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Keith Alexander

Saving Money One Leg At a Time

By Keith L. Alexander
Tuesday, January 18, 2005; Page E01

Many savvy price-conscious travelers and travel agents have adopted a secret strategy for finding the cheapest airfares: Book one-way flights to and from a destination on two different airlines.

The gambit often yields an overall price that's cheaper than the best round-trip ticket on a single carrier.

_____Live Discussion_____
Transcript: Washington Post reporters Sara Goo and Keith Alexander discussed holiday air travel woes.
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Invasion Of the Budget Carriers (The Washington Post, Apr 18, 2004)
List of Budget Airlines (pdf)

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For example, United Airlines' fare for a last-minute round trip, with no Saturday night stay, from Washington's Dulles International to Chicago then on to Nashville and a return to Dulles is $431.35.

But that same trip, purchased in one-way segments on different airlines, costs just $294.10. The itinerary looks like this: Dulles to Chicago on Independence Air; Chicago to Nashville on American; Nashville to Dulles on Independence.

Many low-cost carriers such as Independence, Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue sell one-way tickets that give travelers more flexibility. Travelers often find discounted seats for one leg of a trip but not for both on the same carrier. That's when it pays to search for one-way tickets on various airlines, said fare expert Terry Trippler of TerryTrippler.com.

"The legacy airlines have done a fantastic job of programming travelers to believe once you start on an airline, you have to stay with that airline," he said. "Travelers should think segments, not trips. By thinking segments, you can save money."

The search, which can be efficiently conducted over the airlines' Web sites, may be a little time-consuming, but the savings can be significant. Here's another example: A round-trip flight on American Airlines between Dallas and Los Angeles leaving today and returning Friday costs $338.40. But using a one-way ticket from Dallas to Los Angeles on American and another one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Dallas on AirTran, the total price is $278.40.

Frequent business traveler Ryan Boyle regularly checks for one-way tickets. He has found that many of the airlines simply double ticket prices for round-trip flights. But by using different airlines, he can often get around that price doubling and decrease the price of at least one leg. "I have known about this for a while and come across it quite often when I'm purchasing last-minute tickets," said Boyle, an Antioch, Calif.-based exporter.

Winning Over US Airways' Customers: Bruce Ashby, US Airways' new head of marketing and planning, moves into a critical job at perhaps the toughest moment in the airline's history -- and a particularly tough time for a guy entrusted with sustaining consumer loyalty. But Ashby is undaunted.

He replaced B. Ben Baldanza, who resigned from US Airways after six years to become president and chief operating officer of tiny Spirit Airlines, a Florida-based low-cost, low-fare carrier. Baldanza was the point person for many of US Airways' frequent fliers. Randy Petersen, publisher of Inside Flyer, once called Baldanza the "face" of the airline's frequent flier program.

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