Airline Loyalty Only Goes So Far

Well folks, it’s that time of year.  The time when I get itchy to book another flight to Paris.  The next trip might not happen for six months, but I still like to book early and cheap and give myself some motivation to start planning my activities.  It also lets the Gal Pals know that the next trip is officially “ON” so they better start begging, borrowing or stealing to book their tickets too!

I have flown Air France and most recently Continental exclusively (Over 350,000 miles) because they have direct flights to and from my home to Paris.  For years Continental has had the least expensive fares at the time of my booking.  I have been purchasing an economy flight and then using miles to upgrade me from coach to Business Class with a small fee attached.  The flight attendants in BusinessFirst on Continental (especially Sharon Conrad) have been consistently awesome, the wine fab and the food decent.  I have been loyal to Continental not only for the annual Paris trip, but for ALL my travel.

Loyalty may have to take a backseat from now on I’m afraid.  My latest research shows not only has Continental raised the prices of their coach flights to Paris significantly, but they have also raised the amount of frequent flier miles necessary to both upgrade to BusinessFirst or flat-out book the whole flight with miles, making it very unattractive to use them.  In addition, the “small fee” attached to upgrade using miles has now grown to hundreds of dollars making it a really unattractive option.  As a result, I really might be forced to use another airline.  I have always “fare shopped” but Continental has always come out the victor because they offered the most convenient flights with comparable prices.  If there was a slight difference in fares, I always chose Continental because their online booking process is easy, they have a great on-time record and their President’s Club Lounges are excellent.  I’ll be sad to book with another airline, but a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do to get to Paris.  N’est-ce pas?

Please share with me your favorite airlines and websites for cheap fares to/from Paris and help me find a reasonable option!

13 Comments
  • Leah
    Posted at 10:00h, 24 July Reply

    I’m a Continental girl through and through. Next will be any Star Alliance partner. I love Singapore Air too. I’ve noticed several things that have changed (and not for the better) around Continental since the merger. The only thing that I can say good about the merger is that now we can use reward miles to purchase a one-way ticket. That would have come in handy about two months ago. It’s worth it to me to pay a little more to fly Continental, especially on long-haul flights. I, like you, buy coach, but I don’t pay to upgrade. Often I’m upgraded, even on international flights, for free. All the extra miles and perks that come with platinum status and by using the CO Master Card make it quite difficult for me to turn my back on my hometown airline.

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 11:11h, 24 July Reply

      Hi Leah,

      Love the response! Thanks for taking the time to write. I still love Continental, but things are getting crazy after the merger. Hopefully I’ll be happy to report that I’m able to fly them to Paris on this next trip. It still beats flying them than Southwest! 😉

      • Leah
        Posted at 12:22h, 25 July

        Enjoy Paris! I’ve never been, but look forward to going. I will have to trick my husband into visiting. He says he’ll never go to Paris or NYC. Boy is he missing out! And you are so right about Southwest.

      • Weekend In Paris
        Posted at 12:33h, 25 July

        Mine said he would never go to Hawaii and it was the best family vacation we ever had! Is he still mad about WWII or something like that? One of the gal pals is married to a guy who refuses to buy anything French because of it, but she came anyway. It was his loss to not go! Guess you’ll have to save your pennies and make it a girls’ trip instead if you can’t convince him.
        Cheers and thanks for taking the time to comment,
        Priscilla

  • forest
    Posted at 03:38h, 22 July Reply

    Well, that’s a drag! I’m with United as part of the Star Alliance network. And, it’s fine, I guess….but these days I just see a general decline in both airlines and mileage programs across the board. Everyone’s tightening belts and it’s not giving the customer a better experience!

    When I book I usually run through a few of the cheap flight, etc, options. I find I get a pretty consistently good rate when i book through ebookers. once I find the lowest rates, then I’ll go with the airlines that fall into my mileage plan (as long as it’s not more than 100+ over the cheapest option)

    Excited to hear that you’re planning your next trip!!!

  • travelwithlaughter
    Posted at 06:03h, 19 July Reply

    I have a trip booked for October. It is going to be a sister trip and we are excited. We bought one ticket and used points for the other. We had to use USAir, because that is where my miles are and paid more for the ticket. We are excited, but not about the pricing!

