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Posts Tagged ‘airfare’

It seems that Facebook has been paying attention to my recent searches for airfare to Frankfurt:  I have started to see ads pop up on the side of my screen listing deals on airfare through various airlines.  I saw one that caught my attention, one through Lufthansa, a carrier I trust, that was offering a round trip flights to Frankfurt with a starting price each direction of $278, before taxes.

After I got over being upset that Facebook was monitoring where I browse I figured I would take a look at the link and see if the deal was legitimate.  It seems far too low to be real but I do know that one of the positives of the current economic climate is that it’s getting cheaper to travel, so I thought there was a chance that it might have been legitimate.  The link brought me to the US section of Lufthansa’s site. I started by entering a couple of dates within the range that I talked about in my first post about getting there . and indicated I wanted to fly from PDX to Frankfurt. I also indicated my dates were flexible and selected my way through the basic options and ran the search.

I was actually really disapointed by the results, which I expected to at least be in the same range as the results of my Expedia search ($1189.80), but the cheapest flight in those date ranges was a whopping $1795!  That is a more than $600 dollar difference!  I’m sure that somewhere Lufthansa actually is selling a flight to Frankfurt from the US for $278, but I’m guessing it is only a very small number of flights out of cities in the Eastern parts of the US at very specific date ranges.

In a way I shouldn’t really be surprised given that I know that it is a lot cheaper to fly from the east coast than from the west and that the specials like the one advertised are usually only available to people traveling at very specific times.  As I mentioned in the last post you tend to miss out on the best deals if you buy immediately before you want to go or to a lesser extent, if you buy well in advance.  There’s nothing more tricky than buying airfare and the prices are incredibly dynamic; shifting up and down multiple times based on a variety of unpredicatable factors.

I’m not going to rush to buy a ticket directly from Lufthansa any time soon, that price was a little on the ridiculous side.   I’ve heard good things about them but not nearly good enough to merit that cost.

I think that my next step may be to contact a travel agent and see what kind of deal I can get that way.  I’m interested to see how they compare to my own searches, as the only time I’ve ever bought a ticket through an agent, my flights to and from Norway when I did study abroad, I feel like I didn’t get a great deal. I later found out that a couple of my friends who had flown the same flights within a day of when I did paid $200 less than me.  Still I’ve got friends who swear by travel agents and I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t investigate the option.

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Getting There Part 1

I’m planning a trip to Europe this summer and I’ve been doing a lot of ticket research recently, and I thought that I could use my own experience as an example for anyone else who is trying to find the cheap international flights.  I’m a student so if I can’t find a dirt cheap ticket I can’t go, so I will look into a variety of options.  I’ve got a few of the basic options in mind, searching on sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Kayak, looking at tickets on the websites of various international airlines, going through a travel agent and maybe even seeing if I could lower the price by finding the cheapest cross-Atlantic flight regardless of the city of departure, and use a point to point airline to get to wherever it leaves from.  Since there is a lot of research involved in finding really cheap flights I won’t do all my research at once.  I’m guessing I’ll dedicate a post to each of the options, make a decision about the best options, and provide some general tips based on what I find and what I have done in the past.

I’ll start with the basics, my criteria:

Where:  I’m in Oregon so I will likely fly out of Portland (PDX) and I want to get to Frankfurt Germany where I will meet up with a friend and begin my backpacking.

When:  I want to go for about a month at the end of the coming summer break, most likely leave mid-August and return mid-September.  I’m pretty flexible about the dates and am more concerned with finding a low price than keeping any particular timeline.  Since I have a long time (Nearly ten months at the time of writing) I’m going to keep my options open.  It can be cheaper to buy your tickets way in advance but it can also, if you are lucky, be much cheaper to buy it shortly before you go.  I would like to have a ticket at least a month before I go, but I won’t buy one unless it seems like it is a screaming good deal.

How:  I’ m not really particular about comfort when I travel, I’m a strict price shopper, and I’m not particularly averse to long layovers, as always, if it keeps the ticket cheap.

What:  I’m a 23 year old male, but I won’t try to live for a month on what I can cram into a carry-on.  I’ll only need to check one bag, which should not cost me extra on international flights, but it may add some expense on point to point flights if I use them for any leg of my travels.

