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Is Your Fare Fair? A Simple New Formula Will Tell You

SmarterTravel

How do you really know if the cost of an airline ticket is on the money? A new formula came out late last week, providing travelers with a gauge to determine whether the airfare you’re considering is a good deal.

If you book a U.S. domestic roundtrip airfare, the total cost of the ticket should come to less than the total number of miles you’re traveling, times 3.2 cents, plus $230, according to Adobe Digital Index’s 2016 Travel Report. In other words: roundtrip miles x $0.032 + $230.

For international flights, the formula is this: roundtrip miles x $0.08 + $200.

These seemingly simple calculations are based on months of “slicing and dicing” more than 15 billion pieces of data from Adobe’s travel industry clients, explained Luiz Maykot, a data science analyst with the Adobe Digital Index.

“It always seemed to me that the price of tickets was random. But I had a feeling there was a connection,” Maykot told us in an interview.

For example, the 828-mile roundtrip flight between San Francisco and Las Vegas averages $256.50, according to the Adobe formula — which means the $87 United fare we saw in a recent search is a real steal.

While the formula isn’t intended to perfectly predict airfare costs, Maykot explained, it does show that there is “a basic structure to airfares” that can help you judge whether you are getting a good deal.

Adobe Systems Inc. has a cloud-based marketing system used by seven of the 10 largest airlines in the world, nine of the 10 largest hotel groups and countless other travel industry companies. That data, plus the results of a 1,000-person survey in March, guided the analysis, which is one of the most exhaustive in the industry.

Other interesting facts uncovered by the Adobe team:

-The cost of U.S. domestic airfare is down 6.6 percent this year over last year; international flights are 1.8 percent lower. Interestingly enough, more than four out of five people said they think airfares are the same or higher this year.

-Booking flights 90 days in advance will get you the best rate, except if you’re flying over the July 4 or Labor Day weekends. In those cases, you need only book 40 days in advance.

-In all cases, hotel rooms should be booked 30 to 40 days out.

-Waiting till the last minute can hurt; once you hit 20 days before your trip, airfares tend to rise by 3 percent a day up until six days before the flight. This is just on average, Maykot points out; flights to California go up at a higher rate than flights to Florida.

-Though travelers say they plan to spend 20 percent less on travel this year, the data tells a different story. Spending is expected to go up 5.5 percent.

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