Take the same $901 one-way, non-stop flight from Portland, Ore., to Philadelphia on US Airways. It turns out you can also buy a one-way ticket from Portland to Baltimore on US Airways for $231 (the price discrepancy occurs because US Airways has to closely match prices of other airlines for this particular route if it wants any traffic). But look closely at that ticket — this flight actually stops in Philadelphia. But the airline says, you can't get off there (and, if you do, any checked baggage is still going to head for Baltimore).
If you take advantage of this and decide to get off in Philadelphia anyway ($669 savings), the airlines consider this stealing; but some might say the cost of that hefty "non-stop flight" is gouging, too. Is this a crazy system or what?
There has to be a better way for airlines to get a premium for non-stops without pricing those tickets out of reach for the increasing number of people who can't afford the premium and are willing to sacrifice time for cheaper prices (or worse).
I've got some ideas: Let's gather the best and the brightest together from the airline industry (and despite what has been happening in the past year, the executive suites are not lacking for brains) and see if we can work out a better way to save fuel without having to "collude" on pricing. In other words, I'd ask the airlines to help us help them in this matter. I think a lot of us would jump at the opportunity to "go green" and save the airlines some precious oil — but not if we have to pay three or four times as much for a "green" ticket as a more wasteful route.
Face it: Oil is creeping up to $150 a barrel and it might be sitting at that price for a long time to come (or maybe, in the fall, I'll be writing about oil at $200 a barrel). Let's do what we can to make this situation more tolerable now, before people quit flying.
Bottom line: we passengers are simple people — all we want to do is get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible with our luggage intact, for a decent price. Throw in the option of making these journeys a little greener, and a lot of us will be there for you.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations, including ABC News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site FareCompare.com offers consumers free, new-generation software combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deal.