Basic economy fares have been created to by the three large US air carriers to compete with the low cost airlines who offer no frills and or debundled pricing. While the big three have slightly different rules, they all are designed to bring a lower price to compete with Spirit Air, Frontier Air and similar airlines. You will find these are the lowest prices quoted on web sites.
So what do you get for the basic economy fare? Or more to the point, what do you NOT get. The list is a bit different for each airline, but basically, you get no reserved seat in advance, only luggage that fits under your seat can be carried on the plane, advance check in is not available, you are not likely to be seated with your traveling companions, little or no ability to change flights, little or no frequent fliery miles, and you are last to board the plane.
I recently tried out the service, buying a basic economy ticket from Denver to Minneapolis on United Airlines. I got a ticket reservation, but was not able to book a specific seat on the plane. When I tried to check in online, I was informed that I cannot check in online, and that I must have a United agent check me in. This was, as I found out, a way for the airline to be sure that I was not carrying a rollaboard luggage or anything that would not fit under the seat. At the Denver airport, I was surprised to find that it was difficult on check in to find an actual United agent. This was because the personnel handling the bags (at a major United hub) for checking at the United counters were NOT United employees, but ones from a service that United hired. And hence they could not check me in. They finally directed me to a United agent who checked me in. And with that, about an hour before departure, I got a seat assignment.
At the gate, passengers board by groups. They are 1 to 5. Groups 1 and 2 are the preferred flyers, those in business and those with elite status. Then group 3, then 4 and finally, 5. I was one of three on this flight in group 5. Again, the agent checked to be sure that my carry on (which was a small backpack) would fit under the seat. If it did not, I would be charged the fee for checked baggage plus $25 for paying at the gate.
Once onboard, I was treated no differently than a regular economy passenger. I was served a beverage and snack the same as other economy passengers. I did confirm after that I received no mileage plus miles for my flight from United because I was on a basic economy ticket. However, if I had decided not to fly on that flight, and tried to change, I would have lost all I paid. With a regular ticket I would have the residual value after paying a change fee.
As a rule, because of the restrictive nature of the tickets, Schilling will not proactively sell basic economy tickets to our travelers. You can request them, and we will sell them, but we will provide the information on restrictions when we do. If you are comparing our price to one you saw online, be sure that you are comparing our standard economy with the standard economy price online.
So is basic economy right for you? If you are traveling light, do not mind a middle seat, and know you will not request a change, then it might be right for you. But for most people, the better option is to upgrade to the lowest standard economy ticket. Most corporate flyers do not wish to purchase basic economy fares and their respective companies agree with them.
What have you experienced with the basic economy tickets? Are you happy with the savings? Did you encounter any unexpected hassles? Leave a comment. Thanks and happy flying.
I admit it. My wife and I were were stuck in a travel rut for decades. First when I was a small child, all our summer vacations were up at the cabin on Gull Lake in Northern MN. Then post college, the family vacations were in the villa my parents built in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. After that, they were increasingly larger cruise ship vacations to the Caribbean. Then in 2012, I bought Schilling Travel Agency.
For our clients and this blog, I had to break out of the “same old – same old” situation of taking the same vacation every year. A lot of us do it. We see it in our clients. And it is easy to just say — “I’ll have another X vacation.” What my wife Karen and I have found is that we ended up having much better vacations than staying in the same place. Oh, we will go back to some of the favorites, but we knocked off a few false assumptions about some vacations we had never taken.
A collection of different vacations that we have taken is found in the blog articles on our website. And this one today, is just another. A European River Cruise. For this, we took the Black Sea Discovery tour on the Danube with AMA Waterways. The decision to do this was really a no brainer. River cruises are our fastest growing segment of travel right now. We had to see what the fuss was all about. People coming back were positively glowing about their vacation. Our travels begin with 3 full days in Istanbul, Turkey. This is on land before you ever get to the ship. The cruise manager, Sebastian, met us when we arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel. We learned he will be the cruise manager during the whole tour, not just Istanbul. Nice touch.
If you have never been to Istanbul, please put this on your bucket list. There are so many places to visit. The Blue Mosque, the Bosphorus (a body of water that separates Europe from Asia), the Topkapi Palace, the Golden Horn. We visited rug merchants, a tile factory, and even a tanning factory. We spent 3 days but I think we could have stayed another day or two to catch more of the sights.
