The Travel Professor
Join me on a journey across the broad spectrum of interesting travel topics. We’ll discuss destinations domestic and abroad, some familiar and some off the beaten path. We take a look at suppliers like cruise lines, air carriers and tour operators and find their bargains and special offerings. Got questions? Email

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Airline ticket pricing

This is a follow up to an earlier post regarding the reduction of airline schedules and the impact this has on fares/pricing. Hopefully this will make some sense and help you navigate through the current maze of airline pricing.

Airline price availability is based on the current inventory of seats in that can be sold or reserved on a specific flight on a certain date. The carriers assign a value (price) to their seats and then designate an “alpha” code or booking class of service to this fare/price. Then they limit the inventory or available number of seats that can be sold in this booking class. They adjust these available classes of service hundreds of times daily so price & availability frequently changes.

In airline lingo this booking class seat is what determines your fare. They may publish a low fare that has to be booked in “M” class but the “M” seats are sold out on the flight that you’re trying to book. You are kicked up to a higher booking class and are now quoting a higher fare level in lets say “Q” class of service.

“M” seats are what I call the price while the “Q” seats are actually what are available on the date and time that you want to travel. These “M” and “Q” seats are all on the same plane located in the coach/main cabin. The only difference is price. This is why when you start your on-line search with a price then after a few clicks the quoted fare is higher.

Look at tickets on a 100 seat airplane and you would be amazed at all the wide range of ticket prices. Factors like advance purchase, length of stay, date & time of travel and many other items impact your ticket cost.

My advice is if you absolutely have to travel on the lowest published airfare is to book early and be flexible, very flexible.