How does airfare pricing work?

Many people have their own theory, but there’s more to airline pricing than most travellers know.

There are two main types of flights. Scheduled flights typically operate year round. Charter flights operate on a specific day and during limited time periods.

When you book a regularly scheduled flight there are a number of classes for each fare. If the cheapest fare available is sold out, the price jumps up to the next class, which is typically around $30 for shorter trips flying from Saskatoon.

It makes a difference how far in advance you book a scheduled flight. In an example scenario, a flight from Saskatoon to Toronto has 31 different kinds of fares. The lowest, which must be booked at least 21 days prior to travel, is offered at $184 at the time this article was written in June 2017. Then there are fares booked 14 days prior to 10 days prior, to 3 days prior, to no advance booking. The last fare is Business Class which is $3267 one way before taxes. Taxes seem to have increased over the years as they now include the fuel surcharge.

Many of our clients think if they wait to book, they might get a sell off. As you can see, this is a fallacy for scheduled flights. Typically, the airfare will get higher as your get closer to your departure date.

Charters operate differently from regular scheduled flights. In the winter in Saskatchewan, we have charters to sun destinations. In the summer, there are charters to Europe. Charter flights are purchased through tour operators such as Air Canada Vacations, West Jet Vacations, Sunwing and Transat. Charters normally operate the same day of the week and for limited weeks. For example, there may be a Saskatoon to Cancun charter that flies every Friday from mid-November to mid-March. The tour companies control the prices of the charters. During off-peak season periods, such as before Christmas, they may reduce the price if the passenger load on a flight is light. However, they can increase prices for a popular date too.

Overall, it's better to book in advance to ensure you get the best travel arrangements and the best price. Sandy, our manager and fearless leader, puts this in perspective when she says: “The longer the airlines have your money, the better the fare will be!”

- By Marilyn White

By Marilyn White

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