After Istanbul, AMA bussed us to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the second largest city after Sofia. It is the oldest continously occupied city in Europe, with the beginnings 8000 years ago. Plovdiv was the site of a World Exposition a few years back, but the accommodations here at the Ramada were the most spartan of our trip. We took a walking tour of the center of the city, past parks, the Roman Ampitheatre, and St. Marina’s church. Compared to Istanbul, there was not a lot to see, frankly, but it was a good place to stop for the night on the way to the ship.
The next morning we depart by bus and planned to visit a small Bulgarian village and have lunch and arrive early afternoon in Ruse (Rousse) Bulgaria, where our ship, the AMA Certo, was waiting for us on the Danube. We were on a very nice 56 passenger bus with airconditioning, and television sets, somewhat of a contrast to the Bulgarian country which is still digging out of its Communist past. About halfway from Plovdiv to Ruse, there is a loud bang. Our front left tire has gone flat. Attempting to drive a bit further to pull over from the highway, the driver turns the wheel and cracks the rim and front brake of the bus. We were stranded. The bus escort from AMA calls the company right away for a new bus while the driver looks at the possibility of fixing the wheel. We are a block away from a gas station, so the host gathers us up and we go to the gas station. She purchases snacks for us. Amazingly, a replacement bus shows up in 3 hours. I write amazingly, because we were in the middle of rural Bulgaria and 90 minutes from Sophia. AMA found a replacement (good) bus, and a driver in 90 minutes in Sofia and got on the road to us. Can you imagine getting a bus in rural Minnesota any faster? We got on the new bus, they held a late lunch for us at the planned restaurant, and made it to the cruise ship only about two hours later than planned. This unplanned event showed us how well AMA is prepared for problems.
The AMA Certo holds 150 passengers. It has two restaurants, two bars (one swim up in the small pool), a fitness center, a lounge, and a massage/hairdresser. The majority of the cabins on this newer AMA ship have either a French balcony or a split French/standard balcony. French balcony is just a large sliding glass door that does not have an outside deck. The standard balcony has the sliding door, but also additional deck space outside the room, taken from the interior space. The end result is an outside wall with floor to ceiling glass, where half of it opens to an outside deck. The cabins with the French balcony only still had the full wall of glass, but once opening the balcony door, your whole room is exposed to the outside.
When you take a river cruise, you are subject to the changes that might occur due to the river depth. If too high, the ships cannot get under the older bridges. If too low, they might run aground. The newer ships like the AMACerto have the ability to lower their top deck and have a shallower draft, so they can continue when other ships might have to resort to busses for a portion of the trip.
We found the food to be excellent, and they added local dishes from the ports we visited. They can accommodate dietary restrictions.
The appeal of this trip is for those who would like to visit the great river cities, and therefore this trip has a large proportion of retirees. At least one tour per day is included in the fare and optional cost extra tours are available. AMA has tour groups for the active walkers, slow walkers and late risers. The slow walkers group can accommodate persons in wheelchairs or walkers.
Our cruise took us to Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia on the Danube river. In part two of this blog, I will report on the interesting cities we visited along the Danube.
Note: You can see all of the wonderful AMA trips right here on our website. Just click on this link.
Norwegian Breakaway Mega ship
For many of you out there, the 72 percent of you who have never taken a cruise according to the Cruise Line Industry Association, the idea of getting on a ship for vacation might seem awful to you. I admit that I would likely not found out how much I would like cruising unless my parents had taken my sister and me on a cruise while we were in High School. My father was a WWII Navy officer, who loved ships. My mother was probably a bit scared about going on a ship. We kids just wanted to get away and have fun. Our ship was the Federico C, a 600 foot, 22,000 ton ship from the line that became Costa Cruises. The ship was the old style with three classes of tourists who had access to three different dining rooms. The ship was 10 years old when we made it our vacation destination. There were a couple of bars, and three pools, each the size of a large hot tub. Three dining rooms served the three classes of tourists.
I found people my age on the trip, and we had a blast together. We also visited 14 ports in the Caribbean and South America, and it was only my second visit to the Caribbean at that time. There were no kids activities like today, and the crew spoke mostly Italian, which made it difficult to communicate. My sister and I shared an inside cabin that was so tiny you had to go outside to change your mind. But it was the best vacation I had taken so far, and for the next 20 years, I took many other vacations and kept thinking about how great this trip was. I did not take my second cruise until more than 20 years later, in 1994.
