There’s a lot of junk out on the internet. And I’m sick of it.One thing we pride ourselves on at FareCompare is accuracy; our goal, beyond getting you the cheapest airfare possible, is giving you information you can trust.
So when I saw this recent
travel shopping blog post in the Washington Post, a post just riddled with errors, I thought, I can’t let them get away with this. So, here’s the REAL story.
I’m going to show you the many mistakes in the Washington Post’s travel blog, followed by the REAL facts. The last thing the traveling public needs, is more misinformation.
Anyway, here’s what appeared in print, followed by my response.
1. WHAT THEY SAID: “We found recently everywhere that Virgin America flies in the U.S. to London…”
MY RESPONSE: WRONG! Virgin America doesn’t fly to London; it only flies within the U.S. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt though; they obviously meant Virgin Atlantic.
2. WHAT THEY SAID: “Travelocity bought a lot of seats on Virgin to sell them for higher prices and then decided they needed to get rid of them. So they had this unadvertised, four-day sale…”
MY RESPONSE: THIS IS BUNK! Travelocity is not a tour operator and does not pre-buy seats at a fixed price and try to resell them at a higher markup, then dump them if they can’t. I am sitting here at conference in Orlando of travel CEO’s and the head of Travelocity was asked if she would ever entertain this type of pre-buying and she hedged and said maybe at some point. She was also asked about honoring mistake airfares and said they honored some and others they didn’t. Travelocity, does however, create deal packages with many airlines (where airfare, hotel and perhaps a rental car are combined and sold at a single price — less than the sum of the components ala carte; the consumer doesn’t see the actual price of the airline ticket and it might be discounted heavily or a pre-negotiated rate).
3. WHAT THEY SAID: “[The airlines are] trying to squeeze out the online travel agencies and they’ll probably be successful…”
MY RESPONSE: NO WAY! Yes, it is cheaper if you buy an airline ticket on an airline website (since you don’t have to pay the fee that Travelocity, Orbitz and the others charge, although now Priceline.com has waved booking fees putting them on par with the airline supplier), and yes, airlines would prefer that consumers booked on their sites, but there’s no way they’re going to squeeze out these multi-billion dollar online agencies with their mega-advertising budgets and entrenched brand loyalty. Won’t happen.
4. WHAT THEY SAID: “Why are the prices on sites like Travelocity so different from the airlines’ sites for the same flight? [question is never directly answered].
MY RESPONSE: THE FACTS–There are dozens of reasons why prices at Travelocity, say, might not match those you’d see on an airline site; each entity uses completely different pricing software which can account for some wild discrepancies in prices. In other words, all airfares are filed through the same clearing house, BUT, it is a matter of when and how they process the airfares.
Here’s where I’m going to toot my own horn: FareCompare’s technology processes airfare changes before anyone else can, and that’s why our customers have access to the cheapest fares, first.
Want more geek background? Here you go:
- Fares are posted at different times in the different systems
- In theory each time you inquire about seat inventory, the airline can decide to change which level they will sell, cheapest, 2nd cheapest, 3rd cheapest , and so on.
- They might also change what inventory they release based on the “point of sale”, i.e., geographical location (country), or based on the company selling it.
- Inventory is sometimes cached because of the large volume of queries with no buyers (to respond quicker and not pound the airline inventory system); this, too, can cause wild swings in prices.
5. WHAT THEY SAID: “You need to book for Thanksgiving and Christmas two to three months ahead in this environment.”
MY RESPONSE: WRONG AGAIN! Year round is the proper answer – you can (and should) start looking for decent prices (you’ll never get a a great price) up to 11 months in advance if you plan to travel on the peak days around Thanksgiving and Christmas (the airlines are not dummies: you are still going to pay a premium. The trick is to pay the smallest premium possible) — start shopping very early, sign up for airfare email alerts know what a good price is (using history) and you’ll always make the best buying decision.
This advice is only for peak holiday travel days, for normal domestic (international is completely different) travel dates outside the of these most popular ones you should start shopping about 3-4 months before departure, this is when the airlines are actively managing their prices and you are likely to get better pricing. That said you never know when an airline will put out a sale, so be sure and sign up for airfare email alerts early and let technolgoy notify you.
Now, this year the airlines put out several “last minute” holiday airfares for domestic travel on the off-peak days; great news for very flexible procrastinators! But the real key to any good price is to be flexible on the dates and times you travel. Generally, the cheapest days to travel are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and the cheapest times are those first flights out, the ones you have to get up at 4am to catch. Popular days and times will cost you; it’s called supply and demand and the airlines are good at measuring it and pricing accordingly.
6. WHAT THEY SAID:
A. “International fares change once a day…”
B. “Surprisingly, Saturday is sometimes a good day [to buy airfare] because the last fare change of the day is 8 p.m. on Friday. Those fares pop up around 10 p.m. to midnight, eastern standard time.”
C. “Chances are the airlines’ fare analysts not really working on Saturdays.”
MY RESPONSE: WHERE TO BEGIN?
A. International fares change 5-times a day, not once.
B. Historically airlines raise airfares (when and if they do it system-wide) on Thursday evening (it’s happened this year 8-times since Labor Day) and they issue airfare sales earlier in the week to maximize buzz (early in the week is the busiest shopping time); and, while airfares do change in the evening, they are not loaded until after midnight eastern time, never before (and not at 10pm).
C. I can assure you, FareCompare’s processing technology is a 24/7 operation. Again, that’s how our customers learn about the cheapest fares first.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS: Look, I’m not saying these errors are intentional, but, misinformation is misinformation. And believe me, I’m certainly not perfect, but when I make a mistake, I will correct it. My take on all this is, the traveling public deserves first class information from a source they can trust, and I work hard to make sure FareCompare IS that trustworthy source.
100% of all travelers want the best price, in reality only about 10% are going to get the best price (otherwise the airlines would be bankrupt in a month) — sometimes the 2nd, 3rd, 4th cheapest price is a good deal, especially if you are not flexible. Let us help educate you and you’ll always make a good buying decision.