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Supercheap Plane Tickets

$20 plane tickets for the adventurous traveler
  (+11, -3)(+11, -3)
(+11, -3)
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If a flight has available seats, then 15 minutes before it leaves the gate the pilot tells the airport. The airport adds that flight and however many seats to a database. A screen outside the metal detectors tells potential passengers that there are flights available. Said passengers then purchase tickets for $20 from a vending machine, and proceed to the gate to claim their seat.

How could it cost so little? Well, if airlines did this like I?ve just described, it couldn?t. People would take advantage of the system by waiting for their destination to pop up on the screen instead of buying their tickets full price. This is why my way includes a clever twist: you don?t find out what your destination is until you buy the ticket.

Yes, you heard me. It?s totally blind. All the screen says is "29 seats available on 8 planes" or something like that. You can, if you wish, purchase more than one ticket for the same flight (for families or friends) but that?s the extent of your control. Other that entering the number of seats and inserting the cash, you have no choice about destination or anything else. You could get a flight to Brazil, or the Vatican, or Duluth, MN, or any other destination serviced by the airport.

Some specifics about the process: if a regularly ticketed or regular standby passenger shows up after you?ve bought your ticket, you forfeit the ticket, but are given a full refund. All tickets come with guaranteed same-price return trips? once a seat opens up. That means that once you?ve had your fun in Hamburg, you can get back to the original airport for another $20, but you may have to wait for quite a while (to prevent permanent accidental exile of citizens with poor foresight). Also, no drink or meal service, and you don?t get to keep the Skymall catalog. No checked baggage, one carry-on item.

The upshot of this whole program is that airlines can recoup some of the losses from under booked flights, while adventuresome travelers get an exciting budget vacation!

oooga, Feb 21 2002

for rbl and beauxeault http://www.lastminuteclub.com/lmc2001/
not quite the same thing, but at least it exists. [mihali, Feb 22 2002]

Free*** (*** except charges, taxes, etc...) http://www.ryanair.com
Quarter Baked at Ryanair. [kinemojo, Sep 08 2005]

[link]






       hmmmm.... well this is sorta like priceline.com but not really. I like the idea of low priced vacations... to make this work for the airlines, you would have to NOT be able to get a refund no matter what (unless you were bumped)- otherwise, you could still try to wait and not have to pay for the real ticket price to where you wanted to go.
heybebeh, Feb 21 2002
  

       What a wonderful idea! Of course some details to work out. And I'd probably only do it if I had some estimate of the return date.   

       What would be really cool is weekend trips... a guaranteed return by late Sunday night. I'd totally pay $20 for a random weekend trip every few months. Even $50, as long as I could be guaranteed that it was at least a couple of hundred miles away. (Wouldn't it suck to get a ticket from JFK to Boston?)
rebekkahshiri, Feb 21 2002
  

       Or JFK to La Guardia. Or O'Hare to Midway. Yes, you're right, there needs to be a distance guarantee.
oooga, Feb 21 2002
  

       Is that enough time? Can't seem to get through security and check in with less than an hour anymore. Would only work within borders for Canada and USA.   

       We tried this as an adventure, just packed a bag and showed up at the airport. They wanted FULL fare to go anywhere, even though there were empty seats. Very discouraging.   

       Maybe they'd make you sit next to the screaming kid?   

       All in all a great idea though
rbl, Feb 22 2002
  

       Would those flights to the Vatican fly into Vatican International Airport?   

       Also, I'm pretty sure there are no direct flights between O'Hare and Midway or between JFK and Laguardia.   

       There would be a problem in packing. It would be a shame to pack for Caracas and end up in Stockholm, or vice versa, especially with just one carry-on.   

       You'd also have to deny frequent flyer miles.   

       And finally, I'm not positive, but I'd bet the airlines incur more than $20 in real costs (mostly fuel) to fly an extra person more than, say, 3-4,000 miles.   

       Still, I think I'd love to try this some time.
beauxeault, Feb 22 2002
  

       This is a little off topic, but you mentioned bumping and it reminded me of this: You know when people get bumped the airline says "we overbooked because we can count on a certain number of no-shows and today some of the no-shows showed." To show how sorry they are for betting wrong, and to compensate the bumpees for their inconvenience, the airline usually pays something worth about $150 to $500, depending on the flight. We all think, "Serves the airline right. Maybe they'll learn to stop overbooking.   

       Well I've begun to think that's not what's really happening. As rbl says, last-minute passengers must pay full price, and that price is usually very full indeed. Full price two weeks before departure may be $500, but full price two days before departure may be more like $1300. So Mr. Business Man needs to fly tomorrow and is willing to fork over $1300. But the flight is already sold out. Do they say, "sorry sir, you'll have to fly another airline"? Not usually. They say "thank you for flying _____." They pocket the $1300, and bump Tammy Tourist. Tammy takes the next available flight and $250 for her trouble, and the airline makes a profit on the deal of $1050 minus the actual cost of adding Tammy to the next flight.   

       Now you tell me -- Under those circumstances, if you're the airline, are you going to overbook and bump? All day long. In fact, I wonder if flights sold out two weeks before departure don't magically develop a couple of open seats two days before departure.
beauxeault, Feb 22 2002
  

       Oh, [bx], what a cynic you are. Sorry, correction; what cynics we are.
angel, Feb 22 2002
  

       Logically you would expect that the flight shold get cheaper closer to its departure. Never thought of purposefully bumping people for profit, but I'm sure it happens.   

