Debunking the Myths: Six Facts You Didn’t Know About Airfares


by Kellie Carty.

This post originally appeared on Flight Centre AU.

Are you a seasoned traveller, a one-off flyer or somewhere in between? Exactly how much do you know about those airfares you're purchasing once, twice or 10-plus times in the year? There are a lot of airfare myths being passed off as truths. It's time we busted these myths wide open and sent them to the no-fly zone.

MYTH #1: Booking your flights last minute is the best way to make the greatest savings.

Travellers are more likely to secure greater savings by booking international flights at least two months in advance.

'Last minute' savings are often up for grabs but for those who prefer to be a little more prepared, booking in advance will save you more money. Keeping an eye on earlybird deals, released about nine months before departure, is the best way to snap up a bargain early on in your travel planning.

MYTH #2: Everyone on the plane, in the same cabin class, has paid the same price for their seat.

As the aircraft fills up, the prices climb higher. Each incremental increase is what is known as a 'fare bucket'.

Airline seats are a perishable commodity. Once the flight departs there is no value on that seat to the airline so their goal is to sell every seat on every flight.

Seats in an aircraft are divided into 'buckets' with a particular price and airfare rules attached. Once the lowest fare bucket is sold, a price from the next lowest bucket is offered and so forth until the flight is sold out.

Sometimes these buckets may not sell as quickly as the airline had anticipated so they may add in a lower fare bucket or a sale fare to entice more sales – hence last minute sales.

Conversely, if the seats are selling quickly or it's a popular time of day or year to be flying, the airline may add in higher fare buckets. These can change minute by minute as bookings are made.

MYTH #3: It doesn't matter how far in advance you book your airfare.

Airlines only make airfares available for booking 10-12 months out from departure. This means you can only book a flight 10-12 months in advance of your departure date.

However, this coincides with the release of earlybird deals so for those who like to plan in advance, you can pounce on a great deal if you forward-plan.

MYTH #4: Booking online is the best way to ensure you're getting the cheapest price.

Travel agents have everything you can get online, plus more. They even have access to deals that you can't book yourself.

The obvious downfall of booking online is having to spend hours trawling travel websites in search for the cheapest airfare but when booking online, you should also be wary of hidden fees.

MYTH #5: All fares are sold with the same conditions of use.

The price of an airfare is made up of the airline fare plus taxes and airport fees. Some airlines also add a fuel surcharge to compensate for the fluctuation of fuel prices.

On top of this, all fares are sold with a set of 'rules' or conditions related to the sale.

However, not all fares have exactly the same conditions and this impacts both the price and availability of certain fares.

These rules are primarily to separate the business traveller from the leisure traveller, both of whom have different needs.

Typical fare conditions include things like the inclusion of a baggage allowance, the ability to change or modify a flight booking or whether any meals are included.

Some airlines also charge extra for food selection or checked-in baggage.

Your travel agent can help you through this minefield of varying flight prices.

MYTH #6: You can earn extra frequent flyer points and priority check-in when you flash your Mile High Club membership.

Entering the 'Mile High Club' won't grant you extra frequent flyer points. Or any perks because it's not a real club with member benefits.

If you're after club status or a membership with benefits, Flight Centre recommends joining an airline loyalty program such as the Cathay Pacific oneWorld Asia Miles or Marco Polo Frequent Flyer program or Qantas Frequent Flyer program.

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