Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One Way Ticket

Much of what was reported about the underpants bomber was wrong.  The errors do not alter the story much, but many of the serious ‘red flags’ that should have been caught were, in fact, errors of reporting.  One of these was the “fact” that he had purchased a one-way ticket.  As TPM has clearly shown, this is just not the case.

I bring this up, because I think this error highlights the sorry state of journalism today.  You see, one of the odd truths about airline travel is that, for some reason I don’t understand, and in spite of common sense, one-way tickets are more expensive than round trip tickets, at least for international flights.  As I say, it is common sense that a one-way ticket would cost about half of a round-trip ticket and so one might expect that a suicidal terrorist would save the organization some money and get the one-way ticket.  Except that supposition is wrong. 

Don’t believe me?  Go to travelocity, or some other flight reservation system and give it a try.  Here are a few examples I tried, All are the cheapest ticket I could find for the given flight and all depart on Feb 26, 2010, the round trip tickets return on April 30, 2010.  The choices I made here were essentially random.

Flight Round Trip One Way
BWI to FCO $875 $1435
Boston to Madrid $590 $917
Miami to Cairo $1135 $2420


I first came across this in the mid ‘80s and again in the ‘90s.  It has been pretty consistent.  I have no idea why, or how the airlines can get this to work, but it is pretty consistent. 

So the striking thing is that among all of our top notch journalists no one is apparently aware of this, nor could any discover it in the course of reporting on this story.  After all, I got the table above in about 15 minutes on travelocity. 

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