Who pays those high airline prices?

I’m looking into tickets for a flight in late April, saw that the best flights were around $300 bucks, but I noticed that there are flights priced $1500, $2000, etc. Does anybody really pay that much?

I can see shelling out big bux for a flight if you suddenly discover that you must be on the other coast in three days or something like that. But for crying out loud, if you have a month to plan, why on earth would you pay that much money for a flight? For coach!?!

Perhaps its a matter of people whose schedules are really tight? Like, “I cannot leave Dubuque until 3:30 p.m., and I must be in Albuquerque at 7:45!” Or is it people who have expense accounts so they don’t give a flip?

Large companies will almost always purchase fully refundable tickets, because business travel can be at a moment’s notice, or require last minute changes on departure or return…

It ends up costing less money to buy the fully refundable tickets than to pay the service charges to change the non-refundable ticket type.

sorta WAG… :slight_smile:

They are bought by people who, for one reason or another, have set inflexible schedules with little lead-time. Many of them are business travellers who have to be at a client site pronto. Some are peopl going to funerals; gone is the day when you can get a bereavement discount (I speak from personal experience).

By the way, just because you have an expense account doesn’t mean that you don’t care. My travel expenses are scruitinized relentlessly by upper management, so I always have to take the lowest priced flight. Of course, if I buy on short notice (which happens sometimes), the lowest fare is twice what I would have paid earlier.

Like I said, I can understand that you have to pay stiff fares if you can’t shop well in advance, but I’m looking at flights a month from now, and some are reasonably-priced, and some are incredibly expensive. I’m just wondering if the airlines actually sell two-thousand-dollar tickets to people months ahead of time?

As was mentioned before, the price difference usually is a function of restrictions on a ticket. Further, it could be a result of temporary promotional fares. Finally, while the service is the same (licensing a seat in a flying bus), there are significant differences in services between, the Southwest Cattle Herd and a full cost carrier.

…waiting for the Southwest defenders to hijack the thread…

The more expensive the ticket the more flexible it is. Technically the ticket and the reservation are separate things but on a cheap deal they tie the validity of the ticket to the reservation, perhaps imposing a penalty if you need to change. With a fully open super-expensive ticket I can actually use it whenever I wish, not just for the flight I have the reservation for (subject to seat availability - but who do you think they will bump off, Mr $2500 or super-economy Mr $350?). I can also use it for an alternate destination of equivalent cost, transfer to another airline (with some restrictions) or get a full refund.

Well, I paid that insane full-price fare, and even worse, on a flight to Japan, cost me about $1500 one way. I was originally flying standby, I got stuck for 4 days at DFW waiting for a spot to open up, and by then, I was in horrible peril of missing the start of my classes in Japan. So instead of losing out on the thousands of bucks of tuition I’d already spent, I had to bite the bullet and pay the full fare one way ticket to Japan. I was trapped into it. It sucked.

Really!? I obtained one for my girlfriend 6 years ago. I didn’t think the industry would’ve changed that much.

Was there too much graft in the process, or do they not like widows anymore?

This really is a WAG, so I have no business posting. But that’s never stopped me before, so here we go!

I think that the ultra-expensive tickets are priced that way during times that the airline has traditionally done booming business-- holidays, common vacation times, or maybe to areas that will be hosting huge vents (conventions, sports playoffs, and the like). In other words, they know they’ll sell the seats anyway, so they might as well try to make as much money as possible. If the seats don’t sell in the intervening month (or however long), they can always drop the price until it does sell, or wait for those last-minute, in-flexible schedule business people. In fact, it may be their way of making the seats more or less unavailable until such a business (or desperate) person comes along. Those people may even turn into repeat business, if they think of the airline as the one that has seats available when they’re most needed.

As for the bereavement discount, I was able to get half off an otherwise insanely expensive flight back to Seattle when my grandmother died in 1998. The woman I worked with on it was wonderful, and I sent her a dozen roses as a thank-you. It probably helped that I was already a frequent flyer, but I also did my best to treat her as a person, rather than a means to an end. It can do wonders.

I got a bereavement fare this past September on American, so they do still exist on at least AA. Not that it was so much cheaper - about 1/2 of a regular, full-fare non-restricted coach ticket, which would have been about $800. (This when my mother’s APEX fare on the same plane was $325.)

To the OP: what everyone else said.

