Editor's note: This article was updated with the most current information on July 4, 2018.
Have you ever scored an amazing deal on a flight only to find out that the person next to you paid more (or less) than you for theirs? If you’ve ever wondered why, there are a few factors that affect the price tag of your ticket. From advance purchase fares and discounted child rates to upgradeable fares, here are 7 reasons why the cost of your seat may be different from the one next to yours.
1. Sale Fares
Even within Economy Class, airlines can offer up to 10 different fares, based on advance purchase, length of stay, and flexibility. As a general rule, the more restrictive a ticket is, the better the fare. In turn, the more flexible a ticket is, the more expensive it is.
When a flight is put on the market, all classes of service within every cabin are available. When you want to go (seasonality), how long you'd like to stay (1 month maximum stay tickets are cheapest) and how flexible you want your ticket (change/cancellation penalties) all determine the fare you get.
Airlines may only allocate 20 seats for the lowest fare on the flight, the next 20 sold at the next best fare, and so on. Once the 20 cheapest seats sell out, the next best fare is available, getting increasingly expensive as the flight begins to fill up.
In short, the further out you book, the better. Advance purchase fares are priced according to how long before departure one buys their ticket, offering the lowest fares to those buying with the most advance notice. Flights go on sale up to 11 months from the departure date, giving travellers a generous window to snap up one of these deals. If you're planning on travelling around the holidays or any long weekend, buy extra early!
It could also sometimes appear as if fares are fluctuating. Why does this happen? It can be a number of things. If the aircraft type changes, so does the seating configuration. This affects the inventory which means the fare you saw yesterday may not be there today. It’s not common, but it can happen. But the most likeliest reason fares fluctuate is simply due to supply and demand, and the few seats left in each class of service selling the closer you get to departure.
Having said all of that, airlines and travel providers, like Flight Centre, can put flights on sale at any time, and do. To stay on top of airline and all Flight Centre sales, make sure you sign up for our free e-newsletter, Club Red.
2. Last Minute Fares
If you book your fare at the last minute, you’ll be subject to pay extra for the premium. Booking within 7 days to departure can be an expensive last minute decision, but sometimes it’s an unavoidable one.
In some circumstances, an airline may try to get rid of any remaining seats on a flight to sell it out, dramatically discounting seats even within a week to departure. Note that these are generally charter airlines, like Air Transat or Sunwing, rather than scheduled carriers like Air Canada or WestJet. These 'sell-off' fares may be the lowest priced but they're always the most restrictive, fully non-refundable with no changes allowed.
3. Upgraded Fares
Frequent flyer memberships have their rewards! With Air Canada, once you’ve crossed over to Altitude status, rest assured the perks are aplenty. Air Canada Altitude members can achieve up to five status tiers, each offering a range of benefits, from free checked bags and Maple Leaf Lounge passes to free upgrades to Business Class, and more. Essentially, if you travel enough in Economy Class to qualify for Altitude status, your upgrade can be free!
4. Discounted Child Fares
While the opportunities to fly on a discount are few and far between these days, some airlines offer discounted children's fares. Youngsters, 2-11 years-old and accompanied by an adult, can sometimes save big, up to 75% off the adult fare. Children’s airfares, and the policy around them, differs from airline to airline. To be sure you're not missing out, ask an Expert Traveller!
5. Infant Fares
Airlines charge infants a discounted fare, and depending on where you’re travelling to, it can be as low as 10% of the adult fare, plus taxes. While the cost of travelling with an infant in your lap will be minimal, parents can also opt for infants to travel in a seat of his or their own, typically for the price of a child’s fare. Like children’s fares, the rules on infant fares differ from airline to airline – you know what to do. Yup, just ask us.
6. Round the World Tickets
Round-the-world tickets are custom made fares determined in price by each airline alliance. Travellers flying on a one-city flight will be paying a significant difference in fare from the globetrotter flying on a round-the-world ticket. Round-the-world tickets are made up of a series of flights that piece together an extended journey.
Each round-the-world ticket is priced-out based on different airfare rules and criteria, like cabin class, total travel distance, number of continents visited, and more.
7. Flexible Fares
Travellers who foresee the need to make changes to their itineraries will pay extra for a flexible fare. Popular with business travellers and frequent flyers, flexible fares offer special benefits. For example, a Latitude fare in Air Canada’s Economy Class will offer complimentary advance seat selection, no change fees (fare difference only), is fully-refundable, and you accumulate 125% of your earned Aeroplan miles (versus receiving 25% Aeroplan miles on a Tango fare).
While there are many reasons why your fare will differ from the person’s next to yours, we’ll find you the right deal and airfare type that works for your travel needs. Check out our latest Fare of the Month to Auckland, Adelaide & Melbourne with Air New Zealand (hello, lie-flat seats!), a multi-city ticket that allows you to experience two thrilling countries for the price of one airfare! Talk to an Expert Traveller for more information, online, in-store, or call us at 1-855-796-8359.