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Thread: Expedia - Flight Booking Question

  1. #1

    Expedia - Flight Booking Question

    This is a flight that I booked. I went back and tried to select my seat when I realized after booking it that I could do that. It shows 3 "Preferred" seats open, but will not let me select them. Does this mean that every other seat on this flight is booked, and if someone who is "Preferred" gets those seats assigned then I am S.O.L.? I know airlines overbook sometimes, but I thought it was more of something where it could randomly happen to any passenger, rather than a very specific schmuck that bought a seat that never existed.


  2. #2
    So, I actually have 6 flight in the next week, and I booked all of them on US Airways through Expedia. There are only 2 of the 6 legs where I actually seem to have a guaranteed seat. On the others I pushed the "Request Seats" button. Shortly thereafter I got an email for each stating that my request had been denied but that I could use my confirmation code to select a seat on usairways.com. I went there and got the same seating chart. This time, though, it gives me the option of purchasing one of these "Preferred" seats for $25, for each leg.

    So basically I'm thinking that I bought a ticket for a plane that has open seats, but I do not have a seat. I can pay an extra $25 and have a guaranteed seat, or I can hope that no one else does the same, then hope that of those of us that were overbooked, I don't draw the short straw. I have to either pay the $25 on 4 separate flights or get lucky 4 times in a row.

    Do I have that about right?

  3. #3
    Unsider jkeener24's Avatar
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    I have no idea, but you have effectively turned me away from ever using Expedia. So at least there's that.

  4. #4
    I'm guessing this is a US Airways thing more than an Expedia thing.

  5. #5
    Insider Jim Wilke's Avatar
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    Always book directly with the carrier. When you use a third party like Orbitz or Expedia, you get what's left. You can call the airline and ask for them to assign you a seat - they may or may not do that. If they won't, your only recourse is to wait until you check in so get there early.

  6. #6
    I suppose I can set an alarm on my phone to alert me to check-in online exactly 24 hours early. That's usually what I do with Southwest, though that is only to get good boarding priority.

  7. #7
    Wait, will I necessarily even get a seat assignment when I check in? I've been flying Southwest for so long now that I can't remember.

  8. #8
    Insider Jim Wilke's Avatar
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    Southwest assigns at the gate.

  9. #9
    Checking in online may not actually work either for getting a seat without paying extra. I have flown a lot this past year on several different carriers, although mostly US Airways and Delta for business travel. We have to do all our booking through AMEX, and I have encountered the same issue...no apparent open seats you can select without paying some additional fee. In my experience, you can check in online at the 24 hour window, but still no seat assignment until you actually get to the airport. One of my coworkers actually had to wait to get his seat assignment until he was actually at the gate before he could get it without the extra fee - think that was a Delta flight.

    So, I think you should be ok and have a seat. I would definitely check in online ahead of time. Do not be surprised if you have to wait until you are actually at the airport to get a seat assignment without the extra fee.

  10. #10
    CMF rrrr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkeener24 View Post
    I have no idea, but you have effectively turned me away from ever using Expedia. So at least there's that.
    Nope. Welcome to the world of airline a la carte travel. When you buy a ticket, you get a seat, but on US Air and Delta aisle and window seats are premium jewels and they cost money.

    I went to San Jose with my son and grandson, we had to sit together because the boy is four. We changed planes in SLC, so for the four flight legs out and back it cost an extra $300 for adjoining seats.

    Southwest issues seating groups of five now, so if you check in online 23 hours and 55 minutes before departure you get a good seat. Coupled with their seating arrangement and free checked bag policy Southwest is basically $150 cheaper for a round trip ticket.

  11. #11
    Unsider jkeener24's Avatar
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    I guess that's just my ignorance as I've only flown Southwest over the past 3 years. I have found them to be about on par with anything else I can find price-wise and I'm never too concerned with where my seat is located. If I remember to check in relatively early I usually am able to get a window seat, even if it's toward the back of the plane. Their flights seem to be full the times that I've flown so hopefully they are doing well enough to keep prices from skyrocketing.

