I hate shopping for airline tickets online. The so-called "e-ticket" is the worst thing to happen to the passenger. Shopping for airline tickets is one of the least enjoyable things in my life. There are tons of web sites that offer competitive prices, but it's like they purposefully try to aggravate you into conceding defeat. I would rather do my taxes.
Airline Ticket Prices
Everyone has the lowest fare. Bullshit. Nobody has the lowest fare. Fares change so much over the months that they are available that the consumer is always going to lose. Here are your options:
- Book a "standard fare" for a route 6-8 months a head of time wherein your probably not going to get the lowest fare.
- Book 1-3 months ahead of time in the period where prices change daily. One day the price is $100 cheaper than the next day, and the day after that it could be back to that same price.
- Book 3 weeks ahead of time for a premium.
- Book 1-4 days ahead of time with the chance that the price will be significantly lower. You'll never know if you'll be able to make a trip and can never plan ahead.
Should we follow the old saying, "the only way to win is not to play?" To do so we would sacrifice traveling for business, pleasure, and bereavement.
Simply put, they suck. Every ticket should come with a contingency clause. You can still call it a "non-refundable ticket" where you can't get cash back, but you should always get on a similar flight for no extra charge. It's retarded that we have to pay for mistakes like stolen or lost passports. Screw airlines, seriously. I'm looking at you United Airlines.
For several years I would check Continental's web site for flights. They offer a non-stop flight from Cleveland to San Francisco (and Los Angeles), which is great. I would drive two hours from Erie to Cleveland just so I could fly non-stop. I would enter in several different times and dates to get the various fares. This would take me about 30 minutes or so. During this time the price one the same fare would jump! Now, normally the explanation is that the ticket is no longer available. But what's different in this conspiracy is that merely a day later the original price for that flight has returned! Continental actively penalizes you for shopping. They also penalize you for non-stop flights. A flight from Columbus to Cleveland and Cleveland to San Francisco is more expensive than the same flight from Cleveland to San Francisco. This does not compute. The cost of two flights is greater than one, and since one of those flights is the same there is no way to justify a higher ticket price on one than the other. Screw airlines, seriously.
The Solution: Price Fixing
No, let's not be socialist about this. Instead we need to be smarter as consumers. We need to dictate what we think are standard prices. There is no reason that a ticket across the country should cost more than $400. No reason. We need to proliferate information about standard fares. Sites like kayak are great for searching fares, but we really don't know what price to accept. Here's my rough guide for round-trip tickets bought during peak times:
- Across the pacific: <$800
- Across the atlantic: <$600
- Cross-Country: <$400
- Regional: <$150
- Commuter: <$70
If you're paying for anything more, congratulations you've overpaid the airlines. Screw airlines, seriously.
Everyone praises Southwest Airlines as a great airline. I personally don't see what the hype is all about. They don't charge baggage fees in this post-20th century airline world, but if you look at their fares you see no benefit to fly with them. Their fares are overpriced 90% of the time. I can find a cheaper fare with the taxes and baggage fees included at other airlines. There is no airline worthy of consumer praise. They all suck. So in conclusion. Screw airlines, seriously.