When an airfare sale is not quite a sale

How do airlines decide what fares qualify as “sales,” and why do they advertise certain fares, but not other, much lower ones? Why is United Airlines promoting a “sale” between Washington and Boston for $109 each way, when there are currently six published lower fares in that market, beginning with $49 each way?

For the most part, I don’t bother to figure out why airlines do certain things anymore. I just gather all the information I need about what they do and try to work with it — or around it. Years of watching fares have taught me not to fall for those “sales,” because in many cases, I can find a much lower price to the same destination, on the same dates and on the same carrier…

Airlines want budget, premium fliers

Can an airline be a low-cost carrier, nickel-and-diming most of its passengers, while offering luxury to a few others and charging them $15,000 for it? And is that an “all things to all people” model or a version of “divide and conquer”?

Executives at the so-called legacy carriers know that a huge part of their revenue comes from passengers who pay for business and first-class tickets, so they are trying to keep them happy by installing flat beds, upgrading entertainment systems and serving gourmet meals. However, airline chiefs also realize that most people on their planes sit in coach and can’t afford $7,000 to fly to Europe in business class. Because economy passengers pay what the airlines consider low fares, carriers are trying to minimize the costs associated with carrying those fliers…