    Edit: I've also only flown with my girlfriend once and by myself the other times, so the adjacent seat issue hasn't been much of a concern for me. But it's amazing what random fees all the corporations are coming up with lately, such as the "convenience fee" for concert tickets that I print out myself.

  12. #12
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    I fly alot. And this is exactly why I buy only from the airlines website. All of these middleman firms get blocks of seats that they sell. I always have the feeling that when I an on a ticket direct from the airline that I have a bit more priority than the other guys. Especially when our family of four needs to sit together. And I have seen no real difference in price. I will go to expedia and see who is flying where I need to go then go to the different airlines websites and try to have an intinerary made before I call or go the airlines website. I have also had great results by driving to the airport and going and buying the tickets direct from there. You have more time with the agent and they can easily find the seats I need even if they have to move people around.

  13. #13
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    Check this out. Go to the US Airways website and put in the flights that you bought. Then look at the seats available. I bet half the plane is available. I just looked at a flight from Indy to Charlotte.

  14. #14
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    Regarding Southwest... rather than trying to do the online check-in precisely 24 hours before my flight, I find that it is far more convenient (and well worth it) to spend the extra $10 each way for EarlyBird Check-In. I just print my boarding pass at the airport and almost always end up in boarding group A or low in B.

    http://www.southwest.com/flight/earl...servation.html

    On other airlines (AirTran maybe?) I have had to pay $6 per person to get seats assigned prior to the 24-hour check-in period. I've only done that when travelling with my family though.

  15. #15
    Insider Jakester's Avatar
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    Nope. Welcome to the world of airline a la carte travel. When you buy a ticket, you get a seat, but on US Air and Delta aisle and window seats are premium jewels and they cost money.
    Yep, it's certainly made flying a lot more of a hassle (especially if more than one if flying) as the airlines try out all sorts of little tricks to boost tertiary revenue, even to the extent of attempting to charge for carry-on luggage. I understand fuel costs and the highly perishable nature of seats on an airplane, but geez....

    And it's not Expedia, it's the airline.

    US Air wants to hold those 'premium' seats open as long as possible trying to get someone to pay the extra $25, whether a new booking or an existing booking that wants a 'guaranteed' seat. If somebody whose already booked bites, they just put someone else in the previous seat. However, if no one bites, they'll put somebody in those seats at check-in, either online or at the airport (hopefully you).

    Even if you pay the $25 for the premium seat, it's not truly 'guaranteed', worst case is you could still be a victim of overbooking. Fortunately being bumped by overbooking is still pretty rare, even then volunteers are asked for first. At least there are rules for compensation...even though you'll generally have to negotiate to get the most out of an overbook.
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  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Wilke View Post
    Southwest assigns at the gate.
    Southwest does not assign seats, period. They assign your boarding priority on a first come, first serve based on the order of check-ins. Trust me, I fly them enough to know.

  17. #17
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    Has anybody here used Priceline.com 'name your own price' feature? Any stories, good or bad, that you can share?

    (not trying to hijack the thread, just curious about it.)
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  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakester View Post
    Even if you pay the $25 for the premium seat, it's not truly 'guaranteed', worst case is you could still be a victim of overbooking. Fortunately being bumped by overbooking is still pretty rare, even then volunteers are asked for first. At least there are rules for compensation...even though you'll generally have to negotiate to get the most out of an overbook.
    It would really surprise me if they bump someone who paid the extra, over someone else who did not. The person that pays the extra is someone they'd rather have as a repeat customer.

  19. #19
    Check-in #1 is complete. It's a two-leg flight to Houston and two of the flights that had me most nervous. I got a seat assignment for both flights and both were the "Preferred" seats that they wanted me to pay extra for. Flight #1 I'm in row 4 in and aisle seat and flight #2 I'm in row 4 with a window seat.

  20. #20
    What's funny is that the the photo in post one is the second flight. It doesn't even show the window seat of row 4 as available.