My second cruise was on the NCL Windward before it was stretched into the NCL Wind. This was a medium size ship which our family took to the Caribbean. I was hooked on cruising after spending time on this ship. The food was great, the service even better and we visited 5 of the Caribbean islands during our 7 day trip. The Caribbean and similar locations are perfect for cruise ships since many islands are so small you can see them in less than a day. And so if you are interested in sightseeing islands without having to pack and unpack, this might be the right vacation for you.
As I travel and meet people on vacation, I often meet people who love all inclusive resorts but will never set foot on a cruise ship. Too confining, they say. Too rigid. Like being on a tour bus. Well, having been on 25 cruises on 9 different cruise lines, I can tell you that they are a great experience under the right circumstances. The cruise industry delivers vacations for millions each year, and satisfaction levels and repeat client percentages are very high. Still, according to the Cruise Line Industry, only 28 percent of US citizens have taken a cruise. So what is keeping the other 72 percent of you from cruising?
The key is matching the right cruise that matches your needs. Worried about seasickness? Try a river cruise. Hate crowds? Love going to out of the way places? Then small ship cruising is for you. Have a group from kids to grandparents? Then a larger ship with multigenerational accommodations is for your family. Love Jazz/Rock/Country Music? Then try one of the jazz/rock/country themed cruises. Love to dress up? Pick a ship with formal nights. Hate to dress up? Pick a ship with a relaxed dress code. Care more about the destinations than the ship? There are cruises where the activities on board are minimal, and the destinations are the real stars. There are ships and itineraries that cater to seniors, families, LGBT, scuba divers, country music fans, ecologists, economists, horticulturalists, physically challenged, and many other groups. There probably is a ship that would fit you, the trick is finding the right fit. For that, you need a travel agent to assist.
The biggest advantage of cruising is the ability to see many different destinations without changing hotel rooms. The Caribbean is a good fit with cruising. Many of the islands are so small that you can visit all of the interesting places ashore in a day or less. Caribbean cruising is great because you can see almost a different country each day. This is true of the river cruises, which stop at a different city every day.
A common objection is,” I (or another family member) get seasick. I will never take a cruise.” For those people, if they like to visit smaller cities and get wrapped up in the culture, I would recommend a river cruise. These ships experience so little movement, that you are likely to miss that the ship has left port unless you look out the window. Another objection is “We would get bored on a ship.” For that couple, I would recommend one of the larger cruise ships with more activities than you will be able to pack in to your day or night. Another might be “We hate crowds and we don’t want to go to a place where a large cruise ship has docked.” For that couple, I would recommend one of the smaller yacht or sailing ship cruises. These are some of the ways a travel agent can help you find just the right cruise for you.
Our family has cruised on large ships, small ships, sailing ships, and river ships. I loved all of them, but for different reasons. In other blogs, I will provide some insight into each of these cruises here.
Trust the travel consultants at Schilling Travel to help you get on the right ship at the right time. Call us 612-332-1100.
This was my first of a blog on travel, written before I owned Schilling Travel. I wrote this in early 2012 in Las Vegas when I concluded on the phone the final details of buying this great agency. I revised it as I was preparing to do a major upgrade to our website. (Note: all of the blogs you see here are revised from their earlier publishing date of 2012-2017 and if not relevant have been removed.
While there was an ownership change, I assure you that the great service you get from Schilling Travel is still my priority. All of the agents are still with the agency, including the former owner, Linda Logman. She has run a tight ship, has an A+ rating with BBB, and I promised to continue the fine reputation of the agency well into the future. I have kept that promise since I took control of the agency in 2012.
I have been a corporate domestic and international traveler for more than three decades, and I understand their needs from the client side. In addition, I have traveled extensively on vacation. I have been cruising for over 40 years, and at the time I bought in 2012, I have visited all 50 states and 48 countries. Since then, I have added 8 more countries. I have led trips to the mountains and to the beaches. My most recent led trip was 132 people to Italy, Malta and Greece. And I have been responsible for many corporate travel events.
I have been in corporate life at 3M and its spinoff, Imation for over 35 years and have several other businesses that I have run. I have been involved in services businesses in my corporate life.
The primary reason I purchased a travel agency is my passion for travel. But the reason I purchased Schilling is because of the unrelenting commitment the staff has to customer service. This is sadly lacking in the online travel companies. We answer the phone. There is no voicemail calling tree. We know minimum connect times at airports, whether and how to get a visa, where you should or should not exchange currency, how to avoid the hotels whose pictures online are not representative of the place when you get there. And when a price is too good to be true. (Sadly, there is too much of that going on in the travel industry.)
