We’ve flown a lot over the last few years. Through our world tour and our normal holidays, more than 100 flights have certainly come together in the last 5 years. Of course, since the airfare often accounts for a large part of the cost of the holiday, we always research here very long and accurately in order to get the cheapest and best flight for us. Every time we notice how different and complicated the prices of flight bookings are.
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The mystery of airfares
Do you know that? You are on the plane, the boarding is complete, the doors are closed and you are already looking forward to the new holiday destination. Have you ever wondered what other passengers have paid for their flight? Everyone on the plane has the same destination, get (of course depending on the booked class) the same food and service. But surely everyone has paid a completely different price for it. Why is that?
In this article we want to take up this very topic, because it has been occupying us for a long time and we sometimes don’t really understand it: The riddle of completely different airfares
What factors influence airfare?
The ticket price for a flight is generally composed of the following three components:
» The pure price of the flight – basic fare, Base Fare
» Taxes & Fees – Airport Fees, Surcharges and Taxes
» Service lump sum – costs for issuing and distributing the ticket
Some airlines also incur seat reservation costs, baggage fees, credit card fees or an extra charge for on-board meals. But what factors make up the final fare when booking? Our experience is that the following variables play a decisive role in price:
» Arrival day – Do we start our trip on Friday evening or only on Saturday?
» Departure day – On which day of the week do we fly back?
» Period – How long do we stay?
» Time of day – At what time does the flight start?
» Direct/Indirect/Fork Flight – Are we better to take a direct connection or one with a stopover?
» Airport – What is the best airport for my connection?
» Airline – Which airline has the best and cheapest connection?
» Website – Do I book directly or through a travel page via the airline?
» Frequent Flyer Programs – Do my miles earned bring me anything?
Other variables can also determine the fare, such as:
» Days to departure – Do we book our flight 6 months before or just before?
» Day of the week of booking – On what day do we book our flight?
» Time of booking – What time do we book our flight?
» Device – Does it make a difference whether I book the flight via my PC or via the smartphone?
» Browser cache and cookies – Should you delete all cookies before booking?
As you can see, there are really many factors that influence the airfare from our experience.
Many of these factors are certainly self-explanatory and characterized by supply and demand. Of course, flights during holiday periods or on public holidays are often more expensive than at other times. We have also read in an article that, for example, an expert at Lufthansa follows the draws for the Champions League matches and immediately calculates via the price system which routes will therefore be in high demand. Accordingly, the low-cost booking classes are then taken directly out of the system, so that the prices for these connections increase.
It can also be read that Saturday is usually the most expensive holiday flights, according to a statistic, tuesday probably the cheapest. It would also be more advantageous to take a departure between 6pm and midnight. It is often read that airfares requested via Apple devices are more expensive. We cannot say exactly how these statements are true, so it is probably only a matter of trying it out for yourself.
Interesting links and tests on prices for flight bookings we have stored at the end of the article.
Where to book the cheapest flight?
Getting the cheapest fare with all these many different factors always requires a lot of research. But we are always amazed at the price differences that can arise if you take the flight only 1 day later and at a different time. Of course, some of this research can be done by travel websites such as Expedia, Opodo, Fluege.de, Skyscanner, Swoodoo or Momondo.
Using momondo as an example, you can always see quite well which days the flight is cheapest. For a flight from Frankfurt to Lisbon in February, a return flight would be a day much cheaper:
On the other hand, of course, we always look at cheap deals on sites like holiday pirates, Travel Cheaper or holiday guru. And of course it is always worth a comparison on the websites of the airlines. Only we don’t go to the travel agency anymore because of time constraints, although you can certainly make some bargains here too! If you try all these options for a flight, you can be relatively sure to get the really cheapest flight.
What is the cheapest time to fly?
There is a study “The 2018 Air Travel Outlook Report” by Expedia. According to this study, the best way to book your plane tickets is on Sundays. Here, prices within Europe are up to 55 percent lower than on the other days of the week. For international travel, you can save almost 40 percent on a Sunday. The “worst” and most expensive booking day is Friday, according to the studio.
Here you can watch the complete study.
The use of frequent flyer programs
What you should also use are the frequent flyer programs of the individual airlines. Whether Miles & More, AAdvantage, SkyMiles, Skywards, Etihad Guest, Skypass, LANPASS or Flying Blue – by assing miles, we have already secured several free flights or upgraded to business class. All frequent flyer programs are different and have different conditions. For some programs, miles expire after a certain amount of unused time, while others, such as Skymiles, never expire miles.
We have collected the most free flights so far through Miles & More. Here is an extra side mileage bargainwhere you can pay cheap flights with your miles. In this way, you can get flights in Europe for 10,000 miles, which are collected really quickly. It should be noted that the mileage bargain only refers to the fare. Taxes & fees are still added, but you can also pay with your miles. For example, we usually had free flights (e.g. to Rome or Stockholm)for a total of 18,000 miles per person. It has to be said that we at Miles & More also have the credit card and make all our holidays and big purchases. Depending on the card, you get 1 mile creditfor every euro turnover. Again, this is an easy way to earn extra miles.
