archaeological sites are all but empty, no tour groups or cruise crowds in sight.  Watch the video at 50:42, and use our questionnaire for an extraordinary Turkey trip.

In Morocco,  you can stroll the winding alleyways in the medinas of Marrakech and Fez with few people around and enjoy private, plush, well-ventilated villas, with external entrances off charming courtyards, at a great value. Watch at 1:16:08, and use our questionnaire for an extraordinary Morocco trip.

Egypt has few visitors at its tombs and temples now, and you can spend most of your time outdoors, sailing in feluccas along the Nile and dining al fresco. Skip to 1:13:10 to learn more, and use our questionnaire for an extraordinary Egypt trip.

African Safaris: If You’re Vaccinated, an Optimal Moment is Actually Right Now

A well-constructed Kenya safari can be safe from start to finish, with physical distancing, private vehicles, standalone accommodations, and abundant wildlife throughout.  Local infections are low in much of Africa, and in Victoria Falls, the gateway to Zimbabwe, the entire local population has been vaccinated.  Watch at 1:03:18 and read reviews of safe safaris during the pandemic. Then use our questionnaire for your own low-risk, extraordinary safari.

In Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia, private and socially-distanced experiences are easily had now, and you will pay much less this year than next. (As we learned from professor of pathology Dr. Timothy Triche in our to-be-published-soon WOW Week Zoom talk on May 4, the situation in South Africa has improved dramatically, it looks like herd immunity has been reached there, and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are highly effective against the South Africa variant.)  Watch at 1:05:50, and use our questionnaire for a low-risk, high-reward safari.

Western Europe: Summer and Fall Possibilities

Consider France in the fall, once the summer crowds from other European countries have dissipated.  Forward the video to 41:20, and use our questionnaire for an extraordinary trip to France.

Italy’s iconic museums and monuments, as well as transportation around the country, are all operating at reduced capacity, so book ahead to get the timing you want. A WOW trip should be feasible starting in July. Watch at 56:10, and use our questionnaire for an extraordinary trip to Italy.

Fall is a lovely time for Italy’s many outdoor delights, from ancient ruins to village-to-village hikes to cooking experiences on farms and in vineyards. Skip to 59:00 and use our questionnaire for safe itineraries in Italy’s countryside this fall.

Thanks to the success of the vaccination roll-outs in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, travel without quarantine could resume between the two countries as early as this summer. Watch at 1:01:17, and use our questionnaire for an extraordinary trip to the U.K.



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view out of airplane window of Cancun Mexico with jet engine in bottom corner

4 Things to Know About Airline Miles Now

The coronavirus pandemic has raised a lot of questions about air travel: routes, rules, restrictions, refunds, how much to spend, where to sit, when to book. And not least of all: What about my miles? Frequent travelers want to know what the current airline industry landscape means for all those points and miles they’ve been racking up or have had to re-deposit back into their accounts due to canceled travel plans.

We invited miles-and-points expert Gary Leff to speak in our Zoom chat last week about air travel in 2020 and 2021. Gary reports on this topic every day at his View From the Wing blog, and he works directly with travelers at his Book Your Award flight-planning service.

Here are the four things he wants to make sure travelers know about airline miles now, in his own words:

1. Your miles are generally safe, unless the airline goes out of business.

“Even if an airline goes into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the frequent-flier programs are incredibly valuable. They’re often the most valuable part of the airline. United Airlines was just able to raise private funds for an airline at the $5 billion level now, backing the loans with its frequent-flier program. People were willing to put up $5 billion knowing that there’s substantial revenue there. American, for its part, is expected to put up its frequent-flier programs as collateral for a $4.75 billion CARES Act loan. The Treasury Department considers it to be pretty good as well. So your miles are generally going to be safe, as long as the airline itself remains in business.”

2. It’s going to be a pretty good time for frequent fliers in the near- and medium term—until airlines recover and fill their planes again.

“For paid tickets, up until now, there haven’t been a ton of great offers. That’s largely because there hasn’t been an opportunity to really incentivize travel. The airlines haven’t been using their loyalty programs to really drive business. Concern for health is a binding constraint. Restrictions on international travel are binding constraints. Once the circumstances of the world change, we’ll really start to see deals and mileage offers. The fact that there are empty seats will lead airlines to use their primary marketing programs to encourage filling those seats.

I think that award availability will be pretty good for a while too. As the airlines recover and print more and more miles (and eventually they will, and seats will begin to fill up), those points that we’re all earning very quickly will probably become worth less in the future. So I think it’s a good idea to earn and burn miles within roughly the same time period—meaning, earn those miles and then use them in the near term, rather than saving them for the future.”

3. For travel in the distant future, it’s generally better to use miles or points than to pay money, unless it’s for the most exclusive accommodations or remote flights.

“One of the things that I really like about miles is their flexibility. Certainly ticketing policies have been more flexible recently than they have been in the past, but mileage bookings have long been very flexible. If you need to cancel, you can put the miles back in your account, usually for a modest fee. Hotel bookings with points are also often very cancel-able as well, so they give you a lot of flexibility and peace of mind. You make a booking, and then if things don’t work out the way that you want, you can change often at the very last minute. (But always check the cancellation rules when making a reservation.)

I like taking a wait-and-see approach on booking paid flights right now. To folks who may have booked far in advance in the past, I’m saying to them: Wait, hang on to your cash. Except for flights to the most remote places, planes aren’t completely selling out. Holding off is often a good idea.

For mileage tickets, though, you may want to book the best available flights you see today. Because planes are empty, you might find your ideal seat. If you find a good but not ideal seat, you can keep checking for availability to improve and then pay a modest fee later to improve your trip.

4. Schedules will change, and that could be to your advantage.

“Schedules are going to change, so don’t assume that the flight that you book today is going to operate exactly the same way ten months from now.

Because the schedules aren’t real, the one advantage of a schedule change is that you may book a sub-optimal schedule with miles, and most airlines—certainly U.S. airlines—will be pretty darn flexible in terms of giving you an alternative. I’ve often used schedule changes to improve my itinerary.

Mileage tickets are very low-risk. They often aren’t exactly what you want the first time out, but if what you booked has changed, the airline will usually open up revenue inventory. At that point, you won’t be limited to what was available as an award, and then you can kind of get the schedule that you would have wanted.”

 

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Flying in 2020 and 2021: How Airlines Are Adapting and How Passengers Can Stay Safe

Air travel is a big stressful question mark for a lot of us right now. How safe is it? What steps are airlines and airports taking to ensure passenger health? How are airfares affected? And what about miles? We invited two air travel experts to answer all these questions and more during a recent Zoom chat.

Many of you may know our two speakers because Wendy has been recommending them for years. Brett Snyder is the founder of Cranky Concierge, a service that not only helps people find and book the best flight options, but also monitors those flights for schedule changes and subsequent refund/credit options. Brett also writes and hosts a podcast about the airline industry at Cranky Flier.

