Why the Cheapest Flight on Travel Sites Could End Up Costing You More


For some flyers, price is the only thing that matters when choosing an airline. This is where travel comparison sites come in handy: When legroom, food quality, and seating assignments aren’t deciding factors, customers can arrange flights by cost and choose the cheapest option available. But as a recent story from The Economist points out, at least one airline has found a way to game the system so that those cheap flights can end up costing more later on.

Delta, United, and American Airlines all offer something called “basic economy" (or “last class,” as it’s more commonly known among flyers). By forfeiting the ability to choose their seats, passengers can snag tickets for cheaper than what they’d find in regular economy. For frugal flyers that may sound like a sweet deal, but United just revealed another condition that may cause some customers to reconsider it. By agreeing to fly in basic economy, passengers lose their privilege to store bags in the overhead bin. The only luggage they’re allowed to bring on board is a carry-on bag small enough to fit beneath the seat in front of them.

Customers who always travel light would likely be happy to have the option to pay less than those who bring on heavier loads that require more fuel. But if you aren’t aware of the bag stipulation beforehand, you could end up losing the money saved on the ticket when it comes time to check your baggage. The Economist suggests that the basic economy price tag may be a sneaky way for United to climb to the top of flight searches on sites like Kayak and Expedia. Customers buy the cheap ticket assuming they’ll have access to the overhead bin. But depending on how many bags need to be checked (United charges $25 for the first and $35 for the second), a regular economy ticket may have been the savvier choice.

United is the only airline to include luggage restrictions in their basic economy offers at this time, but if it proves to be a money-maker for the company, Delta and American could soon follow suit. When selecting a flight, always read the fine print to make sure you’re getting the most for your money. If that $200 flight across the country turns out to be too good to be true, there are other strategies, like shopping in the middle of the week, you can use to score the best deal possible.

[h/t The Economist]

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These Are the Top 25 U.S. Cities With the Lowest Cost of Living

Coastal cities like New York and San Francisco bustle with excitement, but residents pay plenty of hard-earned cash to enjoy perks like Central Park and world-class museums—and to pay their sky-high rents. If you’d rather have a full bank account than a hipster ZIP code, consider setting down roots in America’s most affordable region: the Midwest.

Niche, a data analysis company, has ranked the 25 cities with the lowest cost of living across the United States—and the top 10 are all located in America’s heartland. Their selections were based on factors including access to affordable housing, food and fuel costs, and median tax rates, all of which were gleaned from U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Indiana was the most-represented state in the list’s top 10 section, with Fort Wayne, Evansville, and South Bend nabbing the first three spots. The remaining cities were mid-sized metropolitan areas in Kansas, Ohio, Iowa, and Illinois, all of which offer urban conveniences at a fraction of the cost of their coastal counterparts. After that, other cities in the mix included municipalities in Texas, Michigan, Alabama, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

Check out Niche's top 25 list below, and visit their website to view their methodology.

1. Fort Wayne, Indiana
2. Evansville, Indiana
3. South Bend, Indiana
4. Topeka, Kansas
5. Toledo, Ohio
6. Wichita, Kansas
7. Akron, Ohio
8. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
9. Davenport, Iowa
10. Springfield, Illinois
11. Rochester, Minnesota
12. Dayton, Ohio
13. Springfield, Missouri
14. Wichita Falls, Texas
15. Kansas City, Kansas
16. Odessa, Texas
17. Cleveland, Ohio
18. Indianapolis, Indiana
19. Abilene, Texas
20. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
21. Montgomery, Alabama
22. Lansing, Michigan
23. Des Moines, Iowa
24. Brownsville, Texas
25. Warren, Michigan

Switzerland Flushes $1.8 Million in Gold Down the Sewer Every Year

Switzerland has some pretty valuable sewer systems. As Bloomberg reports, scientists have discovered around $1.8 million worth of gold in the country's wastewater, along with $1.7 million worth of silver.

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology examined sewage sludge and effluents, or discharged liquid waste, from 64 water treatment plants and major Swiss rivers. They did this to assess the concentrations of various trace elements, which are "increasingly widely used in the high-tech and medical sectors," the scientists explained in a press statement. "While the ultimate fate of the various elements has been little studied to date, a large proportion is known to enter wastewater."

The study, which was recently published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, revealed that around 94 pounds of gold makes its way through Switzerland's sewage system each year, along with 6600 pounds of silver and high concentrations of rare metals like gadolinium and niobium. For the most part, these metals don't harm the environment, researchers say.

With gold and silver quite literally flowing through their sewers, is there any way that Switzerland could turn their wastewater into wealth? Scientists are skeptical: "The recovery of metals from wastewater or sludge is scarcely worthwhile at present, either financially or in terms of the amounts which could be extracted," the release explains.

However, in the southern canton of Ticino, which is home to several gold refineries, the "concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile," they conclude.

Switzerland is famous for its chocolate, watches, and mountains, but it's also home to major gold refineries. On average, around 70 percent of the world's gold passes through Switzerland every year—and judging from the looks of it, much of it goes down the drain. As for the sewer silver, it's a byproduct of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, which is a cornerstone of Switzerland's economy.

[h/t Bloomberg]


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