I think it is important to ask yourself what you need out of a flight.  I’m comfortable on any kind of plane and spartan conditions are fine with me, but if you can’t handle riding on small prop-driven planes then by all means don’t fly discount airlines, they’ll make you miserable.  If you are traveling with a child and don’t want to deal with the trouble of being layed over in Minnesota for 12 hours by all means make sure that it isn’t on your itinerary before you leave.  If buying a ticket on your own is to complicated you know you are safe if you go through a travel agents and many of them can get you great deals.  I travel the way I do because I care more about price than anything, I’m poor and will probably spend months saving every spare penny to get ready for this trip and if I can save a few hundred bucks by sitting around an airport and playing my gameboy for 12 hours I will.  When you travel you ultimately have to do what makes the most sense for you given your needs and requirements, so thinking about these things before hand is a great way to get started.

I figure I will kick this thing off with a quick search on Expedia.  I did a search for a round trip departing on Tuesday, August 17th 2010 and returning Wednesday, September 15th 2010.  I picked midweek dates because I know that they tend to be a little cheaper, since a lot of international travelers fly on the weekends which tends to drive the price up a little.  The price it initially returned was $1184.80 which is seems pretty reasonable for a flight from PDX (the airport most convenient for me) that flies directly to where I want to go (Frankfurt).

expedia

screencap of my search results at expedia on 10/31/2009

It’s through US Airways and I’m not really in love with flying through them and one of the stops on my way home is in Chicago O’Hare which is a notoriously bad place to fly through (My own horror story of getting stuck there on Christmas Eve will probably be a future blog post), but overall I’d say this price represents a pretty reasonable baseline.  However, I am pretty confident that I for the price I could find a flight through another airline that I trust more and know is more comfortable (Probably through one of the European Airlines, Lufthansa and SAS both have much nicer planes for crossing the Atlantic).

One thing to take note of is the message in red, telling me that they have raised the price five dollars.  I’m not sure what the deal is with that since I basically went through and selected the cheapest options, I suspect this is just their insidious way of padding their bottom line by sticking me for a few extra bucks.  I’ve heard rumors in the past about airline sites that will remember you through cookies  if you search multiple times and they will increase the price each time you search because they know you are really interested the ticket and they want to manipulate you into thinking that the price keeps going up, so you need to buy now.  The airlines have explanations that involve other factors (shifts in demand/supply do legitimately affect their prices) but I have had the experience where I had two friends online from their homes and we were searching for the same flight on Northwest Airlines at the same times and we all were getting different prices.

I did some research and I found that Consumer Report’s Web Watch have done some research on the issue that confirms that “Dynamic Pricing” is real, not just on travel sites but with many other web retailers.  They haven’t been able to confirm anything as insidious as the “each time you search the price goes up” rumor, but it certainly evidence that you need to be careful when you shop to not get manipulated into paying more than you should.  If you are shopping and the good deal they list has disappeared by the time you are trying to buy the ticket (it often happens that when you go to checkout the deal will be gone and the ticket price will have shot up) then go look somewhere else.  There are too many ways to buy tickets out there for you to get manipulated into buying something for more than its worth.

Looking it over I’m not blown away by the deal through Expedia.  It’s more than I want to pay, it’s on an airline I’ve had bad luck with in the past and it’s bringing me home through O’Hare, and I’m feeling a little upset that they’ve already begun to try to increase the airfair.  I’m going to keep looking, researching and blogging till I find a deal I like better than this.

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[Update – This sale is now over]

Hey,

Since I’m intending to use this blog as a way to give people some travel tips I thought I’d mention a deal I saw through Southwest Airlines.  For the next couple of days they have special rates on point to point flights.  I’m not in love with flying on Southwest, but they don’t charge you to check a bag and they are by far the cheapest way to get point to point in the US.  If you’ve been waiting for the right time it’s now.

I’m in the planning stages of a trip to Germany next summer and I’ve been doing some research recently and I’m planning on doing a side by side analysis of the prices I find listed on a few different sources.  Watch for it soon.

On an unrelated note:

While I will do most of my personal writing and travel blogging here I will probably do some blogging about Journalism and writing on the U of O Society of Proffessional Journalist’s blog.  I just wrote a brief post about the BarCamp conference we hosted over the weekend.   Take a look if you are so inclined.

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