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How To Find The Cheapest Plane Tickets

Updated on February 20, 2010

The Secrets of Airline Ticket Pricing

Do you think the best way to get the cheapest plane tickets is by calling the airline?  Or, do you scan through hundreds of websites provided by search engines to find low airfare tickets?  Maybe you hope to find cheap airfare in the local newspaper's travel section.

Finding cheap airline tickets can be one of the most frustrating experiences that most of us learn very quickly. Of course, most people eventually give up after spending hours scanning websites that offer virtually the same flight schedules and pricing. People purchase what they believe is the cheapest plane ticket, only to find their neighbor paid just a third of what they did!

Unless you understand the concept of of how airlines set prices, all the searching in the world won't provide the cheapest airline ticket prices. The following information will give you a guide to follow, as you wander through the maze searching for cheap airfare.

Understand how prices are set by airlines! Ticket pricing is complex and unpredictable, and driven by competition, demand, and inventory. Airlines call this “yield management.” 

Competition is the beast behind the cheapest plane tickets. All major airlines utilize central reservation systems (owned by various airlines) to fill available seats. The systems are known as Apollo, Sabre, WorldSpan and Galileo. Prices are based on demand, and if some flights are selling well, the price will increase. If the flight is unpopular and has very little demand, the fare is lowered in hope of attracting consumers. In short, fares and inventory change every minute of every day!

Finding the cheapest plane tickets is difficult because travel agents and Internet websites use the central reservation systems that are updated periodically throughout the day. The reason why different searches come up with different results is because the systems are not updated at the same times. And, each system may use different algorithms when searching for low airfare tickets, which can provide a variety of ticket prices.

Demand drives fare prices up or down, and explains why it's usually cheaper to fly on weekdays, late nights, or non-holidays. Ticket pricing is based on competition. And, to complicate matters if one airline drops rates by 20 percent, most airlines will drop their rates as well. This eliminates a discounter's (cheap airfare) competitive edge.

Differences in fares can exist for identical routes on different airlines because one airline might dominate the market share for that destination, thus cheap airfare tickets are not needed to entice passengers. And, all this happens at the speed of light! Prices can change while your credit card information is being provided, and what you thought was the cheapest plane ticket, suddenly isn't so cheap.

Inventory is another advantage used by airlines to entice potential fliers. Airlines designate seats into price ranges on flights to offer cheap airfare. Of course, people hoping to secure the cheapest plane tickets are attracted to these advertisements. But, most often, by the time you place the call to the airline, the seats are gone.

Inventory relates to demand, and if the availability is low but demand high, the wait for the cheapest plane tickets can be lengthy.  But, this does not mean you will not be successful in finding low airfare tickets.  Sometimes, airlines change fares or designate additional seats, depending on ticket sales. 

These three factors (competition, inventory and demand) are essential when looking for the cheapest plane tickets.  Before booking tickets for your next trip, take the time to do some comparison shopping.  Cheap airfare tickets are out there for the taking, and can be found.

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    • profile image

      ivori 8 years ago

      You're very welcome, CreativeOne. Been going through a brain-dead period, I guess, and haven't had any inspiring ideas lately. But, I've been reading your hubs and do enjoy them very much!

    • profile image

      ivori 8 years ago

      Thanks for the comment, lis!

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you ivori for a gret hub and great advice , thank you for sharing. I hadn't seen you arounf for a while. are you okay, I missed you. Godspeed, creativeone59

    • liswilliams profile image

      liswilliams 8 years ago from South Africa

      thanks for the tip!

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