Do Last Minute Flight Deals Exist?
I've often wondered about last minute deals and the most common question I've come across is the availability of last minute flight tickets which are purchased at the airport on the day of departure. I've heard the stories and my feeling is that the one about someone turning up at Heathrow and getting on a flight to New York with Virgin Atlantic for just £50 is an urban myth and no more than that. These days, it's highly unlikely that an airline will discount a fare rather than see an empty seat on the departing plane. The airlines want as close to full price as they can get and their pricing/selling policy is fine-tuned to achieve that.
Additionally, while you may be able to get late notice quote from a budget airline, the larger carriers won't, or can't, provide you with anything but a full priced fare. So, the perceived wisdom from travel pundits on this topic is, if you're planning to arrange a last minute trip, then you're better off using someone like Lastminute.com to book through.
In Britain, up until about 10 years ago, there were a number of bucket-shops who sold highly discounted tickets mainly on long haul flights. But I never cam across any them that entertained the notion of selling off the last few seats on a plane hours before it flew.
Also, something we haven't seen for many years is the Standby fare. These days, travelling "standby" is usually the preserve of airline staff travelling on cheap or free tickets on a space-available basis, or people without a confirmed booking for a flight who hope that some passengers will fail to show up. But with the popularity of flying constantly increasing, the chances of finding an empty seat on even a marginally popular route is remote. Plus most airlines now overbook their flights. In this situation, the airline sells more tickets than there are seats on the plane on the assumption that there will be a number of "no-show" passengers. Of course, overbooking is fine as long as the airlines handle the compensation needed when their no-show policy backfires. This usually involved handing out cash to people prepared to fly later.
But the words 'overbooking' and 'travel' when appearing in the same sentence, only brings to mind United Airlines, where passenger Dr David Dao was very publicly dragged off of one their flights causing a PR nightmare for the airline.
However, following the incident, and in an effort to put things right, United now offer up to $10,000 to customers (passengers) who volunteer to give up their seat on an overbooked flight.