With the airlines struggling - a bottle of water now costs extra on US Airways - and most of them planning to significantly cut back on schedules after this summer ends, will cruisers be facing some new challenges for 2009? The cruise lines keep adding berths to their inventories, but with fewer airline seats available things might be troublesome.
I think more cruisers will fly down a day early, and perhaps stay a day after leaving the ship in order to fly home early the next morning where there is more space for sale.
I'll let you know when I book my tickets in December.... It will be an interesting 11 months between booking and actually flying. I do know that I will be keeping a close eye on my reservations until we leave. As of right now, we're planning on flying in a day early, but leaving the same day as debarkation... I suppose we won't know for sure until it's time to go. Sure is scary though . . Maybe the cruiselines will work on better flight arranging pre and post cruise.
Great topic Dave. Here is my take. Years ago, most of us took the cruise/fly packages because the cruise lines had great prices, transfers, etc. But, in the past 5 years, the cruise lines stopped passing along savings on most of their packages and often gave cruisers awful connections and flights. So, many of us frequent cruisers started doing our own air, flying in at least one day early, doing our own hotels and our own transfers. And guess what. We got the flights we wanted and saved money. In our last 20 some cruises (over the past 5 years) we have used cruise air only once, and that was because Azamara had a great package on a relocation cruise starting in Brazil. I still urge cruisers (when I am asked) to always explore their own air (use websites like Kayak and Sidestep). In most ports, its cheaper to use a taxi than cruise line transfers, and you can usually get a pretty good deal on a pre-cruise hotel if you shop on-line.
The current situation is that the cruise lines can no longer get the guaranteed long term contracts with airlines like in days past. So, not only do they want to make a profit on selling air, but they have to be extra cautious on promising air fares (some lines will no longer guarantee a fare until you make full payment). I think we are going to see some of the cruise lines (particularly Oceania and Azamara) start using more charters for their air packages. This makes a lot of sense for European, South American and Asian cruises. As to the US ports, most are going to find that they can get better prices on their own.
We've done our own air for years, although I am using air/sea with RCI for my little jaunt on the Sovereign this month. In this case it was a wash with doing my own, and the included transfers made it an obvious choice. I was a bit surprised since, as you note, cruise line air has really been a poor choice for most cruises over the past several years.
I remember a repo cruise we did on the Song Of America in 1993. 4 nights from San Juan to Miami, and RCI had $100 per person air - ATL to SJU, and then MIA to ATL. The cruise was $299 per person for us, and then I won $800 in the ship's casino on a slot machine. The cruise with air was free. Those deals are long gone.
Charter air, I predict, will make a comeback as Hank suggests. It may be quite common for distant cruises, as the only way a cruise line can sell out a cruise.
There will certainly be a lot of airplanes available for charter airlines to lease.
I remember it. Humms, something to wonder about indeed. The man that owned most of Hooter's started an airline here though and it flopped. Not much profit in the airline business lately. A charter situation could be a solution for some price relief though.
Last April I bought round trip tickets from Midwest Airlines, which were non-stop from Milwaukee to Orlando in October. The tickets were a bargain at $419 total for my wife and I. A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Midwest telling me they canceled flights to Orlando until October 28th, and cutting back from 3 flights a day to 1 flight. They said they would refund my money, leaving me with no options but to start looking for another airline. These kind of "challenges" will probably deter a lot of people from cruising. I was lucky and found a flight even cheaper than my original. However, I have to leave another day earlier, and I have to make connecting flights. I'm sure the cruise lines are facing a major hurdle as airlines restructure. It makes sense to me that the cruise lines would venture into chartering from some major cities. I can't believe how fast things are changing. My problem is driving over 20 hours to any port, not to mention over $700 just for gas.
I read that flyers are expecting prices to come down because crude has dropped $20+. But the analyst said don't count on it; he said the airlines are looking to the Fall to start recouping some of their losses with higher fuel surcharges and fees. He said the goal is to increase the margin per seat. Fewer flights will put upward price pressure on the least expensive seats.
I've never been a fanatic about cheeseburgers anyway. I eat them on occasion but usually skip the cheese. My favorite fast-food burger is a classic Whopper, although about twice a year I get the urge for a Big Mac.