Gary Leff covers miles and points at his blog View From the Wing and also started Book Your Award, the go-to service for whenever you want to know how to get the best value for your miles and points. He understands the nitty-gritty of all the programs, so he knows how to move points from one program to another, who the partners are, and how to access hard-to-find award seats.

Below, we’ve excerpted their answers to help travelers figure out how to approach flight planning in 2020 and 2021.

Stay in the know about our future Zoom chats through our weekly newsletter; and if you have questions about how to approach your own trips during the time of COVID-19, write to Ask Wendy.

How can I find out which airports in my area are safe? And, once in the airport, what can I do to stay safe?

Brett Snyder: The airport experience is one that’s naturally going to be a challenge. You have a lot of people in a small indoor space, and so that’s where mask wearing becomes really important and hand sanitizer and all the stuff they tell you to do. But if you live in a city with multiple airports, a secondary airport might make you feel comfortable.

In the gate area, we have seen in some places they’ll block every other seat. As for boarding, they’re trying to do it in smaller group numbers, or back-to-front. But they still let the premium cabin and elite members board earlier, so it’s not true back-to-front.

Gary Leff: And do as much self-service as you can: Use the airline’s app to check in, so you have the boarding pass on your phone. Scan that yourself at the TSA line, scan it yourself at the gate. Airlines in many cases will let you print your own baggage tags and drop the bags off yourself, instead of involving someone else in the transaction. Your bag is still ultimately going to be touched by somebody else who moves it. But when you get your bag back at the other end, you’ve got your sanitizer. Self-service minimizes the touch points.

I feel more comfortable on the plane itself, where you have circulating outside air with HEPA air filtration, than I do inside the terminal. The interesting thing is that we really haven’t seen aircraft as vectors of significant spread. United CEO Scott Kirby may make the case more boldly than I would when he says that the aircraft is about the safest indoor environment that you could possibly have, but it is absolutely the case that we haven’t tracked a lot of spread to being on planes.

Which airlines are taking the most stringent and well-executed safety precautions?

Gary: I think all of the airlines are taking safety incredibly seriously. They’re doing more cleaning than they’ve ever done, with newer and more innovative technologies then they’ve ever used before. The differentiator is that middle seat. Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and Alaska continue to limit the number of people onboard so that they don’t have to fill middle seats, whereas United and American do not. It’s a uniquely U.S. thing, this idea of blocking middle seats. On airlines worldwide. this is not something that you’re going to find.

Brett: Most of the airlines are now doing questionnaires asking if you’ve had any symptoms. Of course, it’s very easy for someone to lie about that unless it’s something that a gate agent can actually see. The questionnaire doesn’t help with pre-symptomatic transmission, of course, but it still does help, as does the wearing of masks.

Another thing to consider is that the smallest airplanes—50-seat regional jets like the ERJ-145s or the CRJ-200s—don’t have HEPA filters. Now, that doesn’t mean all regional aircraft. The planes with 70 or 76 seats—those do have HEPA filters. So, if you are concerned, you might want to avoid those really small airplanes.

What can I do if I book the flight and then discover that it’s packed?

Brett: Some airlines will block middle seats. But on American or United, you could walk on and find that the airplane is full. Those airlines are telling people ahead of time if their flight will be relatively full, and they’re letting people change without penalty if they want to.

Gary: Airlines that are blocking middle seats or capping load factors—they’re offering more value to customers, so I would choose one of them. Although I would not choose to take a connecting flight on one of them versus a nonstop on American or United.

Is there a difference in safety if I’m on a three-hour flight vs. a ten-hour flight?

Brett: Well, I’m not a doctor, but the longer the flight, the longer your potential exposure to the virus. So I would assume if you’re sitting next to someone for three hours and that person’s nose is sticking out of his mask, ten hours of that is worse than three hours of that. Also, if you think about meal services—because that’s when you’re allowed to take your mask off: On a longer flight, you’ll have more food or drink. But again, as Gary mentioned, there just haven’t been many examples of transmission in an airplane.

Gary: Worldwide, there is really only one flight where there’s a consensus that the virus might have spread on the plane—but it also could have been in the gate area or on the jetway. It was the March 1st London–Hanoi flight on Vietnam Airlines, where several people were exposed during that trip and developed symptoms of the virus afterward. Again, it may not even have been on the plane itself.

This is why I was so concerned early on when the U.S. was placing restrictions on arrivals. It was a mess where people were standing body-to-body in arrivals holds for hours. The plane is where I am not super-concerned. But there are a lot of other elements of the trip that you have to watch out for.

Will airfare increase dramatically?

Gary: At some point in the future. But in the near term, I think that we’re going to see a lot of deals because airlines have added more flights to their schedules than the number of passengers has grown, and so there are empty seats.

The only thing that I think would fundamentally drive higher fares is if there were a law, say, that required blocking middle seats, and it took a third of capacity out of the market. Then, all of a sudden, you would have so many fewer seats that customers would be bidding up to get access to.

That doesn’t seem to be in the cards, though, so I wouldn’t expect much higher fares, except if you’re going to some place that’s really difficult to get to right now. Like, right now, if you have to go to Australia, they’re only letting in a certain number of people every day.

What are the odds of getting reimbursed for unused tickets if we don’t travel in 2020?

Brett: The answer is: It depends, because every airline has a different policy. If it’s a refundable fare, great, go ahead and get a refund. But for the most part, fares are not refundable—or, if they are, there’s a hefty penalty that goes along with it. So the best thing you can do is just wait and hope for a schedule change. A schedule change would potentially allow a refund, and your chances are pretty good at this point that there will be a schedule change.

Where it gets tricky is with international carriers. The rules that govern what happens to the value of a ticket are based on which airline issued the ticket, even if you have multiple airlines on that ticket.

Gary: If you are not able to travel because of circumstances on the ground, you might think: Because it’s a force majeure event and they closed the border, contracts are void. But that’s generally not how it works. If the airline operates the flight—if the flight takes off and you’re not on it—you can get a credit for canceling, but they’re likely not going to give you back your money. So if you choose not to go or circumstances mean it’s obvious you shouldn’t go, but the flight travels, you’re far more likely to get a credit than a refund.

Are there any advantages to booking now for 2021 trips?

Gary: The reason to book now is if you see an incredible deal. By incredible, I don’t just mean a good price—I mean orders of magnitude better than what you usually see.

One reason to wait is that we don’t know what the world is going to look like. Places that look pretty good now in terms of COVID-19 may not look great many months from now, and places that look bad now might look much better many months from now. So my inclination is to wait where possible, and only jump at either an outstanding deal or because that particular flight is really important to you.

But schedules will change, so if you book a flight for ten months from now, don’t assume that it will still operate exactly the same way. The options are going to be different.

Brett: Also, if there’s decent mileage availability and you see a flight you like, there’s not that much risk in booking it. Be sure what the rules are with your program, but worst case, you can get your miles re-deposited for a relatively small fee.

But you can’t book for most of next summer yet. The general rule of thumb is about 330 days in advance of travel—that’s when schedules open up. As Gary said, though, none of those are real schedules for the most part—they will change.

