Broadening Your Air Horizons
By Mick Rood
Sure, the holidays are over, but rest assured that with commercial airlines continuing to limit service in order to fill seats, crowded flights will continue. In the name of security, the pat-downs will continue and scanning will expand, the latter due to hundreds of new scanners being installed this year at small to mid-sized airports across the country. Lost bags will continue to be commonplace. You know the aggravating picture.
The option is to use regional, niche market or specialized airlines or services. At least occasionally, these smaller operators are the way to go. Their shortcomings of 1) being out of the way at many airports, 2) more expensive and 3) difficult to track down, become their strengths. Think 1) exclusive and less hectic, 2) you get what you pay for and 3) the hunt was worth it. And while the big commercial airlines will continue to beat smaller airlines along similar routes when they want to, the patient traveler can score eye-popping specials by staying diligent.
But you have to pay attention to these outfits. They are nimble. Services come and go. Hagerstown enjoyed twice-a-week flights to Orlando via Allegiant, a small-market airline that no longer flies out of Maryland. The trips to Disneyland from Hagerstown lasted about 18 months. Hagerstown fliers can still get to Baltimore Washington International Airport on Cape Air in order to connect with other destinations. Cape Air is an oddly configured regional airline serving the mid-Atlantic region at Hagerstown, Baltimore and Lancaster, Pa., along with the Northeast, Illinois, Florida, the Caribbean and Micronesia. Call them at 508 771-6944.
Here are some snapshots of some other commercial airline alternatives:
WannaJet – It’s the latest twist. Not so much an airline as an air service, this outfit doesn’t own an airplane. Huh? Instead, WannaJet offers private jet service that it charters after you submit your itinerary to its website and at least three to five others join the trip. (If you’re the first, you get a 15 percent lower price.) Then the company will e-mail you and the trip proceeds. This allows WannaJet to offer you economy of scale at the high end of air service. Now, while it still isn’t anywhere near cheap, WannaJet says tickets are comparable to first class or business class on commercial airlines.
Yes, this option requires some spontaneity and spunk, but look at it this way: When was the last time an airline advised you to get there at least 15 minutes before takeoff? WannaJet does. That spells relief from the commercial airline tumult better than anything else could. And if you need a warm and fuzzy feeling when you fly, WannaJet is donating 5 percent of its operating profit to the World Wildlife Federation and Save the Children.
WannaJet, not the first to try this idea, has been trying to make a go of this since June. As you can imagine, with so few people involved, their cancellation policies get a bit sticky. For those details and all else, try them at the website, WannaJet.com
JetBlue, which flies out of (BWI) and specializes in nonstop flights to the West Coast and Florida, has been around for more than a decade. Watch especially for their specials Some recent examples, Boston-Seattle, $139 and New York City-Ft. Myers, Fla., $89. The airline became best-known three years ago for leaving a Cancun-bound aircraft on the tarmac for eight hours during a bad storm. Not good for a company that had promised to bring “humanity” back to air travel. But JetBlue seemed genuinely chagrined and has racked up customer service accolades since then. They brag about no first bag fee and lots of leg room. Find them at jetblue.com or call at 800 538-2583.
Funjet Vacations packages trips through various airlines. It is offering flights and three-day hotel stays in Vegas flying out of BWI in the $300-$400 range this winter. Nothing wrong with week-long Caribbean vacations covering flights and hotels for $1,300 or not much more. Contact them at Funjet.com or call at 888 558-6654.
AirTran Airways, the BWI-based airline, which, along with Southwest Airlines, helped that airport break passenger records last year, offers very competitive prices in the East and Midwest. Get them at airtran.com or call at 800 247-8726.