Something new…

In trying to book tickets to go to my friend Mike’s wedding in Honolulu, Hawaii, I’ve learned the following facts:

Flying roundtrip from Dallas to Honolulu costs $900.
Flying roundtrip from Houston to Honolulu via Dallas costs $630.

On America West, you can fly from Phoenix to Honolulu. The flight goes via Las Vegas.
However, you can’t fly directly from Vegas to Honolulu, even though there is, apparently, a plane taking off from that airport that goes to Honolulu.

The one that struck closest to home:
On Northwest, it costs $730 to fly roundtrip SFO->HNL.
Northwest has a promotion by which it costs $320 to fly roundtrip from ATL->HNL. This flight stops in SFO in both directions.
Yes, $400 cheaper. Unfortunately, you cannot buy a multi-leg ticket and get on halfway — the airline won’t issue you your boarding passes except at the starting airport. (You can get on at the beginning and get off halfway, though, provided you didn’t check any baggage.)
$400 was so much cheaper, however, that I hatched a plan to buy a one-way ticket from SFO to ATL on Northwest, go to the SFO airport and get all my boarding passes, and skip the SFO->ATL->SFO legs. Then I could (maybe) just jump on for SFO->HNL, and on the way back skip out early and get out at SFO.

Sneaky, right? Ah, but the airlines are sneakier: a one-way ticket from SFO->ATL runs $600. $600! The best part is that a roundtrip ticket, SFO->ATL and back, costs only $300.

Insanity. Of course, even this convoluted plan, with the roundtrip ticket to Atlanta, wouldn’t save me much money at all, so I abandonded it.

I do, though, hate airlines.

I’ve seen a number of projects that attempt to numerically analyze changes in airline prices by some automated system. Essentially they treat the airline websites as black boxes and just aggregate stats on them. While this might work, I’m wondering whether someone can just get an anonymous insider to expose how prices actually work. Is there any sense there at all?

Something akin to the famous Confessions of a Car Salesman, perhaps. No doubt in the airline case it might be illegal to disclose this information. But there’s gotta be some loophole…

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11 Responses to Something new…

  1. cychan says:

    Hi AJ, your post reminded me of an article I read a while back in Fast Company on pricing.

    The most mind boggling thing in the article is that the airlines typically change 75,000 prices in a single day! And that was three years ago; I wonder what’s happening now.

    • aj says:

      Wow, yeah, interesting.

      Just edited my post to add something I had forgotten to mention; have you read “Confessions of a Car Salesman”? They should do the same thing for airline pricing insiders.

  2. ccho says:

    Yes, plane tickets are seriously screwed up. One of the positive effects of lowest-price-finding services like Priceline, Cheaptickets, and Orbitz was that it presented to consumer with comparison pricing information, leading to promotion of competition between airlines for ticket sales. You would expect that this would cause airlines to have competitive and homogenous prices

    One-way tickets, if not a shuttle flight, are usually more expensive than round-trip tickets. But, round-trip tickets usually have the restriction that they are not refundable (though the return trip date is usually changeable), and if you do not show up for the initial trip, they will not honor the return trip portion. If you are going to buy a ticket that goes from HNL->SFO first, make sure it’s ok for you to use them in reverse order.

    In your case, it is possible that they have additional passengers from a different flight path get on at Las Vegas, so a direct flight is not available.

    When I went to England from Korea, the price of a round-trip ticket from Korea -> England was $3200. If I wanted to go the other way around the world (which would take an additional 8 hours of flight time), I would have only had to pay $2600 for a Korea -> US round-trip and NY -> England round-trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t get many vacation days and had to use the direct flight.

    Anyway, have fun in Hawaii!

    • aj says:

      “You would expect that this would cause airlines to have competitive and homogenous prices”

      They do have homogenous prices. But, based on the article Cy linked too, they’re not necessarily “competitive”, in the sense that they all use the same pricing system. Sounds dangerously like collusion to me.

  3. Check I seem to remember them having a cheap SFO Hawaii special in their top 20 list this week.
    Good luck!
    If not, I hear Shropshire’s nice.

  4. judytuna says:

    wow, Confessions of a Car Salesman is amazing; I’d never heard of it before. I’m not even all the way through it at this moment and I feel sick to my stomach. I will make like Andy and ride a bike for the rest of my life. Or do internet deals. Or dress up like I’m really rich and go lead some salespeople on.

  5. Anonymous says:


    .Good luck!

  6. Anonymous says:


    . for attention thank you

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yes, this is a very interesting gap! Also, I was wondering what the point of having all those fake Harrys and not disapparating was if Harry (with the Trace on him, and with spies at the ministry) was just going to do spells like Expelliarmus and Accio Hagrid. Would this not give him away?

  8. That’s a posting full of insight!

  9. Steve,No. Those "nuances" do not apply to Tennessee Libertarian candidates.No one outside a party is going to trouble to influence a party primary when that party garners less than 1% of the total vote in a general election. In 2008, even Ralph Nader out-polled Libertarian Bob Barr by over 3,000 votes in Tennessee.The Libertarian Party of Tennessee is just not big enough to be taken so seriously by the D and R parties.