Listening Script Vocabulary
(Section 4: You will hear a talk on the topic of airline ticket pricing strategies. First, you will have some time to look at questions 30 to 40 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 30 to 40.)
Good morning everyone. Welcome to today's lecture on airline pricing strategies. What I'm going to talk to you about today is what the price of a ticket actually covers, how tickets are priced, and when tickets may be cheaper.
Looking for flights can be a positive experience, especially when you land a good deal. But sometimes it's rather frustrating. You spend hours on the internet, trying different websites, but reasonable fares are nowhere to be found. Instead, you see prices which are double what you've paid before, or you remember a friend just bought that flight for hundreds less.
The price of your ticket consists of a number of things including the base fare, taxes and airport fees, a fuel surcharge, service fee, food, seat selection and baggage. The last three are sometimes optional (especially for low-cost airlines) where you pay for them on top of the ticket price if you want them included. With the older, more traditional airlines, and for long-haul flights, these things are usually included in the ticket price.
Airlines first determine the type of plane they will use for a flight, and this tells them how many seats are in each travel class. While a travel class indicates the quality of class (First, Business, Premium Economy or Economy), a booking class refers to the type of ticket.
Each booking class has different rules and restrictions. The cost of changing or refunding a ticket can vary widely, some can only be booked if your flight is more than 14 days away or only on weekdays, and sometimes you earn more frequent flyer miles (or none at all). Each booking class has a different price based on these factors. And although there may be 100 seats in Economy, there may only be 10 seats in each different booking class. Online sites will show you the cheapest booking class available that matches all of your criteria.
The reason for all these booking classes is that airlines try to maximise their profit. They know that there are mainly two types of travellers: leisure travellers and business travellers. They both need flights but their buying behaviour is quite different.
While the leisure traveller is generally more flexible with dates, business travellers have to travel on a certain day and often at a certain time. Leisure travellers tend to book well in advance, giving them time to plan their trip. Therefore, they buy up the cheaper booking classes. But business travellers have to leave quite spontaneously sometimes and are willing to pay more for a ticket in order to make it to their meeting.
As we get closer to the departure date, there are only seats in the higher, more expensive booking classes available. While you might expect the airlines to lower their prices a few days before the departure day to occupy the last seats, the opposite is true: selling 20% of the remaining seats for $1,500 is more profitable than selling half of them for the regular fare of $550.
Where you might see prices fall close to the departure date (or even well ahead of this), is where the cheaper booking classes haven't been fully sold out yet, and the airline opens up a new discounted booking class, trying to at least cover their costs for the flight.
Prices change due to the seat availability and demand. The cheaper booking classes might be sold out even if there's still 3 months before you leave. There are some dates of the year where there is simply higher demand. When a lot of people have to fly somewhere (and even more when they want to go to the same destination or area), airlines will set their prices at a higher level. Christmas, Thanksgiving and school vacations are the busiest times.
Sometimes though, the reason for expensive flights doesn't seem obvious at first. Imagine you want to spend your vacation in the Philippines and your desired travel dates coincide with a public holiday there. Many Filipinos living in the US wish to see their families and prices will rise because of higher demand.
However, there are some days that are cheaper to book and fly. Even during the same week, prices can vary widely. Generally, leaving on a Monday, Friday or Sunday will increase the risk of paying more for your ticket as business travellers leave or return from their trip, and families leave or return from their weekend trip. Finding a cheap ticket is more likely on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. In addition, if you're OK with less convenient departure and/or arrival times, the better your chances of paying less, since most people prefer to leave at 9am, instead of 5am, or return before 8pm, not 11pm.