Buying plane tickets, quite frankly, can just be the worst.  You want to get a good deal with a reasonable flight time, but for some reason, it just seems like too much to ask for.  You usually end up compromising on something.  Either you take the low priced ticket for an extra 10 hours of travel time, or you fork out a ridiculous amount of money just so you can get in to your destination before all the rental car places close.  Is is too much to ask for to get a reasonably-priced airline ticket with a good airline, and just have things go smoothly?  The answer is yes… yes it is too much to ask for.

So this week, my “ode to purchasing airline flights” consists of five things that are confusing, upsetting or nonsensical about purchasing airline tickets. I’m sure every person can relate to these.

  1. Fluctuating prices.  I know that prices of things fluctuate, and I’m fine with that… to an extent.  I know that one day gas is $2.09 a gallon, and the next week it’s $2.19 a gallon.  That seems reasonable to me.  Or say bananas are $.59 a pound last week, but now they’re $.62 a pound.  Again, seems reasonable.  What baffles me is why THE SAME flight can be $210 one day, and the next day be $460?  You mean to tell me because I waited 22 hours, I’m now going to have to pay an extra $250?  Why can’t flights just be what the are?  Factor the fuel, the seat, the luggage, staff time, and give me the price: this is how much a flight should cost.  Some people can pay $90 and some pay $450 for the same flight, just because one was too late to the game?  Or WORSE, too early to the game?  It just doesn’t seem reasonable or logical to me.
  2. Watching flights like a hawk.  This goes along with my first grievance, but I think it deserves it’s own line.  Because the prices fluctuate so much, you have to sign up for email alerts, and check certain websites to see if flights have gone up or down.  It’s almost like they want us to play the game “the price is right” and wait until they do some magic behind the scenes and voila tickets are down by $200!  Quick, get your credit card and get this now because it says “ONLY TWO SEATS LEFT AT THIS PRICE!”  I’m sure there’s a science behind all this nonsense, right?  It’s the man behind the curtain, pulling the strings.  I just would love to understand what is happening and why it’s so insane.
  3. Time changes.  This has happened on the last two flights I’ve purchased, and I don’t understand why.  So I buy a specific flight because I want a specific time frame.  If there are four flights leaving to one place in a day and they’re all relatively the same price, I will choose a flight with the travel time that I need.  Then I get an email a week later saying they’ve changed the flight time by 2 hours.  If I wanted to fly at a different time, I would have just bought a different ticket.  I know they’re allowed to according to the fine print, but I still don’t like it.
  4. Travel times.  I love when I find a flight for $400 cheaper than all the others!  Then I find out that the flight time is actually 5 times longer than the other flight times.  So instead of a 2 hour flight, a 1 hour layover and another 3 hour flight (so a total of 6 hours) it’s going to be 3 flights, and two layovers that are 6-8 hours totally 30+ hours of travel time.  So you have to decide if you want to save $400 or waste two full days in an airport?  Weighing the options… time … or money… time… or money… time….  Choose wisely.
  5. Layovers.  Flying out of Columbus means that almost everywhere you go, you will have a layover.  And sometimes, these layovers will actually be in the exact opposite direction of where you are going. One time I flew to Philadelphia, with a layover in Minneapolis.  How does that make any sense?  Then you try to just buy a flight from the place that you’re going to have a layover in, and some how they have another layover for you!  This isn’t always the case, sometimes you can see reasonably priced nonstop flights from the city you were trying to fly to.  But try this one on for size.  It costs $1,285 to fly from here to London with two stopovers, one in New York and one in Toronto.  So I looked up a flight from Toronto to New York, and it’s $865 (so excellent!) but the layover is in New York.  WHAT?  If you fly from NYC you have to stop in Toronto to go to London.  But if you fly from Toronto, you have to stop in NYC to go to London.  My head is spinning.

In honor of these nonsensical facts about purchasing airplane tickets, I’ve written a Haiku poem.  (At least I think it’s a Haiku, it’s been a long time since I was in 6th grade.)

Trying to buy a ticket

But I can’t get a good deal

I guess I’ll take it

I bet you’re thinking, “that poem is not very good, why did she not only write that, but then actually post it?  What a waste of her time and my time for reading it!”  That’s what I’m thinking, too.  However, I think it sums up my feelings on trying to get a good deal on a flight: a gigantic waste of time.  Because: never gonna happen.  Am I right?

Nina Thomas

Travel lover and writer

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  • A tip for finding cheaper airfare | Traveling with Nina October 10, 2016 on 7:45 AM Reply

    […] also had my share of flight-buying frustrations, which I’ve written about here: Ode to purchasing airline tickets.  One tip I wanted to highlight is one I recently tried: purchasing flights from a different […]