There's nothing quite like having to plan your next trip while in the middle of your current one. Especially in a foreign country at 4:00 in the morning. It's even worse when you consider the wild acrobatics you have to endure to find the best price. And that brings me to a rant that has been building for a long time...
Frequent travelers face a mystery that seems to defy logic every time they plan a trip: exactly how do airlines calculate their fare schedules? For example, my next trip is to Memphis, Tennessee. Coincidentally, Northwest Airlines has a hub there, so there is a direct flight out of Seattle (I should know, I was just there four days ago to transfer to my Amsterdam connection). Lucky break right? A direct flight with no connections is bound to be cheaper than a flight with a layover somewhere isn't it?
The answer, if you hadn't guessed, is "no."
Once my outbound flight from Wenatchee is removed, a direct flight from Seattle to Memphis is nearly a $600 round-trip. A staggering sum considering I flew all the way to Germany for $30 less (with two connections, one of them in Memphis!). But guess what? A flight from Seattle to Nashville (which requires a connection in Detroit) is just $320. WTF?!? That's that's almost half the cost! I wonder if there's something strange that happens when you calculate actual miles flown:
Nope, that's even worse! They charge 58% less per mile to fly 22% further, and that doesn't even begin to address all the extra costs that's involved in adding a second flight. What kind of bullshit economics is that? No wonder airlines are losing money! They charge less to use more fuel, more facilities, and more labor. The stupidity of such pricing is baffling to even the most mathematically challenged.
So guess what? I get to rent a car in Nashville then drive three hours to Memphis. Fine with me, they've got a swell Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville, so I'll be stopping there for lunch before I go. And then I guess I'll be having dinner at the Hard Rock in Memphis later that evening. I was going to have to rent a car anyway and, with unlimited mileage, I will still save hundreds (even after the gas to get there is factored in). That's lame.
It would be easy to put all of this on Northwest Airlines, but it seems all major airlines are guilty of the same crazy shit. So the next time the airlines start crying about what bad shape they're in and go begging the government for a bail-out, I hope Uncle Sam tells them to go f#@% themselves and instead demand that they hire a financial manager to explain basic economic principles to the people who set the pricing, thus encouraging passengers to fly a route that costs airlines less, not more...
Sheesh! Hmmm... I'd better get packed. A few days vacation in a warmer climate awaits!