Friday, July 04, 2008

Technical error or lucky find? PhoCusWright here we come!

[UPDATE (x2) at the bottom of the post]

Travolution is off to California in November for the PhoCusWright conference.

So, browsing Kayak - and other sites, hasten to add - for a flight from London to LAX, and we find this little nugget of good fortune:

The search results shows an Air France return flight from LHR to LAX on the required dates. On the Air France website it is £862; on ebookers £384!!

Schurely schome mishtake?

Follow the link through to ebookers and - da-da - the same fare is still there:

We also carried out a search starting from the ebookers engine and same again:

Now for some this would be an incredible coup. And indeed it is. But it seems to be too good to be true.

We asked someone more familiar than us with booking engines, fare loads and the like to get an idea of why the fare is so incredibly cheap.

  • Loading error (either automated or human).
  • Revenue management system on the blink.
  • Some commercial deal where ebookers/Orbitz wants to put a certain volume through just prior to a renegotiation with an airline - so will take anything.
  • Some event happening in the UK at the same time (with lots of people coming from states) - hence extra flights have had to be put on - and now demand has to be created in the opposing direction (but that would have impacted all flights).
  • Its what they intended.
Or, on a lighter note, our mole suggests, it could be the seat by the toilet.

If anyone has any further suggestions, please add via the comments section.


According to the ebookers' flight team, this discovery is in fact good fortune and the price is correct on the site. A message reads:
Ebookers should nearly always have cheaper fares than the airline's direct site (with the exception of BA where ebookers match).
Which they would say, of course.

Anyway, it also appears that Expedia has gone all laissez faire with Air France and is also offering the same ticket for £374. Opodo also has it for £378.

It's a wonder the OTAs stay in business! We jest...

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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Alex Bainbridge said...

Perhaps eBookers knows the IP address of Travolutions office and has created a special deal just for you?

Apart from that, you have pretty much come up with all the ideas that I can think of.

Travolution Blogger said...

Alex: thanks for the comment. i suspect ebookers has not be gracious enough to organise a special Purple Fare for us. :-)

Darren Cronian said...

I was invited out there, but I thought of global warming and will give it a miss ;)

I jest.

Can't afford it, but will be visiting WTM this year. Time already booked off work.

Back on-topic, I've noticed this a few times. Why are flights where you have to change at Amsterdam more expensive than direct flights -- I can never understand that.

Claude said...

Bonjour Kevin,

btw, do you have also good plan for the hotel ;-)

Will be there.

best regards


Travolution Blogger said...

Claude: still working on the hotel!! :-)

we'll see you there.

Anonymous said...

Proof, if you wanted it, that the web isn't the holy grail of low fares. I just did a search of consolidated fares and found 5 cheaper than your 'super' bargain for the dates requested.
Perhaps you need to go to a travel agent?

Travolution Blogger said...

Anonymous: what source did you use?

BTW: ebookers is a travel agency. and we started our searches at 10pm at night, when the local retailer was closed, so convenience kicked in, i'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Come on Kev, you don't honestly believe that online agents offer the same bredth of product as those on the high street?
I'm assuming RBI has a TMC? They'll get you a decent consolidated fare to LAX without any trouble. Alternatively, Travel Weekly's got a good agent - Maureen... you might have heard of her ;-)

Travolution Blogger said...

Anonymous [but have a good idea who you are :-)]:

Indeed RBI has a good TMC. I was looking purely for research purposes on Kayak - and others - for additional seats.

Maureen probably wouldn't want a phone call from Travolution late into the evening. Indeed the agency was probably closed. :-)

Daniele Beccari said...

The explanation to this bargain deal is super simple.

Big guys can buy large volumes are super reduced rates from suppliers. That's it. It's called a bulk purchase, or committed volume. Then it's up to the big guys to sell their tickets for a margin - the risk (and potential benefit) is transferred from the airline to the wholesaler.

For the airlines, those seats are sold and gone. So the sale price from the OTA becomes totally independent of the airline yield management price calculations and it can be much cheaper.

The same happens every minute for hotels - that's why you (almost) never find a cheaper rate if you walk in to the hotel desk, "bypassing" the intermediaries. For the hotel, allotted rooms are already sold at low prices, so they will only sell you the remaining expensive rooms.

That's why both metasearch and TMC are useful stuff (in different ways, at different costs, for different people).

Sam I Am said...

Actually just started looking at fares today for phocuswright and this one is gone. Interestingly enough, if you add on a week in Hawaii, you can still get roughly the same price. Tough choice.... :)