A few tips from our recent emergency trip

We had a family emergency last week and had to find a flight to Seattle from New York City in a big hurry. We all know that as the flights fill up, the prices go up. But I'd forgotten that if you're buying TWO (or more) seats, they're both billed at the price of the most expensive seat

(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)
An A330 or 767 on a Domestic route is pretty rare, but if you use Kayak.com you can quickly check for this by clicking 'More' next to 'Top Filters' and check the 'Wide-body jet only' option. To look for the others, you can click 'Show Details' next to each of the flights that work for your time and budget and see if any of them match.

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


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