Why use Priceline when you have Expedia "bargain fares"
Aug 8, 2001 (Updated Aug 10, 2001)
The Bottom Line
Use it to check 'bargain' fares to get "cheap" fares (50-60% discounts for flights leaving within 2 week). Use it even if you love priceline.com to help your bidding strategy.
In this review, I focus on a new feature that Expedia has been offering -- "Bargain Fares". This is their attempt to compete with Priceline.
Here's how it works:
- You type in your Flight Preferences (Departure Location and Date, Arrival Location and Return Date)and click submit just as you would normally.
- Expedia returns the regular flight options and prices for your itinerary. In addition , Expedia will display a "bargain fare" option for the dates that you request (if it is available).
- The bargain fare is usually hundreds of dollars less than the regular fare (From 10% to 60%). For example, the regular fare from SFO to JFK booked 1 week in advance is $653. The "bargain fare" was $257 (60% off). The regular fare booked 4 weeks in advance was $300. The "bargain fare" was $200 (33% off)
Expedian then lists several "conditions" in this process (they are almost identical to priceline.com rules):
1) You do not know what the airline is until you pay for the ticket. So this may not work for you if you absolutely hate a particular airline of if you have a very strong preference for any airline.
2) You do not know the actual flight times during the day. All Expedia guarantees is that it is between 6:00am to 10:00pm. So this may not work for you if you need to leave at a particular time during the day.
3) You do not have any connecting information. However, Expedia will give you a range (e.g. between 0-1 connections) so you may get a direct non-stop flight. The trip may require a change of aircraft or airline en route.
4) Tickets are non-refundable, nontransferable, and cannot be canceled or changed. The "no show" penalty is 100%. I haven't "tested" how strict they are on this but this the following rule (5) means that you'd better not be late for your flight or you'd be stuck.
5) Travelers cannot fly standby on other flights.
6) Flights do not qualify for upgrades and are ineligible for frequent flyer miles.
7) The tickets are electronic.
- You need to click on the checkbox to "agree" with the conditions above. After that, you can then purchase the tickets online or save it to an itinerary for later purchase.
- The "bargain fare" may vary from day to day or even disappear as the inventory gets used up. For example, I checked throughout the day and saw the fare between SFO and JFK range from $199 to $235.
My experience on a "Bargain" Fare
I was looking at Expedia and saw a "bargain fare" ticket for a flight between Oakland and Denver. The fare was $251 compared to the regular fare of $480 .
I found that the "bargain fares" are only available with a Saturday night stay. The bargain fare was not available for a Sunday - Thursday itinerary but it was available if I left on Saturday. Also, "bargain fares" were usually not available for last minute flights even if they involved a Saturday night. But they are available a week in advance.
Because I like to mull over things, I saved the bargain fare itinerary in Expedia and slept over things. Imagine my surprise when I checked back in a week later and saw that the bargain fare was now $260. Fortunately, I was able to pull up the itinerary for the $251 flight that I saved and purchase it. So unlike regular fares, saving the "bargain" fare to your itinerary in Expedia locks in the price. (Of course, Expedia may have fixed that bug)
After I purchased the ticket, my complete itinerary was displayed. I had an American Airlines flight to Denver, connecting through LAX. I was lucky because I love AA's roomier coach seats.
When I got to the airport, I asked for a "receipt" for my e-ticket. Unfortunately, the receipt showed a price of $0 and not $251. This is because the ticket was 'resold' by the Travelscape travel agency. Expedia allows you to print a receipt "online" via your browser. I'm still waiting to see if my corporate travel department accepts that.
My flight from Oakland left at 11:00am and the return flight from Denver was at 12:30pm. So although I had visions of having to get to the airport at 5:00am in the morning, the flight times were very convenient.
Once I got to the airport and got my boarding passes, no one could tell that I was flying on a "cheap" ticket. I was allowed 2 carry-on bags just like anyone else and I even got seats up front (row 12).
Of course, I knew that if there were any problems (flight delays or cancellations) that I would be on the bottom of the food chain.
Why I prefer Expedia bargain fares to Priceline.com but may use Priceline as a "cheaper" alternative
- I know the price up front. If I don't like the price, I can always pass, or try again some other time.
- The price quoted includes all those "taxes" and "passenger facility fees" that are tacked on to Priceline.com. What you see is what you get.
- I am allowed to "store" the bargain fare as a regular itinerary record in Expedia that can be pulled up anytime. I found this the most convenient feature. I'm allowed to save the record and mull over this before I buy. When I'm ready to buy, I don't have to re-enter all the information again, plus I seemed to be able to lock in the price.
The irony is that the "bargain" fares on Expedia may actually help priceline.com. Here's how it would work.
- I go to Expedia, select the bargain fare and save it into an itinerary.
- Go to priceline.com and bid a price slightly lower than the expedia "bargain" fare (don't forget to take taxes and airport facility feeds into account).
- Try this for several rounds. If your priceline.com price is accepted, great. If not, go back to expedia.msn and purchase your bargain fare. At the very lest, you know the "maximum" fare that you will ever pay for your priceline.com tickets and it helps guide your bidding strategy.
Whether you prefer the up front pricing of Expedia bargain fares, or whether you're a diehard priceline.com fan, these bargain fares are great!!