Is direct the best approach?
It’s not always the case that booking directly with an airline nabs the cheapest airfare. There are lots of ways to book an airline ticket. Conventional wisdom says that contacting and airline directly, by phone or through the internet, will result in the lowest fare, but that isn’t necessarily true. Competition is fierce and aspects such as block airline ticket purchases by a third party can heavily affect pricing. Eliminating the middleman might seem to make sense, until you perform a comparative analysis.
The main ways of booking airline tickets are:
- booking directly with the airlines
- using traditional travel agents
- through an online agency such as Expedia, Travelocity or Orbitz
Being flexible about which airline you fly with helps. And if you book directly, you lose that flexibility (although if you have a points and rewards system in place with one particular airline and/or associated credit card program, that could be a moot point). Travel agents still know (despite what you can learn on the internet on your own) a lot more about travel than the average person, and are often privy to deals that the layperson has no access to, so perhaps their modest fee is worth it. Online agencies sometimes have the best deals and constantly update, but not always.
Flight ticket prices vary frequently due to a litany of factors, so your timing counts, as do their changes, some of which may be last minute. It’s almost like playing the stock market. If you monitor, you can see changes as they happen and jump on the best deal.
The airlines’ objective is to sell every seat on an aircraft as far in advance of take-off as possible; this is simply how they can see their way to making a profit. Because of this, if there are perhaps 20 seats remaining unsold the day before the flight is scheduled to go, those seat prices may be cut, even drastically. The airlines would rather have some revenue per seat than none, but they won’t risk cutting the price until the last minute in case they can get full price.
Booking directly may afford you the cheapest airfare, but maybe not. Take the time to do the research and compare, compare, compare. You might be surprised at what you find.
Photo courtesy of hirotomo/Flickr