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

stock photo of toy airplane on stack of masks and passport with a globe signifying travel during Covid

Steps to Reduce Your Health Risk When You Fly

Now that some countries are reopening to U.S. travelers, and require international flights to get there, we’ve asked health experts to outline the most important steps travelers can take to limit their chances of contracting or spreading the coronavirus when they fly.

Starting with how you transport yourself to the airport, and ending with how you exit it at your destination, there are many tricky touch points to plan for. One factor in your favor, though, is that you’re not likely to encounter crowds at the airport or on the plane right away. According to Airlines for America, the trade association and lobby group for the U.S. airline industry, U.S. airline passenger volumes are down nearly 90%, and the TSA is screening 88% fewer travelers compared to this time last year.

That could change with time, however: Your airport could see a wave of restless travelers, or your particular flight may be the unexpectedly popular one. So it’s smart to be prepared.

Making the decision to fly

First, we want to be clear that the CDC and the U.S. State Department are still advising Americans to avoid all nonessential international travel. The CDC has this advice about the risks of contracting COVID-19 when traveling by planes specifically: “Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.” It also notes the difficulty of social distancing. So thinking carefully about whether to even take a trip is your first line of protection.

“The decision is important,” says Dr. Petra Illig, an aerospace-medicine physician based in Anchorage, Alaska. Dr. Illig was a CDC quarantine medical officer during the Ebola, H1N1, and MERS outbreaks, worked as regional medical director for major airlines, and currently serves as secretary of the International Airline Medical Association. “You have to decide: Do I really need to make this trip and are there other alternatives?” If the answer is yes, you do need to make the trip, then plan for potential pitfalls, like getting stuck at your destination, requiring hospitalization there, needing prescription refills, or not being allowed in when you come back home. Consider your contingency options and make sure you have all the necessary items with you in your carry-on: not just your medications (and enough to last in case you do get stuck), but also information about your medical status, physicians, allergies, insurance, and an emergency contact. “Plan for not coming back when you want to,” she says.

Getting to/from the airport

The best way to minimize your risk of exposure is to drive yourself to the airport and park there, says Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician based in California who also serves as vice chair of the Infectious Disease Society of America’s Global Health Committee and who served as medical director of an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone during the 2014 outbreak. “The next best option would be to see if someone you know (preferably someone that you live with and have been around frequently—i.e. someone in your bubble) can drive you. Even if you do this, I would recommend wearing masks and practicing good hand hygiene, since being in the car is an enclosed space that potentially places you at risk.” If you have to take an Uber, Lyft, or taxi, she recommends “wearing a mask, using good hand hygiene, and if possible having the windows down for air circulation.”

Checking in

Check in online whenever possible so that you don’t have to interact with any people or touch any kiosk screens. The same goes for checking luggage: Try not to.

When you do have to check in at the airport, be conscious of the things you touch and that other people have touched. “At the counter, don’t give your ID to the person: Try to handle it yourself,” says Dr. Illig. “Same with credit cards—try not to let people hold your card.” If you have to use a kiosk screen, wipe it down first, and then wipe your hands (or gloves) right after. “I already have my gloves on when I’m going into a place where I have to handle things,” she continues, “because I find it a lot easier to sanitize my hands if I’m wearing gloves rather than constantly washing my hands, which you can’t always do. I can vigorously use Lysol wipes on the gloves.”

Dr. Illig’s trick: Keep a Ziploc bag of wipes with you at all times. “But make sure it’s well sealed,” she cautions, “because the alcohol on them will evaporate quicker than the water in them. Just because the wipe is wet doesn’t mean it’s effective.”

TSA screening/baggage handling

Since you’ll be interacting with people, Dr. Kuppalli advises wearing a mask when you go through TSA screening. “Going through the Whole Body Image scanner should not pose any additional risk to people,” she adds. “However, if the screener has to do a pat-down or any additional screening, they may get close to you. The best thing you can do is protect yourself with your mask, and you have the right to ask the agent to wear clean fresh gloves and to wear a mask.”

What about all those shared surfaces you’ll have to put your bags on—conveyor belts, screening bins, and, at the other end of your journey, baggage-claim carousels? How much should we stress about those? “I wouldn’t worry about it,” says Dr. Illig. “You’re not going to lick your bag, so even if it comes into contact with something, it’s unlikely it will have enough particles attached to the handles of your bag [to transfer if you] pick it up and then touch your nose.” She explains that while we’ve all heard the reports about how the virus can be detected on certain surfaces for hours or days, that detection does not necessarily mean the virus is alive. “The testing we do now is for the genetic fingerprint of that virus on the surface. That doesn’t mean the virus was alive or can be infectious; it just means the RNA is still evident but the virus is most likely not capable of infecting a living cell. Plus it requires a certain amount of virus [to start an infection].”

Still, Dr. Kuppalli says she usually wipes down the outside of her bags after going through security, and then she washes her hands—because when touching luggage, that should be your main concern. “The most important thing to remember is that after handling your items, your hands will be dirty, so you don’t want to touch your mask, mouth, eyes, or nose,” she explains. “You want to make sure to clean your hands with hand sanitizer or soap/water first. As long as you do that, you will be fine.” And remember: The TSA now allows you to bring 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in your carry-on, so don’t be stingy.

Waiting in the airport

The time when you’re waiting in the airport for your flight to take off seems riddled with traps. Should you avoid hanging around the gate? Is it safe to buy snacks or drinks? And what about using the bathrooms?

“I would avoid the crowded gate and food courts,” says Dr. Kuppalli. Instead, she suggests looking for an empty gate close to yours and camping out there until it’s time to board. She adds that buying food or drinks is probably fine, but be sure to wash or sanitize your hands before you eat anything.

“The place I get most nervous are the bathrooms: There you have to be ultra cautious,” says Dr. Illig, who suggests looking for one that’s not crowded and getting in and out as quickly as possible. “You want to think about everything you might touch, and try not to touch it.”

Dr. Kuppalli agrees: “The main concern are the high-touch surfaces that may not be cleaned as often or as well as one would hope. Wash your hands completely with soap and water for at least 20 seconds while scrubbing between the webs of fingers, under nails, and on both sides of hands.”

On the airplane

Let’s clear up a common myth first: The air on a plane is not a big cloud of germs; it’s not what makes people sick. U.S. airlines use HEPA filtration systems to generate hospital-quality air, and that air is cycled so frequently that infection risk is low.

“According to the WHO, research shows there is little risk of any infectious disease being transmitted onboard an aircraft because the aircraft cabin air is carefully controlled. Ventilation provides a total change of air 20 to 30 times per hour,” says Dr. Kuppalli. Even the CDC is trying to set the record straight with this information on its page about air travel: “Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes.”

In a recent essay for the Washington Post, Joseph Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained that airplanes are rarely the source of disease outbreaks. He pointed to a study on the risk of infection posed by a person with tuberculosis to 169 other passengers. The answer: between 1 in 10,000 to 1 in a million. And that’s without everyone wearing masks.