  21. #21
    I think I may have actually learned something here that can be exploited. If it's possible to not choose a seat when purchasing well in advance, you could simply wait for everybody else to choose all of the seats that the airline allows people to pick, then if you're the first to check-in, you get the special seats that they've been holding. At least that appears to be the case with U.S. Air. Obviously it only works if you can opt out of picking a seat when there are still some available, and it won't pick one for you. Waiting until the last minute to purchase the tickets wouldn't be wise, as tickets go up rapidly as the flight time approaches.

  22. #22
    Often times, the airlines have those forward seats blocked out for the elite-level members of their frequently flier programs. That way their repeat customers get the good seats over those who fly once or twice a year. As the time before the flight gets closer, they begin release more of those seats to those willing to pony up some extra $$$$ to get a bit more legroom.

    It's a pretty simple system, if you want the better seat, you either fly that airline more often, pay the extra $$$$ or take your chances and get your seat when you check-in.

  23. #23
    Registered User BadazzZ06's Avatar
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    You're basically fighting the "Yield Management" software that is now common in the airline industry. First introduced into the airlines by Bob Crandall of American Airlines, it is designed to fill every seat at the best possible price for that seat.

    That's why prices vary for the same seat on a different day, and why the person sitting next to you may have paid significantly more (or less) for an equivalent seat on the same flight.

    Seat assignments, and charging for early assignments, is just another way to maximize the "yield" for that flight.

    Yield Management software, at its most basic level, accumulates a massive historical database that knows seat sales on every flight on every day, the price for each seat, and when it was sold in relation to what day the flight departed.

    So, for example, if there's a daily 5 PM flight from city A to city B, when it comes time for the release of ticket sales for the flight, the software comes into play to set ticket prices. The software has a database of "events" that may affect sales ... holidays, large pre-planned events in cities A & B (Superbowl, Indy500, etc) and also "knows" the percentage of "no-shows" for the flight. Based on that info, the software assigns prices.

    Let's just say the plane holds 100 seats. And lets just say that historically most of the seats on that flight get sold in the last couple of weeks before the flight. Since it is usually about 9 months prior to a flight that seats go on sale, the software may decide that given historically poor early sales, it is worth giving some seats to other sellers (like Orbitz) at a certain price to see if they can move some seats early and generate cash for the flight sooner. So the 100 seats may end up being sold as ...

    60 seats by the airline
    30 seats by reseller X
    30 seats by reseller Y

    Now that's 120 "seats" on a plane that carries 100 ... but that's OK ... the airline knows what the no-show rate is, and they can always cut-off sales if the plane is selling out early.

    BUT, and here's the key to how it "works", the YM software reviews, at least once a day, ticket sales for that particular flight every day until it departs.

    If sales are running higher and earlier than the software predicted, it raises prices on remaining "seats". It may even tell the resellers they can no longer offer seats on the flight. On the other hand, if sales are slower than predicted, it may release more "seats" to resellers, and offer lower prices through its sales outlets and to the resellers.

    This continues all the way until the doors close and the flight departs.

    That's one reason you can't get a "seat assignment", because the airline is often selling "virtual" seats, and has no hesitation in selling the same "seat" potentially to several customers.

    Welcome to the "friendly skies" ... airlines would much rather oversell a flight than fly with empty seats, and that's one reason why they want to limit "seat assignments" until the last possible moment.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gomer Simpson View Post
    Southwest does not assign seats, period. They assign your boarding priority on a first come, first serve based on the order of check-ins. Trust me, I fly them enough to know.
    Thank; Wilke had me worrying that the only airline I still enjoy flying with had changed their policy.

    By the way, although I don't usually much care where I sit, I prefer not being in the middle. Which is where I'll probably be if I'm group C with Southwest. So I check out the group A & B passengers for the skinniest folks and look for them to sit between when my group C boards. Bonus: that strategy put me next to a gorgeous (and thin) blonde model one flight. I think she had the same thought y'all are having when I climbed over her and sat down, but she turned out to be very nice and was a good companion. Although if she'd wanted to expand over the arm rest, I probably wouldn't have complained.

