What if flight hacking goes mainstream?
There will always be people who are able to find idiosyncrasies in airlines’ pricing models in order to lower their flight costs.
NB: This is a viewpoint by Jonathan Breeze, CEO of AardvarkCompare.
Ancillary revenues, yield management and personalisation are some of the reasons why airline pricing models are becoming more sophisticated. But large numbers of potentially aggrieved customers are beginning to fight back. They even have a name – flight hackers.
Helped as never before by information-sharing platforms such as Quora, flight hackers have the potential to disrupt the current pricing model.
As a result, airlines may wish to reconsider the perceived unfairness of their current approach, which, from the passengers’ perspective, is based on income maximization for the airline.
Here are some flight hacks consumers are using.
1) Insuring non-refundable risk
At the extremes, refundable flight options can be up to 400% more expensive than non-refundable. Travel insurance incorporating robust cancellation benefits such as “cancel for work reason” or “cancel for any reason” can mitigate almost all cancellation risk for customers, with a typical cost of coverage of 10% of ticket price.
If this non-refundable flight hack goes mainstream, there is significant disruption risk to the current refundable pricing model.
2) Anonymous search
There is a growing fear among consumers that their search activity is impacting their flight prices, such is the lack of trust in current airline pricing models. Flight hackers have taken to searching in anonymous mode within their browsers.
3) VPN from another country
As airlines offer differentiated pricing for the same flight for customers shopping in different countries, then flight hackers can use VPN tools to modify their apparent location to a less expensive country for ticket purchase.
4) Single seat purchase for groups
Flight hackers buying for a group fear that a group price will be more expensive per seat than a single search, so look to purchase group tickets individually.
5) Hidden city ticketing
Rather than booking a high cost hub-to-hub ticket, flight hackers will book a flight that continues to a more remote destination. These multi-city sectors are often significantly less expensive than flying point to point. The flight hacker simply does not take the final flight sector.
Example: New York – Chicago direct is expensive, but New York – Kentucky, with a change in Chicago is less expensive. The flight hacker books the New York – Kentucky flight, but gets off in Chicago; the ‘Hidden City’ on the route.
For business travelers who frequently fly between cities for work, mixing and matching outbound and return dates can help reduce costs on short duration trips.
7) Baggage fees
Passengers aim to avoid checked baggage fees by maximising their carry-on allowance. This has an operational impact on the airlines, with longer boarding times putting pressure on departure times.
Added together, these flight hacks – and there are more – offer a mainstream customer base the opportunity to get a deal at the expense of the airline’s bottom line, something airlines can ill afford.
NB2: Image by Stmool/BigStock.
Special Nodes is the byline under which Tnooz publishes articles by guest authors from around the industry.