Nevertheless, the airline industry is still trying to better understand how coronavirus and other pathogens behave in cabin air—and what they can do about it. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Boeing and Airbus have started conversations with the FAA, the CDC, and a few universities to figure out and address in-flight risk factors. Those discussions could lead to academic research grants and studies that would inform the way airplanes are designed, maintained, and ventilated.

In the meantime, the air nozzle above your airline seat blasts purified air, so turn it on and position it toward you throughout your flight.

Other passengers

The air is not the problem. People are. “The greatest risk is really your distance to the next passenger,” says Dr. Illig.

Airlines are attempting to address that problem. Members of Airlines for America (A4A)—which include Delta, JetBlue, American, United, Southwest, Hawaiian, and Alaskan airlines, and which require passengers and staff to wear masks all the way through from check-in to de-planing—are trying out tactics such as back-to-front boarding, staggering passengers, and not selling middle seats. (Update: Several airlines have recently announced they’ll end this policy and sell planes to full capacity, including American, United, Spirt, Air Canada, and WestJet). Still, as Dr. Illig points out, even if the middle seat next to you is open, you’re still not a full six feet from the person in front of or behind you. “Therefore, it’s even more important to have everyone wearing a mask,” she says.

At this point, though, so few people are flying that crowded planes are unlikely to be an issue. If you feel uncomfortable because you’re seated close to another passenger, talk to the flight attendant about switching. If the passenger count is very low, the flight attendants might have to strategically space out the seating arrangements to keep the plane balanced (this happened on my own last flight, back in March).

There are reports that suggest that choosing a window seat provides a little extra safety, because it limits the number of people surrounding you. Window passengers are also less likely to get up during the flight to go to the bathroom or walk the aisle—times when you’d be exposing yourself to other people’s germs.

Wendy has been hearing from travelers who’ve decided to splurge on business- or first-class seats in order to reduce the number of passengers within their six-foot radius. They’ve assigned themselves window seats in order to reduce contact with people passing through the aisles (their specific airlines have blocked off the aisle seats next to them for now). These travelers have also assigned themselves seats in the last row of the upfront cabin, figuring that if other passengers in the cabin sneeze or cough, they’d rather be sitting behind those passengers than in front of them. Plus, in the last row (or the first), there are fewer people seated close to you.

Your seat area

Airlines are already upping their hygiene efforts (for example, member airlines of A4A are using electrostatic foggers for sanitization), but it’s a good idea to wipe down your seat area anyway: buckles and seatbelts, trays, screens, windows and window shades, armrests, overhead lights and fans, call buttons, and the overhead bin.

“I would mostly recommend that passengers do the things we have been recommending since the outset of the pandemic,,” says Dr. Kuppalli, “wear their masks on board so in case they are sick they don’t spread their infectious droplets to others; if possible, maintain their distance from others; wipe down their seats, seat buckles, tray tables and other surrounding high-touch surfaces with disinfectant wipes prior to takeoff; and use hand sanitizer before eating/drinking or touching their face mask.”

The bathroom

If it’s a long flight, you might have to face your biggest challenge yet: the tiny airplane lavatory. “The bathroom is definitely a place of concern just because it is a small, confined space,” says Dr. Kuppalli. “As the flight goes on, I would be increasingly concerned about it.” She and Dr. Illig have the same advice: Exercise caution, don’t touch anything you don’t have to touch, and wash your hands. “Whatever you touch is possibly contaminated, so I would wear gloves,” says Dr. Illig. “And if you can’t [use gloves], use a towel or something to touch any surface. Then after you leave the bathroom, don’t touch your face, and when you get to your seat, decontaminate your hands whether you’re wearing gloves or not.”

Arriving and exiting the destination airport

Depending on where you’ve traveled to, you might have to navigate passport control, customs, and baggage claim when you land. Follow the same precautions as you did when you departed from your home airport: Wear a mask, wear gloves, limit your interactions with people and shared items, maintain social distance (maybe wait for the impatient crowd around the baggage carousel to dissipate before you grab your bag), don’t touch your face, and—as always—wash your hands.

“I wish I had some cool secret or magic, but it’s just sticking with a pattern,” says Dr. Illig. “The problem is when people break the pattern, then they’re at risk for contaminating themselves. Follow the same steps, ingrain them into your brain.”

This article was originally published May 30, 2020. It has been updated.

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

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Flight Deals Abound For Fall and Winter Travel, But Is It Smart to Buy Now?

It seems like airfare deals are everywhere these days, but so are the uncertainties about air travel. Refund and cancellation policies are changing all the time, routes and services are being cut left and right, and some airlines may not even exist when we finally make it through the pandemic and economic crisis. And on top of all that, there are big questions about how and when airplane travel will even be safe again.

Still, the good news is that (a) airlines are indeed offering some lower pricing, and (b) there are experts who follow this complicated industry closely and can help the rest of us navigate the mess. One of them is Brett Snyder, whom Wendy often recommends to her WOW List travelers for help booking and monitoring their flights. As founder of Cranky Concierge, Brett specializes in finding the smartest routes and fares and in solving flight delays and cancellations. We called Brett at home in California to talk about current airfare deals and what travelers need to know before taking advantage. If you’re even considering purchasing airline tickets for the future, read this first.

There seem to be airfare deals for travel at the end of this year and going into next year. Should I be buying tickets now?

There are deals to be had if you’re comparing to previous years. For travel around the holidays, you might not find the cheapest of the deals, but fares are still much cheaper than they would be in another year. But the big question is whether you’ll be able to get there.

Are the deals better for economy or business class?

It seems much easier to find cheaper fares in coach. Some airlines have cut business-class prices a little bit, but the deals are not as widespread across the board.

So is this a good time to splurge on premium-class fares?

It can be. In regular times, premium fares can be really low if you book far enough in advance, and in many European/Asian markets fares look to be pretty consistent with what we’ve seen in the past.  The one place we’ve seen great deals is South America.  There are fares under $1,000 in a premium cabin to some spots right now, and that’s amazing.  So you just need to look around and see what’s out there.

Are mileage-award flights discounted too?

They are not discounted, but there is more availability than you would normally expect to see, especially in coach. And for international flights, there are more seats available at the lower-point options. For airlines where the awards are tied to the dollar amount of fares, like with JetBlue or Southwest, then if the fares are cheaper, the point equivalent is also lower.

Is it better to buy a ticket for a domestic flight than international?

You have a safer chance of a flight happening if it’s within the U.S. The issue with international flights is that you don’t know what other countries—or what our country, for that matter—will allow in terms of quarantine and rules. So I would be hesitant to buy an international ticket right now. For domestic flights, airlines pretty much across the board are allowing you to change any ticket you buy without a fee.

Is it better to buy tickets for far in the future?

