AirfareWatchdog.com: Cheap Seats on the Web
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick. This is DAY TO DAY.
If you're still making summer travel plans and wondering about where to go for those legendary cheap Internet airline tickets, pay attention now. Try syndicated travel journalist and airfare blogger George Hobica. His Web site is airfarewatchdog.com, and here's a taste of what you'll get. DAY TO DAY's Madeleine Brand spoke with George Hobica for an interview.
Mr. GEORGE HOBICA (Syndicated Travel Journalist): The first place I personally go when I'm looking for an airfare? The flexible date search function of Travelocity. You know, with Travelocity, you can choose either flexible dates or set dates. And sometimes if you just tweak your departure or arrival date by one day, you can save a lot of money. And Travelocity has the most robust, flexible date search in the industry. Orbitz also has a flexible date search, but Travelocity's is better because it goes out 330 days in the future, and Orbitz's is only 30 days.
MADELEINE BRAND reporting:
But some of the cheapest airlines, like Southwest and JetBlue, they don't list their fares with Travelocity.
Mr. HOBICA: And that is a problem. So you really have to do a parallel separate search on southwest.com and on jetblue.com.
And the other interesting thing is even if airlines participate in Travelocity or Expedia or Orbitz, they don't necessarily give them their best fares. They hold back the best fares for their own Web sites.
BRAND: So why are the airlines being so secretive?
Mr. HOBICA: I think part of it--it's kind of like when a department store has a private sale and they send out the flyer a few weeks before to their best customers. They only have a few seats that they want to sell at these prices so they're happy that not too many people know about them. The airlines play this strange game every day with airfares for no apparent reason, and they won't talk about it, they lower airfares to sometimes unbelievable levels. Two summers ago, Northwest and KLM had New York City to Venice, Italy, for 138 round-trip, and I kid you not. It was all the month of August, no blackouts. You could go from August 1st to August 30th. Normally, that flight would cost about $1,000, and today it probably costs about $1,000. We thought it was a fat-finger fare, which means a typo in airlinese, but in fact, it was not. It lasted for two weeks, and a lot of people bought it.
There are fat-finger fares sometimes. For example, maybe about two months ago, US Airways had 86-cent round-trips coast to coast. You probably saw it...
BRAND: And you could actually buy a trip for 86 cents?
Mr. HOBICA: Yeah, a lot of people bought them.
BRAND: OK. So it's getting a lot more confusing than when we first started. Now we've got to go to the big search engines, Travelocity, and go to the flexible air dates, then go to the chief airlines, like Southwest and JetBlue, and then also go to the other airlines for their own special deals.
Mr. HOBICA: It's a lot of work, and I wonder sometimes if people think it's worthwhile. But for example, recently, somebody sent me an e-mail looking for a fare in July to Rio from Miami. And I looked up the dates that they wanted to go, and I found a fare on Travelocity for about $1,140 round-trip. Then I went to VARIG, which is a big carrier down to Rio, and I found 690 on the same dates on the VARIG site. But I couldn't reproduce it on the Travelocity site even though that higher fare was indeed on VARIG. So that's a savings of about $500. And there were two people going, so that was a thousand dollars. It only took me about, I don't know, two minutes to save a thousand dollars, so that's worth it.
BRAND: Hmm. So what would be great, George, is if you provided assistance to everyone who needed so we wouldn't have to go through all these steps.
Mr. HOBICA: Well, you know, I actually spend a good part of my day doing that, as a matter of fact. People e-mail me all the time. But it's gratifying because I like to save money myself, and I like to see people travel. So, you know, bring it on. I don't care.
BRAND: George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist, and he writes for the Airfare Blog.
Thanks a lot, George.
HOBICA: Thank you.
CHADWICK: And thanks to DAY TO DAY's Madeleine Brand for that interview.
And stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.