As airline prices increase, frequent travelers are left wondering what to do to alleviate the travel bug without succumbing to price woes. Smart travelers leaving from Houston’s airports that still want to move around can do so by being creative and doing three very basic things.
First, consider applying for one of United Airlines’ Chase Mileage Plus cards. With the Continental/United merger still fresh in Houston, the new United conglomerate has employed various marketing and flier-outreach techniques to boost ticket sales and achieve customer satisfaction. All Continental OnePass members became United Mileage Plus members in January 2012. This transition into the single program raised many questions about how points would be transferred, gained, honored, and otherwise. In an effort to keep its customers and to promote the airline generally, United has made a huge push in the way of its partnership with Chase to offer frequent flier options. As Houston is a United Hub, the airline has invested serious capital into its marketing efforts in IAH as well as onboard its aircraft. No one marketing tool has been as recognizable as the numerous ads for the Chase MileagePlus credit cards. Currently, United is marketing a suite of cards which promise priority boarding, waivers of checked baggage fees, earned airline points for purchases with the card, and for certain cards, access to the United Club (formerly the President’s Club). Currently, the two cards being marketed the most are the MileagePlus Explorer Card and the MileagePlus Club Card. The Explorer Card offers 25,000 frequent flier points after the first purchase, the first checked bag free, priority boarding, and two United Club Passes per year. Also, the Explorer card allows for 2 frequent flier points per use on United purchases and 1 point per use for all other expenditures. Additionally, the Explorer Card has a $0 intro annual fee for year 1. The MileagePlus Club Card offers a full United Club membership, priority boarding, first and second bags free, and no foreign transaction fees. Additionally, card holders can earn points toward an awards ticket faster by receiving 1.5 points per use on the card, and 2 points for United purchases. The MileagePlus Club Card does not offer a first-use point credit like the Explorer Card, and it does come with a hefty $395 annual fee ($95 is waived in year one), but the ability to earn points quickly is certainly a bonus. By consolidating credit card use into a single card associated with United, families can earn valuable points quickly and avoid the increasing prices by flying using Awards points.
Second, with Southwest Airlines serving Houston’s Hobby Airport, and with new routes opening up in favorite destinations throughout the country, knowing how and when to take advantage of Southwest deals is key to saving money on airline tickets. While some United die-hards often overlook Southwest for loyalty sake, that could prove disastrous to one’s pocket book. Southwest offers some of the best travel specials in the industry, but you have to know when to look for them. Just recently in June, Southwest began offering $99 round-trip flight throughout the country. Subscribers to Southwest’s “Click ‘N Save” and “Ding” programs learned of this benefit before most. Click ‘N Save sends travel deals directly to the user’s email address of choice while the “Ding” fares appear on the user’s computer desktop or iPhone. Southwest is known for running deep discounted specials for a short period of time. By using these two options, you could be “in the know” the next time these deals are offered.
Lastly, looking for deals on United is as easy as clicking on the “deals and offers” tab on United.Com. Each Tuesday, the airline publishes specially-priced flights from Houston (and other cities) to numerous sites within the country as well as internationally. These fares cater to the creative and flexible traveler, as most of the flights offered require travel between Saturday and Monday. Additionally, United continuously publishes “Special Offers” under the same tab showing flights to various popular destinations. Currently United is publishing flights between Houston and Chicago, London, Paris, Florida, NYC and California to name a few. Although the discounts are not as noticeable using this feature, Houston travelers could find themselves lucky and save significant funds on airfare.
The increase in airline prices does not mean a halt to airline travel from Houston. It simply means that in order to maintain a desired travel schedule, it takes creativity, flexibility, and an eye towards maximizing spending trends.