‘Ticket booking airlines’ is a term that gets bandied about in newspapers and on TV, but I’ve never really understood what the fuss was all about. Ticket prices are set by the airlines, after all; you can’t bargain with them to get a better price.
The only difference in the ticket booking process is at the front end: you pay more to book an airline flight than you would if you bought your ticket at the airport. Instead of seeing a long queue outside the airport ticket office, you get to see an online form.
But this doesn’t make much difference either. Airlines don’t need to sell tickets for more than they need to; they have no competition, so why should they lower their prices? You can’t get your money back for free unless you buy an airline ticket as well as an airline seat (there are price differences between seats on different airlines).
There is a lot of misinformation about travel, mostly because the airlines want us to believe it. There is much confusion about the differences between taxes and fees. There are lots of different kinds of tickets: just about every time you buy a ticket there is some kind of government tax that you must pay up-front. And then there is the airline’s profit. Given those two things, it’s hard to figure out how to get the lowest price.
But if you know how to negotiate properly, it’s surprisingly easy. You can often save money simply by asking for a lower fare than the airline has offered you. You don’t even have to know anything about how airlines work: ask if they have a special promotion running; if they don’t, ask why not; if they do, ask what discount they are offering.
The Internet is the largest marketplace of its kind in history, and as a result, people are willing to spend a lot of money to get the best price.
Almost anyone can set up a website (or two or three) and make a few cents off each ticket sold. But you don’t have to work for pennies. You don’t have to do it full time. And you don’t have to worry about your site going down at the wrong moment.
You can sell airline tickets online with little or no effort on your part, with very good results.
Airline tickets are not like other products. Airlines know that most of their sales come from people who have never bought a ticket before. If you are a frequent traveler, you know that airlines will try to make it difficult to buy another ticket, often by adding fees that would never be charged if the airline were selling one-way tickets. It is in their interest to keep you as a customer, so they can sell you more flights each year.
The trick of getting the best price on a ticket is to know how airlines calculate prices – and then manipulate them. Here’s the basic game:
You’ve got your favorite airline and your favorite route, and you want to book a flight. The airline wants you to buy the cheapest one-way ticket for that route, so it can make more money selling you that flight than it would from selling two one-way tickets. It knows this strategy will leave many cheap seats unsold, but it thinks these are unlikely to be used by other customers.
To find out how much it is going to pay for each seat, an airline has to figure out what its costs are in creating the seat and how much profit it should expect on each seat. It does this using an algorithm called the “cost per available seat”
It is no news that when you search for a flight, there are many websites and services offering the cheapest price. However, what exactly does “cheapest” mean? Is it simply the price that comes up first? Or is it the lowest ticket price available?
The reason this question is impossible to answer is because nobody can guarantee that the lowest price is actually the best. Even if we search at the same times and websites and use the same filters, each airline has different rules about how they treat fares. For example, some airlines allow their users to change their itinerary in-flight while others do not.
An even more important factor is where you purchase your ticket from. If you buy it at an online travel agency, then this price may be the lowest available, but if you buy it at a travel agent or even at an airport kiosk, then there will be some markup due to commissions.
Airline tickets are a lot like real estate. They are largely about location, not price per se: a cheap ticket for a business trip doesn’t mean being better off than a luxury ticket for the same trip, but it does mean you are more likely to be near the airport, and that can save you money.
The guidelines I use are based on the assumption that you will be returning the same airline ticket. If you’re not, they may not work for you.
First, search for the lowest fare first. Then look at the cheapest flights by departure date. This is because not all airlines offer the same discounts at different times of the year and your departure date can be within a month of your return date.
If looking at cheapest flights by departure date isn’t enough, also check for any special promotions that airlines are running to get people to change their travel plans. For example, if there are tickets in September for $500 round-trip from New York City to Chicago, it’s worth checking out whether there are any further discounts available if you want to fly in September but delay your trip until October or beyond.