HATTIESBURG — I love Wednesdays. The worst of the week is over. The weekend is in sight. I’m halfway home. It’s the perfect time to shake off whatever awful thing happened earlier in the week and reevaluate.
Who am I kidding? Wednesday’s just a road sign to the weekend. Time to start planning an escape.
What I love most about Wednesday is the morning, when my appearance at work is greeted with a visit by possibility and adventure. I log onto my e-mail, my first activity every morning, and anxiously await their arrival.
In an instant, I’m transported to New York, California, sometimes even Venice, in flights of fancy and imagination. It’s no worm-hole or Matrix, nothing more technologically advanced than text on a white screen. It’s the names of the places, and the costs associated with getting there, that draws my earnest attention. It’s this Wednesday’s cyber-fares.
Early Wednesday morning, the airlines audit their flights to determine which have more than the average number of vacant seats. Instead of letting those planes fly with empty inventory, the airlines convert those seats to special cyber-fares.
In the click of a mouse, the seat from Atlanta to Indianapolis that would have been over $1,000 is now $148. The seat from Phoenix to Boston that would have been $800 is now $179. A $500-trip from Washington to New York is $89. But only online.
The Internet is fueling a paradigm shift within the airlines. Instead of gouging consumers out of house and home to fly last minute, punishing them with high rates for their lack of planning or odd timing, the airlines have become the crack dealers of the sky, offering discounted travel at rock-bottom prices, hoping you’ll get hooked on the high.
And you do. You find yourself saying things like: “I don’t need to go to Cedar Rapids, but for $119, why not?”
“Orlando for $79? I haven’t been to Disney World in a week, let’s go!”
Of course there are restrictions. With the airlines there always are. Some fares require you leave on Saturday and return on Monday, others require only a Saturday night stay.
With fares like this, adventurers can get their fix at a fraction of the price, plus, you get the rush of last-minute planning. I love waiting until the last minute, as the editors of this publication shake their heads vigorously. (Editor’s note: He’s not kidding.) Pushing decisions, or columns, right up to the last minute is the closest cousin to a feeling of danger one can get on a regular day at a desk job — unless one travels Hardy Street or West 98.
I’ll be on a far different strip of pavement this weekend. In fact, it’s THE Strip – in Las Vegas.
Months ago my brother asked me if I wanted to join him and some of his friends in Vegas for a weekend. I was non-committal, as I had not a single vacation day left.
Then came this Wednesday, when Delta dropped me an e-mail advertising reduced rates to Vegas. No advance purchase requirements, no minimum stay, direct flights only — $148 round-trip. My brother paid $352 two months ago.
VIVA LAS VEGAS! Seems I’ve already started gambling, and I’m already ahead. I hope this luck runs through the weekend.
All these e-mails require is that you register on each airline’s Web site. The ones I use: American (www.aa.com), Delta (www.delta-air.com), Northwest (www.nwa.com) and United (www.ual.com). Another site, www.smarterliving.com, searches all airlines for their weekend special fares.
A sample of a recent weekend’s offerings out of New Orleans: $80 to Houston on Southwest, $84 to Jacksonville on Southwest, $88 to Tampa on Southwest, $98 to Atlanta on Delta, $129 to Washington, D.C. on US Airways, $139 to Miami on American, $142 to Austin on Southwest, $149 to New York on US Airways and $188 to San Francisco on America West.
So gather all that loose change from the couch, pack a bag, make your reservation and then laugh at all this hype about high gas prices and the expense of travelling. I’M GOING TO VEGAS, BABY!
“Thank ya. Thank ya very much. Now somebody get me a cheeseburger, uh-huh.”
Matt Martin is advertising director for Cellular One in Hattiesburg and is a regular contributor to the Pine Belt Business Journal, a sister publication of the MBJ.