There’s been some really awesome and helpful stuff here – thanks! :)
I have a question that is probably quite obvious – if I were to book an internal flight in the UK (where I’m from) then I would book it really really early – possibly months in advance if I could – so I could get the cheapest fare possible. Is this the same rule for Chinese domestic flights? Or can you book them just a month or two in advance and get the cheapest fares? I’m wanting a round-trip from BeiJing to GuiLin end of June, beginning of July time.
Looking forward to your invaluable help!
Posted by: YangLe on January 7, 2010 5:48 PM
The China is just the opposite. The later you book the ticket, the cheaper. This may over simplify the situation, but one thing is for sure – it is NOT that the earlier you book, the cheaper the ticket is.
Chinese Price System
If you book months in advance, chances are, you can only get the full price tickets with no discount. The airline business in China is highly regulated. Most of the ticket price is fixed for all the airlines by the CAAC. Basically, the price is proportional to the distance of the two airport – the same way as the fixed price for railway system in China.
However, most airlines will give discount based on the fixed price. They can determine the price table only several months before the travel time. That is, if you book far before that date, say, 6 months before you travel, it is for sure that you can only get the list price – the highest possible price, because they have no idea of what the price in the future will be.
If you book just few days or few hours before you travel, you are very likely to get the cheapest price, because most of Chinese airlines are not full in most of the case. They will offer some really cheap price before the seats become empty. Another factor is the agents. Most of the airlines rely heavily on agents – tourism industry, and ticket dealer. The way to operate it is, to ask the agents to book a range of the seats. If no one buys the ticket, the agents still need to pay the fixed amount. This causes the agents to be really worry about having empty seats, and willing to sell it out at much lower price at the last minute.
However, the risk to book at the last minute is, you may not be able to get a ticket.
I have to go further to guess the deeper reasons why China is just the opposite of US, UK, and many other countries. Why in other countries, the earlier you book, the cheaper the price will be, and in China, it is the opposite.
Here is my guess.
1. Occupation Rate. The occupation rate of Chinese airlines are always not high. Most of them are just 70%-80% on average. (Spring Airlines (My review) is an exception with amazing 98% historical occupation rate.) For most airlines, the days of fully booked flights are limited, so passengers can leverage that.
2. In China, people still plan things in the last minutes. I have seldom know any of my friends who book tickets, or holiday more than 1 year in advance. That was something I was consistently amazed by my foreigner readers who started the question like: “I am going to China in July of 2013. Can you help me on ….” What? 2013?
Any other reasons?