       Cynic has such negative connotations, how about realists?
rbl, Feb 22 2002
  

       A realist is just a cynic with good presentation skills.
quarterbaker, Feb 22 2002
  

       That's what I tried to tell them in my yearly review, but they wouldn't go for it. "Does not play well with others".
rbl, Feb 22 2002
  

       Well, ooga, I used to work for Ba, and there are so many reasons why this won't work, that I don't have room to write them down.
But here's two: Commercial passengers on standby, positioning crew, and indeed airline staff on both business and holiday, are all allocated the spare seats just before the plane leaves, and after the gate is closed. A lot of these passengers (even internal people paying staff travel rates) are worth a lot more than $20 each.
If you do not know the destination, you cannot have checked baggage in, so unless you put a hand baggage only restriction, this would not work. You cannot do it before the gate is closed (because of the possible commercial passengers on standby, so don't know how many seats to sell) and you can't do it after, cos you can't check somone in after the gate is closed (for staff it works, cos they're checked in, but not assigned seats until the last minute).
There's lots more...
goff, Feb 22 2002
  

       I'm damn well not getting on a plane unless I know where it's going. And even then, only if I want to go there. I can't imagine there are people who would do this.   

       "$20.00... there you go m'am. Enjoy your stay in Côte d'Ivoire."
waugsqueke, Feb 22 2002
  

       There are people who don't care which flight they're on. They're called terrorists.
bookworm, Feb 22 2002
  

       I think that, practically, there would have to be *some* restrictions you could place on your destination. More than 100 miles; not in another country (or not in a country not on this list), maybe no longer/shorter than a certain duration... still, I guess that's what makes this idea halfbaked.
wiml, Feb 23 2002
  

       Probably one of the best ideas on the halfbakery. I'd to it tommorow if they offered it.
kinemojo, Sep 07 2005
  

       This would make an interesting "kiting" vacation - sort of reminiscent of that Sliders show. Explore the new place then hop on the next $20 special which came up. When you wind up back home, you are done.   

       It might be helpful if the plane had a guide book about the destination to allow you to cram en route.
bungston, Sep 07 2005
  

       [Treon]: Only problem with courier flying is that you can't choose your date of departure - so it's only really an option for those who don't have a full time job. And the destinations tend to be boring.
kinemojo, Sep 07 2005
  

       Awsome ... except I would not like to spend 12 hours on a plane to Tibet only to find out that I need a visa.   

       ...will they pay me for the flight back?   

       Until then it will work only for local destinations.
ixnaum, Sep 08 2005
  

       For many international airports, the number of long-distance flights may warrant a price slightly higher.   

       I suppose that there's nothing to stop you going to you nearest airport, sauntering up to the ticket ocunter for some low-cost airline (easyjet, ryanair et al), asking for the first cheap ticket and demanding that you not be told where you are going. Of course you may need to pay extra for someone to blindfold you and hold their hands over your ears on the way to the plane.
hidden truths, Sep 08 2005
  

       A guaranteed flight home would be great but I dont see it as being profitable for $20 unless that plane is scheduled to turn around and go right back. THe thrill of traveling in this manner is not for everyone. There are adventureous people who can take a month or two off, go wherever the plane takes them and then when they are ready to go home, they will get a "real" plane ticket and go back to wherever they came from.
Jscotty, Sep 08 2005
  

       No food or meal service? What if you end up on a flight to New Zealand from Alaska? At least let people pay for food on the plane.   

       Anyway, planes would fill up with homeless people, bums, vagabonds, drifters, etc. making it rather noisy, smelly, and unpleasant for the paying passengers.
phundug, Sep 08 2005
  

       [ldischler] quote copied from another idea:
"Could be a form of Russian Roulette, where you end up in Russia no matter what destination you selected."
hidden truths, Sep 08 2005
  

       [phundug]: I disagree. Ryanair regularly offers one-way tickets for as little as $15 (including airport taxes) and I've never seen a vagabond on one of their planes. In fact, the crowd is more civil than on a typical business route.
kinemojo, Sep 08 2005
  

       [ixnaum]   

       I can think of a few improvements to this scheme that would sort out most of your (and other contributor's worries), without costing the airlines too much trouble:   

       a) Your destination is disclosed to you as soon as you have paid for the ticket. You can book non-transferable tickets as far in advance as you like, also online, but you have to be prepared to be rejected (and refunded) on the day of departure. But of course you can still go back to the vending machine and try your luck for a different destination on the day.   

       b) Display a list of all possible destinations on the vending machine (or website). The customer has the choice to cross destinations off the list before making the purchase, increasing the price of the ticket each time (eg. cross out Moscow and pay an extra $30). Different lists for different types of travellers could be compiled (hot destinations only, first world nations only, cheap destinations only).   

       c) If the plane is more than half empty early boarding is permitted.   

       d) If you've been rejected on more than 3 consecutive days for the return flight, you can purchase a guaranteed return on the 4th day for a surcharge of $80 (intercontinental flights).
kinemojo, Sep 12 2005
  
      
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