Friday, April 10, 2009

The Idiocity of Air Travel Today

I was in Minneapolis briefly for something personal earlier this week and then used a free ticket to pop down to Atlanta to surprise Miles, who was visiting his parents for the week. To make this work, I had to buy myself a one-way ticket from Atlanta to Las Vegas for Sunday.

When I was working on this last weekend, one-way airfares from ATL-LAS were quite high, none less than $400. But I stumbled across some other one-way fares from the Southeastern U.S. that weren't so bad. To wit, it was $133 to fly from Jacksonville, Fla., to Las Vegas, stopping in Atlanta.

I called up Delta. Could I buy the $133 ticket and just use the second half? No. How, pray tell, could it be that it costs $450 to fly ATL-LAS but $133 to fly JAX-ATL-LAS, putting me on the same aircraft for the second leg. In what universe is it a third as expensive for an airline to transport a passenger on two planes?

The Delta rep's response: "There is no way to explain our fares."

You're tellin' me, sister. So on Sunday, I fly from Atlanta to Charlotte to Jacksonville on US Air for $120 and then from JAX-ATL-LAS for $133. I'm saving $200 and gathering a bunch more frequent flier miles. And proving that our air travel system is stupid.

Oddly, Miles gets to take me to the airport in Atlanta for a 7 a.m. ET flight, fly his direct ATL-LAS flight in the afternoon, and pick me up at McCarran at 7 p.m. PT. That's assuming all four of my flights lift off and land as expected. Needless to say, I built in a LOT of time for error.

Any good reading suggestion?


mike_ch said...

I thought "that can't be right" and started looking at ATL -> Other City fares.

I think there's just something insane about Atlanta, since all other cities came up with the same thing. $400 to Salt Lake City. $700(!!) to San Diego. I decided not to look at LAX lest I pass out from the shock.

But is it that much of a surprise when you require an airport dropoff and then a pickup twelve hours later for what should be a four-hour flight? ;D

Tom M. said...

There is a very easy answer to this. Atlanta is a Delta hub. The fares are higher there because the planes a full. They bring in people from other airports to the hub so there are mostly full airplanes leaving the hub. That leaves very few "discounted" seats available when flying out of hub airports. And, if you think its about "cost" you don't understand free market economy. Its about what the airline feels it can get for the ticket. Obviously, it feels that it can get a lot more money from people flying out of Atlanta than Jacksonville.

Troy in Las Vegas said...

But the worst part about air travel is people put their shoes in the same bin you have to put your laptop in and then when you use your laptop, all that junk and nastiness from their shoes is now on your lap and hands and you know where you put your hands.

rob said...

steve. nothing new about this nonsene. A few yrs ago I needed to to go charlotte during the week. Fort Lauderdale to charlotte was $500-600 a ticket. FLL to pittsburgh was 150.00 round trip with a stop in charlotte. sometimes business people buy two round trips and use one for each direction basically tearing the return flight as it is cheaper. This is strongly against airline policy. Also if I went to charlotte via pittsburgh the airline will not let me get on via charlotte on the way home. I sometimes use alternate airports. In one case I flew into Providence RI instead of Boston because it was so much cheaper. The airline system is totally bananas as Miles would say. I also know some frequent flyers that do a mileage run to only get mileage status for all sorts of reasons. I did one once to get AA gold status.

robertw4771 said...

I disagree with toms comments. Jacksonville to LAS could be a route where they could nail you big time. Some hub airports will cost you a fortune on many airfares. Atlanta is not one of those. Flights to Charlotte are because US air dominates all flights there and there is a huge amount of bankers etc coming into charlotte for business. That being said. If the airline thinks they can nail you, you are dead meat. The weirdest routes cost the most.

mike4dice said...

So how was the trip/adventure?