With most airlines you can’t buy tickets more than 330 days to a year in advance, so for the most part, you can’t buy any tickets beyond February or March 2021 at this point. There are always schedule changes when you book any flight far ahead, and the volatility is higher at this point because nobody has any clue what the landscape will look like in two months, let alone a year. So find out the refund or credit rules when you buy.

If I see a good deal should I jump on it or wait?

Once things stabilize, I expect we’ll see good deals to coax people out into the world again. So I don’t really see a reason to buy a ticket now, unless you find a particularly good deal.

But there’s nothing wrong with looking around right now. My wife’s parents always fly to us in California for Christmas, and I found some airfares that were pretty cheap, so we’ve been thinking about buying them.  Worst case, we can use the credit for flights to somewhere else. But a trip like that has a little more certainty to it in that you’re not relying on a destination or resort to be open. You’re really just relying on the ability to leave your house. So, visiting friends and family—that’s probably the best type of trip to plan right now because there are fewer variables.

In the meantime, if someone does want to book a flight, what are the most important things they need to be aware of?

There are a few things I would point out:

For the most part, if your flight is not canceled, you can’t get your money back, if you have a non-refundable ticket. A lot of people just assume, Oh, there’s a virus I should be able to get my money back. That’s not how it works. There are some exceptions, but for the most part it’s not.

What they are doing is allowing you to make changes and waiving the change fee. Obviously, if you had a ticket to Florida and now you want to go to Europe, you have to pay the fare difference—but at least you can make the change.

They’ve also extended how long those credits are valid for. You might be able to travel into next year or the following year, depending on the airline. That’s a nice perk for people who don’t want to travel, even if their flights are still going.

If your flight is canceled or the schedule changes, you really need to check with the airline because the rules vary greatly. For example, Delta will give you your money back if the schedule changed more than 90 minutes; United requires six hours. Worst case, you’ll be able to use the credit in the future, so it’s not like you’re going to lose the money entirely.

Finally, if you bought through a third party, do your own research on what you’re entitled to. Things are changing quickly, and some places we’ve dealt with have had no real interest in doing what they’re required to do. They may say you can’t get a refund, when in reality you can. So if you’re not getting the answer that you like, you can do your own research. Or you can sign up for the Cranky Concierge Refund Hunter and we’ll figure out and track your options, no matter where you bought the ticket.

map with beach chairs -2734535_1920 CR Pixabay

Airline Miles and Points: How to Get the Best Award Flights in 2020

The major U.S. airlines haven’t had to work very hard to win our business over the past several years. With the economy growing and the number of carriers shrinking (thanks to mergers), their planes have been packed. And since they’re able to sell their seats, they aren’t too interested in making them available for award travel. That’s why your best bet for using miles in 2020 is to look abroad to these airlines’ alliance partners, many of whom fly to the U.S. and do have empty seats. On these partners, you’ll get the greatest value exchanging your miles for international business and first class. Here are five more ways to get the most out of your miles this year:

Be flexible…and persistent.

The key to getting the award ticket you want is to be willing to consider a range of dates or at least connecting flights. If your heart is set on the only non-stop flight on your route and there’s only one day you can travel, it might work out, but the odds aren’t in your favor. Airlines don’t always make it easy to find the awards either: American Airlines features only some of its partners on its website, and Delta.com and United.com frequently throw errors. Pick up the phone and call, but know that the agents aren’t always incentivized to be helpful either. I never assume that no means no in air travel until I’ve heard it three times.

Here are just a few of my go-to routes for redeeming premium-cabin award travel where I find a great deal of success:

•Air France business class using Air France’s own miles (transfers from major bank programs)
•Singapore Airlines business class using Singapore’s own miles (transfers from major bank programs)
•Emirates first class (Emirates is an American Express and a Chase transfer partner)
•Korean Air first class using Korean’s miles (transfer from Marriott)
•Cathay Pacific business class for four passengers if booking 6–11 months in advance (American or Alaska miles)
•Asiana business class (United partner, bookable with miles from any Star Alliance program)

Your credit card choice matters more than your airline choice.

Miles aren’t about flying anymore. About two-thirds of miles are sold to and awarded by third parties, largely credit-card–issuing banks. There’s intense competition for credit-card customers. Use that to your advantage. These are my picks for the best credit cards for travelers.

Airline credit cards are for benefits, not spending.

If you don’t fly one airline enough to earn frequent-flier elite status, but you do fly one several times a year, get their credit card. At a minimum, that will entitle you to free checked bags and priority boarding It also means you won’t be forced to gate-check your carry-on, and you will be able to bring on a carry-on even if you’re booked on a dreaded Basic Economy fare on United. But don’t put any unnecessary spending on the airline credit card, because….

Bank programs that transfer to miles earn rewards faster and give you greater flexibility.

Even if you want to collect Delta miles, the Delta card doesn’t earn the most SkyMiles. American Express Membership Rewards cards transfer to SkyMiles and to other airlines too, and they earn points faster than the Delta card. The same is true for the United card and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards products, such as the Sapphire Reserve.

Use an airline card for the benefits, but put your spending on a card whose points—like American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards—transfer to a variety of mileage programs. You’ll earn more points, and you’ll have the flexibility to put them where you need them later, once you know the trip you want and which airline has availability.

Consider buying your ticket (with money, not miles).

Even though planes are full, fares are lower than they were just a few years ago. First, there’s competition from ultra-low-cost carriers such as Spirit and Frontier in the U.S. and Norwegian across the Atlantic. Second, airlines are now better able to offer lower first-class fares because of changes to the technology they use—especially for premium cabins. Domestic first class used to be several times more expensive than coach; now it’s frequently less than 50% more.

Business class and premium economy go on sale. In addition, British Airways will give $200 off even a sale-fare business-class ticket to AARP members (and this is stackable with a 10% discount for Chase British Airways credit-card customers). There are great deals out there. Take advantage of them when they pop up, rather than searching for award trips that require greater flexibility (and sometimes too many miles). Consider premium economy—akin to domestic first class—rather than business class, especially for daytime flights when you don’t need that bed. Norwegian, especially, sells it at bargain prices to Europe.

Once coronavirus concerns subside, be on the lookout for cheap business class fares to and through China. China Eastern, Hainan, Sichuan, and Xiamen all run sales and sometimes their U.S. counterparts will match pricing. Once you’re in Asia, buying cheap tickets to your final destination or redeeming miles to local destinations can make great sense.

There’s still tremendous value in frequent-flier programs, but that value is only really achieved by using miles to fly on non-U.S. airlines—or by transferring miles to the programs offered by those international airlines, if you’re willing to venture into the less familiar.

 

Gary Leff is the points-and-miles expert behind View from the Wing and the award-flight booking service BookYourAward.com. Follow him for smart takes on airlines, credit cards, points and perks on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for his newsletter at View from the Wing.

How Air Travel Will Change in 2019

It’s that time again where I get to look into my crystal ball and see which airline trends will make news in the coming year. This year, my list isn’t quite as rosy as it was last year. But it’s not all bad news. Read on to see what’s coming in 2019.

