Monday, September 12, 2016

Have the Rules Changed?

My past experiences buying airline tickets directly from airlines has been so frustrating that I was happy to use Travelocity and more recently Expedia, but talking to United Airlines during the Expedia disaster has caused some rethinking.  I am surprised to find that many of the rules on advance ticket sales may no longer apply, and the airlines often beat these sites on price.  On Travelocity Boise to Anchorage round trip 09/30 - 10/07 shows a lowest fare of $397/person.  Alaska Air shows $199 to and $202 returning; just slightly more expensive without the hazard of East Indian accents if I have to talk to anyone.

The other surprise: even way out in the future, 03/23/17 returning 03/30/17 is only $401/person.  No great savings from booking far in advance.

Another frustration is that Alaska Air shows you the cheapest days to fly, while Travelocity doesn't seem to have a "flexible dates" option.



    And no, booking months in advance doesn't help.

  2. Airlines use sophisticated pricing algorithms, called "yield management."

    This software evaluates the current market and the historical market for a given flight segment, and adjusts prices accordingly. In theory, if a flight is undersold, you can get a very cheap price booking a few hours before departure. On the other hand, if demand is high, you may pay a huge premium for doing so. Some hotel companies do the same thing, even using the same company that does it for airlines.

    This software first appeared in the 1980's as the majors faced competition from cut rate carriers.

    I recently booked an AA flight a few hours before departure. The fare was surprisingly low - $300 for first class for a 1000 mi one-way flight.