Ibis Connect Travel Bulletin

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Travel Outlook for 2021 Holidays in the United States

Southwest Airlines increases flights to Hawaii

In March 2019, the largest low-cost airline in the United States, Southwest Airlines marked a new milestone in its history with its flights to Hawaii, where for the first time it would operate and be the only low-cost competitor to traditional operators such as United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, leaders in the Hawaii market.

Southwest currently offers destinations to Hawaii from Honolulu, Lihue, Kona and Maui in intra-island operations and to Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, San Jose CA, San Diego, Las Vegas, Sacramento and Long Beach.

Effective February 17, 2022, Southwest, will increase operations to Hawaii from several existing routes, such as:

  • Phoenix – Honolulu two daily flights
  • San Diego – Kona daily flights
  • Sacramento – Kona 4 weekly flights on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
  • San Jose CA – Lihue daily flights
  • San Diego – Maui daily flights
  • Sacramento – Maui daily flights with 3 weekly frequencies on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays

**(Increases from Phoenix and San Diego start on February 18, 2022)

All flights will be operated by Boeing 737 MAX and Next Generation aircraft.

Southwest offers several benefits to consumers on its flights to Hawaii with convenient fares. Benefits include:

  • More spacious and higher reclining seats.
  • Free movies/TV and Wi-Fi service for USD 8.
  • Two free checked bags.
  • No surcharges with date changes or cancellations.

Last July, the Hawaiian authorities opened the entrance to vaccinated and/or tested travelers, to reactivate the tourist activity in the region. Taking advantage of the easing of restrictions, many airlines have increased their services or launched new routes.

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Alaska Airlines offering BOGO ticket deal for fall travel, including flights to Hawaii, Mexico, Belize

Alaska Airlines, trying to spur ticket sales as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, is bringing back its buy-one-get-one-free deal.

The offer – which must be booked by Monday, Sept.20 – covers travel between Oct. 5 and Dec. 15, excluding a dozen days around Thanksgiving.

The Seattle-based airline, which has a West Coast focus, said the “BOGO” ticket offer is good on flights in coach class to more than 120 destinations, including Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize and other vacation hotspots.

Travelers must book on Alaska’s website using the discount code BOGOTIME. Unlike Alaska’s BOGO deal a year ago, this one doesn’t come with an empty middle seat.

►Forget about that toast at 35,000 feet: Southwest Airlines isn’t bringing back inflight booze until at least 2022

Alaska Airlines BOGO deal: The fine print before you buy
As with all airline fare sales, there is fine print galore. Here’s what you need to know:

  • For most destinations, travel is limited to flights departing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, which are off-peak days for airlines.
  • Travel to Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica and Belize is valid Sundays through Wednesdays. Travel from Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica and Belize is valid Tuesdays through Fridays.
  • Traveling solo or need to fly on other days? Use the BOGOTIME code for 10% off other flights booked during the BOGO promotion. The 10% discount is also valid for first-class flights.
  • Travel between Nov. 18 and Nov. 29 is blacked out. Thanksgiving is Thursday, Nov. 25.
  • Ticket buyers must pay taxes on the “free ticket.”
  • The promotion excludes flights operated by Alaska Airlines codeshare partners, including its new West Coast partner American Airlines. Flights by regional partners SkyWest and Horizon Air are eligible

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The Best and Worst Airlines for Cheap Flights

Everyone wants to find cheap flights so they can save more money on their vacation, but searching discount travel sites can be a hassle.

To save you time and help you get the most bang for your buck, GOBankingRates set out to find the best and worst airlines for cheap flights. In this study, GOBankingRates compared the cheapest available round-trip flights for one person from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK or LaGuardia).

Most Expensive Airline: Southwest
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: Starting at $508.96

Southwest Airlines boasts cheap airfares, but was actually one of the more expensive airlines. Their cheapest ticket comes out to $508.96 round-trip going from LAX to LaGuardia, with no refund available. However, passengers will receive travel credits if you cancel your flight. Passengers also get a personal item, a carry-on and two checked bags for no cost.