Shameless plug. Contact the professionals at Schilling travel (firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-612-332-1100) for all your leisure or corporate travel needs.
Can you imagine what travel was like 90 years ago? I did some research into travel the year that this agency was founded in 1924 for our 90th Anniversary in 2014. This was a great time. The stock market was rising, flappers were dancing, and the Charlston was the dance craze. Henry Ford’s Model A car was changing the landscape of America, and America was getting used to listening to this new fangled contraption called the radio. Newspapers were the main purveyors of the hard news, and the travel agencies and transportation companies of that time would advertise their travel opportunities in the travel section. The Minneapolis Journal (forerunner of the Minneapolis Tribune) ran the travel ads on Thursday and Sunday. The Nickel Rate Road Railroad Company whose ad is pictured above, shows but one example of travel back in the 20’s. Travel to New York City would take a minimum of two days. You would sleep and eat on the train. Traveling either east or west from Minneapolis required taking the train to Chicago, and then transferring to a route east to New York City, or west to Los Angeles or San Francisco. It is still the same routing by train today.
Traveling further, to Europe, required use of a steamship. A traveler would take the train to New York, then board a steamship for a 6-7 day journey to Western Europe, then back on a train to visit countries. Finally, upon return a reverse of that procedure. Getting to and from Europe in those days would take about 2+ weeks travel, one week plus for each direction. With that much time required, mostly retirees and those of independent wealth could make the trip, and they would likely stay for 3-4 weeks, and often for much more.
Pictured above are some of the 1924 ads for travel that you might find interesting. All of these ads were from the Minneapolis Journal, the morning newspaper of Minneapolis at that time. Ads were in the travel section of the paper at that time.
My first train trip, taken more than 60 years ago, was from Minneapolis to Hartford, Connecticut. I was taken by my mother, on the way to visit her ill sister. We took James Hill’s Empire Builder to Chicago, and changed to a train to New York, and finally a regional to Connecticut. Most of the longer trips I took with my family in the 1950’s were train trips, and I remember them fondly. Sadly, the decline in the railroads began in the 1950’s and train travel for passengers became ever more dismal back then.
Getting there; Believe it or not, you can start your train journey right here in the Twin Cities and if you have the time, travel all over North America. Or you can fly to your train anywhere on the globe. Today, train travel is thriving in some areas of the country and in many places in the world. Here are just a few suggestions. Try the Canadian Rockies Train for incredible scenery, The Venice Simplon Orient Express or The Blue Train in South Africa for ultra luxury, and the high speed trains like Japan’s Shinkansen bullet and France’s TGV. Call us for train travel ideas or any other travel you might wish to do. 612-332-1100.
Revised from original November 2014 article and posted again in October 2017.
I have been coming to Jamaica for 39 years but it has been 33 years since I last visited Negril. Ah, Negril, why did I wait so long? I am sitting on the spectacular seven mile beach with Bloody Bay just off to my right by less than a half mile, as I was writing this (in 2014).
I am at the all inclusive Sandals Negril resort. Does working get any better than this? As I write, a server is bringing me my drink from the bar which is only steps away. The dive boat and snorkeling boat go out four times daily to the azure waters of Negril.
The restaurants include a Japanese Teppanyaki, Italian, and Seafood restaurants. The food was quite good, and the service is up to the usual standards of Jamaica. Tourism is the number one business on this former British colony, and the Jamaicans keep us coming back with their friendly attitude.
What I like about all inclusives like Sandals is the complete lack of needing to fork over my money or credit card every moment.. Yes even the booze is free unless you want an expensive wine.
The specialty restaurants are not extra charge like they are on many cruise ships these days. That means no big surprise when you get your bill at the end of your vacation.
This adults only resort caters to the wedding and honeymoon crowd. There were several weddings on the beach while we were there. You can have a romantic dinner for two or massage for two right on the beach. And the top rooms come with your own butler service. The couples ranged in age fro the 20s to the 70s while we were there.
There are three Sandals on Jamaica. Negril, Montego Bay and just outside Ocho Rios. There are exchange privileges at the other resorts.
The owner, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, wanted to bring the Sandals experience to the families of kids, and hence Beaches was born. We visited Beaches Negril one of the days while we were here. Families with kids of any age will find there is plenty of fun at Beaches The Sandals residents have the privileges at any of the Beaches or Sandals properties on Jamaica if they so choose.
