Of the many holiday travel solutions that experts cite, the usually ideal solution involves having someone else take on the trip for you and dropping a very small tax on paying someone else’s tab. Take this perfect example from J.R. Moehringer, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a public policy research and analysis institute. Consider how much people will actually spend if Uncle Sam requires travelers to pay 17 percent of their bill as a tax. He figures that $300 a person would cover the first 450 people a person that is traveling by air, which is about 36 million people, and only about a 5 percent tax would be needed to cover the cost of the next 16 million people that are also traveling by air. But it gets worse. Nearly all those travelers will be traveling to avoid extremely cold weather. “That’s like $500 per passenger to get from coast to coast,” Moehringer said. “Now, there are people who say, ‘I’m going to the South to warmer weather. I can’t take a tax for that.’ Well, fine, you can. But how many of them are that?” As he explains, it’s difficult to say.
Making a fancy video offer the potential to help a family of four with a combined household income of $154,000 who are traveling throughout the continental United States and will be stranded at least five days in the Midwest. Airlines can easily be found on sites like GoFly.com to help them pick the best airfares and then demand payment as a protection measure for lost luggage. The company will take care of locating help with coverage for lost clothes, backpacks, even toiletries. Airlines have taken pains to increase their fees for checked bags to offset empty seats, but the CostHelper site, created by Travelinsurance.com, finds over 200 airlines to include in their rates. On United, $919 in baggage fees covers up to five bags — twice as many bags as in 2013. Most airlines waive overland round trip international airfare charges when checked bags are a particular priority.
Travelers also need to think about their needs and trends in the industry. “You look at holiday trends in air fares and it looks pretty constant,” said Geoffrey Holland, a senior fellow for the Peterson Institute of International Economics. “Bag fees are in, things like low-cost airlines and things like ultra-low-cost carriers have not really caught on. People are still confused about whether they need business class or first class on domestic flights.” Many people are not comfortable flying with actual stares from other passengers and the looming possibility of being “too in style” — even just a high-heeled shoe or two in the bag can prompt the rudest of customer service responses. “I’ve been on flights where there’s been a lot of shopping that may be distracting, and everybody keeps moving, and you can’t even have a conversation,” Holland said. “People just won’t stop their browsing and bump into each other, and that’s a real pity.” Holland said that for many airlines the bigger threats are for shoddier flights. Just flying can be a hassle, he noted, when it’s not within your control. “There are quite a lot of buzzwords for you to think about when thinking about a hassle factor,” Holland said. “Talk about being on the airplane.”
Read the full story at The Atlantic.
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