Question: I'm a frequent traveler and love last-minute deals, but in the past month or so, just about every deal has required a 14-day advance purchase. Can you tell me if something is going on behind the scenes and/or why the airlines have started to require longer advance purchase requirements? There seem to be fewer last-minute weekend deals and fewer fares with just a three-day advance purchase.
Answer: You're absolutely correct that advance purchase restrictions have become longer, and that there are slim pickings lately for those last minute weekend deals, and also the weekend fares have become more expensive. Demand for air travel has increased, so the airlines have raised fares and made restrictions more onerous.
Q: I'd like to buy a fare from Chicago to Tokyo with a stopover in Los Angeles on the way out. What's the easiest and cheapest way to buy such an airfare on the Internet?
A: Some airlines sell stopovers at very reasonable fares, depending on the route. Rather than buying such a fare online, I'd do it by calling the airline's reservation department, or by calling a travel agent, because online methods aren't capable of finding stopover fares. In your case, you could also buy one fare round-trip from Chicago to Los Angeles and a second round-trip fare from Los Angeles to Tokyo. You might even find that this is the cheapest option, but make sure to leave enough connecting time between flights on the inbound return trip.
Q: I know you always say, "Avoid connecting flights." However, I live in Syracuse, N.Y. and wherever I go I must make at least one connecting flight — especially to Europe. But it's harder and harder to figure how much time to allow between flights. The listings when I search online often give choices between under two hours or eight hours in the connecting airport. Help us out with some advice when connections are unavoidable.
A: The reason I advise to avoid connecting flights is simply that if you miss your connection, even if the airline is at fault, you may end up waiting for days to find seats on your onward flight. I would opt for the maximum possible time between connecting flights, a minimum of four hours, more if possible. Sometimes it's best to speak to an airline or travel agent to ensure you have the longest possible connection window. Sure, no one likes hanging around an airport, but it's better than waiting for several days to get to your final destination in the event of a misconnect.