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How to Get Around the Airport Hub Premium, or Live With It

September 27, 2011

Ellen Creager, Detroit Free Press, September 25, 2011

QUESTION: How can I get around the hub premium?

ANSWER: Check airports within 100 miles of your hub and compare prices. However, extra driving, parking and layovers -- plus the risk of missing connections -- can reduce the value of a cheaper ticket. Some travelers told the Free Press the savings would have to be at least $300 to make an extra stop.

Q: If I book a Flint-Detroit-Amsterdam, Netherlands, round-trip ticket on Delta, can I get on and off in Detroit and skip the Flint portion?

A: No. If you miss any segment of a flight, your whole ticket is voided. The only segment you can safely miss is the last one on the return flight.

Q: Like Flint, Toledo is considered a spoke airport for Detroit's hub. Can I save money by flying from Toledo to Detroit, then overseas?

A: No. Delta ended Toledo-Detroit flights in 2010. However, it is worth checking other spokes such as Kalamazoo, Traverse City, Lansing and Flint.

Q: Does Delta appear to be imposing such a premium on domestic routes?

A: No. Only to Europe and Asia.

Q: Is there competition on the Detroit-Paris and Detroit-London route?

A: No. In 2009, Delta ceded the Paris route to partner Air France. On the Detroit-London route, British Airways pulled out in 2008, leaving only Northwest (now Delta).

Q: How far in advance should I book?

A: Usually not more than three months, not less than three weeks. Start checking prices earlier for popular destinations.

Q: Should I stick with one airline to build frequent flier points?

A: Delta is great for its breadth of service from Detroit. But don't let loyalty constrain you from getting the best fare deal. Miles are worth less than they used to be.

Q: Are there booking tips and tricks?

A: Don't waste too much time scouring every airfare site. Prices are basically set. Choose a site, such as Orbitz, that displays as many carriers as possible and includes regional airports. To book flights between European cities, check

Q: I still want to fly out of Detroit, but I'm willing to make one stop en route to Europe or Asia to save money. What are the most convenient airports to connect through?

A: Flying east, try Washington Dulles or Boston. Their flights are less delayed than New York airports or Newark, N.J. Going west, try Los Angeles or San Francisco. Avoid Chicago and Denver in winter. Good international connection airports are Amsterdam, Netherlands; Frankfurt, Germany; Tokyo, and Seoul, South Korea.

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