How to Beat the Airlines at Their Own GameI got invited to speak at a conference in May in Tennessee so I will be flying from Los Angeles to Memphis, and then on to New York City. Understandably, the conference organizers didn’t want to pay for Delta’s nonstop flights since they were showing more than double the price of US Airways’ one-stop flights.

I’m not a high-maintenance kind of guy so I was going to suck it up and go through Charlotte on both legs. But when I looked at the proposed itinerary a bit closer and saw that two of the segments would be on a cramped regional jet I decided to price out tickets myself.

Sure enough the nonstop flights were sky-high when I used both the multi-city function and when booking two separate one-way tickets. See screenshot below.

ITA-LAX-MEM-LGA incl. nonstop flightsAs you can see  Delta’s nonstop was $935 compared to Air Tran’s $406 and US Airways’ $450.

I decided to play around by adding a return trip from New York to Los Angeles the following week. One would think the price would increase, but just the opposite happened. That’s because (*I think*) I now have a Saturday night stay and I will be returning from where I originated.

The price for all three nonstop flights is now $522 (see screenshot below). Ding, Ding, DING! I hit the frequent flier jackpot since that was within the price of the conference’s budget, it’s on one of my preferred carriers since I have elite status with them and I have a free trip home.

But even if I wasn’t going home, I could’ve booked this ticket and not used the last leg (though that’s against airline policy so you didn’t hear it from me, and don’t do it too often or you risk losing your miles).

DeltaLAX-MEM-LGA-LAX Nonstop FlightsNow, besides saving a lot of time and not taking any cramped regional jets, I was able to secure exit row aisle seats, have a chance to get free upgrades (I’m a Silver member of Delta Air Lines Sky Miles’ program), get into Delta’s airline club for free (using my American Express Platinum Card) and I will be able to work since all of Delta’s flights are powered with Gogo Inflight Internet!

Now that’s what I call beating the airlines at their own game. Can you say #winning?

12 Comments On "How to Beat the Airlines at Their Own Game"
  1. LynCat|

    Memphis is my home town, Johnny…where and for whom are you speaking in May?
    – Lyn Edwin Cathey

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Nice! The event isn’t open to the public though and I’m only there for 36 hours with no free time (it’s a travel conference)

  2. Lori Justice|

    Thanks Johnny – I am involved in travel every single day and I have to say this is very creative on your part. Good ideas for me as a travel arranger and for my own personal travel.

  3. Robert|

    Are there certain cities you should always plug in to see if there is a cheaper fare by rerouting through it, say hubs for various airlines? (do you have a list of hubs for various airlines?)

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I don’t but I might have to create one. They are in my head

  4. Steve|

    Reads like you’re a man who loves a bargain! Like me!

  5. Brad Bell|

    Although all of your flights may have Gogo, ALL of Delta’s fights do not have inflight internet. If the plane is configured for international travel and is repositioning. it will not have Gogo. ATL to SLC, for instance, is a long flight with no internet.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good point

  6. Anonymous|

    does anyone have any ideas on how to secure a cheap flight from Halifax NS to Australia..say Sydney in September 2013

  7. Anonymous|

    This reminds me of the old days in the travel business when you had to spend a Saturday night to get a decent fare. We booked “back to back” tickets all the time. They airlines changed to not requiring a Saturday night stay and they started penalizing agencies who did it. I have seen some trends in going back to the Saturday night stay on some routes. More fun and games to come with the airlines.

  8. Gina|

    I never would have thought that adding a flight would make it cheaper.

  9. TM|

    Airfare prices are a big question mark!! I always play with all kinds of sites and all kinds of itineraries before booking a flight… I think that if you are smart enough this can actually save you a lot of money!

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