Choosing and flying

I’m accustomed to making travel plans by logging into Orbitz, Kayak.com, or other websites that layout itineraries, carriers, price, etc. But when I attempted to make air reservations from Austin to Fez, things seemed more complicated.

To start with, I found no flights! To expand the search, I enlisted ideas and help from frequent international travelers. Ah, the choices and trade-offs began to take shape. I had forgotten to consider the business side of the transportation industry. Sites I normally use are American-centric, but American carriers do not fly the entire world. No carrier does. Instead, they formalize partnerships and alliances with different carriers in order to expand the routes they can economically. “Code-sharing” (listing a consmer’s choice of a flight under two or more different providers’ names) increase allows a company to increase the perceived availability of actual airplanes and numbers of employee-crew without always owning, maintaining, or hiring-training for all of the equipment and services the company advertises selling. In return for negotiating participation in a particular “code-share,” the carriers coordinate behind the scenes moving passenger luggage across company-lines, printing tickets across lines, etc, so that the customer can buy a seamless flight experience (ideally, of course).

That’s how I ended up buying a “seamless” experience which resulted in checking bags & getting boarding passes twice, boarding three different carrier’s planes, and hoteling one night over a 2 1/2 day journey that included multiple delays.  I bought the code-share ticket for a primary reasons: one carrier  would be in charge of my entire ticket sequence (Royal Air Maroc). In choosing among various entire-sequence options, I elected to always depart from the city into which I had just arrived (seemed obvious to me, but not to the airline industry!) and to adjust my travel days for a cheaper fare.

What would you choose? Does the day you leave or arrive, or the price of your ticket matter more to you?  Are you willing to save money or ultimate travel duration by leaving out of an airport different from the one into which you’ve just arrived? Are you willing to have a 10 hour layover in order to go directly to a city or airport you prefer? Do you prefer to arrive at your ultimate destination in daylight hours rather than at night? If so, will you schlep your bags across a foreign city in order to have a sequence allowing that? Does “frequent flyer” status (or reputation of one carrier or another, or dominant language of one carrier’s crew or another) matter enough for you to adjust the other variables ? Wow! This excursion got complicated quickly!

Though I wish either Royal Air Maroc or United or Condor or Ryan Air would choose to run their airplanes to each and all of my various preferred cities, I am grateful for the code-sharing help of JetBlue and Qatar Airlines for their roles in getting me safely from my Texas hometown’s nearest city to my new Morocan hometown’s nearest city. And I extend special gratitude to the Al Akhawan driver who patiently and generously waited for me in Fez until nearly 3 a.m. last week for a “seamless” arrival to campus.

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