For example, the 9 fare to Chicago requires you to purchase it 21 days in advance and to fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays (the least popular travel days, where it’s harder to sell seats at higher fares).

Other fares have 14 day advance purchase requirements and, still others, 7 day.

Their goal is to funnel every would-be traveler into the highest “fare bucket” that they can.

If 10 people are willing to pay $1000, they would love to sell 10 of the 100 seats for that price; if there are another 20 people willing to pay $500, then they’d sell 20 more seats at the $500 rate; and so on until the plane is full. Same Seat, Different Fares Airlines never just have one fare – they have several, even dozens, of fares for each seat and they employ sophisticated techniques to maximize the number of people who get stuck paying the of those fares. United Airlines currently publishes 43 different one way economy class fares for flights between Los Angeles and Chicago.

These fares start at $109 one way, but there are also fares of $139, $149, $159, $189, etc. The highest fare is more than 16 times more expensive than the lowest fare even though, no matter which price you pay, you’ll end up with the exact same seat, the exact same food (or lack thereof), and the exact same service.

Cheap has been called every name in the book by customers who do a flight search, see a fare, and come back later to find that the fare has gone up by $50 or $100. It’s the airlines who set the prices—we just seek out and present the best ones.

The reality is we don’t deserve the criticism or the credit.

This second group may be willing to buy a ticket on this flight, but only if the price is affordable. The airline’s dilemma is that if they set the price per seat at the maximum price they can get from the “go-at-any-price” group, they would generate a lot of revenue from those passengers but they would be flying planes with a lot of empty seats (a wasted opportunity for even more revenue).

On the other hand, if they fill the plane by charging fares low enough to attract all the “go-if-the-price-is-right” travelers, they will be giving seats to the “go-at-any-price” crowd for far less than they would have been willing to pay. An airline’s goal is to get as much as they possibly can for each seat on the plane.In fact, if you subscribe to our fare alerts, you probably are constantly hearing about a brand new fare sale – often more than one a week.The real news would be if there were sales going on. Returning to our United Airlines Los Angeles to Chicago example, of those 43 fares, about two thirds of them are considered to be “sale” fares.But just as important is the fact that, even if a fare is offered on a certain flight, the airlines will .For example, United may say that on a given flight they will only sell up to 10 seats at the 9 fare, 15 seats at the 9 fare, 20 seats at the 9 rate, etc. Yet, we also get e-mails that heap lavish praise on us after we contact a customer to tell them that between when they paid for their flight and we went to process it, the fare went down by or 5.