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Why can't I get this price from airline sites?

I admit I am confused on this. Let me start that since we got experienced (thank you all in the community here!) we have always been buying our flights directly from the airlines. We are planning our fall trip, and for itineraries we would like, we are seeing substantially better pricing on some OTAs (e.g. Kayak and its subsidiary Priceline, Fareboom after having followed the recent thread and checked out of curiosity, I am sure I could find some others). To give a couple examples, routings we have considered include Philly-->Prague, and return Munich->Philly, Philly ->Rome or Venice and return from the other, Philly -> Dublin and back from Prague. Needless to say, these prices adn combos do NOT show up when using ita-Matrix or Google flights, which is normally the first place I search (in fact Google flights had gotten us directly to the airlines the last couple times with prices that I could not get if I started at the airline site itself!

In each case, I've been finding a serious saving offered via an OTA. What it has involved is a combination of flights where each 1/2 is handled by one side of a codeshare, e.g, flight from here to Prague on BA and a return via American. I've also seen this with Lufthansa and United or Air Canada, coming out of Philly Lufthansa and AA are our primary choices. In any event, the codeshare combo is not only significantly cheaper, but may also not even be available from either parent airline. When I say significantly cheaper, I am finding as low as mid-$700s vs $1050 from the airline. Now the connecting flights (and often these show at least one way as the normal non-stop flight) are the normal connecting flights one would expect when booking with the airline, so crazy routing - which we caught a couple times from an OTA before I learned my way around - does not appear to be an issue.

I would rather buy direct from an airline but $500 to $600 is significant savings. I am aware of the problems that can arise when a you have to deal with a third party rather than the airline, but these are all main-stream itineraries. What I am having trouble comprehending is WHY the airlines are willing to let these seats go fora price that is undercutting them by this much.

So does anyone have any insight as to why I am finding this?

Posted by
733 posts

My experience was the same. We used Kayak which gave us a quote via Expedia which was cheaper (if not impossible because of multiple airlines used) to book than booking directly with the airlines. I called up a travel agent who could not match and advised me to grab the Expedia booking because it was so cheap. And we did not have any issues.

I have no explanation.

Posted by
2526 posts

Buy the tickets if you like and have a drink. Use savings to buy a T-Mobile cell plan in case of need?

Posted by
1106 posts

Hi Larry. Yes, it's just a way for the airlines to sell their excess capacity without 'cheapening their product' by offering these low prices on their own sites. I agree that it is preferable to buy directly from the airline, but if a reputable OTA such as Expedia or Kayak is offering a price that is hundreds of dollars less, I am fine buying thru them to get the savings. However, I would not buy thru a non-reputable OTA regardless of price. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
453 posts

Great question! I've been wondering the same thing. I'm pretty experienced in buying my own flights to Europe as I've done it four times, some round trips and some multi-city. I'm researching flights from Tampa to Milan for October 2018 now. I found the dates I wanted on United on their website. Found the exact same flights on the AAA website for almost $250 less!? I strongly support the notion of buying directly from the airline, but AAA is pretty reputable. I'm going to call United customer service and see if they'll give me the AAA price.

Posted by
2508 posts

Hi, Bob in Minneapolis - thanks, what a simple and logical answer. Since I worked as a specialist for SSA and my wife was school librarian, we have no business acumen and never thought of it in those terms. After that explanation, we are taking a shot with Fareboom for over 30% less for into Munich and out of Prague, on BA and and AA. AS all three flights are standard flights run by AA and BA (we have so few flights across out of Philly that I recognize these flights) I am not concerned about any major change affecting the itinerary. I spent some time looking at Fareboom reviews and complaints. They appear legit, and it looks like almost every complaint involved someone who had to make a late change and did not know what they had to do with whom, and also did not understand the basic Terms and Conditions. Seriously, the last couple of years I have been able to find sub $500 flights temporarily appearing - from the airlines. Not this year. Which is why i could not understand why for the last 3 weeks or so I kept seeing these bargain prices - off of Kayak, etc.

Posted by
523 posts

Following, as I am experiencing the same thing as the other posters. In my case the difference in price isn't quite so extreme, and I have not yet decided how to proceed. I'm finding flights on Austrian Air and Lufthansa are about $170 cheaper per ticket on Kayak and Google Flights than the same flights on the Lufthansa site. Since I will be purchasing 3 tickets, this does add up. I guessed that perhaps the difference was that the Lufthansa tickets might include actual seat assignments, whereas I'd have to purchase them as add-ons through the other sites, but I haven't explored enough to know if this is the reason or not.

I did run into problems when purchasing through a third party a number of years ago (one of my original flights was cancelled, and they automatically rebooked me departing from a different airport from the one I was returning to....small problem of having to take a cab 90 miles to retrieve my car!) and it was a huge ordeal to try to get the customer support I needed, so I'm a little gun shy about purchasing from someone other than the airlines themselves. I didn't know to check the AAA site, which I may do next. I would assume AAA would provide real customer support....Anyone have experience with this?

Posted by
2508 posts

First, in regards to Lufthansa seats, if you do not pay the high up-front fees you get to select at online check-in 24 hours out. Hint - I have always been able to check-in 30 hours or so out and do this, I wonder if the time zone changes affect this. In any event, have never had a problem getting acceptable seats at check-in. In regards to AAA, after seeing the comment I looked on them last night, but they offered nothing I could not get from the airlines, so no reason to use.

A caveat about Kayak. I noted during this that who they say has the actual ticket matters. I noticed a lot of the specials were with Hotwire, and as soon as you click on "View Deal", you get along with the itinerary a notice that the price went up - and the price is now the same as the airlines'.

