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Why Does AA Charge More than US Airways for the Same Flight?

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TPG reader Theresa tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy– “Why does American Airlines charge more than US Airways for the exact same flight?”

To the common eye, airline fares don’t make any sense. Why would three flights connecting be cheaper than one of those segments alone? Why do shorter flights cost more than longer flights? Airline pricing usually is the way it is because of competition between routes. Different airlines also have different fare structures, and when airlines merge, they generally try to merge into one set of fares.

Even though American Airlines and US Airways merged last year, they’re still operating as two separate carriers. It takes a very long time to align everything like IT systems, frequent flyer programs, and fare classes.

Although AA and US Airways have merged, their fares may not be aligned just yet. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Although American Airlines and US Airways have merged, their fares may not be aligned just yet. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

I’m an American Airlines frequent flyer, but I also fly US Airways from time to time, and I always double check both the American and US Airways websites to see which flight is cheaper. You may be surprised to know that the two airlines frequently charge different amounts on the exact same service. I generally find that flights ticketed by US Airways are more expensive, but the opposite is often true. This is mainly because they were two different companies with different concepts of fees, fare structures and minimum purchase requirements, and while they’re starting to get things aligned, it’s a long process that may still take awhile. They probably won’t be operating as a single carrier until the end of 2015.

The bottom line is to always check both websites and see which one offers the cheaper fare. It also couldn’t hurt to check online travel agencies to see if they can beat both airlines. Like most purchases, taking time to price check can pay off. If you’re seeing wacky fares, try calling. Even with a $25 phone booking fee, you may actually end up with a cheaper fare.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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