Purchasing power is a determinate factor in cost these days…. whether we’re buying a bigger box of cereal, shopping at Costco to get great deals on toilet paper, or joining forces with thousands of likeminded consumers to participate in group buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, the concept remains the same: The more we buy, the better deal we expect to get.
Guess who doesn’t buy into that philosophy? (Drum roll please….) Airlines!
Because the’yre the sky mafia. Because they conspire together in tacit collusion…Airlines sell a limited quantity product, and they’ve fully mastered the principles of supply and demand.
In order to help them capture the most $$ for this demand, the airlines use a somewhat archaic pricing model to sell fares, by selling groups of tickets in what are called ‘Fare Classes’.
Fare classes are assigned letters like A B C D E F (usually for business or first class) G-W (for economy and economy plus classes.)Typically, in each fare class, there are up to 9 “virtual” seats representing each physical seat on the plane.
Although most of these tickets being sold are for the same physical seats on the plane, depending on which fare class they are assigned to, they can have prices ranging from $10 to $1000 more per ticket!
In order to for us to understand why this is so important, let’s compare the brother and sister duo, Joe and Jane.
Joe just bought 5 tickets to Hawaii from LA. He was lucky and got a great price of $300 per ticket. Right after booking his tickets, Joe calls up his sister Jane and says, “Hey Jane, book these tickets right now! They’re only $300.”
Jane hops on Expedia and searches for two tickets……
FAIL. EPIC FAIL.
Her tickets are priced at $435.00 each. NOOOOOOOO! Jane falls to her knees and bursts into tears… It looks like she won’t be able to take her friend Denise to go see the Charlie Sheen tour… NOT WINNING! She grabs her Credit Card and books the tickets.
After hearing the news, Joe (who generally just isn’t a very trusting person) searches Expedia again. Joe just searches for one person since he isn’t good at math and doesn’t want to have to divide the cost of two tickets.
The search comes back and……… VOILA! 1 Roundtrip ticket from LAX – HNL for $300!
Two searches. Two different prices. What. Just. Happened?
Behind the scenes, Joe had purchased 5 of 6 tickets left in “W” class, leaving 1 remaining ticket in that fare class. When Jane went to book her tickets, the lowest priced fare class available for a group of 2 was “T” class, resulting in a higher price. When Joe “the genius” searched again, he only searched for 1 ticket… and as luck would have it, there was still one “W” class ticket still available.
Yes. It’s just that simple. Jane just overpaid $135.00 on 1 of her 2 tickets, or if we average, $72.50 per ticket!
So… What could Joe & Jane have done differently to get a lower price on one of the tickets?
o Begin your search by using a search aggregator such as http://www.bing.com/travel or http://www.kayak.com. These are an excellent resource to begin narrowing down your options. The sites compare a number of competing airlines and agencies with each other and will price out a vast array of different itineraries, all of which can have varying rates.
o Always search for airfare for 1 person at a time. Incrementally add more people until reaching the number of passengers travelling in your party.
o If you find that you’re receiving a higher per ticket cost when booking 2 tickets instead of 1, or 3 tickets instead of 2, don’t be afraid to make a reservation for the greatest number of people possible in the lower cost fare! Make a second reservation for any remaining members in your party. Contact the airline and request that the records be notated and cross referenced. (Especially useful if you’re travelling with children) There is absolutely nothing wrong with capturing the lowest cost tickets using this method.
As an industry professional, I see this situation occur far too often. It can become especially costly for families and groups where there could be 5 lower cost fares available and they are booking a party of 6.
I hope some of you are able to apply this very basic strategy into your future travel arrangements.