Let me update that I purchased our trip on Fareboom last evening, and it went right through, no issues. Had my record locator in a couple minutes and the e-tix in about 35, which is pretty good considering I had just slipped past their listed working hours. If your itinerary is like mine, regular flights and connections ones that you could have gotten from the airlines directly, then I would expect there will be no problems. Added advantage is that they had all the open non-premium seats on my American long-haul flight, which AA would not yet be making available. Of course, BA has tighter controls and they could not get me BAs free seats.

Posted by
8 posts

I have been looking at flights to Milan for the last week. This in not my first flight. I have flown Delta and United. Delta lost [didn't put my bags on the plane] for 24 hours, the nest flight. United hasn't been a problem, yet.
United's price was about $1300 round trip, last fall and still is. In October i purchased 2 tickets through skybooker and while VERRY nervous, had no problems.

Now, skybooker is higher than United for the same price, but I keep getting ads for other third party companies, such as Airtkt, cheapfareguru and others. their prices are almost half of United. Checking google for reviews of these companies, some sites are about 50/50 good and bad, with most bad reviews with people making changes [or the company making changes and not telling the purchaser].
BUT, I noticed that some of the review sites are giving very good reviews while advertising on the same travel sites, and advertising for these sites.

This makes me very nervous. It is hard for me to pay double for the tickets, $650 vs %1300, but I slao don't want to get stuck in Europe and have to pay extra to get home.

Posted by
2508 posts

IF you decide to purchase from a site other than the airline, watch very carefully. Make certain the price doesn't increase when you actually try to get the deal (e.g. Hotwire). Make certain that the flights you have selected keep showing all the way through the selection process, and in fact show on the payment screen - I was baited-and-switched by Faredepot back in 2014, the short hop after the long haul flight that we got was not even offered on their selection screen, and I missed it - es too late by the time I noticed it. Take a screen shot of you purchase screen before you hit "confirm", you will have that to prove they played a game with you. Check your ticket immediately when you get it, it will have the airline locator number, put it in the airline's website for your trips, and verify the flights are there. if they are, you are fine, the ticketing exists. if they are not there, better call the OTA and cancel, they have to do this within 324 hours, and if they don't you simply immediately call your credit card and tell them of the problem, dropping the "f" word (fraud). While a transaction such as this will not go through within a minute like buying from the airline, it should be processed within 30 minutes.

Posted by
381 posts

OTA flight booking typically does not provide these information:

  • Will booking reference numbers for the airlines be provided? Without one, it is impossible to confirm a flight is booked at an airline's site. No online check in or seat selection either.

  • What class of flight is being quoted? "Economy" can mean different classes with different luggage allowances, etc.

  • What kind of frequent mileage is available?

Larry, how did Fareboom handle these?

Posted by
2508 posts

In terms of class of economy, we only fly regular economy. This appeared to be what was offered. They have a drop down for cabin choice for economy, premium economy, business, and first, we fly economy. I imagine these would be handled as normal. In terms of miles, you are on the airline, and I imagine on the airline's site you would be able to enter your mileage number for credit if you are with them (just as in codeshares - e.g., I also just purchased tickets to Oaxaca on United, and afterwards entered our Lufthansa mileage number on United). I would think that you cannot use existing miles with an OTA. Never investigated this as this will never apply to us.

As for actual confirmations, in under 3 minutes (the time for the credit card to authorize) I had an e-mail confirmation with the 6 character airline number, and immediately found it on BA and was able to enter our passport data. The e-ticket emailed in under 25 minutes (both all the more impressive as I had just passed their closing time when I completed the purchase, and did not expect this until the next morning, based on comments on their site).

As BA does not give free seats before 24 hours, none were offered, but I could immediately pay for BA seats on their web site had we wished to. For the American return flight, we were offered a much larger choice of the free seats than we would have seen on AA's site (checked this), and reserved. Everything is in both BA's and AA's "My Trip" just as I would expect had there been a direct booking.

I would have no qualms about using them again if we see a substantially discounted routing like this one, which was a good 30% or so. To me the outstanding problem is if you need help when you have bought with an IOTA then that is who you have to deal with. We always have simple routing and connections, and if out flight over is late, I am certain BA will handle us for our ongoing flight, as we are on their system. We consider the risk of our having a personal issue affecting our ability to travel as small.

BTW, make sure you uncheck all the search boxes at the bottom with every search, else you will get several sites opening windows behind your main window, which will slow you down considerably.

Posted by
725 posts

I'm so happy to read this today. I am finding the same issues regarding an open jaw flight StL to Venice then Milan to StL. Kayak is quoting a total ticket price of $666 each. When I tried to book directly with Lufthansa the price is $17xx.xx each. What the hey? In my case the third party is Vayama.....havent made the purchase yet as I still need to look for reviews and complaints.

Posted by
266 posts

United Airlines website says guaranteed lowest fares. Has anyone gotten a price match by contacting them? (I haven't read the fine print on what it matches or how to proceed.)

Posted by
2508 posts

I would think they can only match prices against flights that they also offer. They can't match price on a route they can't put you on with either their metal or their codeshares' metal.

Posted by
8 posts

I contacted United reservations and told them I had a quoted price of $661. They said that their best price was $1291. and good luck.

After booking the flight with CheapFareGuru, I received a confirmation the next morning, appx 5 hours later.
I went in line to United and every thing was there in their system. I was able to select seats and add my FF numbers.
I even added my requirements for a special meal.
I called united and they said any changes or delays in flights can be handled through united, and will not have to go through the booking agent.

We will see how this works out in May.

I am flying into Milan for 34 days. I have booked a motorcycle again and we will be touring Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia, returning to Milan.
I can't recommend touring Europe on a Motorcycle for everyone, but this is my 5th trip in 6 years. If the weather is good, you can't beat it with a car or train, and the parking is great, anywhere you can take a bicycle or scooter.