Sometimes, all you need to avoid getting ripped off is a reference point. To wit: I love FlightAware’s average flight cost tool. You pick two cities, click a button, and see the average one-way cost of a flight between the two. For example, I just checked flights between Newark and Seattle and found the median one-way price was $253 during the past 12 months. For fun and regret, you also see the lowest ($115) and highest ($733) prices. OK, who paid more than $1,500 for a coach ticket to Seattle and back?
Of course, the tool offers only rough ideas. It’s imperfect. You can’t see how your outrageous Thanksgiving weekend price compares with someone else’s Thanksgiving price, for example. It doesn’t compare last-minute purchases. But it does break prices down by airline, and you can see that while United flies the most people between those two airports, Alaska’s median price is 10 percent lower. That tells me you should never take this trip without popping over to AlaskaAir.com. It’s also interesting to note that suffering through a one-stop flight, rather than taking a direct flight, doesn’t save you very much.
By the way, FlightAware’s main purpose is showing you where a plane is while it’s chugging along during a trip, letting folks know when it will land. It’s handy for friends heading to the airport to pick you up. I use it from the air when there’s Wi-Fi (i.e., not on United flights). If I hit turbulence, I combine it with a Weather.com map to see how long the choppy air might last.
So, did you get ripped off on an airline flight recently? What’s your favorite reference tool for prices?