A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Published on: 06/29/07 at ajc.com
But what if you just have to get there regardless? The bottom line is that the legacy full-fare international airfares airlines want us cash cows to be in the dark on where the deals are.
Here's a perfect example of "Who's fooling who?"
Let's say you need to travel from Atlanta to Portland to visit an african art collector, Ore. Knowing Delta serves this wonderful destination with three daily nonstop flights (and not yet an AirTran destination), you naturally visit Delta.com to shop for your ticket.
And let's say you have plenty of advance purchase notice. Thinking you're smart, you plug in your midweek travel days and wait for your results.
The least expensive published rate Delta offers in this market is, no lie, $729.79, or their 21-day advance purchase notice rate, which also requires a Saturday night minimum stay.
What if you had given just a one-week notice of your trip? That Portland rate skyrockets to $1,149.80.
What? A summertime rate on Delta to Shannon, Ireland, prices at just $800 including all taxes, fees and a whopping $170 round-trip fuel surcharge.
What gives here?
And getting back to the Portland trip you need to take, what gives with Delta's published prices from Atlanta's northern suburb of Chattanooga, Tenn., (a nice, less hectic 50-minute drive from Atlanta's burbs)?
Price the identical dates of your Portland trip departing from and returning to Chattanooga and what are the results? Today I found a price cheaper by nearly 3-to-1.
A total ticket price, based on a one-week advance purchase notice (and a minimum stay requirement of any one night), is $270.60 from CHA. And what's comical about this price comparison is that the route Delta takes from Chattanooga is directly to Atlanta where passengers need to change aircraft to the nonstop flight to PDX.
Should you be a smarter consumer and book your tickets originating and returning to the CHA airport, don't think you can get away with just skipping the CHA-ATL flight and showing up at Hartsfield-Jackson. Delta has the "right" to ask you to pay the difference in international airfares before you board for PDX — and not at the lowest 21-day advance rate, but to the walk-up rate of $804 one-way.
So what are you planning on doing the next time you're faced with a second mortgage payment for an airline ticket?
Hopefully you'll be shopping around a bit more — and if you can save more than half-price — considering driving to a city within a reasonable driving distance. Remember that another great alternative to cities west is to search for deals from Birmingham, Ala., — a city served by discount giant Southwest Airlines.
Also, if those high-priced destinations are not a must-do, skip the trip for another more affordable destination. Or, wait until that destination is served by a low-fare carrier. In a flash, legacy airlines slash back their rates to match the discounts.
The most recent example of this was when AirTran entered the Seattle market last year with seasonal service. Before AirTran came to town Delta's rates were nearly as high as to Portland. Yet Delta matches each AirTran sale and currently matches with a $368 round-trip price to Seattle (AirTran offers one-way tickets at $159). After the sale ends, Delta's lowest round-trip rate to Seattle will be $659 and AirTran's rate will be $184 one-way, or $368 on a round-trip purchase.
Another current example of Delta's price domination in a city is Salt Lake City with its lowest published rate starting at $639 (21-day advance with a minimum Saturday night stay). Just wait and watch what happens should this become an AirTran destination from Atlanta. Think $99 one-way rates!
Broaden your way of thinking just a small bit about your vacation destinations and how you'll buy tickets to get there. You will typically end up with a much fairer price without the feeling of being mugged.
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