Deceptive pricing on connecting itineraries

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Wandering Aramean, Feb 3, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    What will UA charge on an itinerary with connecting flights? It depends on how you query the systems. The same exact flights can vary by more than 40% in cost depending on the search parameters used. Consider these examples. Which booking would you choose?

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    Essentially UA doesn't know how to assemble fares for connecting itineraries. Buyer beware.
     
  2. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    And it isn't limited to that market.
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    (multi post because MP supports only 5 images/post)
     
  3. Hartmann
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    Hartmann Gold Member

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    Can you post the differences in search criteria?
     
  4. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Awww...that was the link bait to click through to my post. :p
    Search 1:
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    Search 2:
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  5. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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  6. Hartmann
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    Hartmann Gold Member

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    whoops. ;)

    It's funny that the simple round-trip breaks into more than two fare basis'. And by "funny" I mean "ridiculous".
     
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  7. HeathrowGuy
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    HeathrowGuy Gold Member

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    From each, according to his ability to pay. To each, according to his ability to pay.

    It's the only friendly way to run an airline.

    - Jeff Jong Un
     
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  8. mre5765

    mre5765 Silver Member

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    Ah, try pricing multi-cities instead of round trips. Back in the days when I bought my own tix and expensed it (PMUA) I often tried that trick and it worked enough that it was worth it. I had not tried it for years. However, I have noticed in the past 18 months that fares seemed rather screwy, but it never occurred to me to go back to that trick.

    Well, another trick in bag again. Thx.
     
  9. Golfingboy
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    Golfingboy Gold Member

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    I don't view this as a "trickery" on the customers' end. They are actually falsely advertising their lowest fares and taking advantage of their customers in the process.

    I don't know how long this issue has been going on, but if it has been going on for some time, then the total fare differential collected through this practice/bug/issue can be in the tune of millions of dollars.

    No reasonable average customer would figure that there is indeed a lower fare available and would proceed to act in good faith in UA's lowest fare guarantee.
     
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  10. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    An obvious difference in the printouts above is the number of layovers: very top, 2; middle, 1; bottom, none. The price decreases with the number of declared layovers, so one can assume that 'declared' layovers may be responsible for the price differences. I am off?
     
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  11. mre5765

    mre5765 Silver Member

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    I think it is billions of dollars. And yes I agree the average customer would never try it. I haven't tried it in over 300K bis flown. I will be trying it from now on.

    As for false advertising, a multicity is different than a round trip. A multicity that stops in BBB is a promise to provide service to BBB. A round trip that connects through BBB has no such promise. Normally, I would expect the multicity to price out for more because of that promise, but there will always be scenarios where the combined market demand for AAA-BBB and BBB-CCC is lower than the demand for AAA-CCC, via BBB.

    It is a consumer trick, albeit one with that I obviously see no ethical problem.
     
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  12. Golfingboy
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    Golfingboy Gold Member

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    No, here is the roundtrip EF fare information for pit-phx

    It is actually an AAA-CCC fare not AAA-BBB+BBB-CCC fare.

    image.jpg

    ETA: I see what some mean by UA not offering said fare class for AAA-CCC when it is indeed available due to married segment.
     

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    Last edited: Feb 3, 2014
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  13. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    :confused:

    It is the exact same flights on the same dates with different fares. The layovers are identical.
    Except that this is the inverse of a multi-city itinerary. The multi-city version is the most expensive option; the cheapest is A-C + C-A fares.
     
  14. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I see no reason for the :confused:. Anyone looking at the printouts that you posted would clearly see what I had pointed out. The top printout indicates 2 layovers, the second 1 layover and the last indicates none. What would be helpful, would be to enlighten us as to why the printouts differ with respect to the number of layovers. It is a simple enough question if the layovers are identical. Since there is no reason why the prices should be different, that seemingly insignificant item that is different between the printouts could affect the fare basis and, thus, the price...
     
  15. HeathrowGuy
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    HeathrowGuy Gold Member

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    Why do you continue to doubt my resolve to generate $2 billion in financial improvements?

