To the casual observer, airline pricing is insane. On any given flight, each passenger has paid a different price than the others. There are people in business class who paid far less to fly than the unlucky or unwise person flying in a center seat in coach near the bathrooms. There may even be people flying for free, or on fares so cheap they might as well be free. It can be cheaper to fly coach from Los Angeles to Paris than it can from Los Angeles to Chicago.
[ See also: What kind of digital nomad are you? ]
If movie tickets were sold like airplane tickets, it might cost you $2 to see Paranormal Activity and sit next to a person who paid $25 per ticket. Airlines use sophisticated computerized yield-management systems to calculate fares. It's complicated stuff because supply and demand are constantly in flux. Another unique factor: As soon as a jetliner closes its doors, the value of seats -- the price the airline can sell them for -- drops to exactly zero. Contrast that with the movie megaplex: They'll still charge you full price, even if the movie started 20 minutes ago. If a future flight looks like it will be only half-full at take-off, the airline computers start driving down fares in order to start filling up seats. Sometimes these seat vacancies can be predicted well in advance, and so airlines can offer blanket specials in pricing. For example, on Halloween this year, you can fly anywhere in the United States on JetBlue for $31. That's less than it costs you to fill your car with gas. Location independence has costs and benefits. One of the benefits is that you're in a better position to take advantage of absurdly low airfares. Since you can work from anywhere, you can monitor the airfares, wait for absurdly low prices, and -- assuming you want to go there -- grab the fare. But there's a catch. Cheap tickets tend to go fast. So in order to get in on the deals, you need to be Johnny-on-the-spot with the ticket order. And that's what this post is all about. I'm going to tell you how to always be informed of the absolutely cheapest airfares within 30 hours of when they're offered. Here's the process: 1. Grab the RSS feeds of the blogs or Twitter feeds that are best at the timely publishing of cheap airfare information. 2. Plug them into your RSS reader if you use one, or 3. Have the posts e-mailed to you once per day I'll tell you which feeds are the best below, and also how to get the RSS feeds for each and have them e-mailed to you for free. First, the feeds. Fare Compare has a page where you can type in the city you are likely to fly from, and it gives you a Twitter feed to follow that shows discounted fares from that airport. In my case, for example, I'm likely to fly out of LAX, so I'll use the LAX feed. The site also has a nice cheap-airfare RSS feed. The Mobissimo blog offers a long list of RSS feeds (lower right of the page) specific to deals originating in the city of your choice. Dealbase lists Twitter feeds that broadcast last-minute hotel and airfare deals. The airfarewatchdog.com site has an RSS feed with breaking news on cheap flying deals. The first thing to do is check out each of these resources, and choose which you want. For RSS feeds, grab the "URL" of the feed and paste it into Notepad or Word or some other document just to hang on to it. If the feed is on Twitter, visit the Twitter feed page. (You don't need a Twitter account to do this.) If you see the Twitter feed represented as, say, @flyfromLAX, that means the address of that feed is: http://twitter.com/flyfromLAX Once you're at the Twitter feed, find a link in the bar on the right, usually at the bottom, that says "RSS feed of...." Click on it. Copy the address in the address bar and paste it into your list. Once you've got a list of RSS feeds, add them to your RSS reader. If you don't use an RSS reader, head on over to Feed My Inbox, which is a free service that sends RSS feeds via e-mail. It collects all the posts each day and mails you all of them in a single e-mail. You will, however, get each feed in a separate e-mail. There you go. Now you'll be notified of the cheapest imaginable fares. When they match up with a location you'd like to visit, you're good to go -- and cheaply! Are YOU interested in location independent, digital nomad living? Please add this blog to your RSS reader and follow me on Twitter!