Q. I use Orbitz frequently for researching airfares (but then book direct on the carrier site—shame on me!). I often see fares with warnings on them saying that there are only “three seats left at this price” or two seats left or whatever the case may be. Are these real alerts, or are they pure marketing to get you to buy now instead of waiting?
A.They're probably real warnings. Airlines offer a small number of seats in each "fare bucket" (they are often over a dozen different fare levels on each route on any given day). However, airlines adjust the number at each price level throughout the day and week, so if you search again, you may find a different story. By the way, I can see why people search on Orbitz and then book on the airlines' sites directly, but often online travel agencies such as Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity will alert you that the best deal is flying out on one airline and returning or connecting on a second airline. Airline websites might show you higher fares because they want to keep you on their own planes for the entire trip.