    -Jeff Jong Un
     
  16. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    In my world a layover is where you arrive at one airport and leave from that same airport in <24 hours. The number of instances of such an occurrence does not change in the three differently priced itineraries above.
     
  17. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    The definition of layover is clear in human language, but may not be so in computer lingo (call it a bug). With the layover printed out, the fare class for PIT-PHX is "W", whereas it is "K" when the layover is not printed out. The change in the fare basis could account for the difference in price. I believe that it is a bug that should be pointed out to UA...
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2014
  18. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    The answer as to "why" is painfully simple. If PIT-IAH is competitive, and IAH-PHX is competitive, yet PIT-PHX is not competitive, they are going to price it each way according to the competitive factors.

    Those of us who sell anything in competitive markets are painfully aware of competitive forces for one product vs. another. Even though it is clear to "us" that the flights are identical, anyone searching UA for PIT-PHX is also searching PIT-PHX on competitors' sites. That is almost assuredly the differentiating factor in this example.

    Thanks, WA, for a very insightful example. It is sure to save those of us reading this example some dough going forward, as the likelihood of our searching the various arrangements of flights is now much greater. In my case, it was probably 0% before reading this thread. Now it is 100%.

    I wonder if a shortcut might be to search PIT-IAH-PIT and IAH-PHX-IAH? Have you tested it to see if the results are the same? I'm also wondering if my suggestion might mess up the baggage check-through more than buying individual segments. Rest assured I'll be looking at it in every possible configuration the next time I'm booking almost any destination, including the possibility of other connection points not suggested in a RT search. In some cases, that might make mileage earned a factor, too. It's time consuming, but if time is money, time spent to save money is money, too.
     
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  19. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    That's not what is happening here; it is actually the inverse, more or less. UA has a published fare PIT-PHX which they'll sell you some times and not other times depending on how you query for it.
     
  20. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    While your example and theory would be accurate if the lower K fare were constructed as two add-on fares, that is NOT what is happening in WA's example.

    Here is what is happening. UA publishes a K-fare for PIT-PHX. The fare inquiry which WA launches meets the fare rules for the K fare (dates, advance purchase, etc.) and there is K inventory available on each flight. However the origin-destination search didn't return the K fare; instead it returned a higher W fare. When WA did the multi-city search, it did return with K inventory on each of the legs, and when it priced, it noted that the connection was under 4 hours and therefore used the origin-destination through fare.

    Since OTA's are producing the same effect, the issue is not with united.com, nor the other OTAs, but something that is under United's own control. Likely what's going on is that United's inventory/revenue management has decided it wants to offer only the higher fare and it is using married segment logic to withhold K inventory.

    If United doesn't want to sell K fares on PIT-PHX, they could simply withdraw the fare, but since they offer the fare, and there is inventory on the individual flights, they ought to offer it. I suspect what the revenue management is offering the K fare on worse (slower) connections, and is trying to use price discrimination to charge a premium to passengers who value their time. It does seem deceptive.

    I've experienced the exact same thing as WA number of times, so I believe it is entirely intentional.
     
  21. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    This isn't new BTW. I would say this has been going on since 2010 at least
     
  22. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    The system may have "default" layover durations when these are not explicitly declared, with longer durations being assigned to lower fare classes and shorter ones to high fare classes. One can often see the same phenomenon with a regular search that lists the same exact itinerary with different layover durations... Is it intentional or a bug? that is the question...
     
  23. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    It is absolutely intentional.

    The system is set up to show shortest flight duration within a fare level. There is nothing in the fare rules that specifies that certain fares have to have longer layovers - the only things that matter is that the connecting time must meet MCT, and that the layover cannot exceed 4 hours on domestic itineraries. It is deceptive if the fare inventory is available and the fare conditions are met, not to display the lowest fare for a given itinerary. At a minimum the airlines have taught us that the cheapest fares are supposed to be available at their websites.
     
  24. mre5765

    mre5765 Silver Member

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    Your own examples show the multicity to be the cheaper options.
     

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