While Sandals is a great all-inclusive place to stay while in Jamaica, don’t spend all of your time there. Get out and see this wonderful Caribbean country. Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean and it is incredibly diverse. Negril is located on the western part of the island of Jamaica. Its about an hours drive from Montego Bay. Negril is home to the famous Rick’s Cafe, which is one of the best places to watch the sunset while drinking the local beer, Red Stripe. We chose to take a party catamaran trip over to Rick’s from Sandals, and swam in from the sailboat. Of course, you can take a taxi if you prefer to stay dry. There is a cliff here, and visitors take turns diving off the cliff into the Caribbean sea below. For the insanely adventurists, you can climb a pole and dive from an even greater height. Here is what that looks like … Diving at Ricks.
There is so much to do in Jamaica, you’ll have difficulty making that decision. My personal recommendations are: Rainforest Zip line at Mystic Mountain, The Blue Hole and Secret Falls, Rafting on the Martha Brae river, climbing Dunns River Falls, golfing at one of the 12 championship courses, beach activities, shopping in the craft markets and horseback riding.
Sandals continues to grow the number of resorts it has and the travelers it serves due to their unrelenting focus on delivering a great, upscale experience. They presently have 16 Sandals, and 3 Beaches properties located among seven Caribbean Islands. Under Adam Stewart, CEO and son of founder Butch Stewart, the company is the largest employer in the Caribbean with over 13,000 employees. For those who want an upscale all inclusive beach resort in the Caribbean, we heartily recommend any of the Sandal’s properties. Some even have OVER WATER accommodations! Those sell out early, so keep that in mind when booking.
Getting There: Connecting flights from MSP to Montego Bay, Jamaica are offered by Delta, Sun Country, United, Air Canada, and American. You can arrange for transport to the resort from the airport in advance. Best time to travel to Negril is December through May.
You may want to avoid the June to November time period when you could encounter a hurricane or tropical storm, but at that time you can get a great bargain on your vacation. Getting there from Minneapolis is easy. There are non stops from MSP and connecting flights via Atlanta, Miami and others to Montego Bay. Traveling from Montego Bay to Negril will take about 75 minutes by van. Although Kingston also has an international airport, but not recommended for travel to Montego Bay or Negril. There is a new tollway that opened recently and now traveling to Ocho Rios from Kingston is only 30 minutes longer than Montego Bay to Ocho Rios, making that airport an option for some. Tired of searching all the reviews and web sites to find your perfect vacation? Let the experts at Schilling travel help you. Call 612-332-1100, check out www.schillingtravel.com or email us at inquiry @ schillingtravel.com.
NOTE: THIS IS AN UPDATE TO THE BLOG ABOUT MN DRIVERS LICENSES OCTOBER 2017
The Department of Homeland Security will implement its final phase of REAL ID requirements for travelers that board domestic air flights or cruises from/to US only ports on January 22, 2018. When phase 4 is implemented, only passports, Global Entry ID or REAL ID drivers licenses will be proper identification for boarding. Minnesota does not have a REAL ID compliant drivers license, along a few other US states/territories. At the present time, Minnesota has been granted another extension which will allow MN drivers licenses that are non compliant to board domestic planes until October 10, 2018. Since MN and several other states have been granted extensions, there might be extensions granted in the future, but we do not know for sure.
Once this finalized and you are beyond that date, you can no longer use your standard MN drivers license as proof of identity to get on a plane or take a cruise to US only ports. If you have a passport, or your Global Entry ID card, your good to go. If you have one of the enhanced MN drivers licenses, or a license from most other states, you are also able to travel. If not, and you do not have another acceptable document, you will be denied boarding. Minnesota does have an enhanced drivers license version that costs $15 more, but few have this despite the new requirements.
Minnesota has now passed an act to meet the requirements of the DHS Real ID requirements. The state is in the process of getting their offices ready for the new requirements, and some offices have that capability.
Until that is completed for all offices, if you are a traveling Minnesotan without a passport, Global Entry ID or enhanced drivers license, you might want to consider getting the enhanced MN drivers license if your license is up for renewal before the state changes the regular drivers license standards. Standard MN drivers licenses for those over 21 are valid for 4 years, so you would have an issue boarding domestic flights in the future with the standard MN license if another extension is not granted.
If you are a US legal resident, sign up for the Global Entry program. See my blog for information on how to apply for PreCheck or Global Entry. You will be able to use the Global Entry card to board domestic flights. And it is good for 5 years.
If you need to obtain an enhanced Minnesota drivers license, go to this link to learn more.
Have a question or comment on this? Please leave a comment below. Thanks.