  • mylifeinredstilettos
    Posted at 13:07h, 18 July Reply

    Great post and great comments ladies! I too am planning a Paris trip in October and have been finding the prices pretty high on most all major carriers. I keep my eye out on travel websites daily to watch rates, and once they come down to something acceptable, I’ll book. I did receive an email this morning from Cheap Flights and there is a deal to Paris for around $700 – depending on when you travel and from which US airport. Travel Zoo is also a good travel deal site.

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 13:19h, 18 July Reply

      Thanks for your reply and for the Cheap Flight recommendation! $700 sounds pretty food these days so it might be time to book!

      Please keep us posted!

  • Suzanne McDonald
    Posted at 08:46h, 18 July Reply

    Good points gals! We usually earn on US carriers and then redeem on the European ones. My Dad is a retired pilot, has lived in Germany for 30 years, so I guess I’m so used to the flight, economy doesn’t bother me.

    See you at the Tweetup Priscilla … We should definitely fill up the rooftop, NIM has 75 RSVPs and it’s supposed to be a gorgeous night!

  • Lindsey
    Posted at 08:40h, 18 July Reply

    This is a timely piece! On my recent trip to the States I upgraded my US Airways coach ticket to biz class because I needed the extra room to recline (serious back problems). I was hoping to use all of my miles since I had more than enough. It took 30,000 miles PLUS a co-pay, as the sales rep referred to it, of $300. According to him, upgrading 100% with miles only works for domestic flights, not international.

    It’s getting harder and harder to remain loyal to any one company these days, airline or retailer, simply because times are tough and people want to get the most for their money. I’ve heard that booking on Tuesdays might produce better deals but that could just be myth.

    I have generally found better prices on US Airways than Continental (and far better than Air France) – but you could also check Delta (Flying Blue), Aer Lingus, or even Lufthansa (though typically not the most affordable).

    Good luck!

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 09:18h, 18 July Reply

      Thanks for the reply Lindsey!

      One search I did on Continental had me paying over $800 plus a ton of miles to upgrade one way of my trip to Paris. It’s simply out of control! First they cut back their three flights a day to Paris to one then they try to switch people last minute to 1 stop from direct flights as well. I’m really price shopping this trip now.

      Will check your suggestion for US Airways for sure!

      Cheers,
      Priscilla

  • Suzanne McDonald
    Posted at 07:53h, 18 July Reply

    I’m a big fan of Air France and prefer to use my Delta Amex card whenever I can to rack up miles. I recently ditched my favoritism for American Airlines for two reasons:

    1. AA credit card partner Citibank makes tax time a nightmare, not allowing access to older statements online and taking ages to produce the annual report.

    2. I was stranded in Italy for an extra week with my Mom during the April 2010 volcano for an extra week. That was after American insisted I go to the Venice airport, which was closed already, to rebook with Iberia. We were using AA miles in Iberia. Four hours at the airport and no rebooking because it had to go via AA naturally. I almost forgot Iberia wanted to put my 70-year-old Mom and me on an overnight bus to Madrid that would have arrived 24 hours later and after the flight we were booked on had left.

    When I finally spoke with a supervisor at AA, she initially said she couldn’t find us seats to get back because we needed to have miles seats. Really? The entire continent has been shut down for two weeks, and we’re going to be here for how long until a frequent flier mile seat opens up?

    And don’t forget AA especially is flying ancient 757s and charges for just 1 glass of wine in coach. On the European carriers, there are seat-back screens for movies and the wine flows freely. Oh wait, on British Airways you have to be in Economy Plus for individual movie selection. Let me revise: take Air France or Lufthansa.

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 08:18h, 18 July Reply

      You go girl! Love the AA rant and it’s good to pass along to others. Loyalty is only as good and the airlines who earn it – meaning, blind loyalty is no longer going to cut it. Airlines must evolve and keep checks on their employees to ensure customer satisfaction. I am happy to report that Continental is now sending out survey’s each time I take a flight to ask how my experience was. They are missing, however, the feedback on the prices and booking process for those who decide not to book because it’s too expensive or inconvenient. They could just call me for that and I would tell them! LOL!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! See you at this week’s tweetup!

      Cheers,
      Priscilla

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