The next time you’re heading overseas, you could have some special flight options that will give you great service, and better fares. And yet, these flights are more or less unknown. These “secret” flights are actually on published airline schedules, but they don’t often show up online. And they are, by definition, counterintuitive in terms of the cities served. They are actually called “fifth freedom” flights — when an international airline is given the freedom to fly (and take paying passengers) between two international destinations, neither of which is the airline’s home base or country.
Houston to Moscow
Some people might choose United, or Aeroflot or any number of airlines connecting through London or Paris. Very few people know about Singapore Airlines flight 61, a non-stop route on a 777.
London to Los Angeles
British Airways and American have flown the route for decades. But how about Air New Zealand? The Kiwis also fly the route non-stop.
Los Angeles to Paris
Yes, Air France flies that route. No surprises there, but you might want to check out Air Tahiti Nui.
New York to Milan
Alitalia is the traditional choice. But here’s a real surprise: Emirates flies the route non-stop, and has a few other flight surprises: fly from Auckland to Sydney on an uncrowded Airbus 380. (It’s Emirates flight 413)
Los Angeles to Sao Paolo
Try Korean Airlines flight 61. Like most other secret flights, it actually starts in KAL’s base in Seoul and then stops in Los Angeles en route to South America. But KAL is allowed to fly new passengers on the non-stop portion of the flight between California and Brazil.
Madrid to Frankfurt
Both Iberia and Lufthansa fly the route. No surprises there. But LAN (from Chile) flight 704 does the route on a new Boeing Dreamliner.
Thinking about flying New York to London? It’s an expensive non-stop flight. But a growing number of smart business travelers are now multi-tasking destinations, saving money, and ignoring the map. They’re flying to London—through Istanbul.
Turkish Airlines has quietly built the world’s fourth largest network, flying to 197 destinations in 104 countries. And on the New York to London route, with that stopover in Istanbul, there’s a bonus. It’s a 10-hour layover, enough time for business meetings, a little culture and great food. Once you land at the airport in Istanbul, you’re 40 minutes away from the Blue Mosque, The Grand Bazaar and lunch on the Bosphorous. In fact, Turkish Airlines offers a free six-hour tour to all layover passengers—meals included. And if you’re flying business class, they even throw in a free hotel room.
Panama is the secret super hub for the Caribbean and South America. You can get just about anywhere from Panama– from Cartagena, to Cuba, from Buenos Aires to Kingston and Montego bay, by flying through the international airport in Panama city. The place is dominated by the hometown carrier, Copa, and like Turkish Air, Copa’s route structure might surprise you: 95 airplanes, 69 cities and 30 countries. Need to get from New York to Nassau? Most airlines would route you through Miami. Why suffer? Go through Panama. It’s faster and easier.
Another great secret European hub, courtesy of national carrier Finnair. Going through London is never my first choice. Departure taxes alone are draconian. Instead, pick Helsinki and you can connect to 80 destinations around the world. And don’t worry about delays. The Finns have mastered the art—and the science—of keeping the airport open and operating in all kinds of extreme weather conditions.
Want to fly JFK to Stockholm? Get out your wallet, even in coach class. Fort Lauderdale to London? Same deal. New York to Paris? Highest fares in years. Enter the new “disruptor” airlines, Norwegian and La Compagnie.
On Norwegian, the fares are — to say the least — unbeatable. JFK to Stockholm on Norwegian: $205 ONE WAY. JFK to London: $248 one-way. And to Oslo from JFK: $150 one-way. It’s in Oslo where the real connectivity fun begins, because Norwegian hubs there and from there it’s off to Asia, again at a substantial discount.
And for all business class service to Europe, there’s now La Compagnie. First the bad news: they don’t have much frequency right now — just one flight a day from Newark to Paris since they only have one baby-blue painted 757-200. But it’s all business class with only 74 seats on the plane and the price is definitely right. $1,499 round trip — in business class. And, if two people are flying together, it’s $2,499 round trip.
After more than a decade of unprecedented air safety, it’s been a rocky year for the world’s airlines, with a number of high profile fatal incidents.
So if you’re more than a little concerned about air safety and business travel these days, you’re not alone. And, at least in Europe, you can access the information as to which airlines around the world are considered unsafe. The European Commission has updated — for the 23rd time — its list of airlines banned from operating within the European Union. It’s a great reference tool for any business traveler. There are currently 294 airlines banned from the skies over Europe. Access the entire list here.
That’s bad news for Indonesia — most of the country’s airlines are on the blacklist. Same for the Congo, and a number of African countries.. But the most recent safety list brings good news to at least some carriers — like Philippine Airlines — because the EU took them off the list.
Tired of the same Taurus or Chrysler every time you rent a car? Have an ultra-important meeting upcoming? From the style over substance department: Hertz now has a fleet of “dream” cars in international U.S. gateway cities of Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Phoenix and 31 key markets across the U.S. Hertz quietly launched the program in 2013 with only 25 cars, and has since expanded it to more than 1,000 vehicles. And what’s for rent? Aston Martins, Porsches, Maseratis Ferraris, Lamborghinis.
- Porsche and Mercedes start at $350 per day and include 75 “free” miles per day; you’ll be charged $.49 for each additional mile.
- Aston Martin Vantage and Audi R8 start at $1,000 per day; 75 “free” miles per day; with a whopping $3.00 per mile additional
- Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and other high-end sports cars start at $1,500 per day.
One additional caution: if you’re renting one of these exotic cars from Hertz, you must provide your own damage insurance. Try to reserve way in advance, because despite the high ticket price, these cars are more popular than Hertz planned. More and more business travelers are ignoring the steep tariff and renting the cars, thinking the vehicles themselves might help seal the deal.
There’s another subtext here — beyond showing off at important business meetings, there’s also the notion that you aren’t just renting a super car, you’re also test driving it. One business traveler rented a Ferrari in Phoenix for a day of meetings, and then added one additional, unexpected stop on his schedule. Before returning to the airport, he drove over to the Ferrari dealership and bought an identical car—on the spot.
International business travelers have found common ground: the post-trip bill shock of draconian roaming charges and text fees on their mobile phones overseas. it’s beyond outrageous…And getting worse. But now, at least one carrier is coming to the rescue. T-Mobile has introduced a plan called Simple Global, and in many cases the savings are substantial off current bills — up to $1500 a month in some cases. The plan makes texting and data free overseas, and has slashed calls to a flat rate of 20 cents a minute in more than 120 countries and destinations worldwide.
For anyone planning to use a mobile phone while on a cruise: some travelers have been tempted to use their phones while their ship is in port, tied to the dock. In theory, it should just be a regular cell phone call. But more often than not, the phone seeks the nearest link — and if you’re on board that means the ship’s own repeater — and THAT means it instantly becomes a marine satellite call, at $15 a minute! So wait until you’re off the ship and at least two to three city blocks away.
—Peter Greenberg is the travel editor for CBS News.