The Travel Adviser: New York, New York...

Which airline offers the best deal to the Big Apple?

By
July 11, 2009 21:45
4 minute read.
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I hear voices. I hear them in the morning, in the afternoon, sometimes at night. Okay, so not like Shari Arison, the majority owner of Bank Hapoalim, who hears voices telling her what the future holds. My voices come via the telephone and here is a recent one: Naomi wants to go to New York. She wants to see the museums, catch some shows, do some shopping and be footloose and fancy free for the first week of September. Oh yes, she also has work meetings planned in the Big Apple, before the US Labor Day holiday commences. Her kids will be back in school and her husband will have the responsibility to deal with everything that can and will arise in her absence. She's a frequent flier on El Al and Continental but her business has cut back its travel budget and she must fly as inexpensively, but conveniently, as possible. This is typical of the vast majority of inquiries that travel agencies are challenged with. And with the dog days of summer upon us, she felt it would be an appropriate time to do some comparison shopping. As noted, Naomi wants to fly to New York on September 1 and return here on September 8, taking full advantage of the plethora of Labor Day sales while she's there. No doubt many of you are heading toward your favorite Internet search engine seeing what results you could find. Brick and mortar offices still frequented by over 85% of the traveling public have massive search engines, which crunch all these options in about twenty seconds flat. Let's start with the basics. Two airlines fly non-stop to the Big Apple: El Al, with two and sometimes three flights a day, and Delta Airlines with a night flight to JFK. Continental has added more spice with its two daily flights to Newark Airport, and the new kid on the block, US Airways, this month began daily flights from Tel Aviv to Philadelphia. However, there are over a dozen European and one lone Canadian Airline that fly to New York as well. So the hunt begins. Bear in mind that when airlines advertise, their final price must include every possible tax, fuel surcharge, entry fees and exit taxes. Internet sites are a wee bit wilier and tend to have small asterisks until you find the total. The least expensive non-stop flight offer for Naomi's dates belongs to El Al at $1,179 with everything included. Continental trails with $1,255 while Delta is asking $1,300. To be fair, on different days this order could easily be reversed. Expedia.com starts off with Iberia at $838 flying our intrepid client via Madrid. Of course this can be ruled out almost immediately as it is one of the few airlines that have a 100% cancellation fee with no possibility to change the dates. Use it or lose it is not a policy that I proffer to passengers when there are reasonable alternatives. In this topsy-turvy world nothing is certain. Alitalia, or New Alitalia as it now prefers to be called, comes in at $853. Yet again, you have to read the small print. There you will find it has an overnight in Rome. Now while this may work for the pope, most people don't want to spend more money for an airport hotel and other sundry items. Flying an immediate, same day connection with the Italian carrier will set her back over $1,200. Lufthansa via Frankfurt is asking $900. One of the best airlines when it comes to security and service, it is gobbling up airlines left, right and center as it marches throughout Europe. Taking a piece of British Midland, nibbling on majority ownership of Brussels Air, Lufthansa is well positioned to be the first Mega Carrier. Still many passengers aren't comfortable flying via Germany. US Air, flying a spanking new Airbus 330 non-stop to Philadelphia with a connecting flight to LaGuardia, wants $1,068. Somehow though, the idea of flying all the way to Philly, collecting my luggage, going through passport control and switching to a small plane to LaGuardia, is a bit discomforting. However, not even the largest travel site in the world, Expedia.com, comes up with the least expensive option of them all. Using a combination of Brussels Air to Brussels, and American Airlines on the Transatlantic route, our intrepid adventurer will pay $758. Each of these various choices has different cancellation fees; all carry change fees, most will even earn passengers frequent flier miles. Veteran passengers have their own peccadilloes. Many prefer flying non-stop and not dealing with the hassle and risk of switching planes in Europe. Others prefer a stop along the way, perhaps to stretch their legs to break up the long flight. Some passengers are price conscious, while some covet their frequent flier points, planning to utilize them in the future. Your travel consultant should listen to your voice, act accordingly by preparing a multitude of choices and wait for your decision. For in the end, it's your voice that is the only one that counts. Mark Feldman is the CEO of Ziontours, Jerusalem. For questions and comments e-mail him at mark.feldman@ziontours.co.il

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