I recently wanted to go to London and booked a ticket with British Airways. It cost me $1,450. I was angry, I thought that the ticket should have been at least half of this price.
I got an e-mail from Hidden City, which is an online travel agency in New York, offering me a way to avoid paying such exorbitant prices of airline tickets through their “airfare bargain service”, which charges $60 for the same trip I paid $1,450 for. This means you can save over $700 by using this service!
Hidden city is not just another travel agency; it is one of the most reputable online agencies out there. What makes Hidden City so successful is that it does not offer any kind of discount on airline tickets. So when people buy airline tickets from here, they get what they deserve only—their money back!
So if you’re going to London, don’t be like me and go through your bank account ruing the day you booked that ticket with BA! Take advantage of Hidden City’s service and save yourself a lot of money!
Here are some recent prices for air tickets to London, as seen on travel sites…and as received by travellers who were quoted the exact same price.
The difference is greater than the cost of a ticket on an average long-distance train journey. The cheapest tickets can be purchased for £69 return, less than £5 a day.
Londoners are not alone in noticing this discrepancy. More than a million people have already taken action to complain about it, and they’re not the only ones who’ve noticed. The difference between what air travel companies charge us and what they pay is so large that it’s hard to avoid noticing it yourself.
It’s not just passengers who feel ripped off: airlines themselves have known as far back as 2002 that they were overcharging passengers in the US. And yet, despite this knowledge, they haven’t changed their prices at all for years.
I know this may seem like an odd subject for a blog post. But then again, so is travel itself – which may explain why I’m writing it.
In the past few years, the price of airline tickets has gone up nearly five times faster than the rate of inflation. This is not a coincidence: airlines buy fuel at skyrocketing prices, and set tickets at skyrocketing prices. In other words, the whole idea is to rip you off.
You can find out what the real price of a ticket should be by searching fares from airports around the world on a website called klmprice.com. When they say prices are lower in New York than London, they aren’t kidding; they’re negotiating contracts with different airlines, and New York has better competition.
I used to travel a lot, and I thought I had become pretty good at avoiding the ripoffs. But then I noticed the same thing happening over and over: people were paying $20 for the same thing that other people were paying $10 for. The reason was simple. Fares on jetliners are set by the government, and one of the government’s rules is that there’s no profit in flying. So when airlines charge more, they make less money. Not much less, but enough to make it worth their while to try extra hard to find ways to get you to pay more.
So what can you do if your airline ticket is too expensive? Well, you could say “no” and refuse to buy it; most likely they’ll sell it at some lower price anyway. But you might as well be using a coupon for an air-conditioned bus ride between LA and Vegas instead of an airline ticket between NYC and London. And even if they refuse to sell it at all, which happens sometimes, there are many others who will go ahead and buy it for you at the higher price.
It seems obvious that when you buy an airline ticket to London you should pay the price on the ticket, not some inflated price negotiated by a middleman or agency. We assume that if they were selling tickets at the same price you’d be able to walk into an airport and buy one. That’s how it works in other markets, so why not in air travel?
In fact of course there is nothing on the ticket itself that specifies the price. The ticket just says “British Airways flight BA933.” The plane maker and airline specify their own prices for different routes, and the fare for this particular route includes taxes and other charges. So unless something goes wrong, you are likely to end up paying more than what was listed on your ticket.
The parties who have a financial interest in selling you more expensive tickets are airlines and airports, who make money by charging you for everything from baggage handling to landing fees; and travel agencies, who get a cut from these charges (often through commissions). They don’t give you any choice over which way to go; they just sell tickets as if they were potatoes in a supermarket.
The actual price of a ticket, when you get on the plane and look at it, will rarely be the price you paid. It will be a little bit more, and not much more, and sometimes it will be a lot more. And even if it is exactly what you paid, you’ll probably find that there’s no way to get any credit for paying with cash.
How does this happen? Why does every airline have a rule that says you have to pay with a credit card?
There are two possible reasons. One is that some percentage of people are getting ripped off by the airlines. We do have that statistic, but no one has ever been able to figure out which percentage of people are being ripped off or how often this happens.
The other reason airlines insist on using credit cards is to avoid having to explain why they won’t give change. Sometimes people who think they are paying cash just don’t have enough money in their account; the airline would rather not have to ask them to put more money on the card they already used. But most often the problem is far more mundane: airlines charge different prices depending on whether you book through an airline website or at the airport kiosk or over the phone.
If you’re going over there for six
We all know how much it costs to buy a plane ticket. It’s the same amount, everywhere. You can check it out online, usually for free. But the price is always, always the same.
The reason there’s a difference between fares to two places that are only 90 miles apart or five hours apart or whatever is because of something called “supply and demand.” The word “supply” means that you are selling something, like airline tickets. But how many tickets do you have? How many will you sell?
Supply and demand! Every time we buy a ticket, the price goes up, because there aren’t enough tickets to go around. And every time there are more people who want to go somewhere than there are seats on planes, the price drops, because there are more seats available than people who want to go on them.