I don’t care how much time or energy the industry spends lobbying for the “New Distribution Capability” (NDC) pricing systems. I am not going to trust it. There are many reasons for this, of course, but ultimately it comes down to an issue of trust. Everyone on the sell side says we should trust them to provide us with the best price for our needs. And yet they all seem to fail at delivering that reasonably often. I’ve written about similar scenarios previously but I have yet another example, one which I think demonstrates the crazy of the pricing challenge pretty well.
Here’s the itinerary I want to fly as shown on ITA Matrix.
Sure, the CPM isn’t great but the fare is top-notch relative to what my other options are (basically a 4+ hour bus ride for each leg and only saving ~$60) and this is a quick trip so I’m going to book the flight. I hope. I like to help the airlines out where I can so my first effort was to book direct. They don’t offer a multi-city booking option and they won’t show the overnight connections. Also, their direct sale pricing was $20+ more than what ITA says the fare should be. Fine; I can handle that. I know lots of OTAs and odds are Hipmunk will find my itinerary, right?
Indeed, Hipmunk did find it, though I had to “encourage” it a bit by forcing the first segment using the routing codes. Still, I got to the flight selection page and had many choices at a variety of prices:
Well, gosh. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Of course four vendors will sell the same airfare at wildly different prices for no apparent reason. But I’m frugal and I don’t really have any allegiance to any of these OTAs so I try Priceline. That $120 fare? Yeah, it is actually $147.
So now that it is more expensive maybe I can get CheapOair to give me a deal, right? Sure enough, clicking through gets me a fare of $134.30, just like Hipmunk advertised. But I was not yet done.
I remembered that CheapOair is one of the booking engines I can get cash back from using the Travel Rebates section of my Wandering Aramean Travel Tools site. And if I can save an extra $7 on the ticket then I should give it a try, right? Same exact search with the same flights got me a completely different price:
Clicking through actually showed me the exact same flights with a higher “Base Price” for the same fare class and same rules as the cheaper flight direct from the Hipmunk click-through. I can get a $7 rebate on the booking if I pay $7 more for it today. That’s not so helpful after all.
And, yes, I did check the higher priced options just to make sure they didn’t reprice in my favor. They did not.
So, yeah, call me a skeptic of anything the industry says they’re doing to make sure that I’m always going to get the best offer presented to me. They’ve done a really good job so far of ensuring that they are delivering everything but that lately.
- Using Hipmunk to maximize mileage run bookings
- Is it worth the effort to find the best airfare??
- So, just how much is that ticket??
- The many different prices of a flight
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