I bought a round trip ticket six weeks in advance of my travel date. I was given seat assignments and boarding passes but imagine my surprise to find that my seat number didn’t exist when I boarded the first flight. The flight crew person informed me that the airline had “changed equipment” (smaller airplane) and since my seat number didn’t exist, I would have to exit the airplane. I went from assertive to confrontational to beligerent with various members of the flight crew, but I did stay aboard the airplane. I have since talked with quite a few people with similar experiences.

Don’t assume that buying that ticket well in advance will automatically secure you a seat—airlines will still try to bump you in favor of a full-fare customer.

The following is not intended as a comprehensive answer addressing the fare policies of all American domestic carriers. It does, however, provide a pretty good summation of the general policies prevelant among most major carriers.

Airlines know in advance how many seats are going from one city to another any given day. They also have a pretty good estimation as to how many travellers will fill those seats, and how far in advance said travellers will buy the tickets for the travel. Based on this information, the airline will designate a certain number of seats on every flight as carrying a lower than full fare price. There are often several lower than full fares available, and for each there will be a specific number of seats available on the flight.

As the flight’s seats are sold, those seats are removed from the available seats. If, for instance, there are 50 seats available at the $200 round trip price, and someone buys 5 of them, there are now only 45 seats at that price. If there are only 4 left, and you want to buy 5, you will be out of luck, unless you are willing to pay a higher price for one of the seats.

When you look up the availability of seats on a flight through a booking service, you see all available fares with seats still available on the flight. Obviously, it makes little sense to book a seat on a flight at the full fare four months in advance, but the number of seats at a minimum that will be sold at full fare is already set. So they show up as available from the moment the flight is made available for ticketing.

As time goes by, and the date of the flight gets closer, certain fares become unavailable. Any unsold seats at that fare are kicked into a new designation (often the full-fare designation, rather than the next most expensive fare). Eventually, you reach a point where the only seats available on a flight are full-fare seats.

Sometimes, as people who use priceline.com know, the airlines will let other services have tickets at reduced fares to resell despite the fact the normal restriction on advance purchase is unable to be met. For instance, a carrieer might have a fare that is 75% off the full fare, but which has to be purchased 2 weeks in advance. Now, it is only 13 days in advance, but there were 10 unsold seats at that fare. The airline, if it anticipates it won’t be able to sell those seats at a higher fare, may allow another service to market the reduced fare, or may have some other mechanism for filling those seats at less than full fare.

This also is how most airlines now handle ‘bereavement’ fares. If there are unsold seats that were originally designated at reduced fare, the airline will waive the advance purchase requirement. In 1993, my grandfather’s death caused me to fly on very short notice (one day) from San Jose to Chicago; because of timing constraints, no airline had a reduced fare left on flights that would work; as a result I ended up flying for full frieght, which even back then was around $1600 round trip. And, in one of those lovely examples of modern business, typically the reduced fare they will try to sell you in such cases will be the MOST expensive unsold reduced fare, not the least expensive. Only if you sound like you can’t go at that price will they ante up the possibility of a lesser cost…

Ticketing agents and/or industry personnel with more accurate explanations are invited to help out here. :slight_smile:

Big companies pay those prices, and they don’t seems to mind how high they are.

A few weeks ago, on a monday morning (and since I work nightshift/weekends, this is the end my workweek!), my company decided to ship me from Montreal to Washington DC for a few days. An hour and a half flight… Ticket price two-way: 2100$CAN. Ouch. Plus 1100$US for the hotel for 4 nights…

But we make so much money, it doesn’t matter right? The place I was going to had a bunch of overpaid consultants that had two-way tickets from Washington DC to Toronto EVERY WEEK. Plus car rental. Plus hotel room. For a few months. Double OUCH!

In any case, the trip was a nice surprise :wink:

Often, these insanely expensive fares are for a few days round trip during the week. If you stay over a Saturday (Sunday?) night it is much cheaper.

For a while, my company was buying two back-to-back round trip tickets*. because they were for two week stays and over the weekend they were less then half the fare of the 3-day stay round trip that we wanted. So two round trips were cheaper than one.
(For example one trip left LAX on 3/5 and left ORD on 3/14. The next would leave ORD on 3/7 and return to LAX on 3/16.)

I don’t know if it is a standard policy or not, but a friend got a bereavement fare on US Air to Charlotte in November.

Those cheap tickets often don’t have much service behind them. As some of you found out.