I am asked this question all the time: “I just booked a trip to XYZ for $xxx.xx, is that a good deal?” It is a difficult question to answer, but hopefully the following will help you understand ticket prices and give you confidence that you found the lowest price.
Airlines are constantly changing prices. Often, I will load google flights, find a ticket for $81.00, and when I click to book the flight, the price has changed. What happened?
In order to answer this question, we have to understand how the airlines “release” seats. They have an inventory of seats, called fare classes, sites like http://www.expertflyer.com/ allow you to see how many of these seats are open at a given time. This chart, http://cwsi.net/aa.htm, further explain fare classes. As time passes, the airline will release different fare classes in a generally unpredictable process. When booking with American, “O” and “Q” fares are the lowest, and come with the most rules. The tickets must be purchased 21 days prior to flying and are non-refundable. If the Airline chooses to release “O” inventory for a flight and you happen to purchase that fare class, then you did get the lowest price, but likewise if you purchased a ticket with a higher fare class, you did not get the lowest possible flight. However, it is impossible to tell if the airline will ever make the lower fare classes available.
A Friday evening flight from A to B might never have available “O” class inventory. The airline most likely has another less desirable flight where that class is available, but will never open up the lower fare class on the most popular flight of the day. Often the airline may only open up one or two of these low fare class seats. It all depends on what the airline chooses to do!
Today for example, it was possible to book a flight from ORD-PHX for $81.00 Round Trip. After about 15 minutes from the time the airline released the seats, the fare class was sold out! If you wanted to get on that same exact plane, at the same exact time, you now had to pay $119.00. Still, quite cheap, but not quite as great as the $81.00.
Every airline lets you know what fare class you are booking into when you select flights, so if you want to know if you are getting the ‘best’ price, compare the letter of fare class you are purchasing to the chart. Typically, the lowest fare class, has a restriction of a 21 day advance purchase. So, if you are purchasing a ticket within 21 days of departure chances are you will never find a better price, but if you are looking for a ticket for a trip a month out or more, make sure to check prices often and chances are you’ll find a price that you are satisfied with.
- Check mid-day on either a Tuesday or a Wednesday.
- Be FLEXIBLE!
- When you book a flight, stop looking! You’ll just end up driving yourself crazy.
Do you have any tips for finding the lowest price on airfare? Please share your tips in the comments section below. Safe Travels.