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.