Flight Booking 201: Save Money By…. Being Somewhere Else

Airlines set different prices/inventory on an identical flight depending on the point-of-sale. By setting to a different locale of the airline website, you might find cheaper fares (yeah, you don’t really need to be physically located in another country, despite the title). Here is a perfect example that I just encountered.

Today I was looking for United flights from Calgary to Chicago on April 1. As usual, I went to Google Flights and found the lowest price to be US$346. As Google Flights uses the departure country as the point-of-sale, United’s Canadian website echoes the result (CA$446 is equivalent to US$346).

 

Then, I simply changed the locale of the United site to U.S. by clicking the “Canada | English” on top. Something “truly magical” happens. The price falls to US$283, a $63 reduction!!

 

Those who know what fare classes are can suspect what makes the results different. Indeed, if we take a closer look at the available classes for the 8:24AM flight, we can immediately discern the difference in availability between the Canadian and US sites.

 

On the Canadian site, the lowest fare class is “V” whereas the one on the US site is “S”. For United, “S” is a fare class two levels lower than “V” and its corresponding fare is non-trivially cheaper. As both fare classes are discounted economy, there shouldn’t be major distinctions in terms of change/cancellation restrictions.

Guess which locale did I book through in the end? 😉

The bottom line is — if you are booking an international flight, you should always check prices on websites of both departing and arriving countries. If you are booking a domestic flight, well, it never hurts to check a few more countries if you have the time. I have heard instances of domestic US flights priced cheaper if you book in European countries.

Final comment — The complexity of fare pricing leaves us ways to find lower fare than the most straightforwardly displayed. On one hand, it is quite fun and rewarding to find a lower fare, and hence the purpose of this blog. On the other hand, I wish the airlines simplify the system so that we the consumers can save some time and they can earn back our trust. This industry needs no more complexities (basic economy, I’m looking at you).

 

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