Your travel agent provides you with a quote for your business class flight from Nairobi to Accra. The quote is $2,866. But your PA’s Internet search reveals a quote of $3, 293 for the exact same flight and class. This does not happen once; your travel agent always provides different quotes from what your PA finds on the Internet. You go ahead and ask 3 different travel agents to quote for your flight and you receive 3 different quotes for seemingly the same business class seat. Frustrating and confusing isn’t it? Everyday, my team and I spend quite a bit of time explaining to many of our clients, the different fare rules and restrictions offered by each airline on the different tickets that we sell. It is not always possible to understand these rules and because of your frustrations (and mine), we have put together several articles to explain the different types of airfares, airfare rules & restrictions and fare classes. We pray that these articles will help you to understand and be informed on the best travel ticket and therefore the fare that is most suitable for you on your various business travels.
Let us start you off with what you know. There are 3 major travel classes or cabins in every aircraft; the First class cabin (which is widely known as the most expensive ticket), the Business class cabin (which is known as the class that is less expensive than First class, but still expensive in comparison with economy) and the Economy class cabin (which is known as the cheapest travel class). Now, the surprising thing is that in each of these classes or cabins, you will find that ticket prices vary widely. This is despite sharing the same cabin on the aircraft. How you ask? This is because airfare prices are priced by an algorithm that monitors the demand and supply for all flights at any one particular time. If there is one industry that has managed to use technology to take advantage of demand and supply to price their service and make quick changes on the same, it is the airline industry. The airfares therefore range from one end with full fares, which have few airline rules, to the cheapest fares where the airline rules are varied and restrictive. The most restricted airfares are therefore always the cheapest tickets that very many travellers usually ask for. Whenever you ask your travel agent to find for you the cheapest ticket quote, keep in mind that you will most likely be given a restricted airfare.
Also, note that ticket airline restrictions vary and the general concept that you need to understand is that the higher the price of the ticket, the less the restrictions on it. This concept applies whether the ticket is in economy or business class. As an aside, let me mention that if you purchase your ticket on or closer to your date of travel, you will most likely buy a highly priced ticket, which does not always guarantee you less restrictions. Buying your ticket on or closer to your date of travel means that you are buying a seat on a plane that is either in high demand, or the demand of the seats on that plane are at its lowest. You can therefore find that the ticket prices on that flight are at their lowest or at their highest with a whole different set of restrictions. The cheaper seats attract a much higher demand, which means that they will sell out faster and the price of the seats will also vary based on the number of seats not purchased on an aircraft. Therefore buying a ticket just before your travel date means that you will most likely buy a ticket that is pricier than the ticket bought by those who purchased their tickets well before their travel dates. Confused? To make it simpler, what you need to know is that the prices and the restrictions of an airline’s ticket are therefore only guaranteed at the time of purchase.
Allow me to talk a little bit about Airline restrictions. Airline restrictions are an airline’s revenue management system. For you the passenger, airline restrictions give you an opportunity to find the fare and therefore the ticket that will give you the most convenience and flexibility for your travel. The more restrictions you are willing to live with, the cheaper your ticket will be. Let me familiarize you with some airlines restrictions. Some airlines will require an advance booking for you to get the cheapest fares. You will always find this advance booking requirement on the no frills airlines that fly domestically such as Jambo Jet. Therefore, the closer to your travel date you book your ticket, the more expensive it will be on the no frills airline. Another restriction that you should always look out for is the non-refundability of an airline ticket. There are some fares that are fully refundable and some fares that are strictly non-refundable. If you suspect that you may need to change or cancel your trip, then the best thing would be to buy a ticket whose fare does not have any refund restrictions. A ticket that is endorsable is another rule that will always work for the business traveller. An endorsable ticket is a ticket that will allow you to travel on a different airline if for any reason, the carrier on your ticket is unable to make the trip.
Please remember that airlines can change their airfares at anytime, based on demand and supply of seats on a particular flight. Therefore the ticket prices you received yesterday may be different from the prices you receive today from your travel agent. In our next article, I will delve some more into the economy ticket.
The Author is the Founder and CEO of Saffara Ltd