1. More international routes from mid-sized U.S. cities

This trend was on the list last year, as airlines raced to add flights from interior U.S. points to Europe, as well as from small European points to the U.S. That trend continues in 2019. American blazed a trail by adding Philadelphia to Prague and Budapest last year, but next summer it digs even deeper with flights from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik and Bologna. Last year, British Airways went small in the U.S., with flights from Nashville to London. Those flights have done well, and now BA is going even smaller with flights from Pittsburgh and Charleston, South Carolina. As long as the economy remains strong, expect this trend to continue.

2. The fall of Iceland and the rise of Portugal

Iceland has been a hot tourist destination for some time now, and both stalwart Icelandair and upstart WOW Air have been pumping travelers to and through the country on the way to the rest of Europe. Capacity has grown far too quickly, and both airlines have been suffering. A recent proposal for Icelandair to acquire WOW fell apart and WOW has been teetering on the edge of solvency. WOW has already shrunk significantly, and I’d definitely expect to see even fewer seats from fewer U.S. cities. Meanwhile, TAP Air Portugal has been trying to grow its business as another gateway to mainland Europe. Up until now, it has had only limited gateways into the U.S., but expect that to change. TAP has new airplanes on order, and it recently announced three new U.S. gateways to Lisbon: San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington/Dulles, all launching in June. Keep that in mind if you’re looking for a place to spend a few days.

3. The incredible shrinking lavatory

You may have noticed things felt a little more snug the last time you stepped into an aircraft lavatory. Don’t worry—it’s not that you ate too much on that cruise. Both Boeing and Airbus have come up with space-saving lavatories primarily for short-haul aircraft. In these bathrooms, the sink extends further into your personal space, making more room for more seats in the cabin. How can you avoid these? Well, drink less water, so you won’t need to go as often.

4. More long-haul flights

If you thought that last flight to Tokyo was long, just wait until you see some of the newest flights being launched. Aircraft are increasingly being built with more range, and airlines are taking full advantage. Qantas opted to stretch the legs of its 787 fleet with the first nonstop flight from London to Australia. Granted, it’s from Perth and not Sydney, but Qantas has already asked for an airplane with enough range for that flight. The Gulf carriers (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, and Turkish) have always operated long flights, but Singapore Airlines now tops them all. With the delivery of its new A350-900ULR (that’s Ultra Long Range) aircraft, Singapore has been able to re-start nonstop service from Newark to Singapore. That’s in addition to new service from Singapore to LA, San Francisco, and soon, Seattle.

5. Basic Economy spreads basically everywhere

It’s been a few years since the Basic Economy concept rolled out domestically in the U.S. Basic fares generally allow no changes and no advance seat assignments, and on occasion they don’t allow carry-on bags either. There are other restrictions as well. The upside? They cost less than a full coach fare. This fare strategy was originally isolated to the U.S. market and then spread into other parts of North America. Now it is catching on with more airlines. Alaska Airlines will have its version of Basic Economy rolled out for travel in 2019. And JetBlue has said it will follow. If you’re flying internationally, you might think you’re immune to this, but you’re not. We’re now seeing more of these fares head into the transatlantic market. The big three U.S. airlines and their European partners all have a form of Basic Economy flying over the water. Be careful to understand the rules when you buy your ticket.

 

Brett Snyder is President at Cranky Concierge, a service that Wendy recommends to WOW List travelers seeking the savviest help with international airline travel. Brett’s service ferrets out the smartest routes and fares, monitors your flights, and provides emergency rerouting assistance if your flight is delayed or cancelled. We asked him to talk about 2019’s biggest air travel trends and what you need to know about them.

Lisbon, Portugal skyline with Sao Jorge Castle

Exciting New Flight Routes That Will Improve Your 2019 Travel Plans

Brett Snyder is President at Cranky Concierge, a service that Wendy recommends to WOW List travelers seeking the savviest help with international airline travel. Brett’s service ferrets out the smartest routes and fares, monitors your flights, and provides emergency rerouting assistance if your flight is delayed or cancelled. We asked him to pick the new 2019 routes that should be on our radar:

The economy is still doing well (for now), and airlines are bullish for next year. For that reason, a slew of new flight routes are coming to an airport near you. Many will make your travels easier, and some popular vacation spots will become more accessible. Here are the domestic and international flight routes that will change travel in 2019.

The Most Notable New Flights Within the U.S.

To/from Seattle

If you’re headed to Seattle, especially to the north of town, consider flying into Paine Field—home to Boeing’s mighty widebody manufacturing plant—which will be opening for commercial service in February.  Paine Field is 25 miles north of the city (as opposed to Sea-Tac, which is 15 miles south). Alaska Airlines has the biggest presence here, with flights to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. Those start between February 11 and March 12. The only other airline in the market will be United, with flights to both Denver and San Francisco starting March 31.

To/from Hawaii

Once Southwest gets FAA approval, expect its flights to Hawaii to start quickly. Initial routes will launch from Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, and Oakland. There will be flights to all four major Hawaiian islands and even some inter-island flying. In the meantime, those in the eastern half of the country can celebrate more nonstop service to the Hawaiian islands. Delta will start flying to Honolulu from Detroit. And Hawaiian Airlines will make Boston its second destination east of the Rockies after New York–JFK.

New International Flights

Now let’s get to the really fun stuff. Portugal remains a hot spot, with several new routes from the U.S. to Lisbon this year. Los Cabos got a few new direct flights from Chicago (which started in November on Southwest) and Las Vegas (on Frontier). Morocco is now easier to visit, thanks to a new nonstop from Miami. Meanwhile, we’ve seen a couple of “firsts”: The good people of Charleston, South Carolina, snagged their first nonstop to Europe, while those in Los Angeles can now fly nonstop to Africa. And in late 2018 Singapore Airlines re-launched its longest flight in the world, between Newark and Singapore, and Kenya Airways introduced the first-ever nonstop between New York–JFK and Nairobi.

These are some of the more interesting route launches. (All start dates are 2019, except where noted.)

