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This is my personal website. My professional website is https://www.engineering.purdue.edu/~milind. The views and opinions on this blog are my own and do not reflect those of my employer.

February 4, 2008

A Pox on Airline Pricing

Filed under: Journal — Milind Kulkarni @ 1:33 am

I’m going to be at this conference in March. The astute reader, who bothers to click on links, will note that it’s in Seattle (speaking of which, Ferris — are you going to be around on the 5th?). The astute reader, who also understands that it takes a day just to drive out of Texas, will realize that to get to a conference in Seattle in any reasonable amount of time necessitates flying.

So I take myself over to Kayak, my current choice for finding flights (as it searches individual airline sites, including those that don’t usually show up on Orbitz), and note that there are flights from AUS to SEA for $208 dollars on American! Since I usually can’t even fly to Houston for less than $300, this was a fantastic deal. If I was actually able to get it.

I clicked on the first flight that was $208. “We’re sorry, the flight you selected is no longer available.” I clicked on the second flight that was $208. “We’re sorry, the flight you selected is no longer available.” Repeat ad nauseam. At this point, I was faced with two possibilities: (i) everyone in Austin is flying to Seattle in March, and was buying tickets at the exact same time, or (ii) I managed to attempt to buy a ticket right when American was changing its fares. Turns out it was the latter: I wound up getting a ticket for the exact same flights, but for $310. In the span of 5 minutes, the price I had to pay to get to Seattle went up by $100*! For a flight that’s more than a month away!

A little transparency in airline pricing would certainly be nice. Punks.

* There was still a $208 flight available that left Austin at 6 in the morning. Since I refuse to acknowledge the existence of time before 7 in the morning, that was a non-starter. Plus, who knows, they might not have let me buy that ticket either.

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