Charter flights: big savings, but ask plenty of questions
Although the US economy may be sluggish this year, the annual summer migration of Americans flying across the Atlantic is anything but. With the dollar buying more pounds, francs, and marks than it has in years past, European travel in the summer of 1982 could prove to be more of a bargain than usual.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But just how many dollars you have to spend abroad can depend very much on how big a chunk the transatlantic air fare took out of your travel budget. Shopping around for charter flights, special fares offered by the airlines, and money-saving hotel and sightseeing packages that you can purchase along with your ticket can make a wallet full of difference. One budget option, flying standby, might be more problematic this year due to the predicted high volume of United States travelers to Europe, based on a large number of passport renewals.
Charter flights usually offer the biggest savings on air travel to Europe. Most such flights are offered by tour operators who charter planes from the airlines and then market their own special fares and terms to the public, often sharply undercutting what the airlines can offer. Other sources of charter flights are universities, museums, professional organizations, and other groups that offer vacation packages to their members.
Although charter flights can make economic sense, it is essential to ask plenty of questions before booking one with a tour operator. For example, what are the penalties you must pay if you have to cancel your reservation? Usually these can range anywhere from $25 up to the full price of the fare, depending on how much advance notice you give and whether or not the company was able to find a replacement. What kind of services offered in flight, what happens if the flight is canceled, and what kind of plane you will be aboard are all things that you should have clarified before any transaction is made.
Most tour operators give you the option of buying either a round trip or one-way ticket. Some offer one-way tickets at exactly half the cost of the round trip fare, while others charge $40 or $50 more. When you buy a round-trip ticket there are usually some limits placed on how long you can stay abroad, ranging anywhere from a week up to several months.
The following are a few of the tour companies that offer charter flights to individual travelers this summer and fall:
Travac Tours and Charters, 1270 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10001, (212) 563- 3303 or, outside New York State, (800) 223-1077. Travac Tours and Charters offers service to Paris, Zurich, Geneva, and Amsterdam from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Miami. Round-trip flights between New York and Paris range from $490 and $530 depending on day of departure. Round trips between Los Angeles or San Francisco to Paris are $790. It is possible to book one-way flights or to combine a Travac flight to a European city with one returning from any of the three others. Children up to two years may travel free if held on the adult's lap, and there are a limited number of cheaper fares for children up to 13. Discount car rentals and complete vacation packages are also available.
Council on International Educational Exchange, 205 East 42nd Street, New York , N.Y. 10017, (212) 661-0311, or outside New York State, (800) 223-7402. A nonprofit academic organization that specializes in student travel, the Council on Inter-national Educational Exchange is offering charter flights to the general public to Paris and Amsterdam. The only direct flights to Paris are from New York, but the council also offers connecting flights to New York from Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The round-trip fare between New York and Paris ranges from $479 to $579, while the flights from the West Coast cost an additional $348. No advance booking is required, but whether you can get the departure dates you want depends on availability. It is also possible to fly one way at a cost slightly higher than one-half of the round-trip fare.