Boston to Lisbon, on Delta, starting May 23
Boston to Edinburgh, on Delta, starting May 23
Boston to Madrid, on Norwegian, starts May 2
Boston to Seoul/Incheon, on Korean, starts April 12

Charleston (SC) to London/Heathrow, on British Airways, from April 4 to October 24

Charlotte to Munich, on American, starts March 31

Chicago/O’Hare to Athens, on American, from May 3 to September 28
Chicago/O’Hare to Lisbon, on TAP Air Portugal, starts June 1
Chicago/O’Hare to Quebec City, on American, from June 6 to September 3

Dallas/Ft Worth to Dublin, on American, from June 6 to September 28
Dallas/Ft Worth to Munich, on American, from June 6 to October 26

Denver to Frankfurt, on United, starting May 2
Denver to Grand Cayman, on Cayman Airways, starting March 13

Ft Lauderdale to Guayaquil (Ecuador), on JetBlue, starting February 28
Ft Lauderdale to St. Maarten, on JetBlue, starting February 14

Las Vegas to Cancun (Mexico), on Frontier, starts December 21, 2018
Las Vegas to San Jose del Cabo (Mexico), on Frontier, starts December 15, 2018
Las Vegas to Tel Aviv, on El Al, starts June 14

Los Angeles to Lome (Togo), on Ethiopian, starting December 17, 2018
Los Angeles to Manchester (U.K.), on Virgin Atlantic, starting May 26
Los Angeles to Milan/Malpensa, on Air Italy, starting April 3

Miami to Casablanca, on Royal Air Maroc, starting April 3
Miami to Santa Marta (Colombia), on Via Air, starting December 18 (2018)

Minneapolis/St Paul to Dublin, on Aer Lingus, starting July 1
Minneapolis/St Paul to Seoul/Incheon, on Delta, starting April 1

Newark to Naples, on United, from May 22 to October 4
Newark to Nice, on La Compagnie, from May 6 to October 26
Newark to Prague, on United, from June 6 to October 4
Newark to Singapore, on Singapore Airlines, started late 2018

New York/JFK to Barcelona, on LEVEL, starting July 27
New York/JFK to Nairobi, started late 2018

Philadelphia to Edinburgh, on American, from April 2 to October 26
Philadelphia to Bologna (Italy), on American, from June 6 to September 28
Philadelphia to Berlin/Tegel, on American, from June 7 to September 28
Philadelphia to Dubrovnik (Croatia), on American, from June 7 to September 27

Phoenix to London/Heathrow, on American, from March 31 to October 26

San Francisco to Delhi, on United, starts December 5
San Francisco to Amsterdam, on United, starts March 30
San Francisco to Lisbon, on TAP Air Portugal, starts June 10
San Francisco to Melbourne, on United, starts October 29
San Francisco to Milan/Malpensa, on Air Italy, starting April 10
San Francisco to Tel Aviv, on El Al, starts May 13

Seattle to Hong Kong, on Cathay Pacific, starting March 31
Seattle to Osaka/Kansai, on Delta, starts April 1
Seattle to Singapore, on Singapore Airlines, starting September 3
Seattle to Tokyo/Narita, on Japan Airlines, starting March 31

Tampa to Amsterdam, on Delta, starts May 23

Washington/Dulles to Lisbon, on TAP Air Portugal, starts June 16
Washington/Dulles to Rome, on Alitalia, starting May 2
Washington/Dulles to Tel Aviv, on United, starts May 22

 

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Fakarava island in french polynesia with canoe on turquoise blue water

New Flight Routes That Could Improve Your 2018 Travels

At the start of each new year, as I plot out my travels for the year ahead, I like to look at the new routes and flights being launched. That’s not just because airlines sometimes offer special fares on introductory routes. It’s because these added flights indicate which places are growing in popularity and thus are best visited sooner rather than later (when they could get overrun).

It’s not at all surprising to see airlines adding routes in 2018 to destinations that have skyrocketed in popularity, such as Iceland (which in the past few years has gone from blissfully empty to teeming with tour buses), Portugal (a hot spot, thanks to a buzzing architecture-and-design scene, stylish new hotels, and exciting new food and wine experiences) and Hawaii (which is currently so in-demand that top hotels are already almost sold out for the 2018 Christmas-New Year holiday). Personally, I’m most excited about the new non-stop from New York to the Azores, the sunny Atlantic islands off Portugal that will soon be reachable from JFK in only six hours.

These are the new flights, all from major U.S. hubs, that excite me the most:

Atlanta to Lisbon, Portugal, on Delta, starting May 24.

Chicago (O’Hare) to Venice, Italy, on American Airlines, starting May 4.
Chicago (O’Hare) to Vancouver, Canada, on American Airlines, starting May 4.
Chicago (O’Hare) to Calgary, Canada, on American Airlines, starting June 7.

Dallas to Reykjavik, Iceland, on American Airlines, starting June 7.

Houston to Sydney, Australia, on United, starting January 18.

Los Angeles (LAX) to Kona, on Hawaiian Airlines, starting March 12.
Los Angeles (Long Beach) to Honolulu, on Hawaiian Airlines, starting June 1.
Los Angeles (LAX) to Paris (CDG), on Delta, starting June 16.
Los Angeles (LAX) to Amsterdam, on Delta, starting June 16.
Los Angeles (LAX) to Shanghai, on Delta, starting July 2.

New York (Newark) to Porto, Portugal, on United, starting May 4.
New York (Newark) to Reykjavik, Iceland, on United, starting May 23.
New York (JFK) to the Azores (Ponta Delgada), Portugal, on Delta, starting May 24.
New York (JFK) to Nairobi, Kenya, on Kenya Airways, starting October 28.

Philadelphia to Dublin, on Aer Lingus, starting March 25.
Philadelphia to Budapest, on American Airlines, starting May 4.
Philadelphia to Prague, on American Airlines, starting May 4.

San Francisco (Oakland) to Kauai, on Hawaiian Airlines, starting April 12.
San Francisco (SFO) to Madrid, on Iberia Airlines, starting April 25.
San Francisco (SFO to Zurich, Switzerland, on United, starting June 7.
San Francisco (SFO) to Tahiti, on United, starting October 30.

Seattle to Paris (CDG), on Air France, starting March 25.
Seattle to Dublin, on Aer Lingus, starting May 18.

Washington, D.C. (Dulles) to Edinburgh, Scotland, on United, starting May 23.
Washington, D.C. (Dulles) to Hong Kong, on Cathay Pacific, starting September 15.

 

ALSO: Southwest Airlines has promised to start flying to Hawaii in 2018 from multiple U.S. hubs, but has not yet revealed where or when. Hurry up, Southwest. Travelers need those extra flights!

 

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Airplane travel

Ask Wendy: How to Compare Long-Haul Business Class Flights

Question:

Wendy, we have booked a trip to Sri Lanka in January with your Trusted Travel Expert.  American Airlines and Etihad are having a challenge with our business-class reservation, so we are considering Cathay Pacific.  Are Etihad and Cathay Pacific business-class seats/service about the same? —Jeanne

This was my business-class seat on Cathay Pacific from Newark to Hong Kong. Note the size of the TV screen.
But it was hard to take my eyes off this: the northern lights outside the plane window, somewhere over Siberia.
As you can see, Cathay’s business-class seats are pretty spacious.
The in-flight amenities kit
The late-night supper menu
The wine list
Business-class snacks on demand include this won ton noodle soup, Black Angus burgers, and Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
Doug checks out the view from one of Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong airport lounges.
The lounge’s coffee and tea bar
I ordered up a crême brulée cappuccino. It tasted as good as it looked.
Flavors of JING tea served in the lounge include Flowering Jasmine & Lily, Whole Chamomile Flowers, Whole Peppermint Leaf, Lemongrass & Ginger, Organic Jade Sword, Traditional Iron Buddha, Jasmine Silver Needle, and 1990’s Royal Loose Cooked Pu-Erh.
Airport lounge pre-flight comfort food: Won ton noodle soups from the lounge’s noodle bar and Hong Kong-style milk tea.
Condiments in the noodle bar for spicing up your won tons
The lounge was so comfy we didn’t want to leave!
As lovely as the lounge was, though, the highlight of our whole experience was still the northern lights out the airplane window.