  25. #25
    Ohioan thehairpin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkeener24 View Post
    But it's amazing what random fees all the corporations are coming up with lately, such as the "convenience fee" for concert tickets that I print out myself.
    Have you ever considered buying tickets at the venue box office (can pretty much avoid all the fees except the "facility fee" that way)?
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  26. #26
    Insider Jim Wilke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BadazzZ06 View Post
    You're basically fighting the "Yield Management" software that is now common in the airline industry. First introduced into the airlines by Bob Crandall of American Airlines, it is designed to fill every seat at the best possible price for that seat.

    That's why prices vary for the same seat on a different day, and why the person sitting next to you may have paid significantly more (or less) for an equivalent seat on the same flight.
    The airlines can forecast months and years in advance with this. Try booking a ticket right now for Thanksgiving weekend; even though it is months away, you probably can't get a deal because those seats will sell later at a much higher price.

  27. #27
    Bingo Award Winner! Media Boy's Avatar
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    I fly fairly often. DON'T BOOK WITH EXPEDIA, ORBITZ, ETC. You can use them to do your initial searches to see what's available, but use the actual airline websites to book. Also, remember that some airlines don't use these services (e.g. Southwest) so you'll never see what they have to offer. Another cool thing to do is use Google to see what's available. For example, type "flights from Indianapolis to Phoenix" (or wherever you're going) and see what comes up. You don't need a date, it just lists the flight based on the regular routes of the airlines. If you see something that's interesting, go to the airline web site and do a search.
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  28. #28
    Insider Jakester's Avatar
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    It would really surprise me if they bump someone who paid the extra, over someone else who did not. The person that pays the extra is someone they'd rather have as a repeat customer.
    As mentioned, the platinum elite flier takes precedence over the cubic zirconium elite flier.
    I think I may have actually learned something here that can be exploited. If it's possible to not choose a seat when purchasing well in advance, you could simply wait for everybody else to choose all of the seats that the airline allows people to pick, then if you're the first to check-in, you get the special seats that they've been holding.
    Although it's becoming less likely with all the pricing games, if I don't like my seat assignment, or don't have one, I always check at the counter to see if exit rows have opened up. If nothing at the counter, check again at the gate. Used to work a surprising number of times.

    Since changing jobs, I'm doing biz travel a whole lot less so I'll probably lose elite status later this year, so it'll be back to the cubic zirconium class.

    And yes, Yield Managment software is an amazingly complex thingie. But airfare pricing only makes sense to those in the biz. My example: a flight from DFW to SNA (John Wayne) is $X. Flight from Waco to SNA is about $75 cheaper. The kicker: you fly from Waco to DFW then to SNA on the same airplane as from DFW to SNA.

  29. #29
    Registered User BadazzZ06's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Wilke View Post
    The airlines can forecast months and years in advance with this. Try booking a ticket right now for Thanksgiving weekend; even though it is months away, you probably can't get a deal because those seats will sell later at a much higher price.
    Yup.

    While the airlines could calculate ticket prices out for several years, they don't.

    Today, the latest you can book a flight on the UAL website is December 13th, 2013.

    Predicting ticket prices requires that the airline knows what equipment will or could be used for the flight. Equipment scheduling is a nightmare unto itself, and has to occur (generally) before the YM software can work on the problem .... and the YM software feeds back info to the equipment scheduling department ... if there is high demand early for a certain flight, the YM software will request a larger aircraft for that day/flight ... it is up to the scheduling group to see if they can rearrange aircraft schedules to meet the request.

    Aircraft scheduling software and seat YM software use some of the most sophisticated software currently in use. Some airlines have been known to contract with specialists in advanced mathematics to help develop the algorithms used to develop schedules and pricing decisions.

    And it is not only US airlines that do this, British Airways has a sophisticated system in place to manage their international schedules and prices (and their YM software tries to account for currency fluctuations also), I know a software engineer that has worked on their systems for years.

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakester View Post
    Since changing jobs, I'm doing biz travel a whole lot less so I'll probably lose elite status later this year, so it'll be back to the cubic zirconium class.
    I had the same thing happen a couple years ago and it blows. You have my sympathies.

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