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Entries during 2016-12

People Always Ask...

Q. Can you tell me again the best day/night to look to purchase airfare? Thanks so much! I know I can always rely on Watchdog to help me when it comes to navigating the airlines!

A. We don't really subscribe to the theory that there's a single day or night that you should be looking for airfare. True, a lot of airlines release sale fares on Tuesdays, and other carriers match on Wednesday, BUT a really great fare can come along anytime. We ourselves look seven days/nights a week and have found amazing sales. If there was a regular time when airfare was always at its lowest, we wouldn't have to work so hard 7 days a week and there would be far fewer fare analysts working here at AFWD.

More Trip for Less Money

Q. I have a question about something that I feel is quite dishonest of Delta and any other airlines who may do this same thing. Delta is asking almost $600 for a non-stop flight from Portland, Maine to Atlanta.

But if I book the same flight but going from Portland to Nashville connecting via Atlanta (and just getting out right there), then the flight only costs $276. Why is the non-stop to Atlanta so high for only half of the trip? And what's to stop people from paying less and just not taking the connecting flight to Nashville?

For some reason, this pricing seems really dishonest and even illegal!

A. This is called Hidden City Ticketing, and though it may be annoying to the consumer, it's pretty standard. You're paying for the convenience of a nonstop trip. Connecting fares typically cost less because they are more time consuming for the passenger and less convenient.

Technically, there's nothing to really stop you from booking the connecting fare and using what you need, but there's plenty to dissuade you from doing so. First of all, this would only work one-way. The airline is hip to this scheme and would promptly cancel the return leg of your ticket. And you'd only be able to travel with carry-on baggage, otherwise your luggage would travel all the way through to Nashville.

You'll find more on Hidden City Ticketing here.

Unadvertised Fare Sales

Q. I wanted to book a flight to Amsterdam in March and finally found one, departing from Chicago, costing $419. A spectacular fare!  Then on a whim I searched flights from Madison to Amsterdam and found various options from $370 to just above $400. This was a surprise, as I've never once found a reasonable international fare from Madison.

Some of these fares listed by Priceline jumped when I tried selecting seats. I did finally end up with a ticket on United for $390. These fares have since disappeared and these flights cost now double or even triple that amount.

Is one company starting an unadvertised sale, and then the others are try to match it? And then, after about half a day, all this collapses? Do you have any insight as to how this works? Was it a glitch?

A. These were not mistake fares. These fares were partly due to lower traffic from Europe to the US. Lower fuel prices allow for lower fares. And fuel efficient planes are burning less fuel. This was simply a tit for tat classic fare war fueled in part by lower fuel prices and lagging demand combined with more capacity.

The airlines have dedicated staff checking what other airlines are charging, as well as which routes need more passengers. And not just from the US to wherever but also from wherever to the US; if Europeans aren’t buying, they either lower the price from Europe and back, or to Europe and back.

Often for reasons I don’t understand, it’s cheaper to fly from a secondary airport like Madison. It might be because people don’t like to make connections so connecting flights are sold for less than the more desirable nonstop flights from the larger airport As for the price increasing while you were selecting seats, that sometimes happens when the fare has changed but the booking engine hasn’t caught up yet. Once in a while it’s because there were just a couple of seats available and they sold out between search and booking.

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