Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Up In the Air

After World Challenge XIX, we administered a survey to all attendees and an unprecedented 400+ responses were received. I read every single comment and am now responding to a minority, but important concern about costs to attend.

Since the critiques were not specific, I can only adjudge that complaints about expenses were driven by airfares, since lodging prices were ridiculously cheap. Mike Medeiros and I did a little study, looking at R/T airfares from several major cities. Myrtle Beach was a very reasonable destination with round trip fares less than $300 from a number of cities.

The caveat is, “when?”

Answer, “Now.” By that I mean that if you have qualified, or are pretty sure that you are going to qualify, this is a good time to start shopping for airplane tickets.

As a member of a number of airline award programs with over 4 million miles on one airline alone, I know a little bit about how these tariffs work. The idea is to fill every seat on the plane before departure. Once the plane leaves the gate, that seat is now worthless. Airlines have very sophisticated software programs that track sales for every flight. A 737 might carry 140 people, with very few of the passengers paying the same price for any given seat.

What we know is that typically, the lowest price point is a couple of months ahead of departure. The closer you get to departure, the more expensive the ticket. For example, we saw a price bump on a flight jump 400% over night. Apparently there was a push after we checked the fare and the next thing we knew, the demand had pushed the price through the roof. There are exceptions. For example, if a flight is not filling up and departure is within a day or so, they may drop the price. If you purchased a ticket for more than the cheaper price, you are entitled to a refund of the difference (on most airlines like Southwest).

Where all the carriers get you is for changes (except Southwest). So, be reasonably sure of your dates. I realize that this presents a bit of a risk. Cancellations on non-refundable tickets are exactly that: nothing. But you are allowed in most cases to rebook, at a “modest” fee of more than $100. (Except Southwest.) And, of course, they nick you for checked luggage. (Except Southwest.) This is why we are partial to a particular airline (Southwest).

Speaking of this airline, they fly to Charleston. And, you can rent cars and drive to M.B. Just one suggestion on how to make your bucks go further. We want everyone to optimize their cash by getting as far out ahead of World Challenge XX as possible- at the lowest possible price.

I hope this has been helpful. I’d like to hear of any deals, thoughts or suggestions you might have that can be shared with everyone. See you in Myrtle Beach this November.


Woolz said...

I will be the first to admit that I was not a huge fan of Myrtle Beach. Actually, just about everyone I talked to wasn't a fan either. You mentioned you can fly out major cities for under 300dollars. I would consider Omaha a major city with a population close to a million. The cheapest flight out of Omaha was 471.00 directly into Myrtle Beach. We can fly into Charleston from Omaha for about 280.00 but you have to rent a car, pay for gas, and not to mention about a 2 and half hour drive each way. That is easily another 150.00 - 200.00. Unless you live fairly close to Myrtle Beach it is not that cheap to fly into. Vegas on the other hand, cheap to fly into, and you actually can fly into there from major cities.

The other disappointing thing about Myrtle beach is, there was absolutely nothing to do. The town is completely shut down for the season and the Ocean was about 40 degrees. Again, Vegas, comes with a built in entertainment. If you cant find something to do in Vegas you better check your pulse. I hate to be the guy who complains, but I am pretty sure I speak for a lot of competitors. Myrtle Beach is just not that competitor friendly!

Respectfully Submitted, John Woolery Run Faster Omaha.

Ski said...

I agree with John. Myrtle would be a great place in June or July, but in November? Pretty bland.

The fact is that the Challenge gets less and less media attention every year. This along with the economic state of the U.S. ultimately leads to less sponsorships for teams, and more out of pocket expenses for the competitors.

With more out of pocket money being spent, competitors want the convenience of flying into a location without the cost of a car (or more likely a 16 passenger van), along with activities for after the event is done for the day.

If travel costs continue to rise, paired with a sub-par location which attributes to the cost, which is closely followed by a nearly impossible Open Division Individual final day qualification; competitors in my opinion will simply just decide to turn their interests elsewhere.

A lot of competitors have stated that they do not like Vegas, mostly due to the fact that it is not very family friendly. That is fair enough, most people with families make it an annual trip. Vegas however, is a great location for the Challenge as it is right in the middle of an easily accessed city, and the entertainment capital of the world.

This year the travel costs do not end with World's though. National's location has been set in Fort Pierce, FL, which I am sure is a fine city. The caveat is that it is two hours from Orlando, or a little over an hour from West Palm Beach. Looks like more rental cars unless you live in the Southeast...

Shane Erosky
5280 Metro