Tuesday, 19 September 2006

"Forecasting The Best Airfare: Is It Possible?"

Forecasting The Best Airfare: Is It Possible?
(By Eric Thomas, ABC 7 / KGO-TV, San Francisco, 30 August 2006)

Several new companies that monitor and claim to be able to predict airfares have been bugging me to review their Web sites. I haven’t, because I don’t think any of them are yet worth bothering with. And I don’t generally take the time to do a detailed review of something that’s not worth bothering with, unless it’s getting a lot more hype than these Web sites are.

But KGO anchor Eric Thomas has a knowledgeable and genuinely personal interest in the aviation business. So when he called a couple of weeks ago, I was happy to talk:

Edward Hasbrouck, travel writer: “I’m very skeptical as to how accurately they can predict, more accurately than the airlines, what the pricing is going to be.”

San Francisco author and travel agent Edward Hasbrouck says the airlines pricing structure is extremely complex and sophisticated, and based on volatile factors beyond just supply and demand.

He still recommends checking multiple sources before you book. And don’t be afraid to pull the trigger.

Edward Hasbrouck: “In general, the closer you get to the departure date, the higher the prices get.”

Among the many difficulties for a company like Farecast that’s trying to predict airline ticket prices is that they are relying on searches of other travel Web sites. That shows them, at most, some (not all) of what airline ticket prices are being advertised . But advertised prices are often incomplete and/or unavailable, which you may not find out until you click the “buy” button. It’s impossible to tell what’s actually available, or at what prices tickets are actually being sold unless you complete the purchase, which of course Farecast can’t afford to do. So the graph of the lowest advertised price may have little or no relationship to that of the lowest actually available price, or of the average price being paid.

And that’s just one of the problems.

In KGO’s experiments, Farecast said to “buy tickets now - don’t wait” for one trip, and “wait - prices will go down” for another. Both prices went up the next week.

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 06:13 ( 6:13 AM)

It's sure an interesting idea for a service, though...kind of like your own travel psychic. (Cant they predict massive disruption due to security fu, too?)

Of course, most of your readers are based in the US, and there the general rule that time to departure is inversely proportional to price of ticket may apply. In my own experience, however, buying UK-US rt tickets, the price varies a little differently than that. I rarely buy tickets more than 2-3 weeks in advance (which gets rid of most concerns about last-minute changes), and I find that (at least outside of peak season) the price of the ticket actually declines until about 2 weeks before the flight, at which point it starts going up again (because last-minute flyers usually are desperate).

A few weeks ago, when I was contemplating a trip, I entered the same dates into a couple of airline sites a week apart, and the second search
was noticeably cheaper.


Posted by: Wendy Grossman, 20 September 2006, 17:01 ( 5:01 PM)
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