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February 12, 2014 9:03 PM   Subscribe


 
I had to buy plane tickets for the first time ever in my life about a week ago. It was the most stressful thing EVER. It was like trying to hit a moving target the size of a pea with a big Nerf sword, and then the price for the ticket went up $150 after I stepped away from my computer for a minute.

(I finally bought my tickets but still probably paid too much for them.)
posted by Lucinda at 9:09 PM on February 12


The problem with dynamic pricing / automated yield management for airlines and hotels (and now many other businesses) is that, while it appears to maximize their revenue in the short run, when taken too far it becomes a zero-sum and then negative-sum game: it leads to this tangled network of middlemen and brokers who take a lot of the profit, while completely degrading the customer experience. It's a lot more complicated to book travel now than it would have been ten years ago, but are we really saving money as a result, particularly if you put some value on our time? And are the companies even any better off?

In many cases, technology clearly increases productivity and adds value to a product, but this seems like a case where tech companies have just come in and extracted a lot of money from the market without really improving it.
posted by pete_22 at 9:44 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I had to buy plane tickets for the first time ever in my life about a week ago. It was the most stressful thing EVER. It was like trying to hit a moving target the size of a pea with a big Nerf sword, and then the price for the ticket went up $150 after I stepped away from my computer for a minute.

Common trick. Clear your cache before buying. Some sites raise the price if you have a previous visit's cookie because they think you are now committed to buying from them.
posted by srboisvert at 9:48 PM on February 12 [14 favorites]


Holy shit. Google flights is amazing. It's so.... data-friendly.... and fast!
posted by kaibutsu at 10:10 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I have always been of the opinion that their frugal traveler column should be renamed How I Cruise Around Europe On 300$ A Day Or Less by A Ex Frat Boy Trustafarian Who Took A Few Art History Classes At Yale Before I Dropped Out And My Dad Called In A Few Favors And Got Me This Job At The New York Times.

Seriously. It's awful.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 11:47 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


And to make it even more fun, sometimes you end up finding fares on an airline's site that are cheaper than what you've found elsewhere.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:50 PM on February 12


For my next trip, I'll be trying flightfox, which pairs you with a "travel expert" to plan your trip. By travel expert, they mean the kind of person that frequents FlyerTalk for fun.
posted by yaymukund at 12:12 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Very good comments, but he totally missed skyscanner.net.
Also, a quick check has Google flights returning atrociously high prices.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:36 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


By travel expert, they mean the kind of person that frequents FlyerTalk for fun.

::backs slowly out of the room::
posted by armage at 3:45 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Also, a quick check has Google flights returning atrociously high prices.

Ha! Google flights had me making a two state, one transfer flight via an overseas country for $1k more than the usual ticket price. It wouldn't give me anywhere near what I know a reasonable ticket price is.
posted by Kerasia at 4:41 AM on February 13


I frequently do searches on Travelocity and then check the flights on SeatGuru to see if they're good seats, so Routehappy should make that process less painful.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:27 AM on February 13


It's funny, because back when the only option was travel agents (or calling the places that advertised in the back of the travel section of the NYTimes and specialized in flights to only one country), I hated it because you were totally dependent on them and they had no incentive to find you the cheapest flights. But now I miss that because even a simple weekend flight turns into a huge ordeal of checking a bunch of sites while prices and availability keep shifting; you can now find the cheap option fairly easily but it's hard to avoid the "gotchas" like oops, now you are being routed through Peru or oops, that transatlantic flight is cheap because they removed the bathrooms.

The only local travel agent remaining here specializes in non-computer-literate older people who are booking cruises and package vacations, but if I ever found a competent travel agent I think I might switch back to that, giving up a bit of cost in exchange for better control over the other aspects.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:28 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


I used to work in the travel industry back in the mid 90's I would estimate. And it was so cool saying to someone else, "I want to go to West Palm Beach florida on whatever date, returning on whatever date" They'd punch codes into the computer, take my credit card and then print the tickets.

Service. Man. Do I miss Service sometimes. Competent Travel Agents FTW.
posted by mikelieman at 6:42 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]




For those wanting a real, live travel agent, STA travel has offices in lots of towns with universities, and seem to me to do a pretty good job of cobbling together iteneraries. I've used it a couple times when I couldn't be buggered to figure out which of expedia or travelocity was trying harder to screw me over. Lately I've just been using airline websites when I know that given airline is good for the specific route I'm taking....
posted by kaibutsu at 7:39 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


For my next trip, I'll be trying flightfox, which pairs you with a "travel expert" to plan your trip. By travel expert, they mean the kind of person that frequents FlyerTalk for fun.

Yeah, that is an interesting service to me, but as the kind of person who spends hours searching flights on ITA Matrix already, I feel like I would have doubts that I couldn't do better. But given that we are looking at $900 a ticket prices to go to Europe, it might be worth rolling the dice.
posted by smackfu at 7:55 AM on February 13


I am trying to book an open jaw flight in May and I have not been able to find anywhere that will let me search flexible dates for an open jaw flight. This article suggested Vayama, but they don't offer flexible dates that I can see. For the price I am seeing, I insist on flying direct, but I'd be open to a layover for the right price.

(MSP into CDG and out of AMS, 1 direct flight per day to CDG, 3 direct flights per day back to MSP)
posted by soelo at 9:04 AM on February 13


When my girlfriend and I booked flights a year ago to Korea with a side trip to Thailand, we tried a multitude of sites, and actually found it cheaper and less stressful to just get somebody at AAA to book it for us. They managed to save a couple hundred bucks over the best listed prices we could find, easily enough to cover the $75 they charged to do it.
posted by klangklangston at 2:20 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I fly a lot and rely on Matrix to compare and then book at the airline site, usually. It has a nice calendar mode if your dates are flexible.

But it does depend on what you want -- I don't want to overpay, but things like nonstop flights and comfort matter to me as well so I'm not just looking at price.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:07 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Wildcrdj-you might want to try hipmunk.com which has an Agony score
posted by cynicalidealist at 10:52 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Since Google bought ITA, I'd expect them to do better with the flight prices.
posted by maryr at 11:07 AM on February 14


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