With the promise of widespread vaccinations on the horizon, people are itching to fly away for a grand vacation. Local company Thrifty Traveler wants to help.
The flight deal and travel education website has released an online guide to cheap tickets out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that distills the knowledge the company has gained since it launched in 2015. It plans to do the same deep analysis for other airports and cities where its readership is strong, such as Chicago and Atlanta, but wanted to focus on its hometown airport first, said Executive Editor Kyle Potter.
The online publication, called "The Ultimate Guide to Find Cheap Flights From Minneapolis (MSP)," includes numerous bits of wisdom.
When planning a vacation, start by shopping for flights so you aren't boxed in to dates around a hotel booking. Nudging your flying days just a little can often have a big payoff. Use what Thrifty Traveler views as the most powerful tool for flight searches, with multiple ways to find deals: Google Flights. Considering a trip to Bangkok? Compare prices from MSP with fares from major West Coast cities; it may be cheaper to fly to Los Angeles on one booking and head to Bangkok on another, for instance. And surprise: Clearing a computer of cookies is not necessary. Thrifty Traveler explains in depth these tips and others.
It also describes how the airport's dominant carrier plays a role in airfare pricing — and what consumers can do about it.
Housed in Terminal 1, Delta carries 70% of passengers at MSP on average; the guide spells out the pros and cons of living in a market with such a prevalent airline. On the plus side, because MSP is a Delta hub, many nonstop flights depart from the airport. On the downside, the airline rarely offers deals. "With a near-monopoly on the airport, Delta can get away with charging higher airfare — and it often does," the report reads. But other airlines such as American and United often float cheaper fares in a bid for Delta loyalists; for flight deals, be prepared to shift carriers.
Terminal 2, just down the road (or tram), serves Sun Country, which whisks Minnesotans to warm-weather destinations, and other low-cost airlines. "Whether you fly the likes of Sun Country, Frontier, and Spirit or not, these budget carriers play a pivotal role in pressuring major airlines to keep their prices lower," according to the report.
Airfare pricing shifts in ways that are confusing and sometimes maddening. Despite the flux, Thrifty Traveler analyzed its historical data to uncover the destinations with the consistently lowest airfares.
Want to head to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Phoenix, Boston? According to Thrifty Traveler, these are among the cheapest cities to get to from MSP. International destinations on the cheap side include the popular Cancun; Reykjavík, thanks to pricing competition between Icelandair and Delta; and Liberia, Costa Rica, a spot where Sun Country helps keep prices low.
Thrifty Traveler's flight-planning tool arrives at a good time. Air travel is ticking up from the plummet last April, when passenger volume at MSP was down 95%.
As vaccinations roll out, 82% of those who will be vaccinated plan a splurge, such as a vacation, to celebrate, according to a Lending Tree report based on 1,200 consumers. The study by the online loan company also found that 61% of people who bought roomier first-class airline tickets during the pandemic plan to continue to do so.
A survey by the U.S. Travel Association found that 63% of Americans say they desperately need a vacation, and 97% say having a trip planned makes them happier. The association also notes that Jan. 26 is National Plan for Vacation Day. The day occurs annually on the last Tuesday in January as a way to encourage Americans to take time off, but it's never felt more vital. Who doesn't want a getaway about now? Before you plan yours, though, you should probably read the Thrifty Traveler report.
Kerri Westenberg • 612-673-4282