Southwest also offers a range of airline perks — such as complimentary beverages, free music and no change fee — so it’s very possible to pay nothing beyond your ticket price. Southwest has an open seating policy, but can purchase EarlyBird Check-In, starting at $15 each way to get to the front of the line.

Less Expensive Airline: United Airlines
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $237

Passengers on United flights can have one free personal item and are able to pick their seat for no extra fee.

Less Expensive Airline: American Airlines
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $173

It’ll cost you $173 to fly American but one bonus: you’re able to choose your seat. Passengers can also bring on one free personal item and one free carry-on and pay $30 for a checked bag, though some customers like those in the military, are eligible for free checked bags.

Less Expensive Airline: Delta
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $175

Delta allows you to bring one personal item and one carry-on item, but you will not be able to choose your seat. Checked bags cost $30 each.

Cheapest Airline: JetBlue
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: Starting at $137

Flying JetBlue gets you from LA to NYC and back for just over $100. With a JetBlue Basic ticket, you can select your seat for an extra fee, but you are not allowed a carry-on bag, and your first checked bag costs $60.

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Here’s the best time to save on holiday airfare this year

Book at the right time and you can save up to 40% on airfare.

Yes, it seems like we’ve just finished up summer vacation, but it’s already time to start planning holiday travel. With airfares on the rise leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, and COVID-19 restrictions in flux, NBC News senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle wants you to be prepared so you can save more money and make the most out of your trip.

When to book
Although many of us are still in back-to-school mode and enjoying the last few days of summer, it’s time to start booking those holiday trips.

“I know it’s only September but start booking your holiday travel now,” said Ruhle. “According to the travel booking app Hopper, the cheapest fares for Thanksgiving and Christmas will be this week, so start doing your homework.”

Travelers can expect to find domestic Thanksgiving fares pricing out at around $300 round trip, which is down slightly from pre-pandemic levels. As for Christmas, domestic flights will be even more expensive than in 2019, at around $430 per trip.

“Even if you don’t have plans in place for the holidays yet, booking before Halloween will save you up to 40 percent on fares for Thanksgiving and you’ll want to book your Christmas trip before you’re putting that turkey in the oven,” said Ruhle.

And if you’re celebrating Hanukkah, remember that this year it starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so keep an eye on those dates, too.

COVID-19 concerns
While travel restrictions have eased up, it’s a smart idea to triple check your airline, hotel or other carrier’s refund, change and cancellation policies. “A lot of airlines are still being pretty flexible, but you need to look into whether or not you might get charged,” said Ruhle.

Another thing to consider is travel insurance. “Not every plan will cover COVID-related issues, so make sure you read the fine print and shop around for a plan that meets your needs,” said Ruhle.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on the local situation and any mandates where you are traveling. “This is especially important if you’re traveling internationally,” said Ruhle. “Some countries may still require a quarantine period or testing upon entering and leaving the country, and you don’t want to be looking for a PCR test the day before you’re supposed to go home.”

Bottom line: Do your homework in advance.

“Domestically, you’ll want to monitor case counts where you’re going,” said Ruhle. One way to make travel much safer is, if you are not vaccinated yet, to go get a shot. Do it now and you can still be fully vaccinated before Thanksgiving.

Best times for travel
Everyone is looking for a good fare, so check your calendar and try to be flexible with travel dates when you’re booking.

Is it cheaper to book hotels last minute?

(NerdWallet) – In an era where mask requirements flip back and forth, rules are relaxed and then restricted, and COVID-19 cases increase after they just decreased, you’re probably not keen on booking travel too far in advance. And there’s one more reason why you might not want to book in advance anyway: It’s often cheaper to book a hotel last-minute.

NerdWallet looked at more than 2,500 hotel room rates in 2019, 2020 and the first half of 2021. Hotels were spread across the world, ranging across class and brand, and room rates were compared for nights 15 days out versus four months out.

