The sad truth about airfares
J Thoendell stashed this in Travel
Once upon a time, there were reasonably well-known ways to pay less for your airfare. Airlines had rules governing ticket prices, those rules were consistent across airlines, and almost everybody knew what the rules were. (If you booked further in advance, the tickets were cheaper. If you stayed a Saturday night, the ticket would be cheaper. That kind of thing.)
Those days, however, are long gone. Airline tickets are no longer priced according to simple rules: they’re dynamically priced according to insanely complex algorithms which, to the naked eye, make no sense at all. Cheap tickets still exist, of course—the problem is that there’s no reliable way of finding them. If you managed to luck into such a ticket a few weeks or months ago, good for you—but don’t for a minute expect that if you behaved exactly the same way today, then you would get a similar result.
A recent paper by Symeon Meichanetzoglou, Sotiris Ioannidis, and Nikolaos Laoutaris sums up the current status quo: “complexity asymmetry,” they conclude, “defeated the web.” The paper is based on a massive database of 1,449,349 flight tickets involving 63 destinations and 125 different airlines—and finds that even the most common-sense rules of airline ticket pricing are regularly violated.