Imagine finding a great airfare, then clicking the purchase button only to find that low fare gone.
And your credit card ends up billed for a higher fare.
One traveler discovered how this can happen when you are buying tickets for a family.
Booking Seats for Four People
Don Semier was trying to book airline tickets for four people for a summer vacation, and he found the best flights on Delta.
"The original price was $708 per person," he said.
It certainly was not a cheap fare, but it was the best he and his wife could find to Montana for summer travel. So he says she put in a credit card to book the trip.
"When she went to book it, she put in the four tickets, and it came back $789 per ticket."
He was stunned. The seats he purchased were almost $80 more per person, more than $300 extra in total on the family's credit card.
Frustrated, he re-checked Delta's website.
"I went back in on Delta's site and lo and behold the $708 price was still there," he said.
How This Can Happen
Fodors Travel forums says this is common with most airlines.
At any given moment, only one or two seats are available at the lowest discount fare.
Fodors says if you book more than two seats, all of them will be bumped up to the next highest fare.
Semier learned that too late.
"I did a little bit of research and found that there were only three tickets available at that price," he said. "Once I went to the fourth ticket, then they raised the price to $789 each for all four tickets."
How to Protect Yourself
The travel website ParkSleepFly.com says in order to avoid this, you should check carefully before you click the purchase button.
If it bumps up everyone's fare, the site says consider booking each ticket separately.
Semier complained to Delta. They later agreed to give him a credit for what he overpaid toward his next vacation.
A Delta spokesman confirmed what he found, telling us "airline fares can be affected by a variety of factors, including number of seats available within a particular fare class." (See below for full Delta statement)
Bottom line: Check before you click, so you don't waste your money.
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FULL DELTA STATEMENT
"Airline fares can be affected by a variety of factors, including number of seats available within a particular fare class for people traveling on the same itinerary; the cost of providing the service; the cost of jet fuel; time and date of purchase; the route flown; and the fare class purchased. Delta offers a wide range of fares for leisure and business travelers, and our best fares are always available at delta.com.
To ensure our customers have the best information available from delta.com, we offer our Best Fare Guarantee as well as a 24-hour Risk-Free Cancellation policy."