Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Haggling a Better Price on Flights

It is widely known that paying the sticker price on a new or used car is for suckers. Haggling is the norm. Haggling can get you a better rate on your credit card, on your long distance rate and on your cable bill. Recently my wife and I got a 30% discount on our new mattress by haggling. The sad news is that we could probably have gotten an even lower price, darn it.

BUT, and I may be the only sucker left on the planet, I never realized that you could get a lower price on your flights by haggling with the airline over the phone. I am writing this post from South Carolina where I am currently on a business trip. Earlier this afternoon one of my colleagues needed to change his flight itinerary. After checking Orbitz and finding a price of $1,050 for a one way flight back to California, my other colleague suggested that he give United a call to check his options.

I was amazed when after a brief call with the customer service agent my colleague was able to get the same flight, with the same connections for $700. That's a 33% discount, just for making a call. My colleague that suggested this wildly successful tactic says that he successfully used it many times in the past. Granted, we are all Premiers and Premier Executives on United, and my friend told the United agent that a similar flight on Delta was much cheaper, but still... 33%? And here I am buying on Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia for years and thinking I am getting the best deal.

My colleague also suggested that if calling the airline does not work, you should simply hang up the phone, dial again and try your luck with a different agent. According to my colleague, two or three calls usually do the trick...

The conclusion: no price is ever fixed. From now on I intend to start asking for a discount wherever I go. I am not quite sure this strategy will be successful at the local supermarket, but hey, I thought there was no chance to get a discount from United either.

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