And 66% of the time, it was cheaper to book a hotel room 15 days out versus four months out.

The difference is even starker thus far in 2021, where you’re even more likely to get a deal booking last-minute. The same rooms we analyzed for 2021 were cheaper 73% of the time when booked 15 days out versus four months out.

How much can I save booking last-minute?
While it’s almost always cheaper to book a room last-minute, how much cheaper is it, really? Turns out, though a bit cheaper, don’t expect the bargain bin here. Rooms average 13% less when booked last-minute than booked four months in advance.

Here’s the year-by-year breakdown of savings when booking a hotel last-minute, based on average room rates:

2019: 6.5%.
2020: 26.3%.
2021: 13.9%.
All three years: 13.0%.

What about international vs. domestic hotels?
You might be inclined to book a last-minute weekend hotel getaway in Las Vegas, but you’re probably not spontaneously shipping yourself off to Spain.

Alas, don’t expect much difference in booking strategies for international versus domestic hotels. We didn’t see any notable deviation in hotels when we grouped them by properties in North America (12.7% savings) compared to all other countries outside of North America (13.5% savings).

What about booking luxury hotels last-minute?
There’s one area where you will likely see bigger discounts for booking last-minute: fancy hotels. We grouped the hotels in our analysis into three tiers — high, medium and low — as determined by their average price as well as their brand. So a Hampton Inn would generally be in the low tier, a Hilton Garden Inn would be medium and a Conrad would be a high-tier hotel.

And as it turns out, low-tier hotels had a minimal price difference based on when you booked — just a measly 5.5% across all of the hotels we analyzed in 2019, 2020 and the first half of 2021.

But when it comes to high-end hotels, you’ll more likely nab a significant deal when booking last-minute. Hotels classified in our highest tier averaged nearly 22% cheaper when booked 15 days out.

If you generally book budget hotels, don’t expect to see much savings by holding out to book last-minute. But if you have a taste for luxury, then you could more than likely snag a deal if you’re willing to bet on booking with short notice.

Why you may not want to book last-minute
Despite the possible savings, we don’t recommend booking last-minute in most cases, for a couple of key reasons.

  1. The savings could be negligible
    The average savings in booking a room 15 days versus four months out was 13%. Sure, that’s $260 saved on a $2,000 hotel budget (whether for one trip or for the entire year), but keep in mind that 13% is an average, and some savings are going to be much smaller (and rooms could feasibly cost more if you book last-minute).

Don’t discount the headaches you may encounter for procrastinating, either. The hotel you want might already be sold out. Or it might have rooms available, but only the larger suites with views, which are going to be more expensive anyway.

  1. You might be able to book in advance and rebook later
    Hotel cancellation policies have always generally been pretty flexible, and they’ve only gotten more so since the pandemic.

Most Hilton hotels allow you to change or cancel up to 24 hours before your arrival day. While Hilton is on the generous end of cancellation policies, it’s not uncommon to see free cancellations made 48 or 72 hours in advance.

Other brands offer flexible cancellation policies, but only if you have status. For example, if you have World of Hyatt elite status, you can cancel your reservation up to 24 hours in advance of check-in at most properties.

At those hotels — and others with similarly flexible cancellation policies — it might be worth it to book the room as early as possible. Then, periodically check the rates. If they drop lower than what you paid, you can always cancel and rebook.

If you’re debating when to book your hotel
Unless you’ve got your eyes on lavish lodging that otherwise has a fickle cancellation policy, you don’t save a whole lot by holding out in hopes of a better deal.

On average, properties are about 13% cheaper when booked 15 days out versus four months out. The biggest difference in pricing comes from high-end hotels, which average nearly 22% cheaper. But since budget properties are only 5% less expensive, no-frills travelers have little reason to procrastinate on booking hotel rooms.

Double-check the fine print because there’s a good chance you can book and lock in a rate now, then cancel and rebook later if the rate drops.