Q&A: Cheap Flights, Porn on Planes and Other Travel FAQs

Q. How come it always seems like the guy sitting next to me paid less for his airline ticket than I did? Shouldn't we all be paying the same price?

A. We did, back in the days of before de-regulation, but that was more than 30 years ago and today it's all about supply and demand as airlines attempt to squeeze every last buck out of every last seat-holder. Remember, on every plane today, there are typically ten price points.

Business travelers get hit hardest; they make travel plans at the last minute and last-minute airfares are priciest because they "violate" advance purchase requirements on cheaper fares. Legacy carriers typically require a 14 day advance purchase, which drops to seven days (or less) for discount carriers before your begin being treated as a thicker wallet-ed business traveler.

Leisure travelers who book too early also pay a premium. Buy tickets more than three-and-a-half months ahead of departure for a domestic flight and you'll typically pay more than you have to since the airlines haven't begun actively managing their cheapest priced seats yet.

You'll typically pay more if you book on a weekend as discount prices are removed from reservation systems later in the week. Airlines know we prefer to shop midweek on the boss' dime and that is where they get the most bang for their buck on airfare sales.

Smart travelers shop Tuesdays at 3 p.m.ET. By then, most airlines have launched their weekly airfare sales, and competing carriers have matched those fares to stay in the race for your money.

Q. Last time I flew with my kids, the guy sitting next to my youngest was watching porn on his laptop. What should I have done?

A. This is a case where the flight attendant is your friend. If a meaningful look or an "Excuse me, but there are kids here" comment doesn't work, just press the overhead call button. As American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith told us, "Regardless of the issue, federal law gives flight crews the authority to give instructions to any passenger, whether on this subject or any other."

Q. How come all the airfare sales I see are only good for flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays? Who wants to fly then?

A. That's the point. Most people don't want to fly in the middle of the week so the airlines have trouble filling those empty middle seats and flying partial plane-loads does not a profitable bottom line make. So they discount to get more behinds in midweek seats. If they can't fill them, they'll use smaller planes, fly fewer of these less popular routes or sometimes discontinue such flights altogether.

Q. I can never find enough overnight flights, which is when I prefer to fly. What's the deal?

A. Maybe the reason you like to fly then is because it's cheaper and those "red-eye" planes often have empty seats to spread out in, but that's because most people aren't like you. If demand for red-eyes suddenly rose, I don't think you'd like them so much anymore - they'd be too crowded. Take what you can get.

Q. I'm sick to death of bag fees. When are the airlines going to drop them?

A. Look out your window next time you're cruising at 30,000 feet. Tell me if you spot any flying pigs out there. That'll be the signal.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...