Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Travelling Overseas: Saving on airline fares which code share

As we come into the Christmas season and the summer holiday period (for Australians and all those in the southern hemisphere) many people will be well advanced in their vacation planning.  If you are travelling overseas and not going on a cruise you are going to be booking flights and in this day and age of global air alliances, the chances are that you may book with one airline but be flying with another (aka code sharing).
You may be in a situation where you are paying a very different price for exactly the same airline seat because you have booked through a different carrier.  
When I recently travelled on holiday, my destination was a small island in the Pacific and there were only two carriers that flew there: the local carrier and Qantas (an Australian airline).  If I'm going to be honest I had reservations about travelling on the local carrier - when it comes to air travel, safety is the most important factor and I had no idea what this small airline's safety record was.

The local carrier's price was ~$750 return and Qantas was ~$100 more than this.  In the end I decided to go for the local carrier to save the $100.  It's not that I valued my safety at $100, it was more I considered my fear of the small carrier to be irrational and I wasn't about to pay more for an irrational fear.  I was surprised when I boarded my flight and noticed that Qantas was actually code sharing with this small regional airline - paying the $100 would have gotten me nothing more than a Qantas boarding pass.

Airlines generally disclose when they are going to put you on a different carrier

I went back to Qantas' website and found out that when you selected a flight they did disclose
that you would, in fact, be flying with the other airline - they didn't really hide it, although they definitely did not point out that it would be cheaper to book through that airline.

I do not know whether this is true for all airlines, although I did a search around a few and found that many did the same thing - they told you upfront that they were going to put you on a different airline for either the whole or part of a journey.  It makes sense from a business point of view - some routes are just not economical for every airline to fly and so they get you to your destination by putting you on their partners' aircraft.

It is on you to see whether you can save money by booking directly with that carrier

If you are just flying from one location to another then it makes sense to actually book with the airline that you are going to fly with - in my case it saved me $100, but it meant that I had to price shop.  Given that all prices are available online it is not that much effort.  If the airline you are looking to book through says that they are going to code share with another airline go to that airlines website and see if you can book it directly and save some money!

Note that this may not always be the best solution - if you have multiple legs and tight connections you may want to pay a bit more to make sure your luggage is booked right through.

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