Answer:

Jeanne, I flew Cathay Pacific to Sri Lanka myself last December—via Hong Kong, the airline’s hub—and I can assure you that business class on Cathay is very comfortable and highly civilized, with flat-bed seats and gold-standard service, not to mention won ton noodle soup whenever you like. Cathay’s premium-class cabins rank among the world’s best, as do its fabulous Hong Kong airport lounges, but here are two ways you can compare Cathay’s seats with Etihad’s:

First, you can compare seats on different aircraft by using SeatGuru’s airline seat comparison charts. On the appropriate chart (in your case, the Long-Haul Business-Class Comparison Chart), find the two aircraft you are choosing between and compare their seat width, seat pitch (which indicates legroom), amenities such as on-demand TV and power ports, and other features. Second, you can use Routehappy to find out the pros and cons of any two flights on the same route. Type in your origin and destination cities, and the site will compare the different airlines flying that route and tell you the smartest choice.

You should also know that Cathay’s Black Friday sale, happening now, is offering astonishing bargains to Hong Kong and Asia. Business-class airfares from U.S. gateways to Hong Kong start at just $3,187 roundtrip. The travel window is January 1 – May 23, and your deadline for purchase is November 29. Here’s a link to the business-class sale. Cathay is offering similarly steep bargains in premium economy too. Prices start at just $1,185 roundtrip to Hong Kong. Here’s the link to the premium-economy sale.

Cathay’s premium economy to Hong Kong, I can tell you from first-hand experience, is surprisingly comfortable, thanks to the seat width and degree of recline, the leather-padded footrest (to make sleep comfier), and snacks on demand.  When my family flew from Newark to Sri Lanka last December, the kids sat in premium economy on the Newark-Hong Kong leg, and the fact that they could have instant noodle soup in a cup whenever they wanted was huge. Between the four of us, we actually ended up experiencing four different cabins on our flights to and from Sri Lanka (there’s a long story behind that)—economy, premium economy, business class, and first class—and even economy (which I flew most of the way back to Newark, as I gave my 14-year-old my bu

northern lights photographed from airplane

A Pro Photographer’s Solutions to the Airline Electronics Ban

Travel bans of any kind never come at a good time. But this latest one is coming at a particularly bad time for me. As a photojournalist, it’s my very job description to carry my cameras with me. Sure, iPhone cameras are fine for snapshots, but I make my living using professional-grade cameras that I am now forced to place in checked luggage if I’m flying to the U.S. or U.K. from certain airports. So this ban is going to hurt. I have an assignment in Morocco next week and another in Dubai this summer, and I’ll be flying through and from airports that are on the new watch list.

I always arrive at the security gate well before scheduled departure so that my gear can be scrutinized. In fact, I fly with so much gear, electronics, and cords that I get very suspicious if the security agency doesn’t check my bag with a fine-tooth comb. But this ban will seriously change how I work.

My biggest complaint with the ban is the vagaries of it. Okay, I understand laptops won’t be allowed, or iPads, or my kids’ DS. But what about battery chargers or the cell-phone-sized hard drives I use to back up all the photos I shoot on assignment? What are you supposed to do with a key piece of equipment you thought was okay to carry onboard when a security guard says you can’t take that onboard because…well…he says so. Your checked bags are already down the chute. Now what?

My other concern is theft. You might as well put a “Steal Me” sticker on the outside of a bag with your camera in it. Security staff and luggage handlers X-ray bags well out of sight from the public, so the theft rate could increase exponentially. I remember going through Heathrow years ago when a similar ban was in effect. I had placed my underwater video camera in a checked bag (because my carry-on was already maxed out with other— more important—equipment), and they brought it to the gate where I was waiting, and I had to show the security agents what it was and prove that it was operational. That was the last time I saw it. Those little TSA-approved travel locks? Sure. Why not? But they and your ballistic-material luggage can be breached in mere seconds. Or just stolen completely, little locks and all.

So what am I going to do about it?

I live in fear of a camera getting lost or stolen on a trip, but now I will be changing how I work.

•For starters, I will leave my top-of-the-line camera bodies (the part of the camera minus the lens) at home. Instead, I will use cameras that are a few years or models old. Though not the latest and greatest, they are still usable and more expendable than my best—which I will need back at home.

•I will never put more than one camera body into each piece of checked luggage. That will give me a better chance of arriving at my destination with at least one of them.

•I will carry more media cards on which to store the photos I shoot. Let me explain: Until now I’ve always carried my laptop on my trips, downloaded each day’s photos to it each night, and backed them up on a portable hard drive (if not two). This is so as not to lose the images I’ve shot during the trip. The system allowed me to reuse media cards once I’d transferred the images to my laptop. Since I’ll now be leaving the laptop at home (since I won’t entrust my laptop to checked baggage), I’ll buy more media cards on which to store my photos. I’ll simply save the photos on the cards and wait till I’m home to download them to my laptop. SD cards are actually cheap enough now to do this, but keep in mind that they are small, notoriously slippery, and easy to lose!

•On some trips I might bring an older laptop (from which I’ve erased my personal data) to use as storage and for transferring photos to a portable, cell-phone-size hard drive. Will I be allowed to carry the hard drive into airline cabins? I don’t know.

•I will probably invest in a product such as Western Digital’s My Passport Wireless Pro. You can plug your SD cards right into it (its USB slot handles other format card readers) and copy photos or data right to a 2 or 3 TB drive.

•If you place your cameras in checked baggage, make sure to remove the media cards from the cameras. My video camera was stolen at Heathrow, but at least I had the sense to take the tape out and hand-carry it.

You will also have to remove the batteries from your camera, as most cameras use lithium batteries. However, the FAA specifically says that lithium batteries can’t be in checked bags, so we’ll just have to wait and see how that catch-22 gets solved.

•So what about chargers? I’m going to have to carry extra spare batteries in addition to what I carry now, in case my battery chargers are banned from carry-on luggage and get stolen. I’ll get a second charger too—so I can put each into two separate checked bags, again hoping that both of my bags won’t be taken or violated.

•With the camera bodies in the belly of the plane, that will leave more room in my carry-on for lenses. But this worries me too. A security agent once probed his finger into my telephoto lens and not only made it unusable but did several hundred dollars’ worth of damage to it.

On a personal level, one of my favorite things to do is to take photos while I’m flying. That’s gone now. I will miss shooting sights from a 33,000+-foot vantage point.

I’ve lived with previous bans and increases in airport security since the days of D.B. Cooper and almost daily hijackings to Cuba. And I’ve dealt with higher-speed films being ruined by third-world x-ray machines. So this ban is nothing new. I just wish it weren’t so vague. I’m looking forward to hard-and-fast rules.

Stay tuned.

 

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.