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Playing a Fare Game


Last week I reserved a circle-route itinerary through Travelocity.com, a service I've used many times before. At the gym the next morning, I realized I'd forgotten to ticket my itinerary by the 11pm deadline the night before. Upon reviewing my reservation again that morning, Travelocity indicated that my fare had increased by nearly $200. I called the Travelocity help desk to find out which segments had caused the increase. She checked each segment, but said it was an overall fare increase for my route initiated by American Airlines. Therefore, she said, "no lower fare was available." To couch my position and try to save our budget, I called American Airlines directly and asked the agent to quote exactly the same itinerary. Indeed, I was able to book (and ticket right then and there) the exact itinerary at the original fare for which Travelocity had indicated an increase of nearly 30 percent. I outlined the situation to a close friend of mine who's an Executive Platinum American traveler, and who follows airline pricing practices as a necessary hobby. Here's how he outlined the situation:

"Nope, it's not Murphy's law. It's a new industry practice: some of the new limited run ultra-cheap fares require instant purchase or purchase within the same day of reservation. What happened is that because SABRE recalculates the fare when it issues a ticket, it could no longer confirm the one it gave you when you booked since you were no longer meeting the restrictions of the fare of either instant ticketing or ticketing within same day of reservation. It then gave you the next best fare that was applicable to a reservation a day old, which probably was also in L or in N class. And the $16,000-a-year drone who answers the phones at Travelocity didn't get that--she probably manually reissued the SABRE command to recalculate the fare and, after seeing it spitting out the new fare again, gave you the same answer. A check in Travelocity or AA.com on the fares would have shown the original fare you were on still available--for new bookings! If you had redone the reservation from scratch, you would have gotten the exact same fare that AA gave you, which I assume was ticketed on the spot. Another way that the airlines are trying to get customers to part with their money faster--and very poorly communicated. Tip: scan the fare restrictions next time under the RES/TKTG category."

Since, according to my well-informed friend (who interned with one of the major airline's international pricing and routing departments), this is a poorly communicated way that airlines are trying to get customers to part with their money, I thought it deserves mention.

Many thanks,

J. Carl



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