But it’s not just flights that you can get for free through the frequent flyer programs. For Hawaiian Airlines, we only saved baggage fees by signing up for the frequent flyer program 50 free of charge. A registration is therefore worthwhile in any case.
Why are one-way flights more expensive than return flights?
This is one of the most tense questions that we keep asking ourselves and that we cannot understand. A good example was our last flight to Hawaii. This cost only 509,- € per person. A real bargain for a flight around half the world with renowned airlines (Lufthansa, Air Canada)! The only condition is that the flight starts and ends in Amsterdam. The interesting thing is that the flight starts from Amsterdam, but then goes first to Frankfurt and then on to Vancouver and Honolulu. So our flight connection looked like this:
Amsterdam – Frankfurt
Frankfurt – Vancouver
Vancouver – Honolulu
Kahului – Calgary
Calgary – Frankfurt
Frankfurt – Amsterdam
We come from near Frankfurt – so it would be ideal if we started the flight to Hawaii from Frankfurt and also just leave the flight to Amsterdam at the end. In logic, this is two fewer flights, which the airline could then sell elsewhere. But if we have now tried in the booking system to fly the same route only from Frankfurt, the price of the ticket has risen by 200. At 200! So you book 2 flights less, but you have to pay more. Sounds kind of logical to us … Not!
We have come across this phenomenon particularly often when planning our world trip, during which we have made 57 flights around the world. The problem here was mostly that we always wanted to go in one direction – and not back again. So classic one-way flights. However, these are probably the most expensive thing to book. With several flight bookings, it was really cheaper to book a return flight and then forfeit the return flight than just booking a one-way out-of-trip flight…
Honestly, who understands that?
Here are a few examples of cheaper return flights as opposed to the same flight, if you book it one-way:
With pure logic, it is probably insinuating that combined return flights are cheaper than just a single outbound flight. Only with the “cheap fliers” in Asia such as Tiger Airways, Air Asia or Jetstar we have not observed this. Here a simple flight cost e.g. 150,- € and for a return flight you pay e.g. 239,- €. This is at least a price that we can understand and understand. So is this just a phenomenon of the big airlines?
Multistop or fork flights
The same logic is often found in fork flights. You want to go from A to B and have an expensive price. But if you add the flights C and/or D pointlessly, you suddenly get a much cheaper offer, even though you don’t need these flights at all. One wonders: are the booking systems simply too stupid?
What we have never done before is to book an Error Fare. These are also promoted on the well-known websites time and time again and come about, because the booking systems sometimes have a technical error or simply a responsible person has “penned”. Here you simply have to book quickly with the and hope that the airline confirms the flight before you notice that there is a price error. Another tip is to pay for the flight directly by credit card, as tickets are usually issued faster. If you receive the e-tickets directly, you were lucky. But you should also always be prepared that you will not receive any e-tickets, as the provider or airline has noticed the error and cancels the order again. So error fares are always a bit of a lucky thing. It is best to wait until you have the confirmation of the flight in black and white.
What do you have to consider if you don’t need all flights?
If you’ve booked a flight combination where you don’t need all flights, that shouldn’t be a problem. Above all, it is important to let only the last flights expire! The first flight must always be started, otherwise the whole ticket will be set to “No Show”.
Furthermore, you should pay attention to the flight time especially for transfer, fork or multistop flights. If you have found a price from Frankfurt to Lisbon for 100,- €, but the flight with 2x change takes a total of 26 hours, the supposed bargain turns out to be an absolute time-eater.
What explains the different airfares?
We have of course done a lot of research on the subject of airfares in preparation for this article. The subject is not new and there are already some articles and discussions about it. However, we have not found such a real answer to the question “Why is an out-of-flight more expensive than a return flight?” Here are a few excerpts:
“I’ve worked for a major Australian airline for years and I’m pretty familiar with the matter. The fact that a single flight is more expensive is due to the booking class. For this, the ticket can also be cancelled free of charge and rebooked as often as desired. The cheaper tickets cannot always be rebooked or even cancelled.” [mellika]
“I think they’re concerned with the load… if you book a return flight, the fixed costs for the return flight are already covered. And they know you’re not going to compete… otherwise they may have to fly home with a half-staffed machine. If, on the other hand, you only book an outcoming flight and return by ship or anything like that, then they have to demand more, as they cannot take advantage of the return flight.” [noobyfish]
“One-way or even fork flights are booked for the most part by business travellers. The price sensitivity is low, because you have to go there after all. Therefore, the airline can apply higher prices.” [swissace]
“Is a European specialty. In many other parts of the world, it’s different.” [capetonian”
“It is all about a differentiated pricing policy and the rip-off of businessmen who depend on flying back on the same day. Hence the small difference between the C and Y classes for return flights on the same day.” [Danny C172]
These are certainly interesting points, but it doesn’t sound logical to us. When booking a hotel, it is not the case that one night is more expensive than 1 week. The question remains: what is the ultimate advantage for the airline of having to carry the passenger twice for less money?