24 Apr2015

I was booking a regional Asian ticket on-line on PAL and checking prices over the past three weeks. They definitely fluctuate as the plane starts to fill up, but they don’t head in one direction, meaning they don’t just increase as the time progresses. It’s true they are priciest nearest the flight time, as they feel customers have no choice, but I found an even more offensive little (and I am assuming INTENTIONAL) quirk in the system…

If you try and book one person on some regional flights, they quote you X. But if you book a couple of people, suddenly the price rises some 15-20% PER PERSON, not just 2X. In other words, it costs you much more to book as a couple (literal, or a couple of friends traveling together) than it does to book single journeys. That is particularly surprising as their current promo is that you can save if you travel with a bunch of friends…

I was so shocked by this seeming incongruity, that I made sure and tried several iterations, flipping back from single journey to a couple traveling together. I even bought a single journey. Then tried to book another single on the same flight, and indeed got the lower fare per person! THAT IS BAD ASS OBNOXIOUS! The week before I got nailed and paid more for two passengers. This week I would have done the same for three folks from the office, but wisened up and bought them individually. Forget that logic makes you think the prices would be the same, or even more rationally, that they might give you a break on prices if you are more people traveling together, but to intentionally charge you more for two people traveling together when you can book them separately and pay less? It just cements my growing view that the DUMBER THE CUSTOMERS, and the MORE OPPORTUNISTIC the BUSINESS OWNERS, the more money is to be made in the Philippines.

So wise up folks. Let your friends know. Check the single journey price and the double journey ones before you book. And I just now checked the domestic flights and for the few destinations I checked, they don’t seem to do the same thing. But be wary nonetheless.



  1. ami says:

    Yikes! I fly with my family using PAL a lot and we often book ourselves on 1 ticket. Thanks for the tip MM.

    Apr 24, 2015 | 10:01 am


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  3. meekerz says:

    Thank you, MM! I would never have thought to check the price per person!

    Apr 24, 2015 | 10:12 am

  4. Chris says:

    Thanks for the warning. I wonder if the other airlines such as Cebu Pacific or AirAsia also pull this trick?

    Apr 24, 2015 | 10:20 am

  5. SpaceDog says:

    Oh, that’s not half of what airlines will do — not necessarily PAL but I’ve heard of all of the following:

    Prices fluctuate depending on the time of day and day of the week, try comparing prices in the middle of the night to during the day. This is pretty easy to see and despite people recommending particular times and days for cheap flights it depends on a lot of factors.

    If you look at a flight and don’t buy it the system remembers and if you go back you’ll get a higher quote as it decides you’re more interested in the flight. Use ‘incognito mode’ or equivalent in your browser to check (and make sure you’re not logged into the website). [ http://travel.stackexchange.com/questions/16581/does-browsing-ticket-sites-in-incognito-mode-and-or-from-different-ips-result-i ]

    Booking an internal flight from outside the country is often cheaper, you can either look at the airlines foreign websites (if it lets you) or if you have access to a VPN or other service that makes you appear to be in a different country and compare prices. [ http://www.theguardian.com/money/2011/jan/23/booking-flight-airline-websites ]

    And the options explode if you’re booking anything remotely complex or for multiple people. I travel back to the UK a few times a year and spend a lot of time finding the cheapest flight often saving several hundred pounds — but it is a lot of effort, meaning trying multiple things over multiple days and knowing when to pounce on a decent deal.

    This is where a decent travel agent would come in and do this all for you, however I’ve yet to find a decent travel agent in Manila, most of them seem to quote prices 10% or more above what you’d get online with no work at all (I know they need to make a cut, but I thought the idea was they had arrangements with the airlines, etc). If anyone knows of one please leave a comment.

    Apr 24, 2015 | 10:25 am

  6. seusmariozip says:

    Hi all. How likely is getting seats far away from each other when booking individually? Using seat selector entails additional fee…

    Apr 24, 2015 | 11:02 am

  7. Kasseopeia says:

    Seusmariozip: check-in at the same time at the counter and ask the counter agent to find you adjacent seats, if any are available. They will usually be nice enough to do that for you. But it may not always be possible, unless the flight isn’t very full. Most “premium” seats will have already been bought for a fee by that time.

    Apr 24, 2015 | 12:07 pm

  8. hiddendragon says:

    Good ideas.

    Another option is to run Explorer, Firefox and Chrome at the same time if you’re booking for 2 to 3 persons. Or have several computers run the same thing (I own this dang company so I can ask the 5 secretaries to go to the Cebupac website, like, NOW!) ;-)

    It’s situations like these that make it worth it to buy tickets from a good travel agent. I once bought my London ticket from a travel agent friend, I got my preferred seats (upper deck window of a 380!)

