(FYI the flights were so full because the airlines had already issued a weather-related travel waiver for Saturday - meaning that lots of people were trying to leave a day early)
TIP 1: Sometimes it's cheaper to book two separate tickets!In my specific example: if I searched for two seats, they were $1800 each. But when I changed the search to just one seat (on the very same flight), the price dropped to $718. Once we purchased that seat, the other seat (the last one one the plane) jumped up to $1800. Now at $1800 all kinds of terrible domestic point rewards start to make financial sense. What I ended up with was a 3¢ per point redemption (60,000 points) – not great but given the circumstances I'll take that over paying $1800.
If you're looking several months out for a flight, this likely won't apply because both seats will be in the same fare bucket, but if you're looking on a very full flight, it's probably worth it to do a price check.
Keep in mind now that all of those prices are for a ONE WAY flight. We still had to get home when the emergency was over (and we had no idea when that was going to be...). Flying home we had quite a few more options and all of them much more reasonably-priced.
TIP 2: Some domestic Economy Class seats are better than others
For a domestic flight with my husband, a 2-abreast seating area in Economy is largely indistinguishable from First Class. Except for a few of the premium runs between SF/LA/NYC, nothing about the domestic First experience warrants much extra money. We realized a while back the most of what we liked about domestic First is not having a third person trying to crowd in between our wide shoulders and generally "invade our space".
The problem is that most of the domestic planes are in a 3+3 configuration in Economy. Aside from smaller regional jets, the exceptions are:
- Airbus A330 (American)
- Boeing 717 and 767 (American, United, Delta)
- MD-90, MD-80, and MD-88 (American, Delta)
- Embraer 170 and 175 and 190 (United, JetBlue, Alaska)
- Bombardier CS100 (Delta)
In our case we noticed that one of the Delta flights from Seattle to NYC was actually a 767 with a 2-3-2 configuration that continued on to Madrid after stopping in New York, so we bought two seats together and saved ourselves about $1000 over paying for First.
|Use the 'More' button to look for wide-bodies|
|Show Details to look at the plane type|
|found a 767 with 2-3-2 seating!|
TIP 3: Quickly view and filter every flight available to your destination with FlightAware.com
A much nerdier option is to use FlightAware.com to search a particular route and then filter the list by plane type. (Note that FlightAware converts your airport selection to the official airport code before searching - e.g., JFK becomes KJFK). Once you see the search results for a specific airport, you can use the "[cityname] area?" link to expand the list to a whole area (e.g., JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark).
|FlightAware has much more advanced options|