35 Responses

  1. Taylor
    Taylor at |

    Thanks for writing this post. I just ran a search on ITA the way you suggest above, which returned a $171 fare for one-way BWI-DFW-LAX. I then ran a search on AA.com for one-way BWI-LAX on the same date (through the regular engine, not multi-city), and it returned the same price for the itinerary I had originally found on ITA.

    I was able to select seats and hold.

  2. Greg
    Greg at |

    Any thoughts on the accuracy / helpfulness if Google flight search? I’ve been increasingly using it to quickly spot check routes and itineraries, mainly for its speed and clean interface.

  3. Jose
    Jose at |

    Thank you for the post! Is this type of ticket legal in the contract of carriage?

  4. Mike Combs
    Mike Combs at |

    It’s called married segments. AA sets inventory levels on LGA-AUS and prices accordingly. So LGA-AUS may have zero Q fares, but the LGA-DFW and DFW-AUS flights do show Q fares when checked separately. AA.com has business rules in place when booking to catch attempts to get around married segment inventory controls. As you discovered some OTAs do not.

    Right or wrong that’s what’s happening.

  5. Connecting flight? Be careful how you search for best fares! - FlyerTalk Forums

    […] logic, but they're implementing it badly and you may be paying more than you need to for a flight…a lot more based on some of the searches I've done. __________________ Travel Tales | Cash-back on travel bookings Twitter | […]

  6. Tale
    Tale at |

    What’s interesting is that the price is still higher if you force a stopover in DFW, but that it only drops if you do a multi city search.

    Which leaves a question, how do you find cases where this happens with ITA or OTA s?

  7. ptahcha
    ptahcha at |

    Could this be a case where you can claim lowest price guarantee and profit from it? After all, it’s the same flights.

  8. jayy
    jayy at |

    ditto Tale’s comment – how do you know if you this is happening? Tough to do manual searches when comparing multiple options.

  9. charles
    charles at |

    I have a situation which truly calls into question whether Delta is playing games and raising fares as you book. As a delta AMEX cardholder I tried to book a trip with free companion ticket. The fare (fare code U) was $332 up to the moment I entered the site as seeking a companion fare. the fare jumped to $399 and after I ticketed the fare returned to $332. The fare has not changed for days since.

    Delta told me they have no way to verify, do not believe me and all they can offer is that I not travel and lose my money and companion coupon.
    I have been both an AMEX cardholder and aDetal frequent flyer for years. I do understand rules, buckets and lies.

  10. Bruce Margon
    Bruce Margon at |

    I’m most familiar with United’s “low fare guarantee”, but might guess that AA and DL have similar ones. On UA, if you are very, very patient, you can collect a penalty by demonstarting that you were offered a lower fare on a third party website than offered on their own site. Couldn’t one exploit that in cases like you mention here, and at least pick up the penalty for all your trouble?

  11. Tom
    Tom at |

    Seth, I ran into this very problem on AA about a month ago. I called web services and they told me I was breaking the fare rules when trying to deconstruct the itinerary. The work around that solved the issue was to simply book one way trips rather than a round trip. It doesn’t exactly match the issue you are showing above, but it shows that one must do multiple searches in order to find the best fare.

  12. Ted
    Ted at |

    Very intersting

  13. Richard
    Richard at |

    Very interesting, Seth. Two questions:

    1) So just to make sure I understand — this happens when AA has a cheaper filed fare for the full route, but is only providing the necessary availability on the individual segments, not when they’re “married”? (Which would mean you could also detect these circumstances using something like Expertflyer, not that it would save any time).

    2) Any sense of how the airlines view this on the “scale of ethics”? Seems like it could potentially be viewed in the same light as fuel dumping.

  14. Pam
    Pam at |

    Recently had to purchase 14 tickets for a job in France. I accidentally found a desired itinerary but then found it hard to find later when actually booking, which was producing searches with higher fares and much less desirable routing. I was able to book the flights on AA using the method you described with lots of time invested in searching. Saved me hundreds by forcing the routing through Miami and London instead of New York and Madrid. Very difficult to get the route to show properly and the airline websites make selecting your own routing display in a routing mode which only displays the price in the final screen.

    I also found that booking through BA’s website logged in to the United Kingdom site netted me a $100 savings for a $350 flight from Heathrow to Bordeaux vs the price the US website offered.

  15. Roberto
    Roberto at |

    Great post! Thanks for actually booking the fare and testing the whole thing out.

  16. Steve
    Steve at |

    I keep finding multi-city DL fares that are cheaper than the one-way connecting flight. I’ve been able to get matrix, kayak, orbitz, and even dl.com to price them – but they always error out when trying to complete the booking. DL, even lets me enter my c.c. info before erroring out.

    Priceline, travelocity, hipmunk, and expedia all price the multi-cities as the more expensive end-on-end fares 🙁

    Any other suggestions for OTA’s that might let me actually complete the booking?

  17. perfectlyGoodInk
    perfectlyGoodInk at |

    Yes, and this is the equivalent to grocery stores offering a cheaper price for goods to people who take the time and trouble to clip coupons.

  18. pssteve
    pssteve at |

    Thanks for this post. Just too late for me by 3 days.Tried booking LAX-JFK-LHR with return BRU-LHR-JFK-LAX (needed these flights to use available C space for SWU’s). AA site priced at $1233 but then I got into the loop and could not get past it. The reason given was that the fare classes had changed but I tried a dozen times over a 24 hour period and kept getting $1233 but could not proceed and finally before the C space evaporated I called EXP line and booked the exact same flights but for $1463 ($230 more). I feel cheated but will remember it when the class action law suits start.

  19. Muerl
    Muerl at |


    Are Married Segments visible in the fare rules?

    Trying to understand how the OTAs see these rules.

  20. Randall
    Randall at |

    In the first example, the higher NYC-AUS fare was in V fare bucket; in the second example, the lower NYC-DFW-AUS fare was in N fare bucket. Presumably, the lower fare is technically available, but the N inventory is not available when booked as a connection. Isn’t this a married sector inventory issue (as earlier comments suggested) rather than a fare construction issue? I run into this exact married sector problem a lot with AA and it’s very frustrating. What I don’t understand is how Orbitz was able to book it, since AA wasn’t making N available when the two sectors were booked as a connection.

    (As a related aside, it’s frustrating that you can’t set an ExpertFlyer alert for the inventory because it is available on the individual sectors and EF doesn’t support an alert for married sectors.)

  21. italdesign
    italdesign at |

    Seth, I have not read your related articles, but have you seen this case in international airfare?

  22. Multicity cheaper than roundtrip - FlyerTalk Forums

    […] This issue has been exposed already by Seth Miller on the Wandering Aramean blog: http://blog.wandr.me/2014/06/america…-construction/ […]