Pre-Pay Tickets at Today's Fares?

Tracy Stewart, July 30, 2008
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. I've been wondering if it is possible to pre-pay, that is, pre-buy round trip tickets to a specific location for future use at today's prices? I've just returned from a trip to the mid-west from the west coast for a family member's funeral. I can see this happening again, and in the not too distant future, as my elderly aunts are nearing their final rest. ( Two in their late 80s and one in her 90s !) Since bereavement fares aren't really a bargain any more, it would seem to me to be beneficial to at least be able to lock in my ticket when prices are more reasonable. Do you know of any airlines offering such a service?

    A. It's not really possible to pre-pay at discounted sale prices for future travel... as it is, the airlines make quite a bit of money from the higher fares charged to last minute travelers and from change fees when people do need to alter the itineraries of their previously purchased tickets (plus the traveler has to pay the difference in fare when there is one, and there usually is.) Right now, given how the entire industry is struggling financially, we can't imagine them making such a drastic change to benefit consumers.

    In the meantime, you're right to steer clear of those bereavement fares. We recommend using Priceline.com's Name Your Own Price for last minute travel arrangements. Sure, your ticket comes with a ton of restrictions, and you're pretty much at the mercy of the airline should you miss your flight, but it's hard to argue with a low fare when you're in a pinch. During a family emergency of our own last month, we were able to book a next-day flight from New York to Jacksonville FL for about $190 round-trip, which really had us wowed.

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