May182016

Airlines profit on travelers who do not watch fares closely

For four days, Friday to Monday, I hammered out posts with low fare deals available during the fare war to Europe between American, Delta and United. As someone who has watched and written about airfares almost daily for more than one year, I recognized the significance of these low fare deals available for several days this past week from all the legacy airlines across the USA were far below the average price of a ticket to Europe in 2016. And I am not only talking about $376 round trip for San Francisco to Dublin. Most of Europe was available with any of the major alliances for $500 to $700 round trip. Some USA airports like my small regional airport in Monterey, California MRY offered airfare to places in Europe that were $500 less than the average airfare on any given day from Monterey to a place like Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands.

To place this past week’s fare war into perspective, I put together some airfare comparisons based on today’s May 18 prices for travel in November 2016 compared to fares I posted over the weekend on Sunday from American Airlines for several San Francisco to Europe routes. In this post from three days ago Sunday, I included direct links to Google Flights and each link shows the fare from Sunday, May 18. Click these links below today and you will see the current fares. I inserted the low fare I found today Wednesday May 18 at 11am Pacific time.

San Francisco to Europe sample airfare deals on American Airlines

SFO – Paris CDG $658 Nov 16-29 ($1,158)

SFO-Barcelona BCN $603 Nov 16-29 ($1,103)

SFO – Madrid MAD $608 Nov 16-29 ($1,108)

SFO-Frankfurt, Germany FRA $692 Nov 16-29 ($1,056)

SFO-Milan, Italy MXP $637 Nov 16-29 ($1,137)

SFO – Rome, Italy FCO $661 Nov 16-29 ($1,151)

SFO – Munich MUC $681 Dec 5-12  ($1,181)

SFO – Zurich ZRH $640 Dec 5-12 ($1,140)

SFO – London LHR $690 Dec 5-12 ($1,189)

SFO – Manchester UK MAN $668 Dec 5-12 ($1,167)

SFO – Edinburgh UK EDI $667 Dec 5-12 ($1,167)

SFO – Amsterdam AMS $630 March 7-14 ($1,129)

SFO – Lisbon, Portugal LIS $648 March 7-14 ($1,147)

SFO – Warsaw, Poland WAW $686 March 7-14 ($1,185)

SFO – Vilnius Lithuania VNO $624 March 7-14 ($1,124)

SFO – Prague PRG $677 March 7-14 ($1,190)

Nearly all these American Airlines airfares are uniformly higher by $500. 

That is the way airline ticketing prices work. Those airfares in the $600s from San Francisco to Europe from American, Delta and United were far from the norm. There might be one or two or five airports on sale on any given day. For Europe routes, many cities only offer discount fare for 5 to 10 days in a year. To have dozens of airports in Europe on sale in the $600s from dozens of airports in the USA is an event that has only happened a couple of times over the past 12 months for Europe. This was the longest fare war to Europe I recall in the past 12 months. Last month it was Australia and New Zealand in a fare war at big discounts with American, Delta and United.

Hopefully you are one of those readers who scored a low fare ticket to Europe or Australia/New Zealand. When the next major fare war happens is anyone’s guess? The fare war to Europe could resume this week or not return again for many months. The airlines make money off of travelers who do not follow airfare closely.

How many people/businesses are spending $500 more per ticket today for flights to Europe than someone who purchased the same route, for the same dates on the same airline three days ago?

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. “How many people/businesses are spending $500 more per ticket today for flights to Europe than someone who purchased the same route, for the same dates on the same airline three days ago?”
    Probably not very many. Businesses are not buying tickets today for travel 6 months or more in the future. The fares you cited were for the extremely low travel periods when they were not likely to sell lots of leisure tickets at the old prices. Plus, the airlines get your money today on non-refundable tickets where there will likely be some attrition/change fees. That said, I scored a $380 ticket to Dublin from IAD and I’m very pleased. This isn’t a trip I would have booked this far out without the incentive provided by the low fare.

  2. I enjoy watching those sales. Unfortunately, a lot of us have multiple kids in lots of activities that I just can’t miss during those travel times. It will be deals like those that will help me get over empty nest syndrome really fast when the time comes!

  3. @rjb – I hear you about business travel tickets. I could not believe a business travel agency waited to less than 7 days to book my ticket to go from Monterey to Los Angeles in February. I would have driven to Los Angeles and pocketed enough cash for a trip to Europe if there had been an option to get paid the airline ticket price.

    @Julianna – I am counting the few years now until my wife retires and we can grab more of the deals I find. The primary reason I got into travel loyalty programs is an elementary teacher can only travel in peak fare holidays and summer.

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