    Apr 24, 2015 | 12:47 pm

  9. Marketman says:

    I never book domestic seats in advance. I almost always talk my way into decent seats, either bulkhead or exit row at the airport, except on the busiest of flights and holidays. But that may be biased because I fly quite a bit, so the airline does have a tendency to accommodate the requests. It helps to know the row and seat numbers you want, hence my dogged familiarity with all aircraft plying the route, so I can ask for seats point blank, with a straight face, and kind tone, and they almost always find me a nice one. Just like theater tickets, the directors seats/row that is what 7th? row center from stage are often given up at the last possible minute. I have sat next to the bathroom on occasion, so it doesn’t always work. :)

    Apr 24, 2015 | 1:29 pm

  10. Karina says:

    I wonder if it’s the same for Cebu Pacific? They charge a web admin fee for PHP250 per transaction, so if they do the same thing, they get some of it back with the fee. But hopefully it doesn’t cover the difference.

    Apr 24, 2015 | 2:19 pm

  11. Geepgeep says:

    Funny, I noticed the same thing when I booked flights online with Cebu Pacific yesterday. I booked a one way flight for two people on a domestic route and the total price per head was P1,300. I booked the same one way route the next minute for one person and the price went down to roughly P1,100. I just said, “Dang!” and scratched my head (because unlike you, I don’t have a blog, haha).

    Apr 24, 2015 | 5:31 pm

  12. MP says:

    My goodness, I don’t even want to compute the amount of money I may have “lost” booking for the family alltogether! Now I feel so stupid for not having seen through this trick! But thanks MM for this info… Secret no more, will inform family and friends.

    Apr 25, 2015 | 12:19 am

  13. joyyy says:

    Geepgeep, too funny! All we can do really is scratch our heads! hahaha

    Apr 26, 2015 | 7:52 am

  14. denise says:

    MM, you are most definitely a good candidate for the exit row seats since you are tall and will be profiled as someone who can open the exit door in case of emergencies.

    For the pricing differences, it’s just frustrating because most people have no choice or are uneducated with these workarounds. They lure us with seat sales or discounts and it ends up being more expensive. It’s like those “sales” in the malls, where they hike the price a week before the sale and so when they give you the “discount” it’s the actual price 2 weeks before the sale!

    Although there are still some airlines who have good deals online, example is how Emirates kills us during their sales because we can’t match their price offline, and we are their sister company!

    Apr 26, 2015 | 2:29 pm

  15. Chiechay says:

    I spend a lot of time trying different combinations to get the cheapest fare. In PAL’s website, I have noticed that if you book for 2 pax, if only 1 slot is available for a cheaper fare, you’re automatically quoted the next higher fare for both passengers. This applies for larger groups as well. So like you MM, I’ve had to separately book 1 or more passengers just to get the cheaper fare.
    Another thing we noticed while buying our US tickets online was that the quoted fare was $400 cheaper per pax when compared to the fare quoted by PAL ticketing office! What we did was book and reserve online, then we paid in USD at a PAL ticketing office.

    Apr 27, 2015 | 2:07 am

  16. Mylene E. says:

    We are a family of 5 and if I search for tickets using that number (either PAL or Ceb Pac), almost always there are no promo fares available anymore. I usually split the group in 2 – 1 booking of 3 and another booking of 2. That’s when I get friendlier fares – I did not know that it gets even lower if you book one at a time hmmm I should try this the next time.

    Apr 27, 2015 | 12:56 pm

  17. Rachiel says:

    My oh my! This is good information that cannot be ignored. Thanks for the tip MM!

    Apr 27, 2015 | 3:43 pm

  18. Pam says:

    Eeeps! Now this explains so many things! Thank you for the tip, MM!

    Apr 27, 2015 | 6:09 pm

  19. Mart says:

    For those in the US that haven’t heard the news, there is a website that found a quirk in booking flights; for some cases, if you book one leg more than your original flight, the total cost is cheaper. So you book your flight with one leg more then just skip the last leg of your trip. Totally legal. But the guy who found out is being sued by United Airlines:
    Here is his crowdfunding page to find some funds to fight the lawsuit:

    Apparently, some of the travel agencies already know this trick and it has been exploitable for a decade or more. But of course, the skiplagged website effectively makes this exploit easier to do (i.e. don’t need an agent who knows about it) and makes the exploit more well known to public awareness.

    Apr 28, 2015 | 1:36 am

  20. Susan says:

    I got this in my email the other day before reading this post, lol, they were on to you MM:
    FW: Travel to Manila together and get as much as 30% OFF!
    Fr: Philippine Airlines Promos

    Apr 29, 2015 | 3:55 pm

  21. Nadia says:

    I also found out that, in some instances, it is cheaper to get 2 domestic one-way flights than 1 roundtrip flight for the same destination, date and details…by as much as a few hundred pesos. Go figure!!!

    May 1, 2015 | 5:20 pm

  22. cats says:

    My mom and her sister traveled once on separately bought tickets and during check-in, even though they were together, the lady at the counter said that they cannot combine the baggage allowance and will have to weigh them separately according to ticket since they were not purchased together! It doesn’t make sense! Maybe this is why they charge higher for tickets bought at the same time?

    May 13, 2015 | 6:18 pm

  23. Marisa says:

    OMG! Thanks for the tip MM..

    May 30, 2015 | 11:48 am


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