Airlines are so Devious! - Grampies Yucatan Return: Winter 2023 - CycleBlaze

December 26, 2022

Airlines are so Devious!

I hate the part of a trip that involves finding the flights out and back. It's easy enough to have decided on where we are going and for how long, but then, which exact flights? There are so many things to think about: Does it leave at a time that we can reasonably get to? Does it land late and in the dark, so we would be disoriented and homeless in a strange place. How long is the total flight? - Brainless algorithms of booking sites think nothing of proposing 18, 24, 36 hour flights for distances that would actually take a jet that put its mind to it 6 hours. The difference is in crazy detours to hub cities, or extensive layovers. And if there is to be a transfer/layover, is there actually enough time provided for two doddery old cyclists to make it from gate to gate? 

All this can be put down to the vagaries of routing algorithms, plus the raw facts of where our origins and destinations actually are. I mean, on a long flight it may simply be impossible to leave and arrive comfortably in daylight.

But slathered on top of all this is the greed/profit maximizing calculations of the airlines. Depending on the day of the week and hour of the day, the same distance in the same class of seat can cost six times more.  But its more than that. On the very same day and  physical plane, the airlines will be trying to sell the seats for the most they can get. They put them in groups, and may sell off one group cheaply before jacking the prices on the remainder. Exactly what they are doing is (deliberately) mysterious, but one can find various "conspiracy" theories online.

So here we find me, scrolling through the listings of Expedia, or Priceline, or CheapOAir, or something, discarding wildly overpriced, over long, or badly timed flights, while getting more frazzled. I am searching on the assumption of one passenger, because I do not want to be confused about whether the quoted totals are for one or two. This marketplace is so bizarre that one can not obviously see that a price is double because of two people. It could be double just because. 

Finally, I am astonished to find a flight on some certain day (just one certain day) that leaves when we can get to it, takes a believable amount of time to arrive, and that we can mostly afford. OK, book it! But wait, to do that it's necessary to go back and stipulate two travelers. I do that, and whaa? the per person price went up 33%! Back to one traveler, the price drops back.

This particular example came from Westjet. So I decided to phone them to find out if they were serious about this latest form of ripoff. Their phone system graciously offered me a call back time - a week away!

This created a dilemma. If I booked one passage, at the lower price, perhaps when I would come back in for the second one, the price could have changed or worse, there could be no tickets left. Dodie had the idea of running two computers at once, teeing up two purchases, and hitting "pay" simultaneously.  I tried that, but got too muddled dealing with first one and then the other computer to answer the myriad of questions needed before you can actually pay. So we gambled, booking one and then the other, and this time it worked out.

People on the internet have different theories about what is going on here, but apparently booking group flights one by one to save money is a "thing".  One person described the steps by which booking should be made for five people,and it was mind boggling.  This, as I say, after  you have already waded through the 30 hour duration  and the vastly overpriced offerings. 

It makes me long for the tours that just begin by cycling directly from home. We've tried that for a few, but of course the paths are always smoother on the other side - of continent, or probably the world.  I am so glad we got the flights figured out this one more time. Now all we have to do is to cycle a few thousand kilometers somewhere - no stress, by comparison.

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Jacquie GaudetThanks, Steve, for the one/two passenger research. Yet one more thing to add to the stress of booking flights. We might try the parallel booking idea next time, with one of us on each computer pressing “buy now” at the same time…maybe.
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1 month ago
Leslie and Rob CookeYou two don't stay in one place for very long that's for sure. Looking forward to following your journey.
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1 month ago
Kelly IniguezI totally agree about airline ticket price shopping!

We've made several trips back and forth between Tucson and home this year. I'm getting in far more airport time than usual. So far our record is poor concerning delays and cancellations.

I'm looking forward to reading along with you.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Leslie and Rob CookeLeslie and Rob - we lost track of your Spring cycle as we were already struggling through England. Prompted by your comment here, I went to check back in with your blog. Of course you know what's coming, the same OMG reaction of all readers, followed by relief that it was not worse. Resting here by our peaceful Boxing Day fire, it sure woke us up! Did the idiot that hit you ever explain about/concede the cell phone use?
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1 month ago
Keith AdamsAnother example of airline nefariousness: several years ago I was ticket shopping and a particular airline was listed at the top of the results, based on lowest price. However, it turned out that their advertised price only got me as far as the cabin door. If I wanted a seat- *any* seat, including the least desirable - the price went up. And since airlines are not allowed to sell standing room only, a seat purchase was required.

Want to bring a piece of carry-on luggage aboard? More money is needed. Oh, you want to check a bag? That's extra, too.

I'm sure they tried to paint it as "a la carte" pricing or something similarly euphemistic, claiming that you only had to pay for services and conveniences you actually expected to use. But to me it looked like a case of them gaming the system: by making *everything* available on a pay-as-you-go basis their advertised "price" appeared to be lowest and floated to the top of the results lists.

Basteds, every last one of them.
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1 month ago
Larry MitchellOh how we all know the airplane game. Fortunate or not from Alaska, Alaska Airlines is almost always the only option and our membership in the 49er club sure helps. 13 days and counting to our next trip out to cycle some southwest states.
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1 month ago
Brent IrvineWith respect to two seats being more than double the price of a single seat...
Airlines price seats in 'buckets' of different price-points; and, when one purchases more than one seat, the price will be at the highest price available. So, if cheapest bucket price-point only has one more seat left but you are buying two seats, the second seat will be from a higher price-point bucket, thus the cost to you will be twice the higher price point. Nice, eh?
Airline pricing is nothing to do with being nice (surprise!) but is a branch of mathematics known as Operations Research which can be set up to maximize profits. It is a fascinating topic but does not make for 'fun' for the passenger.
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1 month ago
Brent IrvineTo Brent IrvineFurther to my point above...
I can understand the need to maximize the profit since this is a business' primary goal. What is appalling to me is their lack of communication in general, whether to communicate with a person when organizing a ticket or to passengers when a crisis of some sort happens and they all throw up their arms and disappear. They seem to be inept at even saying, "I'm sorry this is happening, and we're not sure what we can do but please monitor airlinecommunication dot com and we will keep you posted."
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1 month ago
Leslie and Rob CookeTo Steve Miller/GrampiesHey Steve - what an idiot he was! We've never felt so lucky! With this new no fault insurance, we felt left out of the loop. Not sure if the fella was charged or ticketed or what. Hopefully he's changed his ways
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Brent IrvineWe feel a little weird getting ready to fight our way down to Cancun, while the news reports that Canadians are still there, trying to get here, and getting no information from Sunwing.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Keith AdamsThere is some vague logic to that a la carte pricing, though of course not for the ridiculous buy a seat example. However we still hate that system. For example, with hotel rooms we always like the "breakfast included" even when there is an option to buy breakfast separately. We just do not like being nickel and dimed. At this season, remember Scrooge in A Christmas Carol: “More bread,” Scrooge demands of the waiter as he mops up his plate. “Ha’penny extra, sir,” says the waiter. “No more bread,” frowns Scrooge. That's us!
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Kelly IniguezWe hope we will not have any delays or cancellations to report. But we also seem to have a crash every third trip and we've already had two uneventful ones in 2022. The pattern is going to change, though!
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1 month ago