Flights & Dynamic Pricing: Understanding the Different Prices You Might Find for Flights
Have you ever searched for a flight online, only to see the price jump up and down every time you refresh the page? This is called dynamic pricing, and it's becoming more and more common in the travel and airline industry. Dynamic pricing means that the price of a ticket can change based on a variety of factors, such as the time of day, day of the week, and demand.
While dynamic pricing can be confusing, it's important to understand that not all prices are created equal. In order to get the best deal on your flight, it's important to take into account a few key factors.
Number of Travelers
First, make sure that you are quoting prices for the total number of travelers. It's easy to get excited about a great deal on a flight, only to realize later that the price was only for one person. Always double-check that the price you are seeing is for the total number of people in your party. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see clients do when they are trying to price match (which they hardly ever win BTW)!
For example, see these screenshots below on a flight quoted with Allegiant. A great airline that offers wonderful nonstops out of Des Moines to places like, Florida, California, Las Vegas . These prices were quoted at the same time - the first price is for one traveler and the next for six travelers. As you can tell, there is a significant difference in pricing. If I booked just one traveler it would be $279. If I book all six travelers, it would be $339 per traveler.
And pricing per person when quoting for 6 people...
NOW - don't assume then you can just book one person at a time and they all get the lower rate. After you make each booking, you're going to see those prices keep creeping up! So it's best to just book your entire party at the same time instead of trying to beat the airline pricing Gods. You won't win.
Upgrades - Baggage & Seats
It's also important to keep in mind extra costs such as seat selection and baggage fees. These fees can vary widely between different airlines, so be sure to research what fees you can expect to pay before you book your flight. Some airlines offer the option to purchase a bundle that includes seat selection and baggage fees, which can be a good value if you need both.
Let's take another look at the flights above and what to expect with upgrade selections on an airline like Allegiant. These type of upgrades are very similar on your more budget airlines such as Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, JetBlue, etc.
Major airlines like American, Delta and United offer your main economy fares that come with a carry-on bag, personal item and seat selection. Basic economy fares do not allow seat selection.
Back to Allegiant - there are typically bundles that you will be offered. If you need all of these items, then they are a great deal and I recommend. Especially for Trip Flex with Allegiant.
Then you are going to be offered seat assignments. If you don't buy or select a seat assignment - you will be assigned a seat at check-in. You are not guaranteed a seat next to your party. However, the airlines are doing a better of job ensuring children 12 and under are sat with a parent. If you are at all worried about your children, spouse or traveling partner not being next to you, I highly recommend purchasing your seat assignments.
On this particular flight below, seat assignments cost anywhere from $1 to 35 per person. Prices below are just one-way.
Then you have bags. It's always cheapest to select your bags at the time of booking. Just a heads up - these baggage prices are one-way. So a carry-on bag will be $76 per person roundtrip.
And a few other extras just for fun!
So as you can see, when pricing a flight with Allegiant it's not actually going to be that $279 per person number you saw come up on your search engine.
After booking all of your travelers and adding a carry on and seat selection - you might be looking closer to $465 per person!
Next, be aware of fare class and the difference between basic economy and main economy. Basic economy is a cheaper fare class, but it often comes with restrictions such as no seat selection and no checked bags. Main economy fares typically include these benefits, but at a higher price point. Just like when booking hotels - refundable rates come with great flexibility but usually a higher price point.
Fare classes are categorized by a combination of letters and numbers that represent the pricing and conditions associated with the ticket. Each airline has its own fare class system, but there are some common practices and conventions used throughout the industry.
In general, fare classes are categorized by a one or two letter code, followed by a number. The letter code represents the cabin class (economy, premium economy, business, first), while the number represents the price or booking class. For example, a first class ticket might have the fare class code "F", while an economy ticket might have the fare class code "Y". The fare class is what ticketing agents use to identify price, fare rules, changes and cancellation policies.
The number of fare classes that are available on a particular airline or flight can vary depending on the airline's pricing strategy, route, and other factors. I've seen over 20 fares classes on a flight, but most airlines typically offer between four to ten different fare classes on a particular flight. The number of fare classes can increase or decrease depending on the demand for the flight, the time of year, and other factors that may affect the airline's pricing strategy. Some airlines may offer more premium fare classes such as business class or first class, while others may focus on offering more economy class fare options.
Are you still with me?
I hope you're not too dizzy from all the twists and turns in my explanation. You're probably feeling a little like this...
Over 95% of the time a client comes back to me regarding price, eager to tell me they have found a lower price - they actually haven't! Because they aren't pricing the same thing I quoted for them.
If you're trying to price match against a quote provided by a travel agent, make sure that all components are identical when you're out searching on the interwebs. If you are finding a lower price for a flight than a travel agent- you either aren't comparing apples - to - apples or your advisor is marking up the prices (which many do and that's okay if that's how they profit from their services). Travel advisors typically have access to the same airfare pricing as consumers, and often even have access to great consolidator fares that a consumer might not be able to find on their own.
It's always a good idea to work with a trusted travel advisor if you're unsure about how to navigate the dynamic pricing landscape. They have your best interest at heart and want to find you the best deal possible! If a travel agent charges for flight bookings - they will likely list this a separate line-item and charge you separately as a service fee.
So, Who Else Uses Dynamic Pricing?
Pretty much all travel suppliers are using dynamic pricing models these days. Even our favorite theme parks have gone to dynamic pricing for park tickets.
Hotels: Many hotels now use dynamic pricing to adjust room rates based on demand. This can include adjusting rates based on the time of year, day of the week, or even current events happening in the area.
Rental cars: Rental car companies also use dynamic pricing to adjust rates based on demand. This can include offering lower rates during off-peak times or raising rates during peak times such as holidays or special events.
Attractions and tours: Many attractions and tour operators also use dynamic pricing to adjust prices based on demand. For example, theme parks may offer lower ticket prices on weekdays when there are fewer visitors, or museums may offer discounted admission during slower seasons.
Cruise lines: Cruise lines also use dynamic pricing to adjust fares based on demand. This can include offering lower fares during off-peak seasons or raising fares during peak seasons or when the ship is close to full capacity.
In conclusion, dynamic pricing can be confusing, but with a little research and awareness, you can make sure that you're getting the best deal on your flight. Remember to compare prices for the total number of travelers, take into account fare class and the difference between basic and main economy, and be aware of extra costs such as seat selection and baggage fees. And if you're unsure about how to navigate the dynamic pricing landscape, don't hesitate to work with a travel advisor who can help you find the best deal on your flight. Trust me - they can save you a lot of headache, time and money!
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