Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year
in the Jewish calendar. Its themes of atonement and repentance are traditionally
observed with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and prayer.
Yom Kippur confessional consists of two parts: a short confessional beginning
with words that translate as “We have sinned,” and a long confession enumerating
a range of sins. It is notable that during this public recitation, together with
the cantor, the entire congregation sings these words to a tune representing the
joy of being cleansed from one’s sins.
As both a businessman and a
columnist, I could fill this column with the many ways I’ve erred during the
last 12 months. Concurrently, I could chastise those in the travel industry
whose sins of gluttony and chasing lucre leave too many passengers squeezed in
aircraft, being clawed at from every corner.
I choose in my Yom Kippur
column to focus on the would-be traveler, and the sins they have taken upon
themselves that continue to multiply like the plagues of old. The No. 1 thing
would-be travelers do that will kill them in the wallet this year?
Procrastinate. And we’re all guilty of this; as that famed philosopher Euripides
once said, “If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything
Nobody seems completely sure why we put off important and
not-so-important tasks. We just might be wired that way, but my guess is that
the “fun factor” is key. I mean, what would you rather do, perform a necessary
but mildly tedious chore like closing your travel plans, or plopping down to
watch TV? Take a look at my list; maybe I can’t make airfare shopping a heavenly
experience, but if you avoid these sins, it will definitely be more rewarding –
because you will save money.
The Six Sins of Airfare Shopping Sin #1:
Shop too late What’s too late? For legacy carriers, meaning the “old boys
network” of airlines including El Al, Delta, United and US Airways, “too late”
usually means less than two weeks before travel. Most of these airlines require
a 14- day advance purchase to get their cheapest airfares, although low-cost
airlines with overlapping routes are sometimes an exception to this
For low-cost carriers such as Easy Jet, Ryan Air, JetBlue and
Southwest, you usually have to purchase a week (seven days to be exact) before
you travel, or be treated as a business traveler with deep pockets.
#2: Expect to find last-minute deals A few years ago, it was not only possible
to get deals at the last minute, it was possible to find out-and-out bargains,
and this was never more true than for the last two years. Back then, prices had
been sky-high, more so than usual during this priciest time of the year, so
people assumed they couldn’t fly – and didn’t. That left the airlines holding
the bag with too many empty seats, and the great airfare price slashing
Since then the airlines have done more slashing, but on
seating capacity – so don’t expect much in the way of great last-minute deals
again. Sure, there will always be a few here and there; I’ll show you how to
grab those shortly.
Sin #3: Assume last-minute “emergency” fares are
available An illness or a death in the family used to be taken care of with what
were called “bereavement” fares, and there are still a few (very few) – but they
won’t save you much.
For example, United has “compassionate” fares that
provide a 10-percent discount from full fares. However, one would typically book
such a fare at the very last minute, and those fares can be incredibly high.
While I appreciate the airline’s compassion, we have found booking the least
expensive ticket saves far more than their discount.
A better idea: When
airfare prices are this high, loyalty points are at their best redemption value,
so use them or borrow some to top off your account. Finally, look at larger
airports near your destination, especially if you’re heading to a small town.
Driving an extra hour to and from a hub can equal big savings.
Failure to use tech tools If you want to find a hotel deal this fall, you must
be proactive. One of the smartest things you can do is to check a variety of
sites. But you need to be savvy enough not to check the same site under
different names. Most hotel sites – be it booking.com, hotels.com or
com – are all owned by the same corporate owner. Better to
use a site like www.traveladvisor.com, which allows you to compare a myriad of
Let this geek technology find the deals for you, and be flexible
enough on your travel dates to take advantage of the savings.
Shop on your days off I say “days off” in the belief that most of you have
Fridays free, or in North America and Europe have your Sundays – which are
typically the most expensive times to shop. I know you have to work during the
week and you’re tired when you get home, but waiting until the weekend to buy
airline tickets is akin to throwing your cash down the garbage disposal. Set
yourself apart from the rest of the shoppers and save; the airlines know
weekends are when most people shop, and they typically discount from Tuesday to
Thursday (this helps airlines gauge demand).
My longtime readers know the
drill: Try to fly in the middle of the week, as these are the days that airlines
have opened up their cheaper seats. If you want to find a deal, these are the
days to aim for.
Sin #6: Shop too early There is such a thing as being
too eager, so you early birds out there will have to curb that impulse. Airlines
don’t release their best airfare prices until about three-and-a-half months
ahead of time, so if you buy too early you will pay too much.
the window is from three-and-a-half months to two weeks before departure (or a
little less if you fly a low-cost carrier). In general, though, don’t be a
To be evenhanded in these Days of Awe, allow me to make
note of the Four Cardinal Sins of Aviation Consumer Service. You arrive at the
airport, check in as planned, maneuver through all the security lines and
somehow, some way, you board the plane almost an hour late.
Sin #1: Go
incommunicado You sat on the runway. And sat and sat – with the slight hum of
the air conditioning and no word whatsoever from the captain or
What should have been done: Problems happen. It makes far more
sense to inform passengers of what is happening, instead of leaving them
wondering why they aren’t moving.
Sin #2: Offer a lame excuse You finally
get word from the cockpit. It seems the delay caused the plane to lose its place
in the take-off queue. The captain finally gets on the loudspeaker to inform
passengers there was a “communication issue.”
Sin #3: Ignore your
customers’ needs You finally get into the take-off queue, only to find there’s
another problem. A repair crew comes on the plane, checks out the problem and
decides they cannot repair it. You’re informed your flight has been
In this case, the airline has done something right. Safety
matters; it must come first. Now why they couldn’t have offered anything beyond
water while you sat for 90 minutes is another issue.
Sin #4: Fail to send
in reinforcements Here is where most of the complaints stem from. You deplane
from your aircraft, and are sent to pick up your bags and wait for further
announcements. Only the business and first-class passengers are whisked away,
while those in steerage class stand in a serpentine line with one or two
employees. Too often, if you have a connecting flight, you’re told that someone
will meet you when you land. Don’t bet on it! More times than not you’ll arrive
at your destination hours late, and there will be no service representative
waiting for you.
The airline should have provided intelligent solutions:
put passengers in a hotel if needed, finalize their complete itinerary and give
them new boarding passes.
Treat the passengers like they are responsible
for your salary–because they are! To err is human, to forgive
Thus, while I ask for your apology for my indulgences, and I
shall strive to be better, it’s up to you to learn from your past and avoid
making the same mistakes this year.Mark Feldman is the CEO of Ziontours
Jerusalem. For questions and comments, email him at